Jason Kenney fined over breach of campaign rules

Alberta PC leadership candidate Jason Kenney must pay $5,000, says party

Alberta Conservative MP Jason Kenney announces he will be seeking the leadership of Alberta's Progressive Conservative party in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, July 6, 2016. (Jeff McIntosh/CP)

Jason Kenney announces he will be seeking the leadership of Alberta’s Progressive Conservative party in Calgary, Alta. on July 6, 2016. (Jeff McIntosh/CP)

EDMONTON —Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives have fined leadership candidate Jason Kenney $5,000 for breaking the rules by showing up and running a hospitality suite near a meeting where voting delegates were being selected.

“I hope that this is a clear message not just to (Kenney) but to all candidates that they need to raise the bar higher,” PC party president Katherine O’Neill said Monday.

“The party expects more (and) the province expects more.”

She also announced a new investigation into recent actions of a Kenney supporter alleged to have handed out lists of Kenney delegate slates to vote for at a selection meeting in the Spruce Grove-St. Albert constituency.

“(If found to be a violation) that would be considered a minor breach,” said O’Neill.

She declined to speculate what would be done if a candidate racked up multiple violations, but added: “There’s only so much tolerance for someone not respecting the rules.”

Kenney’s campaign team will pay $5,000 for failing to keep away from an area last Wednesday where leadership delegates were being picked in the constituency of Edmonton-Ellerslie.

The party’s chief returning officer, Rob Dunseith, said Kenney organizers should not have set up a hospitality suite down the hall from the voting area and Kenney should not have been there.

In a statement, Kenney’s campaign team said the rules are too vague. It said neither Kenney’s appearance nor the hospitality suite were intended to sway the delegate vote, but were meant to thank Kenney supporters.

The delegate vote will be held again.

“We are disappointed but will comply with the decision of the (chief returning officer) forcing another delegate selection meeting in Edmonton-Ellerslie,” said the statement.

“Our campaign has sought at all times to comply with the rules laid out for the leadership election.”

O’Neill said the leadership campaign committee is to meet this week to see if the rules need to be more specific, but she noted the other three candidates “have had no problems following the rules.”

Party rules dictate there should be no partisan lobbying at the votes and that, for the same reason, leadership candidates should stay away.

Dunseith rejected Kenney’s argument that the rules are too vague, particularly when it came to the hospitality suite.

“(The room) was obviously meant to sway voters or reinforce their resolve to support Kenney delegates,” he wrote.

“It is precisely the type and locality of campaigning the rule was mean to prohibit.”

Dunseith said in his report that he didn’t consider Kenney’s breaches serious enough to warrant full forfeiture of his $20,000 deposit, because the hospitality room was shut down and Kenney left when he was advised he could not be there.

But Dunseith also noted what he called “two aggravating factors” _that organizer Alan Hallman said the Kenney campaign could afford a fine when warned that his boss could be punished if he came near the meeting and that the Kenney campaign decided to push the boundaries of the rules.

“I cannot be satisfied that the results of the delegate selection meeting were not tainted or influenced by these breaches,” Dunseith said in his report. “Moreover, I consider (a new vote) necessary to protect the integrity of the leadership selection process.”

Delegates picked in all 87 constituencies will vote for a new Tory leader at a meeting in Calgary on March 18.

The other candidates are PC member of the legislature Richard Starke, Calgary lawyer Byron Nelson and former Tory MLA Stephen Khan.

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