Saturday, February 16, 2008

Democracy Derailed

The returning officer scandal continues to grow, with half Alberta's returning officers now revealed to have known ties to the PCs. In Stelmach's home riding, the job went to a man who made a large donation to his leadership campaign. In Calgary Currie, it went to a man who ran unsuccessfully for the PC nomination a few short months ago. In others, PC riding exec members got the jobs.

Equally disturbing has been Stelmach's handling of this. When the scandal broke, here's what Stelmach had to say:

"I didn't provide the names to the chief electoral officer," Stelmach said while in Calgary.

One quick call to Elections Alberta disputed that:

But here's the other half of the truth: the premier and his cabinet approved those officials, many of whom had been proposed by his party and MLAs, and have deep ties to the Conservative party.

On Dec. 19 last year, and again this Jan. 23, the government's executive council (the cabinet) voted to appoint returning officers for the province's 83 ridings.

As the premier's men have acknowledged, those people are nominated to Elections Alberta through Tory MLAs, riding associations and the main party.

Thus the Tories pick them and the Tories appoint them; and Stelmach is chairman of the almighty executive council that does the appointing.

Just so everyone understands what's going on. Returning officers are chosen by PC candidates and PC riding associations. Un-freaking-believable. At least a few Tory candidates have come around to admitting this needs changing but many still try to defend an indefensible policy. When you consider how hard Albertans have fought for transparency and openness at the federal level, I would hope they'd expect the same standards in their home province.

If you want an illustration of the dangers of one party rule for 37 years, I think this illustrates it better than anything. The PCs simply fail to grasp the difference between the Alberta government and the Progressive Conservative Party.

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  • Paula Simons in the Edmonton Journal and Don Braid in the Calgary Herald both wrote amazing columns on this issue today. It has become an election issue, as it should be.

    By Blogger refill, at 4:31 p.m.  

  • This is beyond appalling, not that I'm surprised by it.

    By Blogger JG, at 5:57 p.m.  

  • Third world country!

    Do Albertans really care?

    By Blogger JimTan, at 7:45 p.m.  

  • It's that way in every province. Each party acts surpsrised that the other party would do such a thing.

    By Blogger nuna d. above, at 9:19 p.m.  

  • nuna - Everything I've read on this says that it is ver much not like this in other province. And it's certainly not at the federal level.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 10:07 p.m.  

  • By Blogger WJM, at 10:16 p.m.  

  • "It's that way in every province."

    You sure are bias.

    By Blogger JimTan, at 10:28 p.m.  

  • Sounds pretty incestuous but I hope you're not intimating corruption on the part of the returning officers without evidence.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:56 p.m.  

  • so what process exists to appoint returning officers that is outside the gov'ts purview?

    one way or another the "government of the day" is responsible for elections.

    are returning officers or any election official to be "free of political association"?

    would this really change with the libbies?

    By Blogger Unknown, at 10:58 p.m.  

  • CalgaryGrit: Everything I've read on this says that it is ver much not like this in other province. And it's certainly not at the federal level.

    Could you elaborate on how this process is different from the federal one? It's been my understanding that all 308 RO's are appointed by the party in power, and then all the major parties get to appoint a portion of the Deputy RO's.

    Also, where have you read that this is different in other provinces?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:29 p.m.  

  • Read the linked articles (in the post and comments). Federal returning officers are appointed by Elections Canada following a transparent application process.

    By Blogger JG, at 11:33 p.m.  

  • More information about the federal process here.

    By Blogger JG, at 11:35 p.m.  

  • You apply directly to the Chief Electoral Officer.

    "If you are appointed as a returning officer, you must meet other conditions of employment, among them the following:

    You must be non-partisan in politics at the federal, provincial and municipal levels.
    You may not participate in organizations that could be perceived as politically partisan.
    You must respect all provisions of electoral and related legislation and regulations"

    "Who shall not be appointed election officers…(d.1) a person who was a candidate at the last general election or at a by-election held since the last general election;”

    Pretty obvious? Finally,

    "“In 2006, Alberta's chief electoral officer, Lorne Gibson, recommended to the justice minister and a legislative committee that he take over hiring returning officers to ensure a fair and independent administration of provincial elections.
    Roblin said Gibson did not receive a response to the recommendation.”

    By Blogger JimTan, at 12:49 a.m.  

  • Art said...
    "would this really change with the libbies?"

    Quote from Alberta Liberal leader Kevin Taft in his book, "Democracy Derailed":

    "All electoral officials must be genuinely independent to ensure that people with close ties to a candidate are not allowed to oversee a vote involving that candidate."

    The Alberta Liberals have been firmly on record for years when it comes to the independence of returning officers. So yes, Art, under the libbies it would change.

    Even some Alberta Tories have become visibly uneasy with their party's recalcitrance on this issue.

    By Blogger refill, at 1:04 a.m.  

  • The Canada Elections Act requires the Chief Electoral Officer to appoint a returning officer for each electoral district in Canada.

    Ah, good to know. And I agree that Alberta should do the same.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:03 a.m.  

  • I have worked on federal and provincial elections for at least 15 years and I can tell for sure that during the Liberal reign the appointees were all Liberal supporters here in BC. Provincially they switched from NDP to Liberal depending on who was in office. These new federal rules only came into effect prior to the last election so you might as well climb down from your high horse.

    Elections are called and organizers must be up to speed immediately so the ones chosen are the ones who generally have the experience and are hooked into the party in power. There is nothing nefarious that they can do so chill out. Cheers. SOR

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:36 p.m.  

  • Care to name some of the partisan appointees, anonymous 6:36?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:05 p.m.  

  • Check out this video of Ed Stelmach in all his stuttering glory:

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:10 p.m.  

  • From the website of Elections BC:

    “The Role and Mandate of Elections BC

    Elections BC is a non-partisan Office of the Legislature responsible for the administration of the Election Act, Recall and Initiative Act, and conduct of referenda under the Referendum Act.
    Elections BC administers the most comprehensive range of electoral legislation in Canada, with the Recall and Initiative Act being unique in the Commonwealth.”
    “As a statutory Officer of the legislature, the Chief Electoral Officer reports directly to the Legislative Assembly through the Speaker. As an independent Officer, the Chief Electoral Officer can make orders, regulations and exercise responsibilities of the position in an impartial manner. The Chief Electoral Officer cannot be a member of a political party, make contributions to a party or candidate, or vote in any provincial elections.”

    Elections Act

    “(8) A district electoral officer or deputy district electoral officer must not
    (a) be a member of, be an employee of, hold a position with or make a contribution to a registered political party, a registered constituency association or a political party or constituency association seeking registration, or
    (b) in relation to the individual's candidacy, be an employee of, hold a position with or make a contribution to an individual who is, intends to be or was a candidate in an election.”

    By Blogger JimTan, at 12:53 a.m.  

  • First of all, you're dead wrong on your assertions of what goes on in other provices CG... and secondly, this really is a complete non-story.

    Here in Ontario, the RO in my riding during last years provincial election was the former President of the local Liberal riding association... he was shortlisted to Election Ontario by the Ontario Liberal Party.

    And it was not a big deal for us. Now, if he'd done something that smacked of partisanship, you bet your bottom dollar we'd be all over him... but he did a decent job, and that was good enough for us.

    By Blogger Christian Conservative, at 10:12 a.m.  

  • A scrutineer has
    gone public with damaging anecdotes about the partisan atmosphere in a Calgary polling station during the 2004 election.
    The story points out that the same candidates -- and the same
    returning officer -- are back for this election.

    By Blogger refill, at 12:04 p.m.  

  • Canadians from coast to coast to coast need to give their head a shake....Corruption exists in Canada. Canada is not as squeaky clean as Canadians think it is. All one has to do is go through all the scandels in government since we became a country.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:48 p.m.  

  • I know this where did you get this video?

    By Anonymous tuxedo shirts, at 7:25 a.m.  

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