CALGARY: The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) has called on the Honourable Donald Ethell, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, to uphold the constitutional principle of the Rule of Law. In a letter sent today, the JCCF urges the Lieutenant Governor to exercise his sole and absolute discretion over elections in a manner that requires the Alberta Government to obey its own duly passed legislation.
In 2012, the Legislative Assembly of Alberta amended the Election Act so as to require elections to be held once every four years, in the March-to-May window. Promoting this measure, then Attorney-General Verlyn Olson argued that our political process requires integrity, transparency, predictability and fairness. Requiring elections to be held every four years would allow the government and civil service to work within clearly established time lines, leading to improved governance. PC and opposition MLAs agreed that, aside from the $25 million cost of holding an election, manipulating the political process by calling unscheduled elections created a very unfair advantage for the governing party.
The relevant section of Alberta’s Election Act, Section 38.1, states:
General election dates
38.1(1) Nothing in this section affects the powers of the Lieutenant Governor, including the power to dissolve the Legislature, in Her Majesty’s name, when the Lieutenant Governor sees fit.
(2) Subject to subsection (1), a general election shall be held within the 3‑month period beginning on March 1, 2012 and ending on May 31, 2012, and afterwards, general elections shall be held within the 3‑month period beginning on March 1 and ending on May 31 in the 4th calendar year following polling day in the most recent general election.
In its letter, the JCCF refers to the ongoing Court of Queen’s Bench action (Engel v. Prentice), and encloses the arguments submitted by the Alberta Government in Court on March 30, 2015. The Alberta Government argued correctly that the Lieutenant-Governor has sole authority and discretion to dissolve the Legislature. However, the Alberta Government has provided neither explanation nor justification as to why the Premier and cabinet should not have to obey the law.