NDP-backed bill would broaden conflict-of-interest rules beyond potential financial gain

The Opposition NDP says provincial politicians should be barred from making decisions that benefit their political friends.

NDP justice critic Kathleen Ganley will table a private member’s bill Monday that would amend Alberta’s Conflict of Interest Act to broaden the definition of a “private interest.”

Ganley said Thursday her proposed rules would prevent politicians from making choices that give unfair advantages to relatives or political associates.

Such rules could have prevented the United Conservative Party government from firing former election commissioner Lorne Gibson, Ganley said. Gibson had investigated and fined people involved in the 2017 UCP leadership campaign before the government terminated him in November.

“I honestly believe that what was done by Jason Kenney in the last session was an attack on the rule of law,” Ganley told reporters on Thursday.

Bill 22 eliminated the office of the election commissioner, and moved the role into the office of Alberta’s Chief Electoral Officer.

‘Kamikaze’ probe led to $207,000 in fines

Gibson’s investigation into the so-called “kamikaze” campaign of UCP leadership candidate Jeff Callaway has led to fines against 15 people totalling more than $207,000.

Ganley said concerns about potential government interference with Gibson’s investigation prompted her to begin drafting the bill before the commissioner was fired.

The proposed changes in Bill 202, the Conflicts of Interest (Protecting the Rule of Law) Amendment Act, echo some recommendations made by ethics commissioner Marguerite Trussler in 2017.

The ethics commissioner helps MLAs understand their obligations under the Conflict of Interest Act and can investigate MLAs accused of breaching the act.

Bill 202 proposes the definition of “private interests” be broadened beyond potential financial gain to include possible personal or political benefits.

The legislation would also give the commissioner access to privileged documents and would clarify when politicians should recuse themselves from making political decisions.

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