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Five-year ban handed to Alberta Party leader result of 'overreach,' says Kenney

Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel, speaks at a press conference in Edmonton on Saturday, February 9, 2019.

Jason Franson / The Canadian Press

Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel is a fairy and straightforward, says the demister for democratic renewal.

"I understand that Elections is a great opportunity for all of us," said Minister Christina Gray on Monday.

UCP Leader Jason Kenney called the penalty – which has now spurred Mandel to go to court – a disproportionate sanction. He said he supported Mandel's judgmental appeal.

The case will be heard in the Court of Queen's Bench on Feb. 22.

Elections Alberta listed Mandel as ineligible to run for five years after he missed the deadline to file his financial paperwork.

He said he only found out about the problem on Jan. 30, despite receiving a letter from Elections Alberta last July that spelled out a firm Sept. 12 deadline. There was also an additional 10-day grace period.

But the former Edmonton mayor and the Progressive Conservative cabinet minister filed his campaign expenses for the Edmonton-McClung nomination contest on Sept. 27.

Chief financial officer Brian Heidecker, who has since retired, was tasked with tracking the expenses, which were limited to $ 10,000 under election rules.

Mandel said Heidecker missed the submission date because he was unwell. The campaign was for zero dollars.

Failing to file on time automatically results in a $ 500 fee. But more serious penalties include a five-year ban for filing and an eight-year ban if no paperwork is filed at all.

"Getting big money out of politics, making sure there is increased transparency, making sure that Albertans knows who is involved in the political process … all of these are positive changes, "Gray said.

The NDP passed legislation in 2016 to overhaul election financing rules. Changes included the same standards used in elections to nomination contests, she noted.

"The nomination is an incredibly important part of someone going down that path and becoming an MLA," she said.

'NDP overreach'

Mandel said the rules are confusing and disagree with the timeline laid out by Elections in Alberta. He plans to argue in court that he did in fact file his paperwork within the four-month window outlined in legislation.

The fate of five other Alberta Party candidates who were also slapped with the five-year bans remains unclear. They are Ali Haymour, Diana Ly, Amrit Matharu, Moe Rahall and Rachel Timmermans.

Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman stayed at the issue Monday, saying that it's before the courts.

"I'll trust Mr. Mandel to work through the court process and make sure that he has the opportunity to appeal that, "she told reporters.

"My focus is to be very honest and frank about making sure that we re-elect Rachel Notley and that we have a government that continues to invest in projects."

But Kenney said a UCP government would review the legislation to make sure penalties are proportionate to the offense.

"This unfortunate situation appears in part of the NDP's overreach in seeking to micromanage internal party nominations through legislation," he said in a statement posted on Twitter.

Premier Rachel Notley has not even called a provincial election. 1 launching a 28-day campaign period. She is expected to call an election for between March 1 and May 31.

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