It’s tempting to feel sympathy for Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel, who finds himself disqualified from running in this spring’s provincial election.
Like other candidates seeking public office, Mandel was required to file a report detailing the amount of money his campaign had taken in and spent while he sought the party’s nomination in the riding of Edmonton-McClung.
In Mandel’s case, he neither received nor spent a penny.
He acknowledges receiving a letter from Elections Alberta last summer that stated the financial disclosure was due Sept. 12. It doesn’t seem an onerous expectation then that Mandel could assemble the paperwork in time, but his submission is dated Sept. 24.
It’s the political equivalent of the proverbial student who shows up unprepared for a day in the classroom and informs the teacher the dog ate the homework.
In this case, Mandel says the task had been delegated to his chief financial officer, who according to reports, resigned due to illness and “missed some of the dates” as a result.
Mandel brings a lively and credible voice to Alberta public affairs, having served as mayor of Edmonton and then as education minister in the short-lived Jim Prentice government.
Such experience, one presumes, provides insight — including into niceties such as the importance of filing paperwork on time.
It’s evident that learning can never be relegated to the past, even for someone as respected as Mandel.
He’s perhaps now wondering if he shouldn’t have questioned if essential tasks were being handled as his chief financial officer was displaying signs of wear.
And in the event the employee was off the job because of poor health, surely the warning signs should have loomed even larger.
Now that a legal challenge is being mounted to overturn his barring from the election — and the exclusion of other party candidates — Albertans are being told that the laws are ambiguous and there’s an element of uncertainty about when the deadline for filing should apply.
No doubt Mandel will get his day in court, but ordinary Albertans should question what would happen to regular people — the kind the party purports to represent — if they found themselves in similar circumstances.
What if Red Deer employers left the renewal of their automobile registration in the hands of a worker and later learned the paperwork hadn’t been filed because of sickness?
It’s hard to imagine the system providing much leniency if the boss was pulled over by police.
“I delegated it to my chief financial officer, but the person was sick,” they’d plaintively explain to the constable.
Or imagine a busy mother who put the task of registering the family’s car in the hands of an adult son while she was called out of town on business.
“I asked my son to pop by the registry office, or do it online, but he hasn’t been feeling well lately,” she’d tell police.
No doubt the roadside exchange would end with a ticket being issued.
Failing that, perhaps people who had been censured by the system would hire a lawyer to argue in court that when they received the notice of their renewal, they assumed a different date applied.
The Alberta Party will probably get away with such legal hijinks. Real Albertans, not so much.
If this is a reflection of the Alberta Party’s attention to detail, let’s hope they get their own house in order before they aspire to manage ours.
David Marsden is managing editor of the Red Deer Advocate.