Tag Archives: Matt Wolf

The Kenney-Callaway collusion scandal erupts days before an expected election call in Alberta

What did Jason Kenney know and when did he know it?

A treasure trove of emails and documents released by CBC investigative reporters Charles Rusnell and Jennie Russell yesterday show that Jason Kenney‘s campaign for the United Conservative Party leadership provided Jeff Callaway’s campaign with resources ranging from “strategic political direction, media and debate talking points, speeches, videos, and attack advertisements, all aimed at undermining Kenney’s main political rival, Brian Jean.”

This comes a day after CBC broke the story that Alberta’s Election Commissioner has turned over to the RCMP its investigation into allegations of irregular political contributions involving Callaway’s so-called “kamikaze” campaign.

CBC reports that current UCP Caucus deputy chief of staff Matt Wolf, then director of issues management for Kenney’s campaign, communicated regularly with Callaway’s communications manager Cameron Davies, and at times Randy Kerr, who was working as Callaway’s campaign manager.

As director of issues management, Wolf was responsible for advising Kenney on the day-to-day campaign tactics and strategy of the leadership campaign.

Callaway’s withdrawal was something that wasn’t necessarily negotiable,” Davies told CBC. “It was something that had been decided in a meeting in mid-July between Callaway and the Jason Kenney leadership team.”

The Star Edmonton reporters Kieran Leavitt and Emma McIntosh reported that Davies said that ‘Kenney had first hand knowledge of the Callaway kamikaze campaign, and attended a meeting at Callaway’s house where it was discussed in July 2017.’

Kenney has repeatedly denied allegations that Callaway was a stalking horse candidate and he most recently denied knowledge of collusion. He told reporters at a press conference on Friday that that he asked his staff in late 2018 whether they had any knowledge of the the Callaway campaign allegations. “The result of those inquiries was that no one was aware of, had heard anything about or had in any way participated in such activity,” Kenney said.

And Clare Clancy has reported that Postmedia has obtained an email from Wolf to the UCP Caucus sent today in which he writes that “I’ve made no secret about that for those who have asked.”  The same Postmedia report says that Wolf has “gone home” and is not available for comment.

It is not clear whether “gone home” means Wolf was just not in the office at that minute or whether he has “gone home” to somewhere without wifi or cell phone signals for the duration of the election campaign.

Having one of Kenney’s senior advisors apparently leave on the eve of a provincial election call is not exactly the statement of confidence that UCP candidates and supporters will have been looking for today.

Collusion between the two leadership campaigns at this level is not illegal, but it is definitely not normal, certainly unethical and potentially a violation of the UCP’s Code of Conduct.

And as David Climenhaga noted on AlbertaPolitics.ca, U.S. Senator Howard Baker once said of a more famous political scandal, “it is almost always the cover-up rather than the event that causes trouble.”

The questions of legality surround the sharing of campaign resources and donations made by individuals to Callaway’s campaign, and where that money could have originated, which is why the RCMP have been asked to investigate. It has been alleged that some donors were not donating their own money, which is a violation of the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act. One donor to Callaway’s campaign has already been fined $3,500 by the Commissioner for violating the Act.

The whole Kenney-Callaway collusion scandal is bizarre mostly because, as anyone who was paying attention to Alberta politics in 2017 can attest, Kenney was the clear frontrunner in the UCP leadership race.

With 20-years of experience as an Ottawa politician and the strong backing of Canada’s Conservative establishment, Kenney had the networks, support, and money to win a race against Jean on his own, without Callaway.

But it appears that it may of not been enough for Kenney to just defeat Jean in the UCP leadership contest. Maybe Kenney’s campaign felt they needed Callaway in the race in order so that he could win so decisively that his position as leader of the UCP would be unquestionable in the face of a frequently unruly and fractious conservative movement in Alberta?

We do not have an answer to that question – and Kenney’s silence on the topic over the past two days is deafening.

UCP staff post creepy video of NDP staffer and Independent MLA leaving a room. Kenney defends it by alleging a secret conspiracy against him.

The 51-second video is grainy, black and white, and recorded in slow motion to look like security camera footage. It is March 4, 2019. A man walks out of room into a lobby and waits for an elevator. Text appears at the bottom of the screen to tell us that he is “Jeremy Nolais, Senior Notley Advisor.” He has a pen in his mouth and looks at the person recording the video as he waits for the elevator. The video fades to black and new text appears to tell us that 10 minutes has passed as we watch Prab Gill, the Independent MLA for Calgary-Greenway, leave the same room and walk to the same elevator, giving the thumbs up to whoever is sitting behind the camera.

The creepy video appears to have been recorded inside the Federal Building, the recently renovated art deco fortress located on the north side of the Legislature Grounds where most Alberta MLAs have their Edmonton offices. The video was presumably recorded and edited on a mobile phone by someone with access to the building, like a United Conservative Party Caucus staffer.

The video was posted online by the “@UniteAlberta” Twitter account on on March 4 at 8:10 p.m. @UniteAlbeta is the Twitter account managed by United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney’s staff, but it is widely believed that UCP Caucus Deputy Chief of Staff Matt Wolf is its principal tweeter.

Viewers of the video are not told what Nolais and Gill were doing in that room, but the purpose of the video is to suggest they were plotting something nefarious and sinister. The video is clearly meant to discredit Gill, a former UCP MLA who has been at the forefront of accusations of misconduct and alleged illegal activities that took place during the UCP leadership contest in 2017.

Gill has sent letters to the Elections Commissioner and RCMP asking for them to investigate his allegations.

The Elections Commissioner is said to be investigating allegations that UCP leadership candidate Jeff Callaway was running a “kamikaze mission” backed by Kenney’s campaign in order to damage the chances of former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean winning the vote.

The Elections Commissioner recently levelled $15,000 in administrative penalties against Cameron Davies, campaign manager for Jeff Callaway’s alleged “kamikaze mission.” Davies’ offence was listed as a violation of Section 45 of the Election Finances and Contribution Disclosure Act, “Obstruction of an investigation.” 

Callaway campaign donor Karen Brown was fined $3,500 for violating Section 34(1) of the Act by contributing “$3,500 to Jeff Callaway, registered UCP leadership contestant, with funds given or furnished by another person.

The video released by the UCP was juvenile and contradicts Kenney’s oft-repeated pledge to mount a “respectful, policy-based debate during the upcoming election campaign. Kenney frequently dismisses the NDP as an “anger machine,” but stalking your opponents and video recording them inside government offices is not an example of Kenney practicing what he preaches. Whether it was intended or not, the video definitely sends a chilling message to opponents, or “enemies,” of the UCP.

In an interview with Global Edmonton’s Jen Crosby, Kenney claimed he had not seen the video that was posted online by his staff but he accused the NDP of “working in secret” and “conspiring” with Gill to attack the UCP. Without providing any evidence to back up his claims, Kenney doubled down when he later told Postmedia that “I think it’s now pretty obvious he’s channeling attacks from the NDP, it’s dirty politics at its worst…

Gill told the media that he was speaking with Nolais about an issue with a school in his district.

This is the latest example of the remarkable hubris demonstrated by the leader of a party that most polls show to be sitting somewhere between 15 per cent and 24 per cent ahead of the New Democratic Party only a few weeks before an expected election call. 

While videos on social media are probably not enough to win an election, online gaffes can definitely hurt a party’s electoral prospects.

It can be difficult to see even a narrow path to victory for the NDP in Alberta’s current political climate without Kenney making a series of major gaffes, or his staff continuing to post creepy videos of their political opponents on the internet. But it would not be the first time a political party blew a 20 point lead. Just ask Adrian Dix.

Premier Rachel Notley rallies her NDP Caucus MLAs before the start of the fall legislative sitting on Oct. 30, 2017. (photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta Flickr)

A wild first week back at Alberta’s Legislative Assembly

Photo: Premier Rachel Notley rallies her NDP Caucus MLAs before the start of the fall legislative sitting on Oct. 30, 2017. (photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta Flickr)

NDP focus their attacks on Kenney

Jason Kenney Calgary Stampede Alberta

Jason Kenney

A first-time visitor to the Assembly this week could have confused Premier Rachel Notley‘s New Democrats with the Official Opposition as backbencher after backbencher asked government ministers to explain the damage that new UCP leader Jason Kenney would do to Alberta. The NDP even released a handful of attack ads on Facebook, targeting Kenney’s comments about outing students who join Gay-Straight Alliances.

The NDP want to define Kenney and the UCP early in his mandate and are eager to respond to the vicious attacks targeted at them by the Wildrose Party, Kenney’s supporters, and now the UCP since the 2015 election. But this week’s opening shots were over-kill.

We cannot expect political parties to avoid playing politics, especially as we approach the next provincial election. The NDP have every right to challenge Kenney on his controversial statements but the government should carry itself with a little more dignity than it did this week with it’s staged criticisms of the new UCP leader in the Assembly.

New GSA and anti-age discrimination laws

Kathleen Ganley Alberta MLA

Kathleen Ganley

Education Minister David Eggen tabled Bill 24: An Act to Support Gay-Straight Alliances, which provides legal protections for students wanting to form anti-bullying clubs in Alberta schools and prevents administrators from outing students to their parents.

Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley tabled Bill 23: Alberta Human Rights Amendment Act, which adds “age” as a prohibited ground of discrimination in cases of tenancy, goods, services and accommodation. The bill puts an end to adults-only apartment buildings as of Jan. 1, 2018 and gives condo owners a 15-year grace period to implement the new rules. Seniors-only housing is exempt.

UCP trying to tie Notley to Trudeau

United Conservative Party leader in the Legislature Jason Nixon started Question Period each day this week with a question to the Premier about oil pipelines and the relationship between Notley and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. As I wrote earlier this week, the UCP clearly sees a political advantage in trying to tie the Notley government to the Trudeau Liberals in Ottawa.

The National Post’s Stuart Thomson has written an exceedingly good article that focuses on Kenney’s political views and the influence of the Calgary School on his version of Conservative ideology.

David Khan Alberta Liberal Party Leader

David Khan

Ottawa comes to the UCP Caucus

Following Kenney’s victory in last weekend’s UCP leadership race, more than 20 UCP Caucus staffers, mostly former Wildrose Caucus staff, lost their jobs at the Legislative Assembly.

According to AlbertaPolitics.ca writer David Climenhaga, Kenney has hired a handful of his close advisors, many from his years in Ottawa, to run the UCP Caucus: Chief of Staff Nick Koolsbergen, Deputy Chief of Staff Matt Wolf, Calgary Office Manager Blaise Boehmer, Communications Director Annie Dormuth, Director of Operations Jamie Mozeson, Daniel Williams, Peter Bissonnette and Andrew Griffin.

Liberals get traction on PAC Attack

Constant criticism from Liberal Party leader David Khan and David Swann, his party’s lone MLA, appears to be generating results in their crusade against Political Action Committees. Khan made PACs a big issue following his win in the party’s leadership race earlier this year. Notley has said new laws governing PACs will be introduced soon, most likely in the Spring of 2018.

Alberta Party should get Official Status

Greg Clark Alberta Party MLA

Greg Clark

Now with two MLAs in the Alberta Party Caucus, the third largest caucus in the Assembly wants to be granted official party status, which would give Greg Clark and Karen McPherson increased resources and a more prominent role in daily Question Period.

Section 42 of the Legislative Assembly Act states that “recognized party status” shall be granted to a caucus with at least 4 MLAs and a party that received at least 5 percent of the vote in the most recent election.

Clark has pointed out that the NDP were granted official party status when only two of the party’s MLAs were elected in 1997, 2001 and 2008. But in each of those elections, the NDP met the second criteria of earning more than 5 percent of the vote. The Alberta Party currently meets neither of these criteria, having only earned 2.8 percent of the province-wide vote in 2015.

New Democrats who might oppose granting the Alberta Party official status should be reminded of their own party’s situation 35 years ago, when first-term Edmonton-Norwood MLA Ray Martin introduced a private members bill that would have lowered the threshold of recognized party status to one MLA. At the time, huge Progressive Conservative majorities were the norm, and in the 1982 election the only elected opposition consisted of two New Democrats and two Independent MLAs (both former Social Credit MLAs who would later form the Representative Party of Alberta).

The four-MLA threshold is arbitrary and the vote results from the previous election should be irrelevant in recognizing the creation of new caucuses. The Alberta Party should be granted recognized party status, provided with additional resources and given a more prominent role in Question Period now that their caucus has doubled.