Why we're filing a complaint with the Chief Electoral Officer

Serious questions raised in recent legal filing

Questions raised in recent legal filing

Political parties are special animals. They are exempt from privacy laws and they're able to issue generous tax receipts for donations. 

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So when you read the statement of defence from the Wildrose Party in the recent bizarre lawsuit that is going on between the party and former fundraiser turned unite-the-right super PAC president Barry McNamar it raises questions about the possibility of a breach of the Elections Act and the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act. We believe the questions raised in this court filing deserve to be investigated by the Chief Electoral Officer.

Under the Elections Act and the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act the Chief Electoral Officer has broad powers to investigate.  

Section 4 (1.1) of the Elections Act

(1.1) The Chief Electoral Officer may, on the Chief Electoral Officer’s own initiative or at the request of another person or organization, conduct an investigation into any matter that might constitute an offence under this Act.

Section 5 (1) of Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act 

Powers of Chief Electoral Officer

5(1) For the purpose of carrying out an examination or inquiry, or conducting an investigation, referred to in section 4(1), the Chief Electoral Officer has all the powers of a commissioner under the Public Inquiries Act as though the examination, inquiry or investigation were an inquiry under that Act.

The court filing that caught my eye can be found here. It is the statement of claim and defense in a lawsuit that concerns an alleged unpaid bill between a former fundraiser for the Wildrose Party named Barry McNamar and the Wildrose Party. McNamar is now the president of the Alberta Prosperity Fund, a self-described Super PAC that is seeking to unite the two right wing parties in Alberta. You can learn more about the case here.

Although the allegations made in the statement of defense have not been proven in court they do raise serious questions which ought to be investigated by the Chief Electoral Officer. The relevant allegations in the statement of defense are:

  • Disclosure of confidential information to a third party without authorization or justification
  • Improper destruction of confidential information that was property of the defendant
  • Inappropriately directing funds to a third party organization

If the “confidential information” referenced in points one and two above are a list of electors then section 19 and 20 of the Elections Act could apply. 

Section 19 of Elections Act

Protection of list

(1) A person or registered political party to whom a copy of a list of electors has been furnished under this Act shall take all reasonable steps to protect the list and the information contained in it from loss and unauthorized use. 

(2) A person or registered political party to whom a copy of a list of electors has been furnished under this Act shall immediately notify the Chief Electoral Officer if the list or information contained in the list has been lost. 

Section 20 of Elections Act

Restricted use of list of electors 

(1) In this section, “elector” includes a person who is eligible to vote at a plebiscite or referendum conducted under this Act or under an Act to which this Act applies. 

(2) A list of electors, including a post-polling-day list of electors under section 19, may be used only as follows: 

(a) by a registered political party or a registered constituency association, for communicating with electors, including for soliciting contributions and recruiting party members; 

Emphasis added.

The major questions raised here are:

  • Was there a disclosure of a list of electors to a third party organization?
  • If so did anyone notify the chief electoral officer that this had happened?
  • Was there an unauthorized use of the list of electors?
  • Were reasonable steps taken to protect the list and the information contained in the list from loss and unauthorized use?
  • Has a third party used a list of electors to communicate with electors?

In regards to the third point above: “Inappropriately directing funds to a third party organization” section 35 of the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act could apply.

Section 35 of Election Finances and Contributions Act

Prohibited contributions

35(1) No registered party, registered constituency association or registered candidate shall, directly or indirectly,

(b) contribute or transfer funds to any political party, constituency association or candidate not registered under this Act.

Emphasis added. 

What is the identity of the third party organization who received inappropriately directed funds? Is it another group or political party not registered under the Election Finances and Contributions Act act?

We think these questions are serious and should be investigated further by the Chief Electoral Officer.