One of two presidential candidates for the upcoming Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA) election has accused a federal minister of improper interference.
On Aug. 30, Prairies Economic Development Canada Minister Dan Vandal posed for a photo with the MNA's outgoing president, Audrey Poitras, as well as Andrea Sandmaier, the candidate Poitras has endorsed, at Métis Crossing, a cultural interpretive centre northeast of Edmonton.
Joseph Pimlott, Sandmaier's opponent, said it was inappropriate of the minister to pose for the photo during an ongoing campaign.
"I believe that this is directly interfering with our politics and I don't think it's right," said Pimlott.
"This could potentially sway the election because of optics and, as we know with social media, optics is everything … so I would be deeply concerned that this could have a lasting effect on anyone's chance other than Andrea Sandmaier's because she was in the picture."
Pimlott added that the minister's office should have rescheduled the visit until after the elections, calling the photo "completely disrespectful" of his party's political agenda.
A spokesperson for Vandal said the minister took the opportunity to visit Métis Crossing after being in Edmonton to meet with evacuees from the Northwest Territories. The spokesperson added that the visit took place before the candidates were officially declared on Aug. 31.
The MNA's chief electoral officer, Del Graff, said that there are no rules prohibiting external elected officials from visiting with any MNA affiliate during an election period.
"During an election, members of the provincial council remain active members and are compelled to fulfil any duties assigned to them prior to the notice of vote being issued," said Graff.
Sandmaier told CBC News she was invited to Métis Crossing the day Vandal visited because she is on the board of the cultural centre.
Voting for the new president of the MNA will open Sept. 13 and run until Sept. 19. It marks the first major leadership change the nation has seen in modern times — Poitras has held the position for the last 27 years.