Democracy Watch calls on Alberta RCMP to investigate UCP’s firing of election commissioner

Click to play video: 'Premier Kenney responds to accusations of obstruction following passage of Bill 22' Premier Kenney responds to accusations of obstruction following passage of Bill 22
Nov. 22: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is defending legislation that -- among other things -- fires the Election Commissioner who has been investigating his UCP leadership win. As Blake Lough reports, Kenney says that investigation will continue – Nov 22, 2019

Non-profit citizen group Democracy Watch sent a letter to Alberta RCMP on Wednesday, asking police to investigate the government’s firing of the election commissioner and whether that constitutes obstructing justice.

Scroll down to read the full letter to EPS/RCMP from Democracy Watch.

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

“The Kenney cabinet firing the election commissioner was like firing a top police investigator and a judge to try to stop trials of people associated with the cabinet,” said Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch.

“As a result, Democracy Watch’s opinion is that an obstruction of justice investigation is warranted because the Kenney cabinet unethically made false claims about its reasons for firing the election commissioner who was investigating Premier Kenney’s leadership campaign for violations and had found several UCP members guilty of violating the law.”

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READ MORE: Bill 22 passes 3rd reading at Alberta legislature; ethics commissioner cannot ‘delay proceedings’

Through the Edmonton Police Service, Democracy Watch requested an investigation, overseen by a special prosecutor, into whether Jason Kenney’s cabinet obstructed justice by firing Lorne Gibson.

The group said the special prosecutor should not be chosen by the attorney general, his deputy minister or any Kenney cabinet minister or deputy minister.

“A special prosecutor is needed to oversee the investigation of the Kenney cabinet for possible obstruction of justice, and no cabinet minister nor anyone who serves at the pleasure of the cabinet can be involved in choosing the prosecutor as they all have a conflict of interest,” Conacher said.

As part of Bill 22, the United Conservative government said it ended Gibson’s contract to save money and limit duplication across government.

“This restructuring is about finding efficiencies and ensuring that we have the most defensible process and structure going forward,” Finance Minister Travis Toews said on Nov. 18. “This structural change will not affect ongoing investigations. We believe that it’s critical to protect the integrity of democracy in this province.”

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However, the elimination of the position came under fire by the Opposition and other groups because Gibson was investigating the 2017 United Conservative leadership race, won by Jason Kenney, when he was fired.

The investigation focuses on the campaign of leadership candidate Jeff Callaway. Internal documents have revealed that Kenney’s campaign team worked in lockstep with Callaway’s campaign as Callaway attacked Kenney’s main rival, Brian Jean. Callaway dropped out of the race late to throw his support behind Kenney.

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

Gibson issued more than $200,000 in fines tied to fundraising violations in the Callaway campaign.

The UCP stressed all investigations would continue under the chief electoral officer, Glen Resler.

In early 2018, the former NDP government created a separate arm’s-length election commissioner to specifically investigate violations in fundraising and advertising. The New Democrats then hired Gibson. He was making $195,000 a year.

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

The speed at which Bill 22 passed all three readings also sparked outrage. Democracy Watch said “cabinet shoved the bill through in only three days.”

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“Ten hours of debate. That’s how long it took this UCP government to dismantle democracy,” Opposition leader Rachel Notley said on Nov. 21.

“Today’s passage of Bill 22 is a black mark on this premier. Jason Kenney has turned the assembly into a bully pulpit… It is the most disgusting abuse of power in the history of Alberta.”

— With files from Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

Democracy Watch letter to Alberta RCMP by Emily Mertz on Scribd

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