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Monday, February 11, 2008

calgary-montrose conflict-of-interest?

The curse on the Stelmach Tories house in Calgary-Montrose continues as it has been uncovered that the local Returning Officer has PC Party ties...

The Conservative government appointed Lynn Warkentin in December to be the returning officer in the northeast riding.

Her husband, Frank, is the chair of the Progressive Conservative party's nomination committee in Calgary-Montrose — a connection, the two opposition leaders say, that warrants the removal of Warkentin from her post.

"There's very close ties between the local returning officer and the PC association [in Calgary-Montrose]," said Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft.

"It's wrong. There should not be ties between returning officers and any political party."

Last year, Alberta's Chief Returning Officer Lorne Gibson made a number of recommendations to Tory Justice Minister Ron Stevens on how to revamp Alberta's election process. One of these recommendations, which obviously weren't adopted, included:
2. Prohibition against political activity

Returning officers are currently prohibited from engaging in political activity in support of a political party or candidate, and from making a contribution under the Elections Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act. There is no similar restriction on parrisan activity at the constituency association level.

All election officers, and particularly Returning Officers, must be completely non-partisan in fact and perception. The prohibition on political activity should include a restriction on constituency association level participation.

Since the Election Clerk may be called upon to replace the Returning Officer in the case of absence or inability to act, and because of the high profile of that position, the same prohibitions should apply.

Recommendations:
a. Expand the list of prohibited activities for Returning Officer to include participation at the constituency association level.
b. Extend the prohibition against political activity to include Election Clerks.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm confused, now Liberals are opposed to marriage on the basis of it could be a proposed conflict of interest?

Let's be real here, the fact is a significant number of people in this province are Conservative. So if you are proposing we eliminate all of them from being involved, well, that really doesn't leave very many people....

It's scary how the Liberal party believes it has a monopoloy on morals.

Let's let the person do their job before looking to discredit them.

jonathan said...

Well said anonymous!

I suppose if they were married to the chair of the Liberal nomination committee, you'd have no problem with it.

Anonymous said...

Being conservative does not equate to being involved in the conservative party. If it did, then people like Allie from Summer's Daydreams certainly wouldn't be able to become returning officers either.

Richard P. said...

I'm with anonymous, i'm married to a PC supporter, I guess i better not look to get involved in anything because it could be a conflict of interest. Damn those effective Conservatives, winning all those elections is making it hard on us hard-working joes who just want to contribute to society!

jonathan said...

Did anyone read the recommendations made by the Chief Electoral Officer?

Anyone?

Anonymous said...

Hey daveberta, please run home and tell the little woman or significant other that you believe she/he should be denied certain jobs because of your partisan activities. Will you be telling your momma, poppa and siblings, too?

Naheed said...

I was a scrutineer in the 2004 election, and had never hung out in a polling place before. I was actually pretty shocked to learn that the DRO's and all the poll clerks had deep ties not only to one another (kids, nephews, etc.) but all were close with the incumbent Tory MLA.

In fact, the challenger won that particular poll, and the clerks, who were counting, were commiserating with one another about how shocked they were, how the incumbent would be OK based on other polls, etc.

Given that a tiny minority of Albertans actually belong to ANY political party, surely we can find nonpartisan people for these roles. I have many students who could be hired, for example.

Just another example of many of how too much time in power, regardless of party, leads to rot.

jonathan said...

What Naheed said makes far too much sense. Might be hard to read for Tory apologists.

Anonymous said...

Sure, Naheed, let's hire your students, after people who think like daveberta grill them over the political views/activities of their spouses, which is what we are talking about here.

Anonymous said...

There's a difference between BEING Conservative, and being a cog of the party machine. Given that the returning officer for Meadowlark is a well-known and longtime PC party hack, I'd say that Daveberta is right on the mark.

This conflict of interest is a serious problem that Stelmach refuses to acknowledge.

Anonymous said...

I think that there is guidelines for appointment of returning officers and other election officers. I suspect that Elections Alberta and the CEO are very good at making sure that these guidelines are followed and everything is within the present law.

I also believe that if the proposed changes are made that those will be followed too.

Anonymous said...

Naheed - two points:

1. It is common practice across Canada. In many constituencies former candidates are the returning officers. That is far more suspect than the casein Montrose. If that is to be banned it can be done by legislation - and perhaps it should be - that said, as it stands now, it is common practice.

2. Most non-political people are not too keen on being returning officers - therefore there are practical problems with your vision (again, not to say that the practice shouldn't change).

Glen said...

It's a shame all the people who are arguing in favour of the current returning officers aren't willing to sign their names.

There's a difference between having your own views and being an active partisan. As for it being hard to get others involved, every other province and the federal government doesn't seem to have a problem with it...

Lastly,

http://www.edmontonsun.com/News/Alberta/2008/02/11/4840869.html

If being married to a PC organizer doesn't disqualify you, how about if you've posted disparaging comments about other candidates?

time for a change. said...

February 11, 2008


Stelmach won't look into returning officers' Tory connections
By JEREMY LOOME, Legislature Bureau

Premier Ed Stelmach says he won’t look into opposition concerns that loyal Tories have been named to supposedly neutral returning officer positions.

It came after the Alberta Liberals noted that four returning officers appointed by the government have extremely strong Tory connections – including one officer who has openly criticized the Liberal candidate in her riding on a blog.

“So you’re saying that off the 83 there’s nobody there that has relatives in another party?” Stelmach said when told that the Liberals want officers appointed by a neutral third party.

Among those concerning the opposition are Robin Darsi, the returning officer in the anticipated tight Calgary Currie race between radio veteran Dave Taylor, who is the Liberal incumbent, and Arthur Kent, the former TV reporter. Kent ran and beat Darsi for the Tory nod.

In Calgary North Hill, Tory riding executive member Andrea Grubbe was given the role; in Calgary Montrose, it was handed to Lynn Warkentin, who is the wife of the PC riding association’s treasurer, Frank Warkentin.

And in Edmonton Meadowlark, Allie Wojtaszek has received the role, even though she is the wife of the PC riding association president.

Three of the four were not among the initial list of 63 returning officers appointed by the province in December, but were instead added to the roster by the Tories through an order in council earlier this year.

Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft said he can’t understand why the Tories wouldn’t favour neutral appointments and why the appointments weren’t made back in December, with the rest.

“These are people that should be absolutely neutral and should be seen to be neutral and when they’re close chums or spouses, or plugged right into the Tory election machine, they’re not. And nobody’s going to respect the premier.”

Although she has since removed it, Wojtaszek posted a scathing blog entry about Liberal candidate Debbie Cavaliere when she received the Liberal nomination Nov. 23. In her post, she said Cavaliere only switched parties when it was clear she couldn’t win the PC nod.

Wojtaszek also took a shot at departing MLA Maurice Tougas, saying he’d “decided that he’d rather be back ‘writing his gossip column’ at the Edmonton Examiner.” In fact, Tougas is the paper’s former editor.

jeremy.loome@sunmedia.ca

Anonymous said...

"I think that there is guidelines for appointment of returning officers and other election officers. I suspect that Elections Alberta and the CEO are very good at making sure that these guidelines are followed and everything is within the present law."

Nope. Returning officers are appointed by order-in-council; that is, by the cabinet. The only rules are set out in the Election Act, and they're pretty minimal.

I think that few of the people posting in here realize what the nature of the returning officer position is. This isn't just any appointment. The returning officer for each riding should be free of any appearance of partisanship or partiality. That the PCs don't realize this is a symptom of how sad the state of democracy in this province is...

Anonymous said...

I think it is more a symptom of how desperate the Liberals have become. These people are professional individuals who are serving their province. There have been no rules broken. How about running a campaign based on ideas rather than empty threats.

Neal said...

Dave,

I suggest you remove Summer's Daydream from your list of "blogs worth reading". Since her extremely questionable appointment as a Returning Officer in a close riding, she's apparently gone and made her blog "by invite only".

I'm so upset I can barely articulate myself. If Ed's team wants to take bazillions of dollars from big companies to unfairly compete in this election, so be it. But to start subverting the very core of the democratic process by appointing such obviously biast Returning Officers? Disgusting.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it is neither here nor there, but that quote isn't from Summers Daydreams, but albertatory. Doesn't speak much for the Edmonton Sun's journalistic integrity.

http://albertatory.blogspot.com/2007/11/taylor-crosses-line.html

Near the bottom of the post.

Glen said...

I agree - let's have a campaign based on ideas. How about the idea that Returning Officers shouldn't have financial ties to the Premier.

http://www.canada.com/calgaryherald/news/story.html?id=b0a05bb2-e838-4a04-a972-453a52874806

Political Express
A daily look Inside the 2008 Alberta election
Archie McLean, For The Calgary Herald
Published: Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Returning Officer Called a Tory Backer

The government-appointed returning officer in Premier Ed Stelmach's home riding gave Stelmach's Conservative leadership campaign as much as $1,000, according to the premier's financial disclosure documents.

Ralph Soldan, the officer in Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, is one of several supposedly non-partisan election officials with strong Tory ties. Opposition leaders blasted the government Monday for using the post for patronage favours.

"How can you expect a fair outcome in an election -- what could be a very close election -- when the referee is actually part of one side?" said Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft.

Returning officers are in charge of virtually everything at the constituency level, including preparing voter lists, counting ballots and deciding where polling stations should go. They are prohibited from partisan activities once they are named to the post, but the Elections Act puts no restrictions on their activities before or after their term.

For example, Calgary-Currie returning officer Robin Darsi ran for the PC nomination in that riding less than three months ago. He lost to Arthur Kent and was named to his new post on Jan. 23. Darsi couldn't remember how long he had been a Tory member, but said he sees nothing wrong with the arrangement.

"Once I was appointed I severed all ties with the Conservatives," he said Monday. "I recognize that I am non-partisan and I won't and haven't engaged in any political activity for a party or a candidate."

Soldan said he couldn't remember whether he gave the premier a leadership donation, which is listed in Stelmach's documents as between $500 and $1,000. But the donation is listed under his name from Vegreville Implements Inc., which Soldan said he partly owns.

Soldan denied any partisan ties. "We're here to help all candidates," he said.

Stelmach said Monday he doesn't see a need to change the system and there is no need to have an independent third party appoint returning officers. "Their duty is to be fair to all," Stelmach said. "I haven't heard of one issue over the last I don't know how many years in the province of Alberta where somebody has done something improper."

Anonymous said...

Not a surprising comment coming from Ed Stupid, the guy who broke his promise to reveal his leadership campaign donors and the guy who gave his buddy a $100,000 handshake for abandoning his post 6 months prematurely in Washington.

Ed Stupid is clearly the dumbest premier in Canada.

Epsi