Rachel Notley kicked out of Alberta legislature for comment on election watchdog’s dismissal

Click to play video: 'Fireworks in Alberta legislature as Notley booted over Bill 22 comments' Fireworks in Alberta legislature as Notley booted over Bill 22 comments
WATCH: The heat and accusations were flying in the Alberta legislature on Tuesday around Bill 22, which affects the position of the elections commissioner. Opposition leader Rachel Notley made comments that led to her removal from the legislature – Nov 19, 2019

Alberta NDP Opposition Leader Rachel Notley has been kicked out of the legislature chamber after she refused to apologize for comments about the United Conservative government’s plan to fire the province’s election watchdog.

READ MORE: Firing of Alberta election commissioner called ‘political interference,’ Opposition seeks intervention

Notley told the house Tuesday that Government House Leader Jason Nixon was making misleading statements on proposed legislation that would end the contract of Lorne Gibson during Gibson’s investigation of UCP fundraising misdeeds.

LISTEN BELOW: Opposition Leader Rachel Notley joins the Ryan Jespersen Show

Legislature members have wide latitude to debate in the house, but rules don’t allow for allegations that one member is deliberately misleading or lying.

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When Speaker Nathan Cooper directed Notley to apologize, she refused, saying bigger issues are at stake with Bill 22.

“We see a corrupt act to interfere with an investigation in this house and we must be able to call it what it is,” Notley told Cooper.

“I’ve never seen a threat to this house like Bill 22, not in the province’s history.”

Click to play video: 'Man investigating UCP leadership race losing his job' Man investigating UCP leadership race losing his job
Man investigating UCP leadership race losing his job – Nov 18, 2019

Cooper ejected Notley for the day. She picked up her books and papers and, escorted by the sergeant-at-arms, walked out as colleagues pounded their desks in support.

Click to play video: 'Alberta government faces criticism for ousting elections watchdog' Alberta government faces criticism for ousting elections watchdog
Alberta government faces criticism for ousting elections watchdog – Nov 19, 2019

The desk-pounding itself was another backhanded thumbing of the nose toward Kenney’s government, which has banned this time-honoured noise-making tradition, calling it undignified.

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READ MORE: Understanding the Alberta Legislature: rules, decorum, and procedures

READ MORE: Alberta UCP changing legislature rules to allow MLAs to abstain from voting, ban desk-thumping

Notley was to learn later what Cooper will demand she do before being allowed to retake her seat in the house, but it usually involves making an apology.

“We will see. I will consider my options,” Notley said when asked later if she will apologize.

“At this point, I’m more interested in considering all the different ways in which we can do everything we can to stop this bill from passing.”

Gibson’s job as election commissioner was created as an independent office of the legislature by Notley’s NDP when they were in government in 2018. It was charged with focusing on fundraising and advertising violations while Chief Electoral Officer Glen Resler remained in overall charge of elections.

READ MORE: Alberta election commissioner hands down additional $25K in fines in connection to UCP leadership investigation

Gibson has since levelled more than $200,000 in fines surrounding rule-breaking linked to the 2017 United Conservative leadership race, which Jason Kenney won before he became premier this year.

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That future of that investigation was thrown into doubt Monday when Kenney’s government introduced Bill 22, which calls for ending Gibson’s contract and puts the next election commissioner back under the auspices of the chief electoral officer.

READ MORE: Alberta government firing election commissioner who was investigating leadership

Nixon told the house Monday that this is a prudent consolidation measure.

“All investigations remain under the purview of an independent officer of this legislature — the chief electoral officer.”

Click to play video: 'Alberta election commissioner issues statement after UCP’s Bill 22' Alberta election commissioner issues statement after UCP’s Bill 22
Alberta election commissioner issues statement after UCP’s Bill 22 – Nov 19, 2019

Gibson, in a public letter issued Tuesday, said he learned of his pending dismissal from media reports after Bill 22 was introduced.

“My disappointment is not related to my personal role as commissioner, now or in the future,” Gibson said in the letter.

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“I am concerned about the potential negative impacts on the independence of election administration and the real and perceived integrity of the election process.

“Citizens of Alberta must have confidence and trust in the integrity of all aspects of the provincial electoral process, not just the casting and counting of ballots on election day.”

READ MORE: Energize Alberta fined by Election Commissioner in Callaway UCP leadership investigation

Notley said her caucus has asked Lt.-Gov. Lois Mitchell to intervene on the grounds that Bill 22 is an abuse of privilege by Kenney’s government.

Mitchell’s signature is needed to proclaim the bill and make it law.

Later on Tuesday, Notley said she just couldn’t stay silent.

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“What we were talking about today is Bill 22, which is an absoluteness historic attack on the fundamental principles of our democracy here in Alberta as well as across Canada… The stakes are high.

“We had a piece of legislation in front of us. All of us can read. It was black and white what that legislation does. It fires the elections commissioner. For the house leader to suggest that is not what was happening was to waste time and to be disrespectful to the very democracy that they are attacking through this bill,” she said.

“When the premier abuses his power to re-write the law so that he doesn’t have to follow it, it is an unprecedented transgression,” Notley said.

— With files from Global News

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