Calgary MP-elect’s seat Threatened; under investigation
By Matthew Hillier, Contributor
Liberal MP–elect George Chahal may have his upcoming seat for the Calgary riding of Skyview threatened amidst controversy surrounding his actions the day before the recent federal election.
Allegedly, Chahal was videotaped via a citizen’s doorbell camera, removing election pamphlets of his conservative opponent, Jag Sahota, who has held the seat since 2019. The video was then shared via social media where it quickly went viral. The video shows Chahal folding up and removing campaign materials and replacing them with his own.
The spokesperson for Chahal’s campaign, Randall Zalazar, claimed Chahal was removing the flyers to correct a mistake with polling information that would have sent the Calgary resident to an incorrect polling location for his riding. However, according to a report from CBC, Chahal’s campaign flyers that he replaced directed the residents to Saint Claire Elementary School, which is not currently registered as a polling station and is 18 kilometers away from the resident’s nearest polling station in Coventry Hills.
Zalazar was asked by the Calgary Sun if the materials removed were Chahal’s or his conservative opponent’s but he declined to comment and instead directed the inquiry to Elections Canada. Zalazar claimed to have reported the misinformative polling information on Chahal’s conservative opponent’s pamphlet to Elections Canada. However, Elections Canada said that they received no complaint from the Chahal campaign.
CTVNews has reported that Sahota has retained a law firm to annul the results of this month’s election and has provided her campaign flyers as evidence to counter claims of incorrect polling information on her flyers being distributed.
Many are questioning why Chahal himself was correcting the mistake and not relying on his team or social media to fix the error, including Mount Royal University (MRU) political scientist Duane Bratt. Bratt told Global News that “this isn’t a volunteer. This is the candidate. There’s no separation here. You can’t say, ‘well it was an overzealous volunteer’.”
Calgary Police Services (CPS) have received a complaint regarding Chahal’s actions and the video evidence is currently being investigated. CPS’ anti-corruption unit will be investigating the incident due to the complaint being directed towards an elected member of parliament. The investigation has been transferred to the Office of the Commissioner of Canada Elections, the commissioner’s office however is unable to confirm if the investigation is in progress. Nevertheless, the Hindustan Times has confirmed that a representative for Sahota has stated that Sahota’s office has been contacted with regard to the case.
If Chahal is found guilty he will be violating Section 325 (1) of the Canada Elections Act which states that “No person shall prevent or impair the transmission to the public of an election advertising message without the consent of a person with authority to authorize its transmission.”
The theft or removal of election materials is one of the most prominent matters dealt with by the Office of the Commissioner of Canada Elections. This carries a fine of $5,000 and six months of possible jail time depending on the severity of materials removed. However, it is unknown whether Chahal’s status as an elected MP will affect the severity of the punishment.
Chahal gave up his seat on the Calgary City Council of Ward 5 to run for parliament in the riding of Skyview. Chahal has maintained this seat since 2017 after former council member Ray Jones resigned.
As the only Liberal currently holding a seat in Calgary after the election and one of two Liberals holding seats in Alberta, Chahal was endorsed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau due to his former experience as a city councilor. The prime minister’s office hasn’t released a statement. However, the Liberal party has, stating that Chahal’s office will be open to all inquiries regarding the recent controversy.
Lori Williams, an associate professor at MRU and BA policy studies major, is skeptical of Chahal’s political future.
Williams said, “prior to the revelation of this incident Chahal was seen by many as a candidate for cabinet. That’s changed now, it’s impossible for the Liberals to overlook that.”
In addition to his political history as a city councilor, he is currently holding his seat as a councilor in the Calgary Police Commission which he has maintained for Ward 5 since his election in 2017. This seat, however, will be vacant if he is appointed to the House of Commons, leaving two prominent municipal positions up for grabs in the next municipal election.
It is currently unknown how this controversy will affect Chahal’s new seat on the House of Commons or if any disciplinary action will be taken on the newly elected candidate.