Jason Kenney hit with fine after breaking campaign rules
Jason Kenney during Question Period in the House of Commons, on Sept. 21, 2016. (Adrian Wyld / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
The Canadian Press
Published Monday, November 21, 2016 8:36AM EST
Last Updated Monday, November 21, 2016 3:27PM EST
EDMONTON -- Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Jason Kenney says he is disappointed in a party decision that he broke rules of the race.
Kenney's campaign team has been fined $5,000 for failing to keep away from an area last week where leadership delegates were being picked in the constituency of Edmonton-Ellerslie.
The party's chief returning officer, Rob Dunseith, found 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 issued Monday, Kenney's campaign team said the rules are too vague.
It says neither Kenney's appearance nor the hospitality suite were intended to sway the delegate vote, but were meant to thank Kenney supporters.
All 15 delegates picked in Edmonton-Ellerslie supported Kenney, but 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."
The party imposed the fine Sunday after receiving a report from Rob Dunseith into the delegate selection process in Edmonton-Ellerslie on Nov. 16.
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 room.
"(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 the full forfeiture of his $20,000 deposit because the hospitality room was shut down and Kenney left the hallway outside the meeting when he was advised he could not be there.
But Dunseith also noted what he called "two aggravating factors" -- that Kenney organizer Alan Hallman said their 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."
Party president Kathrine O'Neill said in a statement released Sunday night that the party is committed to a fair, open and transparent leadership race.
"We want to rebuild our trust and relationship with all Albertans."
A date for a new Edmonton-Ellerslie meeting has not been set.
Delegates picked in all 87 constituencies will vote for a new Tory leader at a meeting in Calgary on March 18.