A local Liberal MLA says he shouldn’t have described Alberta’s elections agency as “shitty” in a video circulated by his party the day of the September 14 Calgary-Glenmore byelection.
But Kent Hehr is still calling for tighter election rules after Wildrose Alliance candidate Paul Hinman, the byelection’s victor, introduced himself to voters as they headed into polling stations.
Liberal candidate Avalon Roberts’s campaign e-mailed a video to media showing Hinman shaking hands and greeting voters on their way into a school polling station. The video shows Hehr confronting Hinman in a colourful exchange, with Hehr at one point referring to “how shitty” Elections Alberta is. “I was upset and clearly they’re doing the best they can with the rules they have,” says Hehr, who was elected last year in Calgary-Buffalo. “It shouldn’t have been said…. Sometimes you get angry in the heat of things.”
Elections Alberta briefly investigated Hinman — who went on to clinch the byelection, beating Roberts and Conservative candidate Ald. Diane Colley-Urquhart — but concluded he did nothing wrong. The Elections Act forbids campaign materials in polling stations but doesn’t restrict candidates from campaigning or distributing pamphlets outside a poll, says Drew Westwater, Elections Alberta’s director of operations and communications. “As long as you’re not inside the poll, or as long as you’re not interfering with electors either entering or leaving the poll… it’s perfectly fine to campaign on election day.”
However, Westwater adds that it is illegal for candidates to talk to people lined up to vote. “But when they’re arriving at the school or the voting location… you can talk to them, you can do whatever you want with them.”
Hehr says voters should be free to cast their ballots without being accosted by candidates on their way in. “This was just another indication that our election rules need tightening.” (Phone calls to Hinman weren’t returned.)