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Alberta’s ethics boss dismisses complaints of byelection electioneering

The Alberta Legislature, March 6, 2014. Emily Mertz, Global News

EDMONTON — Alberta’s ethics commissioner has dismissed some opposition complaints that the government engaged in blatant electioneering during byelection campaigns in October.

Marguerite Trussler says Premier Jim Prentice and Health Minister Stephen Mandel did nothing wrong under Alberta rules when they made government announcements during their campaigns.

Trussler also dismissed a similar accusation against Calgary-West MLA Mike Ellis, who attended some government announcements even though he was not a member of the government at the time.

The Wildrose and NDP parties accused the Progressive Conservatives of abusing their offices during the campaign, which ended with the Tories winning three byelections in Calgary and one in Edmonton on Oct. 27.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley says Trussler’s findings show why the government’s accountability rules aren’t effective.

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The Wildrose party declined comment.

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“None of these announcements (was) forbidden by any convention or legislation,” Trussler wrote in a report released Friday at 4:20 p.m.

“There is no suggestion that they were made as part of the premier’s or minister Mandel’s campaign.”

Trussler noted that Alberta’s ethics rules do not cover moral integrity and added that the provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan restrict government policy announcements during byelection campaigns.

She said the complaints made against Education Minister Gordon Dirks will be dealt with in a separate report that has yet to be released.

Notley said what happened during the byelection campaigns was obvious electioneering.

“The PCs paraded their candidates around, letting them make funding announcements on the public dime,” she said in a release.

“They used taxpayer’s dollars to publicize their campaigns and Albertans deserve rules to prevent this in the future.”

In her complaint to Trussler in October, Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith accused Prentice, Dirks, and Mandel of abusing their offices to advance the PC party’s political prospects.

“Campaign announcements and election promises should be made at the sponsoring party’s expense,” Smith said at the time.

“These particular announcements were decidedly political in tone, timing and participants and they were all done using government resources at taxpayers’ expense in order to get certain PC candidates elected.”

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