Alberta Committee on Political Ethics Hit by Allegations of Backroom Deals

By Bennett, Dean | The Canadian Press, September 19, 2016 | Go to article overview

Alberta Committee on Political Ethics Hit by Allegations of Backroom Deals


Bennett, Dean, The Canadian Press


Alberta ethics committee hit by ethics flap

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EDMONTON - An Alberta legislature committee tasked with improving ethics in politics ground to a halt Monday over its own internal ethical issues after allegations of back-room dealing by its chair.

New Democrat backbencher Jessica Littlewood removed herself temporarily from the chair during the meeting of the Select Special Ethics and Accountability Committee, but said she expects to stay in the job.

"I have done nothing wrong in this committee," Littlewood told reporters afterward.

Wildrose opposition member Glenn van Dijken had his own take: "This committee has become clearly dysfunctional."

The all-party, 17-member panel was struck by Premier Rachel Notley's government to suggest ways to improve democratic accountability in elections, political fundraising, conflicts of interest, and whistleblower legislation.

The meetings have been acrimonious, with the eight NDP members voting as a bloc against the eight opposition members on controversial NDP proposals, such as having taxpayers reimburse some of a candidate's campaign costs.

Littlewood has drawn the ire of opposition members by repeatedly casting tie-breaking decisions in favour of the NDP caucus but on Monday Progressive Conservative member Richard Starke accused her of going over the line.

Starke said Littlewood's role is like the Speaker of the legislature, an impartial arbiter who can speak to members off-the-record on routine items like placement of agenda items.

But Starke told the committee Littlewood stepped outside her impartial role, in a phone call last Friday, to broker a back-channel discussion on resolving issues dividing the committee.

Starke told the committee his rights as a parliamentarian were "violated by the actions of the chair by sharing information that should only have been shared either voluntarily by members of the other caucus or during debate. …

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