Decision not to renew Chief Electoral Officer’s contract correct

An 11 member committee has decided not to renew the contract of the Chief electoral Officer, Lorne Gibson. Opposition MLA’s are crying foul, believing that he was ‘fired’ for speaking out. From my interactions with Mr. Gibson and his department I believe that he does not posses sufficient skill in interpreting the law to function in his position, nor did he sufficiently supervise and educate his staff.

I had carefully studied the Elections Act and checked and photographed some of the signs of a local candidate. I was concerned that the signs were violating section 134 of the Elections Act, which reads as follows:

134(1) Every printed or electronic advertisement, handbill, placard or poster having a reference to any election shall include on its front in legible form the name and address of the sponsor.

(2) Subsection (1) does not apply to a printed or electronic advertisement, handbill, placard or poster bearing only one or more of the following:

(a)    the colours and logo of a registered political party;

(b)    the name of a registered political party;

(c)    the name of a candidate.

I called his office to find the answer to my question. I was told that he was only concerned with advertising in the polling station. The lady I taled to maintained this even after checking the act. It seems inappropriate to me that an ordinary citizen can have a deeper knowledge of the act in under 5 minutes than a civil servant whose job it is to administer and interpret it. I emailed my question to Mr. Gibson, who responded as follows:

In response to your first question, it would be my view that any other wording or the name of an electoral division on an advertisement would not “invalidate” the exception in 134(2). I would interpret the exception to mean that when either or all of (a), (b) or (c) are present, there is no need for name and address of the sponsor.

Clearly this interpretation is incorrect if the word ‘only’ 134(2) is referred to.

Based on my interaction with Mr. Gibson I must conclude that the decision to not renew his contract was correct.

The most vocal critic of the ‘firing’ is Liberal MLA. Hugh MacDonald. Today I checked Mr. MacDonald’s re-election website. Based on my reading of section 134 I must conclude that if the website was the same during the election, he is not in compliance with this section. The front page of the site reads “Last Updated ( Saturday, 09 February 2008 )”, therefore it is reasonable to conclude that the site was not in compliance during the campaign. I find it inappropriate that Mr. McDonald would comment or even be allowed to serve on the committee if his own campaign violated the Election Act.

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~ by Dan Bergen on February 19, 2009.

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