Red Deer-South MLA elect Jason Stephan, who will be sworn in one of these days, has now explained his excuse for missing his swearing-in date – by the look of it he had time for Preston Manning’s bogus COVID “inquiry."
Red Deer-South MLA elect Jason Stephan, who will be sworn in one of these days, has now explained his excuse for missing his swearing-in date – by the look of it he had time for Preston Manning’s bogus COVID “inquiry." Credit: Jason Stephan / Facebook Credit: Jason Stephan / Facebook

Jason Stephan, the Red Deer-South electoral district’s absentee MLA, apparently now wants us to believe he had no idea in March that there was an Alberta election scheduled at the end of May. 

At least one naïve octogenarian employed by Postmedia as a political columnist seems to have taken the bait

But younger and more alert readers, and even this septuagenarian writer, will recall that it’s been known since early November 2021 that a fixed election day for Alberta was set in legislation, and that, since she took over as premier last October, Danielle Smith insisted that the election would go ahead as legislated on May 29. 

Nevertheless, making his excuses on the social media site that won’t publish links to Canadian news reports, Stephan insisted his family holiday to Africa was booked “months ago, in early March, before the election in May, before any swearing in date conflict.” 

Seriously? Well, this is Alberta, so, presumably, yes. 

Most of us would pick up on the obvious: that November 2021 – when the Alberta legislature passed a law setting May 29, 2023, as the date of the next provincial election – was a year and four months before March 2023, when Mr. Stephan says he made his travel arrangements. 

Moreover, most of us would also think that from sometime in March 2023 to the end of May 2023 was a matter of weeks, not months, but I suppose we can concede that point to Stephan on the technicality. He is, after all, an accountant in addition to being a lawyer, so he is bound to have some familiarity with both arithmetic and nice legal distinctions. 

Stephan’s reason for this vacation seems like a perfectly fine one.

“After graduating from high school and working to save money, my oldest son was called to a 2 year mission for our church in Africa,” he wrote. “This spring my son got married. As our wedding present to our son and his beautiful bride, my wife and I agreed to pay for a trip back to Africa, so he could share some of the wonderful places and people he served with us and his bride.”

Well, I’m not going to knock him for that. However …

“Upon learning of a swearing in date conflict in June, arrangements were made for me to sworn in shortly upon my 2 week return in the first week of July,” he went on in his post. “There is no impact on my responsibilities or my ability to serve.”

The latter point, of course, is a matter of opinion upon which reasonable people can reasonably disagree.

But it’s important to remember that holding an opinion different from one held by Stephan or any other UCP member does not make one a liar, and his characterization in the same post of a comment by Edmonton-Mill Woods NDP MLA Christina Gray as containing “many lies” is offensive. 

“We have done nothing wrong,” Stephan concluded defiantly. “My wife and I and my son and his new wife are going to finish our trip.”

Well, good on ya, buddy. You be you. 

After all, Stephan does have a history of tavelling when he really ought not to be on the road – and being self-righteous about it when busted. 

It doesn’t change a thing, though. Given this weak excuse, it remains a reasonable conclusion that MLA Stephan is shirking his duties and treating his constituents with contempt. 

His Central Alberta riding being where it is, he can take comfort in the knowledge he’ll almost certainly get away with it. 

What’s more, as he pointed out by implication, if not explicitly, nothing of importance is going to happen with the government’s legislative agenda anyway until well after July, when he has a date for a personal swearing-in session with House Speaker Nathan Cooper.

If there’s a lesson to be learned here, it’s probably the value of public figures being honest and open up front about their whereabouts on dates important to their constituents if they happen to be planning to be out of town.

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...