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Elections Alberta says Stephen Mandel can't run. Alberta Party lawyers say he can.

Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel in a typical recent pose

Elections Alberta's updated list of candidates ineligible to run as candidates or serve as chief elections officers includes at least one name most Albertans will recognize. To wit: Stephen Mandel.

Yes, that Stephen Mandel. That is, the Stephen Mandel who leads the Alberta Party.

The former Edmonton mayor and Progressive Conservative Party cabinet minister appears not to have filed his post-vote financial accounting paperwork after the nomination election for the Edmonton-McClung riding last fall in a sufficiently timely fashion.

Elections Alberta, therefore, has banned him from running until Sept. 27, 2023.

For his part, Mandel disputes the ruling and says he did file his paperwork on time. His lawyers sent a letter to counsel for Chief Electoral Officer Glen Resler on Feb. 2 arguing that Elections Alberta calculated the statutory period for filing incorrectly in its correspondence last year with Mandel.

Five other Alberta Party candidates -- Ali Haymour, Diana Ly, Amrit Matharu, Moe Rahall and Rachel Timmermans -- face the same fate.

"In the circumstances," the lawyers wrote, "we would expect the CEO to retract and withdraw the January 30, 2019 notice of contravention sent to our clients." The letter also asked Resler to delay submitting his report to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, and remove reference to "the alleged breach" from its publications.

Mandel will hold a news conference this afternoon at 2 pm local time. But he said last night he'll be asking the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench on Monday to overturn the ban.

Meanwhile, some social media commentators, unable to resist the temptation to mock Mandel for the SNAFU, were having fun last night. "Paperwork is hard," observed one, dryly. This was a sly reference to then-Tory-premier Jim Prentice’s disastrously flubbed "math is hard" shot in 2015.

Mandel, known to be cranky when crossed, is unlikely to be amused. Nor will he be happy to be reminded it's always prudent to file your paperwork sooner than later.

Embarrassment would be appropriate. Expect bluster. Maybe even fireworks.

What the political implications of this unexpected wrinkle will turn out to be is uncertain.

If the CEO sticks to his guns not to let Mandel run in the election expected to be called by NDP Premier Rachel Notley almost any day now, and the courts agree, it surely won't be good news for the Alberta Party.

The party struggled to stay on the electoral radar before Mandel, 73 and bored with retirement, kindly agreed to take its reins in hand.

If it turns out they need a new leader on short notice, there's always Greg Clark. The former leader, rather mysteriously shoved aside when Mandel appeared on the scene, has experience in the role.

If Mandel manages to overturn the ban, whether this will be bad news or good for the Alberta Party remains to be seen.

There was a day when failing to file your paperwork on time might have been seen by voters as evidence a candidate is not qualified to run a peanut stand, let alone a government. Nowadays, though, who knows? We live in an era when any publicity may be good publicity.

Perhaps this will turn out to be the best thing that's ever happened to the Alberta Party!

Stand by for updates.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca

Image: David Climenhaga

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