County of Stettler spent thousands on partisan events

County of Stettler spent $6,540 in violation of election financing rules on partisan Tory events over nearly a decade, according to an internal investigation.

County of Stettler spent $6,540 in violation of election financing rules on partisan Tory events over nearly a decade, according to an internal investigation.

The municipality went back through its books last month after Wildrose Party justice critic Shayne Saskiw called for an Elections Alberta investigation of the county for possible rules violations.

It was alleged that documents provided under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act suggested county staffers may have done work for the Progressive Conservative Party on county time.

In one case, an email was sent drawing attention to a Facebook page by then-local MLA Jack Hayden. In another incident, it was alleged a county worker put up election signs for the Tories while on the job.

“There was no evidence to suggest that either of those activities have or are currently taking place,” says county chief administrative officer Tim Fox in a statement issued on Friday.

In reviewing documents dating back nearly a decade, the county did find that $3,440 was paid out to councillors to attend “politically associated” events and another $3,100 was reimbursed to staff.

Reeve Wayne Nixon said the practice was stopped when the last council came to power in 2010.

Nixon said at the time the political events were seen as useful opportunities to press government leaders for funding and other issues of local concern.

“We just looked at it as the cost of doing business at that time,” he said, noting the county depends on government grants for many of its projects.

The amount of money doled out is small considering hiring a lobbyist would have cost in the tens of thousands, he said.

Nixon said county politicians and staffers are free to continue to attend party events, but now they pay their own way.

“In the long run it leads to less confusion and less finger pointing.”

Nixon remains frustrated by the amount of time and effort that went into what he calls little more than a “witch hunt” by the Wild Rose Party.

He sent letters to local MLA Rick Strankman and Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith calling the freedom of information requests a “waste of time” and they would better serve constituents by doing something constructive.

Strankman and Saskiw could not be reached for comment on Monday.

The use of municipal dollars for attending political party events has come up before around Alberta.

In February, the towns of Rimbey and Sylvan Lake were been identified as making illegal campaign donations in a report posted by Elections Alberta.

Sylvan Lake was singled out in the report posted for making a direct contribution of $640 to the Innisfail-Sylvan Lake Progressive Conservative Constituency Association by waiving a rental fee for a party event.

Elections Alberta issued a $160 administrative penalty against the town and the constituency association was ordered to repay the $640.

The donation was made in error, the town said.

In Rimbey’s case, indirect contributions of $850 were made when two tickets to the premier’s fundraising dinner in Edmonton were reimbursed in May 2010. Under Elections Alberta rules, any reimbursement over $25 is considered an indirect contribution.

Rimbey had earlier refunded money that was reimbursed to members of council and staff for attending Tory events. The payouts had been an oversight, the town said.

A $212.50 administrative penalty was issued to the town and the Progressive Conservative Party was ordered to return the contribution.

In all, chief electoral officer Brian Fjeldheim’s investigation uncovered 45 cases of illegal contributions, all involving either the Tory party or one of its constituency associations.

Total donations were more than $20,000, with the largest contribution coming from the Town of Okotoks at $2,550.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Alberta vaccine rollout expanding to front-line health-care workers

More than 240,000 eligible health-care workers can begin booking vaccine appointments starting… Continue reading

File photo
The Red Deer Rebels will have three new assistant coaches when the WHL regular season starts on Friday. Brad Flynn (left), will be on the bench alongside fellow assistant Ryan Colville (right) head coach Brent Sutter (middle). (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Sutter steps down as Red Deer Rebels head coach

Red Deer Rebels Owner, GM and head coach Brent Sutter has stepped… Continue reading

Premier Jason Kenney announced $200 million more money that will benefit seniors living in continuing care on Wednesday. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta’s in-school rapid screening test program expanding

Alberta’s in-school rapid screening test program will expand to as many as… Continue reading

Parents and students learned Tuesday what the coming school year will look like. It's pretty much back to business as usual, said Education Minister Adriana LaGrange. School precautions include frequent cleaning, keeping students in the same groups where possible, planning the school day to allow for physical distancing and staying home when sick. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta’s largest school board says no to United Conservative draft school curriculum

CALGARY — Alberta’s largest school board says it will not use the… Continue reading

Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan is among those who have signed an open letter criticizing the government’s return to stricter health measures. (Advocate file photo).
Updated: Kenney tells UCP caucus COVID-19 dissent OK, breaking health rules means expulsion

15 MLAs released letter on Wednesday critical of new health restrictions

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau watches a speaker appear by videoconference during a news conference in Ottawa, Friday, April 9, 2021. Grassroots Liberals have overwhelmingly endorsed a resolution calling on the federal government to develop and implement a universal basic income — despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's apparent lack of enthusiasm for the idea. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau winds up Liberal convention with election campaign-style speech

OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau wound up a three-day Liberal convention Saturday with… Continue reading

Team Canada skip Brendan Bottcher makes a shot against Italy at the Men's World Curling Championships in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, April 6, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Men’s world curling championship in Calgary in COVID limbo

CALGARY — The men’s world curling championship in Calgary remained suspended Saturday… Continue reading

Pipes intended for construction of the Keystone XL pipeline are shown in Gascoyne, N.D. on Wednesday April 22, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alex Panetta
Non-profit Quebec law centre to aid environmental group targeted by Alberta oil firm

QUEBEC — The Quebec Environmental Law Centre is coming to the aid… Continue reading

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Conservatives cite empathy, relationships as ways to help expand their movement

OTTAWA — Conservatives should show empathy with Black residents who say they’ve… Continue reading

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. New Democrats are reconvening for the second day of a three-day policy convention as they look to push past the glitches of the virtual event's opening sessions and rally around keynote speaker John Horgan. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
New Democrats reconvene as hiccups, frustrations plague national policy convention

OTTAWA — New Democrats reconvened Saturday for the second day of a… Continue reading

FILE - In this Monday, Oct. 23, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump speaks during a joint statement with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. Former President Donald Trump plans to affirm his commitment to the Republican Party — and raise the possibility that someone else will be the GOP's next presidential nominee — in a closed-door speech to donors Saturday night, April 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
Trump in 2024? He says only that ‘a Republican’ will win

PALM BEACH, Fla. — Former President Donald Trump plans to affirm his… Continue reading

A cruise ship sits docked waiting for passengers to be evacuated in Kingstown, on the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent, Friday, April 9, 2021 due to the eruption of La Soufriere volcano. (AP Photo/Orvil Samuel)
Ash-covered St. Vincent braces for more volcanic eruptions

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent — People who ignored an initial warning to evacuate… Continue reading

Owner of 4 Point Taekwondo Kevin Mejia holds a board as organizer and martial artist Kevin Olsen breaks it in Edmonton on Friday, April 9, 2021. One hundred martial artists from around the world, will be breaking a board for an event called "Break for a Breakthrough." The idea is for martial artists to unite and re-engage with the arts because they may have drifted away or lost enthusiasm as a result of the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Break for a Breakthrough: Canadian hosts international martial arts demonstration

EDMONTON — Whether he’s breaking a wooden board, a clay tile, cement… Continue reading

Most Read