Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel says he will ask the Court of Queen’s Bench to overturn a five-year ban on running for public office.
With Alberta’s main political parties gearing up for a spring election, Mandel’s name could be seen on Elections Alberta’s online list of ineligible candidates on Friday night.
While dozens of names affiliated with different parties appear on the list, Mandel’s was the most notable. According to the Elections Alberta website, Mandel is not eligible to run as a candidate until Sept. 27, 2023.
Elections Alberta deputy chief electoral officer Drew Westwater says candidates have four months from the time they’re nominated to file financial campaign returns.
Mandel, who secured the Alberta Party’s nomination to be the candidate in Edmonton-McClung on May 12, 2018, missed that deadline.
In a statement issued late Friday night, the Alberta Party said Mandel was handed the ban because he did not file all of his required financial paperwork on time.
“Elections Alberta notified Mandel that his financial return was late following his nomination as the Alberta Party candidate for Edmonton-McClung after the required deadline,” the Alberta Party said, adding that Mandel’s status as leader of the Alberta Party “remains unchanged.”
“First and foremost, we respect the decision of Elections Alberta, and getting financial paperwork in on time is important,” Mandel said. “The penalties for late filing are serious, and I and some of our candidates are currently facing a five-year suspension from being able to run for public office.
“While this is concerning, we also believe there is confusion about the actual due dates this paperwork is due to Elections Alberta. Because the penalties for late filing are so serious, we have also applied to the Court of Queen’s Bench to review and rule on this matter as soon as possible.
“Based on our interpretation of a July 2018 letter we received from Elections Alberta, we believe we have filed within the required deadline,” Mandel added. “We hope our efforts will clarify the rules, which will benefit all candidates — as well as the democratic process.”
LISTEN: Stephen Mandel joins Rob Breakenridge to discuss the appeal the Alberta Party is launching against Elections Alberta
On Saturday, Mandel said his CFO — who was sick at the time and has since retired — was in charge of the paperwork.
“He missed some of the dates and that’s part of the reason we’re here today,” Mandel said, maintaining there was also confusion over the deadlines.
“We disagree as far as dates and timing of when they decide to put those dates on.”
Watch below: (From Jan. 31, 2019) An NDP announcement on Thursday had all the appearances of a government in full blown campaign mode, but no writ has been dropped for the spring election. As Jill Croteau reports, some are criticizing the politics of campaigning before the election is called.
Mandel is a former mayor of Edmonton who went on to serve as a cabinet minister under Jim Prentice’s Progressive Conservative government until the NDP defeated the PC party in the 2015 election.
‘Not ready for prime time’
Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt called the situation “quite embarrassing” for the Alberta Party leader.
“Mandel is not a rookie at this. Mandel was a three-term mayor of Edmonton, Mandel was a cabinet minister in the Jim Prentice PC government so he should know better. This is a distraction and this is embarrassing,” Bratt said.
“If this holds up, then you would have the new leader effectively not allowed to be a candidate. That would be very problematic for a party that’s trying to gain traction, trying to be the middle ground between the UCP and the NDP and it just looks like they’re not ready for prime time.”
‘Epic surprise’ heading into spring election
MacEwan University political scientist Chaldeans Mensah called this development an “epic surprise,” and one that could be a major setback for the party as the spring election draws near.
“This is not what you need as a party heading into a campaign. It’s not a good spin,” he said ahead of Mandel’s media availability Saturday. “The Alberta Party has very solid candidates, they’re hoping to make a breakthrough in this campaign and they have to find a way of overcoming this temporary setback and make themselves credible in the coming election.”
Mensah said the Alberta Party needs to come up with a contingency plan, pending the court ruling.
“He (Mandel) could stay on, lead the party into the campaign, but I think this would be a major problem in terms of the image of the party — to have a leader who has been sanctioned by Elections Alberta. It’s not a very good way to promote yourself to the electorate,” he explained.
“I think the party has to come up with a Plan B because this is an unexpected development.
“They have to be ready with an interim leader — perhaps Greg Clark — who has the experience to be able to move them directly into the next campaign.”
Mensah said if the ban isn’t overturned, it could be good news for Rachel Notley’s NDP come election time.
“The Alberta Party is going to be a major factor in this election in the sense that it could divide the centre-left vote in the cities,” he said.
“If the party falters, it’s good news for the NDP because the NDP is going to lose out from any strategic splitting of the vote on the centre-left, which will allow the Conservatives to come up the middle.”
Hoping to be ‘victorious’ in court
Mandel remained optimistic the ban would be overturned ahead of the election.
“Right now our position is that we will be victorious in court and we will move forward,” he said Saturday. “We will deal with a Plan B at that point and time. Right now our plan is to go to court.
“We think that this is a big mistake that was made and we believe the court will correct it and we will move on.”
Watch below: Some Global News videos about Stephen Mandel.
You can read a letter sent by lawyers on behalf of Mandel to Alberta’s chief electoral officer about his concerns below.
You can read a letter sent to Mandel by Elections Alberta about the matter below.
With a file from The Canadian Press.