Alberta’s minister of Municipal Affairs, Ric McIver, said he’s asked outside legal counsel and “non-partisan department officials to review the Municipal Government Act to verify what legal recourse — if any — exists for a minister” in the context of allegations against Calgary Councillor-elect Sean Chu.
Chu is facing increased pressure to resign, including earlier comments from the mayor-elect and nine of his fellow councillors-elect following a CBC News story about an investigation into Chu’s conduct as a Calgary police officer involving a minor.
“I have called for him to resign. Most members of the new council have called for him to resign,” mayor-elect Jyoti Gondek said Thursday.
“Chu should absolutely resign.”
Embattled Coun. Sean Chu won’t step down from office; mayor-elect Jyoti Gondek says he ‘won’t be sworn in by me’
The mayor-elect said she won’t take part in swearing-in the embattled councillor.
Gondek is also calling on the province to use its powers under the Municipal Government Act and the Local Authorities Election Act.
“But I would recommend that Bill 52, which is the recall legislation that has been given royal assent but it’s yet to be proclaimed. If it is proclaimed, they can take action immediately,” Gondek said.
On Thursday night, the Alberta government released a statement addressing the growing calls about Chu.
“The allegations against Sean Chu are very serious,” Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver said in the statement. “Any time an impropriety is alleged against a minor, the situation immediately becomes even more severe.
“Contrary to what some have suggested, the minister of Municipal Affairs cannot simply arbitrarily ‘fire’ an elected municipal official.”
However, McIver said that following the recent revelations about Chu, he’s asked “non-partisan” ministry officials to take a closer look at the act and see if the province has any jurisdiction in this case.
“The expert advice I have received from officials states that the tools within the Municipal Government Act — both an ‘inspection’ and ‘inquiry’ — are focused on wrongdoing committed by a council or councillor while performing their duties with respect to the operations of a municipality,” McIver stated.
“These elements within the law were not developed to address personal conduct of an elected official dating back many years before that individual entered public office, and it is questionable whether they could be used effectively in the current situation.
Calls mounting for Calgary Coun. Sean Chu to resign; police chief weighs in
“The Municipal Government Act is very clear on the issue of a Criminal Code (Canada) conviction. Councillors convicted of an offence punishable by imprisonment for five or more years or of an offence under sections 123, 124 or 125 of the Criminal Code (Canada) are disqualified from office and must resign immediately or may be removed by application to the court.
“However, that criteria does not apply in this matter as no conviction exists.
McIver said he understands the “justifiable public interest in this unprecedented situation” and, because of the case’s uniqueness, as well as the “lack of clarity for recourse in the Municipal Government Act, I have asked for outside, independent legal counsel to review the legislation and provide expert advice on what action — if any — the minister of Municipal Affairs may legally take.”
McIver said he’s asked for the review to be completed as quickly as possible.
He said he intends to make the expert advice public.
Thursday afternoon, Chu detailed a pair of incidents that have been the subject of recent reports, including allegations of impropriety with a minor that came to light via a CBC News story.
Less than a week before entering his third term as councillor, Chu said he didn’t share the incidents with his electorate because he thought they weren’t relevant.
“This happened 24 years ago and the case (was) resolved at that time, and I believe that has nothing to do with being a councillor,” he said.
Chu said at the time he took an hours-long polygraph test, which he said he passed. He said a “thorough investigation was conducted.”
“I considered the matter to have been investigated, a penalty applied and served, and the incident now resolved.”
— with files from Adam Toy
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.