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Alberta Politics

Rules for you but not for Madu: Justice Minister’s phone call to police chief ties the UCP in knots

It wouldn’t be a January in Alberta without freezing rain and a big political scandal.

As the province comes to grips with the rise and spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, Alberta’s United Conservative Party government has tied itself in knots over a distracted driving ticket.

Dale McFee, Edmonton Police Chief
Dale McFee, Edmonton Police Chief

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced last Monday night that Edmonton-South West MLA Kaycee Madu would “step back” from his role as Minister of Justice and Solicitor General following reports that ten months ago the Justice Minister phoned Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee after he was issued a ticket for distracted driving in a school zone.

The decision to ask Madu to “step back” and be temporarily replaced by Energy Minister Sonya Savage until an independent investigator can look into the issue, is far from the firing that many Albertans were calling for after news of the scandal was broken by intrepid CBC reporters Elise von Scheel and Janice Johnston.

Madu’s decision to call McFee was inappropriate and showed a stunning lack of judgement. The Minister should have known better to bring up the specific personal matter. Even if he didn’t ask the chief to rescind the ticket and wanted to discuss other issues, as Madu claims, it is impossible to ignore the power dynamic of making this call.

Elise von Scheel
Elise von Scheel

Following the release of the story by the CBC, Madu issued his own statement saying he did mention his ticket to the Chief but he wanted to raise concerns about racial profiling and whether he was being spied on by the Edmonton Police Service, similar to how officers of the Lethbridge Police Service were caught spying on former cabinet minister Shannon Phillips.

Shortly after Madu’s office released his statement, Kenney issued his own separate statement on Twitter, which made it look like the Premier’s and Madu’s offices weren’t even closely coordinating their responses to the scandal.

Kenney announced in his stream of tweets that the government was hiring an independent investigator, but a week later it is still unclear who the independent investigator will be and what exactly that person will be investigating. 

Both Madu and McFee have agreed the phone call happened, and it should be clear that the government does not need to pay someone to point out that a pretty big line was crossed.

Shannon Phillips NDP MLA Lethbridge West
Shannon Phillips

Will the investigator investigate whether the distracted driving ticket was valid? Madu and McFee disagree about whether the ticket was just, though the Justice Minister chose not to challenge the ticket in traffic court (which is another big issue) and he paid the fine.

Or will Kenney’s investigator investigate whether Madu was a victim of racial profiling or a target of a political conspiracy by members of the Edmonton Police Service?

Institutional racism is definitely a problem in Alberta’s police forces, and the shocking revelations of abuse of power by police officers in Lethbridge are nothing to dismiss, but it definitely seems that Madu statement shocked a few months of life into an embarrassing political scandal that could have been put to rest in a week or two.

If the allegations levelled by Madu against the Edmonton Police Service are as serious as he claims, it is hard to imagine why the government would not have acted on this 10 months ago, rather than sitting idle until the CBC broke the story.

Don Braid Calgary Herald Postmedia
Don Braid

Postmedia columnist Don Braid wrote that “the ticket episode was widely known in cabinet circles and talked about in jocular tones.”

Braid also wrote that senior cabinet ministers including Ric McIver and Jason Nixon and senior staffers like Pam Livingston (now Kenney’s Chief of Staff), Larry Kaumeyer (then Kenney’s Principal Secretary and now CEO of Ducks Unlimited Canada), and Matt Wolf (Kenney’s former director of issues management) were aware of the incident. Kenney said he was aware of the ticket but avoided answering whether he knew about Madu’s phone call to Chief McFee.

The government’s failure to act in response to the scandal 10 months ago and its fumbling reaction when it was made public last week certainly does not inspire confidence in how Madu or the UCP government would oversee the provincial police force they are hoping to replace to RCMP with in much of Alberta.

Janet Brown Calgary Pollster
Janet Brown

This is only one of the latest scandals that reeks of the kind of entitlement that brought down the old Progressive Conservative regime in 2015.

It was only one year ago that Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard resigned from cabinet and Kenney was forced to demote a handful of UCP MLAs who chose to flout the government’s public health travel advisories and fly off to hot holidays in Hawaii and Mexico.

And only three months ago, Agriculture and Forestry Minister Devin Dreeshen, a noted Kenney loyalist, resigned from cabinet after a former staffer filed a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment, defamation, heavy drinking, and a toxic workplace culture in the Legislature Building.

As pollster Janet Brown tweeted this weekend, “elitism and entitlement are the kryptonite of the right!” And right now, Kenney is slipping and sliding on a skating rink made of kryptonite. 

Categories
Alberta Politics

Panel discussion on CBC’s The Current: Alberta’s election and the Kenney-Callaway scandal

I was thrilled to join pollster Janet Brown, columnist Catherine Ford and host Anna Maria Tremonti on The Current on CBC Radio this morning to discuss Alberta politics, Rachel Notley’s chances of re-election this spring, and recent developments in the Jason Kenney-Jeff Callaway collusion scandal.

In case you missed it on the radio this morning, you can listen to the panel discussion online or download The Current podcast wherever you listen to podcasts.


The Jeff Callaway story took another twist this morning when Jen Gerson published this new report in Maclean’s Magazine:

“[Cameron] Davies said he received a transfer from a corporate entity of $60,000 into his personal bank account that, he alleges, was then re-distributed to Callaway’s campaign account to pay the candidate’s entry fee to the leadership contest. He said the origin of the money was then obfuscated, in part through fake donors whom he helped to obtain. Personal bank documents obtained by Maclean’s confirm the $60,000 payment to Davies.”

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Alberta Politics

a look at the candidates lining up in the race to replace ed stelmach.

The candidates lining up to replace Premier Ed Stelmach as leader of the PC Party have been campaigning for months, yet what should be the hottest political leadership contest of the year has so far been a quiet affair. Will it take the summer months to heat up this contest, or will Albertans wait until the September 17 first ballot vote approaches before they begin to pay attention?

Here is a look at the candidates who are seeking the PC Party leadership:

A photo of Doug Griffiths, Alberta PC leadership candidate.
Doug Griifths

Doug Griffiths
Slogan: Better Alberta
Elected experience: MLA for Wainwright from 2002-2004 and Battle River-Wainwright from 2004 to present.
Released policies: Energy, Finance, Property Rights
Background: An underdog in this contest, Mr. Griffiths’ public musings have made him a pariah among some fellow conservatives and his openness to go to these uncomfortable places makes him unique when contrasted with the large contingent of comfortably-silent MLAs in the PC caucus. These musings have likely cost him a spot in cabinet, but they have also built him a solid following of supporters online.

Despite support of some rural high-rolling Tories, word on the street is that Mr. Griffiths campaign has had a challenge keeping up with fundraising compared to the other candidates in this contest. Calgary-North Hill backbencher Kyle Fawcett is the only MLA to have endorsed Mr. Griffiths. He supported Jim Dinning in the 2006 PC leadership contest.

A photo of Doug Horner, Alberta PC Leadership candidate.
Doug Horner

Doug Horner
Slogan: Let’s get it done right.
Elected experience: MLA for Spruce Grove-Sturgeon-St. Albert since 2001.
Background: Calgary Tories still bitter from Jim Dinning’s defeat in 2006 will try to paint Mr. Horner with the same brush as they did Premier Ed Stelmach. Mr. Horner is a more comfortable figure than the Premier and did a decent job filling various cabinet posts, including Agriculture and Advanced Education & Technology.

The heir to a three-generation political dynasty, Mr. Horner follows in the footsteps of his grand-father Senator Ralph Horner, his uncles former MPs Jack Horner and Norval Horner, and his father former MP, MLA and deputy Premier Hugh Horner. Big shoes to fill.

Under the auspices of the grassroots Albertan group, led by advisor Brad Ferguson, Mr. Horner is embarking on a province-wide “Think Big Alberta” speaking tour with retired Canadian Forces General Rick Hillier and Vancouver 2010 Olympic Committee CEO John Furlong. The tour kicks off in Edmonton on June 22 and has stops planned in Red Deer, Grande Prairie, Fort McMurray, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, and Calgary.

In 2006 he supported Mark Norris on the first ballot and Ed Stelmach on the second ballot.

A photo of Gary Mar, Alberta PC leadership candidate.
Gary Mar

Gary Mar
Slogan: None evident, supporters on Twitter are using the hashtag #GOGARY
Elected experience: MLA for Calgary-Nose Hill from 1993 to 2004 and Calgary-Mackay from 2004 to 2007.
Released policies: Education, Municipal Funding
Background: Smart and slick, Mr. Mar’s campaign has the feel of a candidate for the United States Senate, which is not surprising considering that he has spent the past five years dining and lobbying the Washington DC political establishment on behalf of the Alberta Government. An MLA and cabinet minister from 1993 until 2007, he has been out of the public eye long enough not to be directly tied to the current PC Party administration.

Mr. Mar’s campaign carries significant support from Establishment Tories like former Finance Minister Iris Evans and current Energy Minister Ron Liepert, who rumours say has been trying to strong-arm support from other Tory MLAs. Mr. Mar’s campaign public relations are being handled by long-time government spokesperson Mark Kastner, who is still listed as Alberta Health Services Executive Director of Media Relations.

The membership list of a secret Facebook group created before Mr. Mar officially entered the PC leadership contest included Jim Dinning‘s 2006 campaign chairman Brent Shervey, Calgary-Nose Hill MLA Neil Brown, Drayton Valley-Calmar MLA Diana McQueen, Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Fred Horne, co-chair of the PC Party’s 2008 election platform committee Brenda Barootes, and pollster Janet Brown.

He supported Jim Dinning in the 2006 PC leadership contest.

A photo of Rick Orman, Alberta PC leadership candidate.
Rick Orman

Rick Orman
Slogan: The Right Choice
Elected experience: MLA for Calgary-Montrose from 1986 to 1993
Background: This blast from the past could turn into the Ron Paul of the PC leadership contest. As the MLA for Calgary-Montrose from 1986 to 1993 and third place candidate in his party’s 1992 leadership contest, Mr. Orman faded into political obscurity until making a return as a candidate in this contest. Taking aggressive positions at candidate forms and typing with a sharp wit on Twitter, he does not owe much to the PC Party in its current incarnation and has little to lose by telling PC members what the other candidates are afraid to say. It has been suggested that Mr. Orman’s candidacy poses the biggest threat to Dr. Morton.

Mr. Orman’s campaign is moving into an office recently vacated by Calgary-Centre Conservative MP Lee Richardson‘s campaign team, opening speculation that Mr. Orman’s support may not be so thin.

A photo of Justice Minister Alison Redford at the 2011 Alberta budget announcement in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Alison Redford

Alison Redford
Slogan: None.
Elected experience: MLA for Calgary-Elbow since 2008
Released policies: Democratic Renewal, Education, Energy, Health Care
Background: The only woman in this contest, Ms. Redford is not your typical Red Tory. While her campaign has so far focused on important issues like health care, education, democratic renewal, and energy policy, the safe communities initiative during her time as Justice Minister demonstrated that she is creative enough to look beyond the “tough on crime” agenda. She is also appears to be taking a page from popular Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Edmonton City Councillor Don Iveson by “campaigning in full sentences.” (This may have been influenced by her campaign strategist Stephen Carter, who was involved with Mayor Nenshi’s campaign).

Ms. Redford has only been an MLA since 2008, but her political experience is broad, ranging from serving as a Senior Policy Advisor to External Affairs Minister Joe Clark, being appointed as one of four International Election Commissioners to administer Afghanistan’s first parliamentary elections, and challenging Calgary-West MP Rob Anders for the Conservative Party nomination in 2004 (she was unsuccessful).

A photo of Ted Morton, Alberta PC leadership candidate.
Ted Morton

Ted Morton
Slogan: Alberta Proud/Proud to be Albertan
Elected experience: Senator-in-Waiting 1998 to 2004, MLA for Foothills-Rockyview from 2004 to present
Released policies: Democratic Renewal, Power Transmission
Background: The former Finance Minister and third place leadership candidate from 2006 who’s actions forced Premier Ed Stelmach to resign and this contest to begin. Many of his key organizers from his previous leadership bid have joined the Wildrose Alliance and it is questionable whether they will return to the PC Party fold if they have embraced Dr. Morton’s ideological soul-mate Danielle Smith. His time as Finance Minister hurt his conservative credentials, especially among rural landowners furious at the government’s recently passed transmission line legislation – Bill 50.

In 2006, Dr. Morton received support of Rob Anders, Myron Thompson, and Jason Kenney, who have each since quietly or loudly shown support for the Wildrose Alliance.

Expected to enter the race:

Thomas Lukaszuk
Elected experience: MLA for Edmonton-Castle Downs from 2001 to present
Background: Yet to enter the contest, rumours have been swirling for months about Minister Lukaszuk’s potential entry into this contest. He would be the only MLA from Edmonton to enter the contest and while he would be a long-shot candidate, it could help solidify his position in cabinet under the next PC Premier.

He supported Jim Dinning in the 2006 leadership contest.

Categories
Alberta Politics

gary mar’s peeps – supporters secret facebook group revealed.

Gary Mar resigned today from his position as Alberta’s Representative in Washington DC, fuelling the speculation that the former cabinet minister will soon join the Progressive Conservative leadership contest.

Some of the more recent rumours predicting Mr. Mar’s entry into the leadership contest were based around a late February meeting of supporters, including Klein-era political operator Rod Love.

More concrete proof of Mr. Mar’s candidacy landed in my email inbox this afternoon when a reader emailed me a screenshot of a Secret Group on Facebook, named Gary Mar’s Peeps.” It appears as though this secret Facebook gathering place for Mr. Mar’s supporters has been up and running for the past month. Its content includes links to news stories, blog posts, and questions from group members ranging from where to send campaign donations to how to respond to chatter on Twitter.

A screenshot of "Gary Mar's Peeps" Secret Group on Facebook.

The 87 members of the invite-only Facebook group are an interesting camp of PC Party members. Some of the notable names in the members list include Jim Dinning‘s 2006 campaign chairman Brent Shervey, Calgary-Nose Hill MLA Neil Brown, Drayton Valley-Calmar MLA Diana McQueen, Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Fred Horne, former PC Youth President Courtney Luimes (who is currently the Executive Assistant to Energy Minister Ron Liepert), Airdrie-Chestermere PC Association President Janice Harrington, co-chair of the PC Party’s 2008 election platform committee Brenda Barootes, and pollster Janet Brown.

A person’s membership in a Facebook may not necessary translate into an official endorsement, but the exclusivity of this invite-only secret group may suggest that its members have a higher level of commitment towards Mr. Mar than if it were a regular public Facebook Group.

Categories
Alberta Politics

alberta politics notes 3/04/2011

Three years later.
What a change three years can make. On March 3, 2008, Premier Ed Stelmach led the PCs to a massive majority, winning 72 of 83 seats in the Assembly. The sweep saw the Kevin Taft led Liberals halved from 16 MLAs to 9 MLAs and that party’s stronghold in Edmonton wither to three seats, Brian Mason‘s NDP were reduced from 4 to 2 MLAs, and the Wildrose Alliance‘s leader and only MLA Paul Hinman was defeated in Cardston-Taber-Warner (he would later be elected in the 2009 Calgary-Glenmore by-election). The election also marked the lowest voter-turnout in Alberta’s history as almost 60% of Albertans did not exercise the vote.

Alberta MPs caught in campaign scandal
A staffer in Calgary-Southeast Conservative MP and Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney‘s office in Ottawa has resigned after being caught using ministerial letterhead to solicit donations for the Conservative Party.

The letter was discovered when it was accidentally delivered to Edmonton-Strathcona NDP MP Linda Duncan‘s Ottawa office. Unfortunately for Ms. Duncan, her office does not have much moral authority on this issue. In February 2010, a conservative blogger discovered that Ms. Duncan’s Constituency Assistant and Campaign Manager Erica Bullwinkle had used her Parliamentary email account for campaign purposes.

More Tories join Wildrose
Former Finance Minister Lyle Oberg is not the only former Tory member to join the Wildrose Alliance. Perennial Edmonton PC nomination candidate Ian Crawford has also signed up for a Wildrose membership. Mr. Crawford, who last ran unsuccessfully for the PC nomination in Edmonton-Meadowlark against Raj Sherman and (now-Liberal Party executive) Debbie Cavaliere in 2007, is the son of former PC cabinet minister Neil Crawford.

Liberals tackle health care
The Liberals are without a long-term leader, but that has not stopped them from focusing on health care – an issue I believe could be their ticket back to relevance before the next election, especially while the Wildrose continues to push for increased privatization inside the health care system.

Gary Mar
Alberta’s representative in Washington DC, former cabinet minister Gary Mar, has been expected to announce his entry into the PC leadership contest for the past few weeks. Mr. Mar’s website domain name was registered by a supporter in January and he recently popped up on Facebook with a brand new profile page (I have sent in a friend request).

 

Gary Mar has joined Facebook (and Ted Morton ads).

AHS Chair joining PC contest?
Alberta Health Services Chairman Ken Hughes‘ name has been bandied around as a potential candidate for the PC leadership contest. The former PC MP and insurance industry executive has reportedly been testing the waters through phone polls over the past few weeks.

Immunity challenge
Raj Sherman, serious allegations, wants immunity.

Deputy Pastoor
Lethbridge-East MLA Bridget Pastoor replaced Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman as Deputy Leader of the Official Opposition this week. Ms. Blakeman, who is seeking the Liberal leadership, will continue in her other critic roles.

Nominations
I have updated the list of nominated and declared election candidates to include two PC MLAs who were nominated this week, PC leadership candidate and former Justice Minister Allison Redford was chosen as her party’s candidate in Calgary-Elbow at a nomination meeting this week. Ms. Redford was first elected in 2008, unseating Liberal MLA Craig Cheffins in a close-fought campaign. Elbow was represented by Ralph Klein from 1989 until his resignation in 2007, when Mr. Cheffins was elected in a by-election.

Red Deer-South PC MLA Cal Dallas won his party’s nomination in the constituency he was first elected to represent in 2008.

YouTube
The Calgary Herald has been posting a number of YouTube video interviews on their website. In this one, pollster Janet Brown offers some thoughts on the PC leadership contest:

Read more in the Alberta Politics Notes archive.