Alberta minister doesn't have authority to remove Calgary Coun. Sean Chu, law firm finds

·2 min read
Coun. Sean Chu speaks to reporters in October 2021. At that time, he said he wouldn't be stepping down following calls for his resignation.  (Rebecca Kelly/CBC - image credit)
Coun. Sean Chu speaks to reporters in October 2021. At that time, he said he wouldn't be stepping down following calls for his resignation. (Rebecca Kelly/CBC - image credit)

Alberta's Minister of Municipal Affairs, Ric McIver, does not have the authority to remove controversial Calgary Coun. Sean Chu, according to the law firm looking into the matter.

Following revelations last month of Chu's discreditable conduct when he was a police officer, McIver asked non-partisan department officials to review the Municipal Government Act to verify what legal recourse, if any, exists. On Friday, his office made that review public.

Dismissal of a councillor by the minister is an extraordinary exercise of authority that should not be pursued lightly, read a summary letter from Brownlee LLP in Edmonton — the external firm selected to do the review.

"While the minister has supervisory jurisdiction over municipalities, the minister does not have authority to summarily remove a councillor from office under the legislative scheme currently in force," said the letter, penned by Michael Solowan.

Alberta Legislature
Alberta Legislature

A minister can only remove a councillor under certain circumstances, the letter reads, which includes a review and escalation of a municipality being found to have been managed in an "irregular" or "improper" way.

"If there are ongoing issues on a municipal council, the minister may exercise their discretion to conduct an inspection or inquiry with a view to ensuring the regular and proper management of the municipality," the letter says.

McIver said Friday that he doesn't have the authority to remove councillors, particularly for events that took place before they were elected.

"He's distinguishing between events that occurred before he was elected versus what happens now," said Mount Royal University political science professor Duane Bratt.

"What we have here is no criminal charges, no criminal convictions, some professional misconduct, albeit very serious."

Bratt says McIver is taking the situation seriously and following proper protocol, but says demands for Chu to be removed should be made cautiously.

"Quite frankly, I'm not sure I want to see the provincial government with the ability of picking and choosing who can sit on council unless there's some overarching reasons."

Chu has faced calls for his resignation after CBC News broke the story that he was found guilty of discreditable conduct when he was a police officer for having inappropriate physical contact with a minor. That news came out just before he was re-elected last month.

CBC also reported that Chu was involved in a 2008 fight with his wife that ended with police responding and seizing a firearm, which was confirmed through court records.

Chu maintains the matters were investigated and resolved, and that recent media coverage was politically motivated.

He narrowly won Ward 4 over DJ Kelly, by just 100 votes. Kelly has since filed an application for a judicial recount of election results.

CBC News has reached out to Chu and Mayor Jyoti Gondek for comment.

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