Posted on Nov 22, 2019
UCP Forces Through Bill 22 As Conflict of Interest Questions Remain
UCP MLAs who voted to terminate the Election Commissioner during an ongoing investigation into fraud and illegal donations tied to the governing party could be found in contravention of ethics laws, according to a letter from Alberta’s Ethics Commissioner.
The UCP forced the passage of Bill 22 on Thursday, invoking rules to limit debate at each stage of passage. The bill terminates the position of Ethics Commissioner Lorne Gibson, who has so far levied more than $200,000 in fines on UCP operatives and donors found to have made illegal donations in the 2017 UCP leadership race won by Jason Kenney, known as the “Kamikaze Candidate” scandal.
“Today’s passage of Bill 22 is a black mark on this Premier, this Cabinet, and every single private member who voted for it,” said NDP Leader Rachel Notley. “It is the first and surest sign that this governing party, founded with the sole mission of pursuing power, is now so consumed by it that they will let no one stand in their way. This bill is the most disgusting abuse of power in Alberta history.”
After requesting a review of the propriety of MLAs voting for legislation that impacts their political interests, Ethics Commissioner Marguerite Trussler raised serious concerns. In a letter she wrote:
- “Those individuals who are in the process of being investigated by the Elections Commissioner or the RCMP would be in breach of s. 2 (1) of the Conflicts of Interest Act if they were to discuss the portions of Bill 22 pertaining to the Office of the Elections Commissioner or vote on the bill.”
- “For those individuals who have close associates (as opposed to direct associates), eg. people they work closely with, or who work for them, in the process of being investigated, it is likely that they would be improperly furthering another person's private interests under s.3 of the Conflicts of Interest Act if they were to discuss any aspects of Bill 22 or vote on the bill.”
- “With respect to those being questioned by the RCMP or the Elections Commissioner, it would depend on the individual circumstances and I would need further information about the particulars of each of those individuals' circumstances with respect to the investigation to form an opinion.”
- “....United Conservative Party Members of the Legislative Assembly… Their situation is not straightforward. I cannot give an opinion with respect to this group given the very short timelines that I have been given.”
When these concerns were raised by the Alberta NDP caucus, the UCP Caucus voted against providing more time to debate the bill so the Ethics Commissioner could make a full and proper determination.
“There is no telling how many improper votes were cast today,” said Notley. “It should not have passed today and it also should not have been rushed by the government. Sadly, it is not clear whether any of the members on the government side understand or frankly even care about their ethical standing as elected members.”
The Alberta NDP Caucus will be assessing any and all options to fight this legislation further. The bill also carries other serious ramifications as it removes joint-governance of several public sector pension plans.