Questions are being raised about the absence of a Red Deer MLA from Tuesday’s swearing in ceremony of the new United Conservative government in Edmonton.
Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan was not among the 48 United Conservative Party MLAs who were sworn into office as they affirmed their oath before Lt-Gov. Salma Lakhani. Stephan’s name was also not on the government-released seating chart for the occasion.
Although messages left at Stephan’s constituency office were not immediately answered on Wednesday, Tim Gerwing, communications director of the legislative assembly, said Stephan is on a previously planned out-of-province trip with his family.
“He will be sworn in before the legislature sits again in the fall. Being sworn in allows an MLA to take his or her seat in the chamber. MLA Stephan will not miss any of his legislative duties because of this trip,” said Gerwing.
The NDP opposition notes that since Stephan was not sworn in, he is not officially able to carry out his full MLA duties for constituents.
NDP house leader Christina Gray, said “Barring an emergency situation, it is incumbent upon all MLA-elects to be sworn-in and begin the work of representing their constituents…MLAs cannot begin this work before they are officially sworn-in.
“The fact that Jason Stephan chose to be travelling outside the province rather than fulfilling his duties to the people of Red Deer is extremely disrespectful, not just to his constituents but all Albertans,” she added.
This week, the Alberta NDP swore in 36 MLAs but two couldn’t be sworn in because the UCP has asked for additional vote recounts in their closely contested ridings. Gray said, “Knowing how this short delay negatively impacted them, I am deeply troubled that the MLA-elect for Red Deer-South would so casually defer his responsibilities. The people of Red Deer deserve better.”
This is not the first time that one of Stephan’s trips proved controversial. In 2021, the Red Deer-South MLA resigned from the Alberta Treasury Board after it was discovered that he had gone on holiday to the U.S. when the provincial government was urging Albertans against foreign travel during the pandemic.