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Alberta premier dismisses concerns over firing of election commissioner

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks at the Rural Municipalities of Alberta conference in Edmonton Alta, on Friday November 15, 2019. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is dismissing concerns over a bill that fires the man who had been investigating wrongdoing within his United Conservative Party. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

CALGARY — Alberta’s premier is dismissing concerns over a bill that fires the man who had been investigating wrongdoing within the United Conservative Party.

Jason Kenney says he and other conservatives have long believed it’s redundant to have an election commissioner and a chief electoral officer occupying separate offices.

The bill, which was introduced in the legislature Monday and passed on Thursday, makes the commissioner’s job a staff position in the chief electoral office.

It specifies that commissioner Lorne Gibson’s contract, which was to run until 2023, be terminated.

Kenney’s government has been accused of rushing the legislation through without allowing enough debate.

The premier says it needed to be done quickly to provide certainty to three dozen agencies, boards and commissions that are undergoing structural change.

He says any investigations underway would continue.

“This simply brings the enforcement function back into the office of the chief electoral officer, where it resided from 1905 to 2018 and where it resides in every other province,” Kenney said Friday.

“The change strengthens the independence of the commissioner, because now the commissioner will be appointed by the independent arm’s-length chief electoral officer, not by politicians.”

Gibson had been investigating fundraising violations tied to the 2017 UCP leadership race won by Kenney and had so far levied more than $200,000 in fines.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 22, 2019.

The Canadian Press