County: ‘We do feel vindicated’

Elections Alberta ruling doesn’t end issue — Wildrose

The County of Stettler welcomed Elections Alberta’s ruling Tuesday that it didn’t violate election financing bylaws in the 2012 provincial election.

The Wildrose Party accused the county of contravening the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act by using staff time or county vehicles for former PC MLA Jack Hayden’s campaign.

“We knew there was nothing to find in the first place,” said County of Stettler Reeve Wayne Nixon.

“I’m very happy to see that this is resolved to the minds of anyone who doubted us. In our minds, we knew nothing wrong was done in the first place. There was no need for accusations and we reiterated that many times.

“We do feel vindicated.”

Likewise, former MLA Hayden said he knew “there wasn’t anything” to the allegations.

“It’s just politics at its dirtiest,” he said. “It’s like American politics. It’s like Tea Party crap. It’s really sad. I feel bad for the people in our constituency that they have had to up with that.

“It’s just attack, attack, attack. It doesn’t matter, the courts can prove you right, everyone can prove you right, it’s just smear campaign stuff.”

With Elections Alberta’s ruling, Hayden said he hopes it will stop the accusations.

“I’m glad the report is finally done and I’m hopeful that will be the end to it, because there’s been an awful lot of very good people who have been inconvenienced. They had to spend a lot of money and a lot of time defending themselves against allegations and charges that absolutely had no basis, in fact, so I’m hoping that it’s over for their sake.”

But Wildrose Justice Critic MLA Shayne Saskiw believes that the issue isn’t settled.

According to Saskiw, the MLA for Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills, the county continues to fight the Wildrose’s second Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP) request in December 2012 about illegal donations.

“That FOIP request has been fought tooth and nail, so if Elections Alberta has seen in fact all of those documents, and come to that conclusion, then we would be satisfied the investigation has been fully completed,” Saskiw said.

Saskiw said the Wildrose has documents indicating the county might have hired outside legal counsel to fight the 2012 FOIP request and keep the information from becoming public.

“That’s where the evidence would be,” Saskiw said Tuesday.

“We’ve done many, many FOIP requests, and generally speaking, people are just forthcoming and provide the information.

“Most often, there’s nothing there, but when someone does fight it, that’s when we tend to think there may be something there.”

Reeve Nixon, however, wouldn’t confirm or deny the allegation that the county hired outside legal counsel.

“We want to do the right thing,” he said. “We don’t want to find ourselves at the same level as our accusers.

“The reason we have chosen to take the high road is we are not apt to meet any of those guys on it. I feel we’ve been vindicated, so the high road is the road to go.”

Tim Fox, chief administrative officer for the County of Stettler, said he’s also happy with Elections Alberta’s findings.

“We’re very pleased that the investigation is over and the County of Stettler is cleared of its allegations,” Fox said.

Reeve Nixon echoed that sentiment.

“I felt bad for the administration and staff when the accusations kept coming. I’m sure it took a toll on everyone there, and we do feel much relieved.”

reporter1@stettlerindependent.com