Busy year for election commissioner
More than $72,000 in penalties handed out after 73 complaints investigated
alberta’s election commissioner had a busy first year with 73 complaints investigated and more than $72,000 in administrative penalties handed out.
Over the first few months, the Office of the election Commissioner, which enforces alberta’s electoral laws, received 81 complaints after opening in July 2018.
In his inaugural report released on Friday, election commissioner Lorne Gibson said the first three months set a precedent.
“the number of complaints kept increasing as the date for the 30th general election call neared, and a significant number of complaints evolved into full-fledged investigations,” Gibson said. “It is my firm belief that enforcement of election laws is crucial to the success of our province’s electoral democracy — without effective enforcement, even the best election laws are merely good intentions.”
From July 2018 to march 31, 2019, the election commission received 451 complaints. Only 73 of those complaints warranted further review, which resulted in 31 monetary penalities, 10 letters of reprimand and three caution letters under the election act and election Finances and Contributions disclosure act.
the majority of the cases related to over-contribution by individuals and for offences involving third party advertisers.
the number of complaints noticeably jumped in december to 52, which just so happened to be the legal start of advertising by third parties. February, the official start of the election, saw a similar number of complaints with march, when the election took place, seeing the most complaints at 165.
the office received a budget of $1.32 million but only spent roughly $883,000, although Gibson said they were only open nine months out of the year.
He recommended the budget be increased by $700,000 to meet demands. In august, the office took over the responsibility for local government elections.
the report includes 60 recommendations, including changes to protect the privacy of voters, restricting government advertising leading up to an election and expanding the definition of obstruction. the commission would also like to expand its power by requiring unregistered political entities to provide information for an investigation if asked.
there is also a recommendation to close a “loophole” that allows political parties or constituency association membership fees to be paid by banned contributors.