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Alberta NDP-created Elections Commissioner backs off from prosecuting reporter over book

After a successful legal challenge to the commissioner’s demands, Reid was vindicated for her book and was found to have been in total compliance with the law.

Alberta’s NDP-created Elections Commissioner has backed off of a case involving Sheila Gunn Reid of Rebel News.

Elections Commissioner Lorne Gibson accused Gunn Reid of violating elections laws while promoting her book, titled “Stop Notley,” with lawn signs and a billboard.

Gibson, who was the province’s former chief electoral officer, was appointed to the position by Notley when she created the commissioner position in 2018. The six-figure job was created in order to investigate third-party advertisers. 

In April, the commissioner demanded that Gunn Reid submit her notes and emails regarding the book to his office with the belief that its publication violated newly implemented NDP laws. 

According to Alberta’s Elections Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act, elections advertising does not include “the distribution of a book, or the promotion of the sale of a book, for no less than its commercial value, if the book was planned to be made available to the public regardless of whether there was to be an election.”

The commissioner hired investigators, including a former police officer, to interrogate Gunn Reid over the book. 

“I lawyered up and then refused to submit to an interrogation despite the threats of the investigator, Ken Brander, who said that I could face escalating fines if I didn’t didn’t turn over my internal emails and planning documents about my book,” Gunn Reid told True North

“The elections commissioner made the process of the investigation the punishment, and my legal fees are my defacto fines for fighting back.”

After a successful legal challenge to the commissioner’s demands, Gunn Reid was vindicated. Her book was found to have been in total compliance with the law. 

In a letter from the commissioner, it stated the Gunn Reid had never violated the law. Gibson laments the fact that his office can only enforce the law “as it is currently written.” 

“I encourage Sheila Gunn Reid to exercise caution in the manner in which she advertises her books during an election period. Fortunately for Sheila Gunn Reid, my office is only able to enforce the legislation as it is currently written,” claimed Gibson. 

According to Gunn Reid, unless the current government addresses the province’s election finance laws, the system will be open to abuse. 

“Gibson’s ominous and peculiar warning to me, that I should be more careful in the future, and that I should count myself lucky that he can’t just make up the laws as he goes along, indicates that he’s not quite done with me yet. The left in Alberta was able to utilize the elections commissioner to try to silence conservative critics with nuisance complaints,” said Gunn Reid. 

When True North contacted the commissioner’s office about the investigation, Senior Investigations Manager Steve Kay said that “the Office of the Election Commissioner does not comment on investigations that it may, or may not, be conducting.”

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