Judge throws out lawsuit against Alberta's chief electoral officer

·3 min read
Alberta's chief electoral officer told candidate Joe Anglin the font size on the authorization message on his 2015 election signs was too small, in contravention of provincial law.  (Submitted by Joe Anglin - image credit)
Alberta's chief electoral officer told candidate Joe Anglin the font size on the authorization message on his 2015 election signs was too small, in contravention of provincial law. (Submitted by Joe Anglin - image credit)

A Queen's Bench justice has tossed out a lawsuit from a former MLA who claimed Alberta's chief electoral officer interfered with his campaign and maliciously prosecuted him.

Joe Anglin, the former MLA for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, says he plans to appeal the ruling, which concluded Anglin was misusing the courts in an attempt to contest results of the 2015 provincial election.

In a decision released Monday, Justice Michael Lema agreed with previous court rulings that there is no evidence of malicious prosecution of Anglin by chief electoral officer Glen Resler over alleged elections infractions.

Lema ordered Anglin to pay Elections Alberta's legal costs.

In an interview, Anglin said he doesn't accept the judge's decision.

"I don't look at this as a defeat," he said Tuesday. "I look at this as a setback."

Anglin, a lawyer and veteran of the U.S. Marines, led the Alberta Green Party from 2008 until its dissolution in 2009. In 2012, he was elected as an MLA representing the Wildrose Party, before quitting that party's caucus in 2014 to sit as an independent.

In 2015, he ran as an independent candidate for re-election in the riding of Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre.

Anglin placed fourth in the riding, which was won by then-Wildrose MLA Jason Nixon. Nixon is now the United Conservative Party government's finance minister.

During and after the 2015 election campaign, Resler launched several investigations after complainants alleged Anglin violated the Elections Act.

Resler told Anglin he shouldn't be representing himself as an MLA in election advertisements, lawn signs and pamphlets.

Resler also fined Anglin $250 for printing sponsorship information on his election signs in a font he said was too small. Elections Alberta would remove any signs that didn't comply with the law, Resler told Anglin in a letter.

More than seven years later, Anglin hasn't paid the $250 fine.

Submitted by Joe Anglin
Submitted by Joe Anglin

He says he added stickers with larger print and more information to the signs after being notified.

A few weeks later, many of Anglin's election signs disappeared, were cut up or defaced. Anglin blames Elections Alberta for this, although the judge said there's no evidence the agency removed the signs.

Appealing on principle

Resler also fined Anglin $500 after an electors list turned up in a surplus government filing cabinet that the chief electoral officer said came from Anglin's Sundre office. Anglin challenged that in court; last year, a judge reversed the fine.

In the suit against Resler, Anglin's lawyer argued Elections Alberta was turning a blind eye to other candidates who weren't following election laws to the letter, while repeatedly investigating Anglin and threatening him with fines.

Anglin sought $2.2 million in damages.

Lema said there's no evidence Resler was acting in bad faith, noting that Resler concluded some of the investigations without penalizing Anglin.

Anglin told CBC News that he thinks the judge is wrong and denied it was an attempt to challenge the result of the 2015 election.

He said he and his lawyer must continue the challenge on principle.

"Neither one of us ever expected to go this far," he said. "We're just committed to the rule of law. I think that's what keeps us motivated."

For example, Lema found that guidelines on election sign text sizes written by Resler's office are legally enforceable. Anglin said it's a dangerous precedent for bureaucrats to unilaterally set laws.

A spokesperson for Elections Alberta said Tuesday neither Resler or the agency would comment on the judge's ruling.

Anglin ran as an Alberta Party candidate in the riding of Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre in the 2019 provincial election. He came in third place with five per cent of the votes.

He said he has no plans to run in the next provincial election, slated for May 2023.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting