Editorial – Citizen wants voters’ rights

Jeff Burgar

There would be no argument over the Oct. 18 municipal election in High Prairie if the vote for mayor wasn’t close: 367 for Brian Panasiuk, 314 for Barry Sharkawi.
When all things with the election are considered, there is a solid case for legal complaint. The whole thing is now withdrawn over a technicality.
Problems include sloppy ballot boxes. Apparently, they are not secure, meaning somebody could toss in some “unauthorized” ballots. There was mixing of the so-called travelling boxes with regular ballots. Without counting separately, another way some “extra” ballots may find their way into the counting.
Another issue was the Heart River Housing employee bragging he told senior lodge residents for whom they should vote. If it actually happened [perhaps it was just a joke], we’re surprised one of the seniors didn’t tell said employee to shut up and mind his own business.
But of course, the most egregious of all was no travelling poll at J.B. Wood Nursing Home, after town council ordered it. Some 60+ residents of the lodge, plus an unknown number of staff, missed their vote right there. In proportion, it’s like saying the entire voting population of Alberta in the last federal election can’t vote. Get the picture, those who pooh pooh?
It should be up to Alberta’s Municipal Affairs department to get involved in this. Instead, they told candidate Barry Sharkawi to seek court action. Perhaps conveniently for Municipal Affairs and the useless pile of manure that fills its offices, they told Sharkawi this two weeks after he asked them to investigate. A letter saying that arrived about the time for filing court papers was to expire. An expiry time set by Municipal Affairs’ own rules. Handy, eh?
Like police showing up at a crime scene two weeks after the fact and not even taking a statement. “Sorry Ms. Victim. It’s so long after it happened we won’t do anything.”
Municipal Affairs. The same department that tells local governments not to take minutes of their council meetings. The same department which says they don’t want to get involved in local politics. The same department that regularly issues rules and laws how those very local governments like towns, cities, counties and municipal districts have to run their affairs. Then when one of those rules or laws is broken, tells complaining citizens to go to court and get a judge to fix things.
A British Columbia judge said recently over protest blockades, “I am tired of the government telling companies and citizens to go to court to get action. There are laws being broken. Why is it up to a judge to order the law be enforced?”
The judge in Sharkawi’s case basically said the same thing.
So, it ends up Municipal Affairs once again sits on their fat asses. They stalled investigating Sharkawi’s complaint until it was too late. No doubt they are off to the watering hole to pat themselves on the back. For not enforcing their own laws? Yup.
Credit Sharkawi for, at the end of the day, simply asking for fair elections for everybody.
Voters and candidates in High Prairie, and all of Alberta, deserve at least that.

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