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