Premier Jason Kenney returns to Alberta amid Bill 22 controversy

Premier Jason Kenney will appear in front of reporters Friday, for the first time since the political battle over Bill 22 began.

Kenney is scheduled to attend the groundbreaking of a youth mental health facility in Calgary Friday morning, after spending the week in Texas trying to drum up investment.

READ MORE: Bill 22 passes 3rd reading at Alberta legislature; ethics commissioner cannot ‘delay proceedings’

Bill 22, which passed third reading Thursday, would terminate the contact of the province’s election watchdog Lorne Gibson — who is currently investigating the UCP for violations of election fundraising rules in the 2017 leadership vote won by Kenney.

Opposition leader responds to passage of UCP’s Bill 22

Opposition leader responds to passage of UCP’s Bill 22

The NDP made several last-ditch attempts to stop the bill.

Opposition Leader Rachel Notley wrote to ethics commissioner Marguerite Trussler, asking UCP MLAs to be banned from voting on the contentious bill — arguing every UCP caucus member would benefit from Gibson’s contract being terminated.

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“The UCP premier saw his party operatives and insiders being investigated for fraud, forgery, and illegal donations in a leadership race tied to his campaign,” Notley said.

“So he drafted legislation to effectively circumvent that independent investigation by terminating the investigator.

“Bill 22 sets a very, very dangerous precedent that Jason Kenney will overrule the will of the people in order to enforce his own, with no regard to the rule of law.”

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Trussler’s response letter — released by the NDP just before the final vote — said she would need more time to investigate, but cautioned that, on the surface, some UCP members could be at risk of a conflict.

The New Democrats have predicted that Gibson’s firing will have a chilling effect and the investigation will die.

READ MORE: Alberta government firing election commissioner who was investigating leadership

UCP deputy whip Joseph Schow on Bill 22

UCP deputy whip Joseph Schow on Bill 22

The UCP has said it’s strictly a cost-saving move and there is nothing stopping a new election commissioner from continuing the investigation.

Kenney addressed the bill Thursday afternoon while taking questions from viewers on Facebook from Texas, where he had been all week on a trade mission.

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Kenney said the move saves money — about $1 million over five years — and restores election investigations to the way they were under the chief electoral officer before the prior NDP government created Gibson’s job in 2018.

He said he expects ongoing investigations will proceed, including the one against the UCP.

“There should be no interruption in any ongoing investigations or any enforcement action,” said Kenney.

“If we did this [change] two years from now or five years from now we’d get the same complaints,” he added.

READ MORE: Alberta election commissioner hands down additional $25K in fines in connection to UCP leadership investigation

Gibson has levied more than $200,000 in fines to date in connection to fundraising violations tied to the 2017 UCP leadership race.

Gibson, in a public letter, has said his office has received more than 800 complaints of election irregularities, and he is concerned that his dismissal will undermine faith in the independence and integrity of the election process.

— More to come…

— Files from Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press and Emily Mertz, Global News 

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