Leaked emails obtained by Global News appear to show campaign managers for Jason Kenney and Jeff Callaway worked together to attack Brian Jean during the 2017 UCP leadership race.
The emails have come to light just days after the RCMP confirmed it is looking into the race, based on information provided by Alberta’s election commissioner, and raise questions about Kenney’s involvement, if any, in the backroom dealings.
The documents include talking points, mock advertisements and policy issues that could be used against Jean.
READ MORE: Notley calls Kenney unfit to lead Alberta as RCMP probe UCP leadership race
A document called “Timeline and Answers for the Office of the Election Commissioner as Requested” states that a meeting was held in July 2017 with Derek Fildebrandt to see if he was interested in running as a “dark horse candidate” in the race.
Derek Fildebrandt confirmed Sunday that he met with Kenney in 2017; he had considered running as a UCP leadership candidate but not as a kamikaze candidate to take out Jean.
“I did not like going down that road. I only believe in running if you have some chance to win. I didn’t think I could,” Fildebrandt said.
“I decided against it in the end so I’ve known for a long time. When Jason Kenney says it’s false…it’s just not true because he had asked me.”
Fildebrandt said the bigger issue is Kenney’s truthfulness.
READ MORE: Alberta MLA Derek Fildebrandt steps down from United Conservative Party caucus
“After a few meetings it was deemed that Derek was not a suitable individual for this role,” the document reads.
It goes on to say that Callaway was recruited to run in the role originally planned for Fildebrandt.
“It was decided our teams would work together to ensure proper narratives and messaging coincided at various stages of the campaigns,” the document reads.
“I am not aware of any funding arrangements that may or may not have been made directly between Jeff Callaway and Jason Kenney. If these discussions did occur, I was not privy to them.”
READ MORE: UCP drops candidate, alleges he wasn’t ‘forthright’ about contribution to Callaway campaign
The emails were first obtained by CBC News, which published the story Saturday night.
An email dated Aug. 13, 2017, from Cameron Davies, Callaway’s co-campaign manager, to Matt Wolf, a Kenney campaign director, is titled “Week 1 & 2 Comms Draft.”
The email mentions “themes” the campaign is pushing for:
“Seeds of Doubt (Aug. 14 -26)
Consistency (Aug. 23 – Sept. 6)
Trust (Sept. 1 – Sept. 13)
*Jeff Drops (although depending when debates are you may have other ideas?)
*By this time we hope Jean has attacked Jeff, lost his cool in a debate or two, gone off script to the media so we can release a series of “Screamin’ Jean” sound cloud files in which he is screaming at the EC
Temperament (Sept. 15 – Oct??)
Rough idea here of where I see this being effective.”
READ MORE: Jeff Callaway drops out of UCP race, alleges bullying from man falsely characterized as Brian Jean appointee
Another document called “Callaway Communications Plan” mentions “Cluster: Seeds of Doubt” and includes one-liners for Callaway to use against Jean:
- “I proudly supported Unity, even when the Wildrose Leadership was all over the map on the issue.”
- “Being consistent as a Leader is important to me, it was a real struggle as President of the Wildrose to deal with all of the many different positions the Leader of the party took on Unity.”
- “I don’t know Jason that well, but I do know Brian. I worked with him for over two years as Wildrose President, and its important for the members to know who he really is.”
- Han Dong threatens legal action against Global News over foreign interference report
- Budget 2023 will target grocery affordability with new tax rebate: sources
- What to expect from budget 2023 as ‘storm clouds’ gather over Canada’s economy
- Global Affairs Canada slammed in audit for not tracking billions in foreign aid
Callaway dropped out of the race in October 2017 and threw his support behind Kenney.
At the time, political analyst Duane Bratt of Mount Royal University said there had been rumours of Callaway’s leadership bid being a “stalking horse” for Kenney.
READ MORE: Jeff Callaway’s UCP leadership campaign manager fined for ‘obstruction of an investigation’
“Jeff Callaway, who had been critical of Jean’s leadership in the past, seemed to be recruited (at the last moment) to take Fildebrandt’s place,” Bratt said on Oct. 4, 2017.
“At both the Calgary and Edmonton debate, Callaway launched attacks against Brian Jean. He has done his job. And now to ensure that he doesn’t get any votes, Callaway is dropping out of the race. It all looks very suspicious.”
In an interview Monday on Global News Morning, Bratt reiterated that he knew there was some sort of relationship between the two, but “what is significant about the emails is the ‘degree of collision’ between the Kenney camp and Callaway camp.”
Bratt said it was unethical and deceptive, violating the UCP code of conduct, but he didn’t think the collision was criminal or violated Elections Alberta rules.
WATCH BELOW: Political analyst Duane Bratt said the emails show how significant the “degree of collusion” was during an interview Monday on Global News Morning Edmonton
Brian Jean did not respond to a request for comment on the weekend.
The “Timeline and Answers” document states there was a celebration after Callaway withdrew from the race.
“Following Jeff Callaway’s withdrawal from the UCP Leadership Contest, there was a ‘thank you’ get together at Callaway’s home. About 10 other key Jason Kenney organizers were present, in addition to members of the Callaway team. Jason was appreciative of the work the Callaway Campaign did, and gave a short thank you to Jeff and the team for their support and efforts,” the document reads.
Neither Callaway nor his co-campaign manager Cameron Davies, who was fined $15,000 by the election commissioner for obstruction of an investigation, has responded to an email request for comment.
Global News also obtained an email sent by Wolf to the UCP Caucus on Sunday. In it, Wolf said the Kenney leadership campaign did not funnel donations to the Callaway campaign.
“Our leadership team’s preference was for Mr. Callaway to not get into the race, and this was communicated to him and his team prior to the UCP leadership commencing. It was also made clear to Mr. Callaway that the decision to enter the race was his alone,” the email reads.
“But once Mr. Callaway entered the race, it was also clear that his team was receptive to keeping some communication channels open between our respective campaigns. This is of course completely normal in politics, especially in a leadership race that could see multiple ballots in the end.
“To be clear, this was not a ‘puppet’ type operation. Mr. Callaway made his own decisions for his own reasons.”
Wolf further states the emails may look unflattering but that “this is sometimes the nature of the business we’re in.”
“I understand some on the other side will try to characterize my actions with the menacing term ‘collusion.’ It was politics. It wasn’t personal. It wasn’t against the Party rules, and I’m confident it wasn’t against any laws.”
Kenney has not responded to a Global News request for comment on the leaked emails and their content. His representatives supplied previous statements from party officials, including a statement from UCP Executive Director Janice Harrington which reads, in part:
“Mr. Kenney’s campaign has previously and repeatedly confirmed that there was communication between the Kenney leadership campaign and the Callaway leadership campaign.
“As we have previously said, communication between leadership campaigns is perfectly normal in a preferential ballot election and was within the rules of the 2017 UCP Leadership Election.”
The UCP also distributed a statement from former leadership candidate Doug Schweitzer:
“Before, and during, the leadership campaign, myself and other members of my campaign team kept lines of communications open with all other registered, and prospective candidates in the UCP leadership race.
“Ongoing dialogue across all campaigns is normal throughout leadership races within the same party, especially those with ranked ballots.”
On Oct. 4, 2017, Wolf sent an outline of a speech regarding Callaway withdrawing from the race to Davies, Callaway and former UCP candidate in Calgary-Beddington Randy Kerr. It reads, in part:
“The very fact that we have a United Conservative Party today is testament to the fact that Jason understands that the members are in the driver’s seat. We’ve seen how backroom deals work – and fail.”