Bruce McAllister, Premier Danielle Smith's Southern Alberta office executive director, was among those credited with six opinion pieces included in election ads during Rocky View County's 2021 municipal election that has resulted in a fine to Albertans for Property Rights and Democracy.
The Elections Alberta commissioner found Albertans for Property Rights and Democracy to be in violation of two subsections of section 163 in the Local Authorities Election Act and issued a $750 fine on Jan. 6. They failed to register with the local jurisdiction when it planned to incur or incurred expenses exceeding $1,000.
The grassroots lobby organization Rocky View Forward filed the complaint after discovering six ads in the Rocky View Weekly newspaper were placed by the organization. Rocky View Forward president Janet Ballantyne says they confirmed with RVC election officials that the organization hadn't filed as a third party in the election.
Ballantyne says the fine may only be a slap of the wrist but it is a significant ruling.
"From our perspective, registering and complying with the legislation is really easy," says Ballantyne. "But if you can't follow the rules in my mind, you should get slapped on the wrist at a minimum because the rules are there, and you're supposed to follow them, and they're not onerous rules."
"The thing that I find interesting about it is we can't find any evidence of this organization's existence."
She says society and internet searches turned up nothing.
Two of the six ads featured opinion pieces by Bruce McAllister, at the time executive director of Rocky View 2020 and a former MLA for Chestermere-Rocky View. Long-time county residents Louise Locke and Rob Matthews each are acknowledged as penning one of the pieces and two had no names attached but were sponsored by the organization.
Ballantyne says they were attack ads against the pro-resident positions of Rocky View Forward and some of the candidates who shared their views. They specifically mentioned municipal election candidates Crystal Kissel, Samanntha Wright, Kevin Hanson, who had all been sanctioned at one point, and Don Kochan as well as the late Jerry Arshinoff, who unsuccessfully ran for school trustee in the Rocky View Schools election and was a former RVC councillor. Kissel, Wright, and Hanson all went on to be re-elected, and Kochan won in his first election bid.
Ballantyne says they had also lodged complaints against the three authors but were disappointed no fines were issued.
"In my mind, it does confirm that Bruce McAllister and the people he associates with don't think rules are important, and I don't think that's a very good position to be taken. Rules are there to be followed and not blatantly ignored."