Opponents react to Alberta Party leader’s appeal for ‘minor administrative offence’: ‘people make mistakes’

Alberta Party leader facing ban on running
Feb 9 - Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel plans to challenge a five-year ban on running for public office. It comes after he failed to file his financial paperwork on time. Albert Delitala has more on what it means for Mandel.

Several of Stephen Mandel’s potential political opponents support the Alberta Party leader’s right to appeal an Elections Alberta ruling that listed him as ineligible to run in the election.

In fact, the former Edmonton mayor was given a five-year ban on running for public office for allegedly missing the deadline to file financial campaign returns.

Mandel said there is confusion about the actual due dates. He said he appealed to the Court of Queen’s Bench to review the issue.

READ MORE: Elections Alberta gives Alberta Party leader 5-year-ban from running as candidate, Mandel plans appeal

NDP MLA and deputy premier Sarah Hoffman said Monday she respects the court process and Mandel’s opportunity to appeal the decision.

“My understanding is that this is going before the courts and I respect that process and I respect that that’ll be worked out. My focus, to be very honest and frank, is about making sure that we re-elect Rachel Notley.

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“I know that sometimes people make mistakes with paperwork. I get that. And that’s why I think there’s an appeal process embedded as well.”

Hoffman was asked if she made a mistake with her Elections Alberta paperwork.

“No. Not that I’m aware of,” she said. “I’m not on the list for sure and I didn’t receive any notices saying there was.”

Documents show Elections Alberta received Hoffman’s financial disclosure papers on Jan. 11, 2019, after a nomination contest period ending on Nov. 12, 2018. Elections Alberta rules state financial statements must be received “by 4:30 p.m. four months after the date of selection/conclusion of the contest.”

WATCH BELOW: Elections Alberta gives Alberta Party leader five-year-ban from running as a candidate; Mandel plans appeal

Elections Alberta gives Alberta Party leader 5-year-ban from running as candidate, Mandel plans appeal
Elections Alberta gives Alberta Party leader 5-year-ban from running as candidate, Mandel plans appeal

In a statement posted online Feb. 10, the United Conservative Party leader also supported Mandel’s appeal.

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“The disqualification of Stephen Mandel from running is a disproportionate sanction for a minor administrative offence,” Jason Kenney said.

“As such, I support Stephen’s judicial appeal of his disqualification. I understand that Elections Alberta is obliged to apply the law as it is written, but the judiciary has the discretion to take into account other considerations.

“Elections law should not be written or applied in a way that limits the voters’ choices because of small administrative mistakes. This unfortunate situation appears in part of the NDP’s overreach in seeking to micromanage internal party nominations through legislation,” Kenney added.

“A United Conservative government will review this legislation to ensure that sanctions are proportionate to the offence.”

Documents show Elections Alberta received Mandel’s financial disclosure statements on Sept. 27, 2018, and that his nomination period ended May 12, 2018.

READ MORE: Election promises already? Alberta party leaders in ‘wooing stage’ ahead of writ drop

Alberta’s minister for democratic renewal says rules, deadlines and penalties pertaining to the finances of election nominees are fair, consistent and well communicated.

“The nomination is an incredibly important part of someone going down that path and becoming an MLA,” Christina Gray said at the legislature. “Having clear financial disclosure for that makes sense.

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“I understand that Elections Alberta communicated very clearly to all candidates and campaigns about the changes and about their deadlines.”

READ MORE: Alberta passes bill banning corporate and union donations

The deputy chief electoral officer with Elections Alberta said the consequences are black and white: a five-year prohibition for filing documents late and an eight-year prohibition for not filing at all.

“When they register with us, we send out a letter to them indicating: you’re now registered, confirming that, and here are your requirements under financial disclosure, and here’s the dates you must file by,” Drew Westwater explained.

“We do our best to train and educate and inform our candidates about the new processes. We attend party conventions and conferences on a regular basis when we’re invited to them, to tell them the rules under the Election Act and Election Finances Act.”

Westwater said Elections Alberta doesn’t oppose a candidate appealing to the courts to argue their case.

READ MORE: Stephen Mandel wins Alberta Party leadership race

Regardless of the appeal’s outcome, several political scientists feel this incident reflects poorly on the Alberta Party and its leader.

“If it is upheld, it’s a real blow to the Alberta Party because they would have to find new candidates less than two months before an election,” said Duane Bratt, a Mount Royal University political scientist.

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“If it does get overturned, it means they’re distracted.

“It means they have to spend some time not in election preparation, but simply allowing themselves to get on the ballot and trying to tell people that it was just an honest mistake that not one, not two, not three — but six different people made.

“There are other people on the list from other parties. None of them won the nomination battle so those were failed candidates. These were successful candidates who had four months to get their financial disclosures in and they were unable to do so,” Bratt said.

LISTEN: Stephen Mandel joins Rob Breakenridge to discuss the appeal the Alberta Party is launching against Elections Alberta

MacEwan University political scientist Chaldeans Mensah said the Alberta Party needs to come up with a contingency plan, pending the court ruling.

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“It means that the party is going to head into this important campaign hoping to make a breakthrough without a leader and that is not a very good situation for the party,” he said.

On Monday night, Mandel issued a news release to reiterate that he is moving forward with an appeal of the ban on running in the election. He also blasted the NDP for bringing in what he considers to be vague legislation on the matter.

“The extension of legislation into party nominations and associated sanctions by the NDP is an overreach, and we feel the legislation is unclear and conflicting around timelines,” he said.

“We believe strongly that we have a case for judicial relief, and will be making that case in court.

Mandel also questioned how the issue has been dealt with and referred to the sanction imposed on him as a “heinous penalty that does not fit the infraction, if in fact there was one.”

“For this to be a known issue in September, but not be advised of the sanction until days before the campaign period opens has put us at a significant disadvantage to address and correct this and prevented other candidates from not making the same mistake,” he said.

“It reeks of suppression of opposition.”

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— With files from Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press and Phil Heidenreich, Global News