Ethics Commissioner releases findings into probe of Bill 22

Edmonton (660 NEWS) — Alberta’s Ethics Commissioner has concluded an investigation looking into concerns relating to Bill 22.

The bill reformed various boards, agencies and commissions in Alberta and abolished the Office of the Election Commissioner.

In December of 2019, the Alberta NDP sent a complaint to the commissioner, with leader Rachel Notley expressing concerns about breaches of conflict of interest and the bill’s effect on an ongoing investigation into the United Conservative Party leadership scandal.

Commissioner Marguerite Trussler also noted in the report that 85 emails were sent from the public about the bill as well, which she said is an “unprecedented number.”

The NDP said UCP members should not vote on the bill because it may benefit them or associates.

But it was fast-tracked and passed third reading on November 21, with Notley calling it a “black mark” on Premier Jason Kenney.

While several UCP members had been previously fined by the Election Commissioner over issues relating to the party’s leadership race, Trussler ruled that 50 of their 62 MLAs never had any interaction with the commissioner.

Nine had some interaction for “insignificant matters,” with only one large penalty assessed for Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women Leela Sharon Aheer.

But along with Aheer, the commissioner said Calgary-East MLA Peter Singh also had an ongoing matter with the election investigation, and the report found Singh recused himself from voting on Bill 22 after his staff was notified the Election Commissioner wanted to discuss campaign expenses.

The issue raised by Trussler is the fact Singh did not publicly disclose his conflict before not voting on the bill.

“Although I am satisfied that Member Singh was not familiar with the provision requiring him to formally recuse himself, ignorance of the provision is not an excuse,” Trussler wrote.

For this contravention, the commissioner has recommended that Singh formally apologize to the Legislative Assembly, but is not calling for any more punishment.

Notley also raised a concern about Matt Wolf, the Executive Director of Issues Management who has a visible presence on Twitter and was identified in the original complaint as a close associate of Premier Kenney.

The complaint said Wolf coordinated with the Jeff Callaway campaign on its so-called kamikaze mission to discredit candidate Brian Jean in order to help secure the leadership for Kenney.

It is suggested that Wolf, therefore, had a private interest to have the Election Commissioner removed in order to quell investigations into the campaign.

But once again, Trussler said there is not enough evidence to lay any penalties.

“While it appears Matt Wolf may have been involved in some questionable political shenanigans, there is no evidence that either Premier Kenney or his Chief Financial Officer knew about them.”

The RCMP continues to investigate the UCP leadership scandal, but there have been no official findings yet.

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