Bill to fire Alberta election commissioner passes final reading

The Alberta Legislature passed a bill Thursday to fire elections commissioner Lorne Gibson, who has been key in uncovering campaign financing violations related to the United Conservative party’s leadership race won by Premier Jason Kenney. 

The measure to fire Gibson is contained within Bill 22, which was introduced Monday afternoon and passed four days later. 

The vote took place despite a last minute letter from Ethics Commissioner Marguerite Trussler in response to a request from NDP leader Rachel Notley. 

Trussler said, in an advisory opinion, anyone directly under investigation by Gibson or the RCMP would be in breach of the Conflicts of Interest Act if they voted on the bill.

Individuals with close associates under investigation would likely be in contravention, she wrote.

As for the members of cabinet and UCP MLAs who have been interviewed, Trussler said she would need more information about each person’s situation before she could offer an opinion.

But Trussler noted she does not have the power to request the government delay Bill 22 and it would be “improper for me to interfere with political process.” 

The NDP Official Opposition has decried Gibson’s pending termination, which comes into effect upon the bill’s royal assent, as an obstruction of justice and a blow against democracy. 

The opposition alleges the government wants to fire Gibson before he is scheduled to appear before a legislature committee next week where he would face questions about his budget. The UCP government denies this. 

Shannon Phillips, NDP MLA for Lethbridge West, told the legislature she is dismayed fellow member of the legislature are willing to sell out basic democratic values. 

“I thought they were better than this, and that is disappointing to me,” she said. 

The NDP introduced an amendment to delay third reading of the bill by six months, but it was defeated. 

The omnibus-style bill also contains a controversial provision to move management of the Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund to the Alberta Management Investment Corporation. Teachers are against the move. 

It is not known when the bill will be given assent by the lieutenant governor.

Read ethics commissioner’s letter here

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