City of St. Albert has double standard
Saturday, Jul 05, 2014 06:00 am
I want to take a minute to comment on the article about campaign disclosures in St. Albert. Because the paper has printed an article about documents supposedly protected by the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act, as the city claims, some reputations have been damaged.
I was one of those candidates who received a letter from the city claiming that I had broken disclosure laws. Let me make this clear, the letter sent to me informed me that some complaints had been made about campaign contributions. It also stated that I had broken the law. It was not only a letter informing me of the complaints which stated I did not completely or accurately disclose information on my financial statements, but that I benefitted from 14 large election signs, services to move those signs, two websites, 12 page booklet professionally produced, Canada Post delivery of those booklets and numerous advertisements in the St. Albert Gazette.
The letter stated; “Your candidate disclosure statement does not include any of the above noted items as contributions to your campaign.” It told me I had 30 days to amend my disclosure and that I could be fined up to $5,000 for this offence. It was not an informative letter; it was an accusation with the city letterhead on it.
The items above were activities of a group called the St. Albert Think Tank. They were a third party group that I received no donations from and watched their information come out as every other candidate did. I submitted a response to them when they asked me for my campaign platform and what I stood for. That would be the only correspondence I had with them and it was sent to them by email when they requested the information. The local newspapers asked for this information also. Various individuals and groups in St. Albert asked for many platform statements from me also.
Because I had questions about this letter sent by the City of St. Albert to myself, I contacted the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Minister Greg Weadick, who in turn connected me with the Municipal Affairs department. I sent them a copy of the letter sent to me by the city. They in turn analyzed it and told me that the returning officer for the City of St. Albert had no authority to send out such a letter. They in fact told me that this was a case of third party activities. There is “no legislation” in Alberta surrounding third party election activities and their department told me that it falls under their jurisdiction only to file a complaint or investigate. They told me that there will be no investigation by their department as there is no violation.
The City of St. Albert has overstepped their bounds as far as I am concerned. The mayor and some members of council have made a motion for legislation concerning third party campaign activities. This is legislation that would need to be approved by Alberta Municipal Affairs and the legislature in the province would need to enact any laws surrounding third party campaign activity. At this time, the province has not done so and has no immediate plans to.
I received a letter from the city. The letter that was sent to me was carbon copied to the now undisclosed anonymous complainants. Those complainants have the right to talk to others about this letter as it was not sent out as confidential. Yet, I am told by the city I have no right to know who those complainants are. They are protected by FOIP I am told. If they are protected by FOIP, why do those same laws not protect me also? The paper has published redacted documents that do not print the names of the individuals the letters were sent to or the complainants. The 14 signs that are noted in the complaints have the names of the people that were accused. Anyone can go to older additions of the Gazette and see a picture of the Think Tank signs.
Let’s talk about the third party information during the election by the “Think Tank”. It was factual and there was no denying it. I was impressed by it, like many others in our city. Some city council members and candidates took great steps to make this group look bad, even though their information was legitimate. Now this city is defending the right of individuals to make complaints and hide their identity because they are questioning the “Think Tank” and the people it recommended for election? Our city government is living a double standard and is abusing its powers at this time.
Ted Durham, St. Albert