*Newly released: a short guide to gifts (for MLAs and political staff members)
Welcome to the site of the Office of the Ethics Commissioner for the Province of Alberta. The office was established on April 1, 1992. For more information on Alberta's Lobbyists Registry, please visit: https://www.albertalobbyistregistry.ca.
Under Section 26(1) of the Conflicts of Interest Act the Ethics Commissioner, or any of the staff, may not disclose to anyone:
a) the fact that the office has received a request for an investigation;
b) whether an investigation is being conducted or not;
c) the outcome of any such investigation.
If the Commissioner conducts an investigation it is submitted to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. The Office of the Ethics Commissioner cannot release it.
The Office of the Ethics Commissioner can not provide any comment on ANY alleged or actual investigation to any person unless authorized or required to do so under the Conflicts of Interest Act.
In general, a simple, straightforward investigation takes six to eight weeks. More complex investigations with numerous people being questioned and/or many documents could take as long as three to five months.
What are the limits to the jurisdiction of the Ethics Commissioner?
The Ethics Commissioner does not have the power to deal with every situation that the public thinks is “unethical”.
The Ethics Commissioner does not have the power to deal with situations where the public disagrees with the way that a Member behaved or with the actions that the Government is taking.
The Ethics Commissioner is created by the Alberta Conflicts of Interest Act. The Ethics Commissioner only has the power to deal with the limited matters covered by the Conflicts of Interest Act provisions.
The scope of the Conflicts of Interest Act is narrow. Generally speaking, the provisions of the Conflicts of Interest Act only cover actions taken by a Member to benefit a “private interest” of the Member, the Member’s partner or the Member’s dependent child if the Member is
1. taking part in a decision in the course of carrying out the Member’s office or powers;
2. using the Member’s office or powers to influence a government decision; or
3. using information not available to the public that was gained in the course of carrying out the Member’s office or powers.
In a couple specific instances, they also cover actions taken by a Member, using the Member’s role or powers, to benefit the “private interest” of other people.
A “private interest” is an interest in a matter that affects an individual in a direct, personal, particular, and significant way. This means that the “private interest” of a Member does not include, for example:
An interest in a matter that affects the public generally
An interest in a matter that affects the Member as part of a broad segment of the public
An interest in a matter that is trivial
An interest in a matter that concerns the pay or benefits of Members
An interest in a matter held by somebody that the Member knows
An interest in increasing the popular reputation and support of the Member or the Member’s political party to improve their chances of being re-elected in the future
What can the Ethics Commissioner do about breaches by Members?
If a Member has not complied with the Conflicts of Interest Act provisions, the Ethics Commissioner can do the following:
In the case of an investigation about a Member, the Ethics Commissioner must report the findings of the investigation to the Legislative Assembly and can recommend to the Legislative Assembly that a sanction be imposed on the Member. However, in the end, it is the Legislative Assembly that decides whether the Member has complied with the legislation, whether to impose any sanction on the Member and, if so, what type of sanction to impose.
Where a Member has not filed his/her disclosure or direct associates return on time, the Ethics Commissioner can impose an administrative penalty on the Member. The maximum amount of the penalty that can be imposed is $500.
The Ethics Commissioner does not have the power to:
Remove a Member or require a Member to resign.
Stop the introduction, development, passage or defeat of a bill, resolution or legislative proposal in the Legislative Assembly.
Otherwise control or direct the proceedings in the Legislative Assembly.
Stop the Government from developing, amending, enacting, implementing or terminating any legislation, orders in council, ministerial orders, regulations, guidelines, directives, programs, or policies.