Twitter users are calling out an account associated with UCP leader Jason Kenney for posting a “creepy” video that the account claims shows a senior NDP adviser meeting with an independent MLA.
Prab Gill, the independent MLA featured in the video, said he believes the video is an attempt “to intimidate me so that I don’t say anything” because of concerns he raised about the UCP leadership race in 2017.
“Trump-style politics is being deployed in Alberta,” he said. “This is a new low in Alberta politics.
“Albertans are very smart… they can figure this out, that if elected officials are treated like this, I can’t even imagine their behaviour towards everyday Albertans.”
The 51-second video, posted by @UniteAlberta, is edited for dramatic effect: shot in or converted to black and white, slowed down, with captions added. It shows Jeremy Nolais, who works in the premier’s office, leaving a room in the Federal Building and getting on an elevator.
A graphic flashes, saying “10 minutes later…” and then Gill is shown leaving the same room. Gill raises his hand and gives the person behind the camera a thumbs-up and a smile.
“It was three staff members,” Gill said when asked who he was gesturing to. “I worked with them before, we were part of the caucus, so… I just thought they were sitting there in the waiting area.
“I had no clue that I was being recorded… so casually, I just gave the thumbs-up.”
The tweet accompanying the video implies something else.
“Wonder why Premier Notley’s senior advisor Jeremy Nolais was busy meeting with Independent MLA Prab Gill in the latter’s office this afternoon,” the Unite Alberta tweet said.
“Is the NDP Caucus about to gain a new MLA? Not sure if aligning with the NDP is a good move in Calgary, though.”
Gill said he was meeting with Nolais to discuss funding options for a school in his riding.
The Unite Alberta account says it is the “official Twitter account for the office of Jason Kenney.” Kenney confirmed his staff run the account, but he takes responsibility for the content posted to it. However, he said Tuesday afternoon that he hadn’t seen the video.
“Unlike some people in Alberta politics, I don’t live on Twitter,” he said.
The post was quickly ratioed, a term used on Twitter when a tweet gets more negative replies than likes or retweets, according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
As of noon on Tuesday, the video had been viewed more than 45,000 times, commented on more than 330 times, retweeted 43 times and liked by 80 accounts.
Most comments called out the account, with some asking if the UCP has taken to stalking MLAs and ridiculing the “weird” nature of the video.
“I thought this was creepy too,” tweeted journalist-turned-political blogger David Climenhaga. “I thought they were supposed to be the kinder, gentler, better mannered cons now. I guess not.”
Robb Aishford, a former NDP press secretary who works as a realtor in southern Alberta, chimed in, asking who filmed the video and if it would constitute a breach of legislative protocol.
Nolais himself weighed in, tweeting, “It was a truly fascinating conversation. As you can imagine, I learned a lot – A LOT.”
The UCP and Gill have a tumultuous history.
The former real-estate appraiser was elected as a Progressive Conservative in a 2016 Calgary byelection after Manmeet Bhullar was killed in a highway crash. When the PC party and Wildrose merged, Gill became a member of the UCP.
The Calgary-Greenway MLA left the party last year, after reports of ballot-box stuffing at a constituency election meeting. Gill denied doing it in December, after he said he had a chance to read the investigation report into the incident.
While he said he has not seen the tweet, Kenney went into depth on Global News at Noon Edmonton about what he believes was happening in the video.
“This is about an independent MLA who’s been attacking us, I think in a defamatory way — meeting with a top NDP staffer to the premier and I find that problematic,” he said.
When pressed about the dramatic nature of the video, Kenney sidestepped the question.
“These people are meeting in a public building, conspiring to attack the opposition,” Kenney speculated. ” I think that’s probably relevant information for people to know.”
WATCH BELOW: Jason Kenney joined Jennifer Crosby on Global News at Noon Edmonton on Tuesday.
A spokesperson for the Legislative Assembly of Alberta confirmed to Global News that “the video was brought to our attention and is being looked at.” However, she said she could not comment further.
On Thursday, Freedom Conservative Party leader Derek Fildebrandt tweeted a screen shot of a memo sent out from Speaker Bob Wanner.
The memo said it was not the first time he had been made aware of “this kind of activity.”
“This type of behaviour is unbecoming for those who work in the office of a Member and is not in keeping with the dignity of the institution,” Wanner wrote.
Just last month, Gill asked the RCMP to investigate allegations of voter fraud in Jason Kenney’s 2017 UCP leadership victory.
RCMP confirmed in mid-February it received the letter, but did not say whether an investigation would take place. As of Tuesday, police said nothing had changed.
“They’re trying to intimidate me so that I don’t say anything,” Gill said, referring to the UCP and the concerns he brought forward to the RCMP.
“I am and have already told the truth before and I will speak my truth. I am duty-bound as an elected official. If somebody brings information to me, this is my obligation, this is my duty, to forward the information to the appropriate authorities and that’s all I have done.
“Also, I’m thinking how everyday Albertans are thinking about this video — that if elected MLAs are being videotaped in front of their own offices, how are they feeling secure going to visit their elected officials?”
Gill said he has not yet decided if he will run in the spring election.
“This attempt to intimidate me and bully me, it actually is giving me a great concern for the safety of my family and myself,” he said.
Political commentator weighs in on Gill video
Justin Archer, a political watcher who is partner at the public relations firm Berlin Communications, told Global News he thinks it’s a “very, very silly video.”
“It makes me just really wonder what is going in Alberta politics these days,” he said.
“We didn’t ever really used to see things like that and I think it’s an indicator that this campaign could definitely get a little bit weird.”
Archer said the fact that the video of Gill and Nolais is slowed down and in black and white leads him to believe “they’re trying to create this kind of spooky situation with the video.”
“But really, let’s be clear here: these guys had a meeting in an office,” he said.
“Meetings happen in offices all the time with MLAs, staff, government. And even though these guys can get pretty carried away on the floor in question period… the part that we all see, it’s actually fairly collegial behind the scenes quite often.
“I don’t think it’s out of the ordinary at all for a staffer from one party to be talking to an MLA from a different party.”
“There’s just nothing here,” Archer said.
“This on its own is not going to play a big part in the election campaign, but the tenor and tone of this kind of an idea coming out a couple of weeks before an election, tells me that we’re probably going to see quite a bit of negative campaigning as we get further and further towards the writ.”
WATCH BELOW: Albert Delitala spoke to a public relations expert on the strange nature of the video and what it says about the changing nature of politics.