Election punishments for Alberta Party candidates necessary but disproportionate

Due to recent developments, the Alberta Party will have fewer faces in the crowd at the upcoming provincial elections.

Because of new rules that were put in place with the passing of The Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act last fall, new deadlines were set for filing paperwork — deadlines which six members of the Alberta Party, including leader Stephen Mandel, failed to meet. The deadlines state that a party member, once elected, must file their paperwork within four months. For instance, Mandel won his nomination on May 12, and had until September 12 of the same year to file. Despite this, he and his chief financial officer submitted the required paperwork fifteen days late. As a punishment, Elections Alberta has implemented a five year ban from running on the late party members, which includes this year.

Despite knowing well in advance and having four months to submit the required paperwork, members who were late to submit still protested that they should be allowed to run. The five year ban will end in 2023, leaving them with at least one missed election. Since the Albertan government can theoretically call an election whenever they want, this could mean multiple missed elections for Mandel and co.

The party members have filed for the courts to overturn this ban, and the case is scheduled to be heard on February 22. What the judge will say is uncertain, but several political figures have come forward to voice their opinions on the matter.

Jason Kenney, current leader of the United Conservative Party, said that “the disqualification of Stephen Mandel from running is a disproportionate sanction for a minor administrative offence.” Christina Gray, NDP MLA and the minister of democratic renewal, said she believes that four months is a sufficient amount of time for parties to file.

So the question therein lies: should Mandel and his fellow party members be granted forgiveness? Should a “minor administrative offence” warrant a five year ban on running for government positions?

In all honesty, 15 days is a great deal of time to be past the deadline, especially when you consider the fact that they had four months prior to get it done. Perhaps if they thought it was supposed to be a longer amount of time fifteen days would be acceptable, but this isn’t the case. There is no reason for them to have not completed and filed the paperwork within the four months they were given.

This said, a five-year ban is excessive. The next election will likely be called for May of this year, and the likelihood of another election before five more years passes is almost guaranteed. Missing just one year, namely the election just on the horizon, would be sufficient punishment. A five year ban just feels like the Alberta Party is being made an example of, and not in a way that promotes democratic equality.

Far be it for me to agree with Jason Kenney, but this ban does feel disproportionate, especially considering that the Alberta Party is smaller and has less funds than the NDP and UCP. The best outcome at the court hearing would be to keep a ban in place, but perhaps only for one or two years as opposed to five.

The ban which has been imposed on these six members of the Alberta Party is too long for the offense committed, and feels more like setting an example than doling out punishment. The government has the final word on this matter, but the punishment, in this case, does not fit the crime, and should be lessened so that it does.

Payton Ferguson

Payton Ferguson is a English major by day, 2019-20 Opinion Editor for The Gateway by night (and also day). She enjoys long walks to the fridge, writing until her wrists ache, and bombarding social media with pictures of her chihuahuas.

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