Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench extends procedural deadline of provincial election due to compounding mitigating circumstances

March 4, 2019

Mandel v Alberta (Chief Electoral Officer), 2019 ABQB 157

In a March 4, 2019 decision, Honourable Madam Justice G.D.B. Kendell of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta ruled in favour of Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel and Alberta Party’s Chief Financial Officer Brian Heidecker (the “Applicants”), subsequently overturning a decision by Elections Alberta that imposed a five-year ban on Mr. Mandel after he failed to meet the deadline to file a Nomination Contestant Campaign Return (the “Return”).

The dispute arose in January 2019 when Elections Alberta advised the Applicants that the Return was received on September 27, 2018, and therefore late and outside of the 10 day grace period from the filing deadline of September 12, 2018, which led to penalties including a prohibition from being nominated as a candidate in an election for a period of five years. In response, the Applicants sought relief under s. 44(3) of the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act (“EFCDA”) to extend the time for filing the Return, submitting that a series of mitigating factors were the reason to the delay.

Upon review of the background facts, the Court identified the following circumstances on the part of the Applicants:

(a) Acting in good faith;
(b) Mr. Heidecker’s illness;
(c) The short length of the delay;
(d) The promptness in addressing the non-compliance;
(e) The nomination contest was uncontested;
(f) The Return was a “zero” return; and
(g) A nomination contest is an internal process that is less central to the elections process.

When collectively weighted against the adverse consequences, the Court found that the mitigating circumstances justified a discretion under s. 44 of the EFCDA. As such, the Applicants were granted an extension to the filing deadline to September 27, 2018, thereby allowing Mr. Mandel to continue to run in the provincial election.

The Applicants were represented by Debra Curcio Lister and Adrienne Funk (Civil Litigation) of Miller Thomson.