Alberta NDP calls for special prosecutor to oversee RCMP investigation of UCP leadership race
NDP leader Rachel Notley has written letters to both Alberta’s ethics commissioner and deputy attorney general asking for a special prosecutor to oversee any police investigation into allegations of voter fraud in the 2017 UCP leadership race.
Notley is also asking for the ethics commissioner to conduct an investigation into whether the Conflict of Interest Act has been violated, now that the United Conservative Party has formed government.
“The most important thing to do here is to get a special prosecutor into place,” Notley said.
“The longer we are in a position where we have people investigating their bosses, the more jeopardy we put public faith into our justice system.”
Notley said she believes a special prosecutor would have to be independent and from outside of Alberta, and that Premier Jason Kenney, along with Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer, must not be involved in the investigation or any potential prosecutions.
“It has been publicly reported that Mr. Schweitzer requested a suspension of voting amid allegations of voting irregularities during the UCP contest,” Notley wrote in the letter to the ethics commissioner. “There has also been public reporting of documents that show campaign workers for Mr. Kenney engaged in conduct that may be the subject of investigation.”
“Although neither of these pieces of evidence are conclusive, they are enough to raise questions about the involvement of both these members of Executive Council in this matter.”
The NDP leader also addressed the current investigation involving Calgary-East UCP MLA-Elect Peter Singh.
Days before the election, Singh’s Calgary auto repair shop was raided by the RCMP. It’s unclear what investigators were looking for.
But in a Facebook statement afterward, Singh said that items seized were returned to him the next morning.
“I stand firm on my innocence,” Singh said in the statement. “I have fully co-operated with the RCMP.”
Notley is calling for the UCP to drop Singh from its caucus while the investigation is ongoing.
“There is a precedent in the Alberta legislature that when an MLA is being investigated for serious misconduct, that they are asked to leave the caucus,” Notley said.
“It is not appropriate to have someone sitting in that legislature who is under criminal investigation, it’s really that simple.”
The RCMP has previously told Global News it was looking into voter fraud allegations — related to the 2017 UCP leadership race — brought forth by former UCP MLA Prab Gill, whom the party severed ties with after an independent report commissioned by the party found he had engaged in ballot box stuffing.
Gill sent a letter to the RCMP alleging the UCP used fake emails to give Jason Kenney more votes in the leadership race.
Global News has learned plain-clothes RCMP investigators have been questioning UCP members signed up to the party by Singh, and registered to vote in the UCP leadership contest.
Three members, who spoke to Global News on the condition of anonymity, said they were asked about their relationship with Singh and who they voted for in the leadership race.
Several members said they first met Singh after getting work done at his shop, and in many of the cases, that’s when Singh asked them to sign up for a party membership.
“I was impressed with his honesty,” one member told Global News. “He asked if I’d be interested in being a member, I said yes.”
They said investigators also asked them to confirm the email address attached to their membership.
Verified membership lists obtained by Global News show several UCP members registered using the same email as Singh’s business: email@example.com
Two other members are registered with firstname.lastname@example.org.
Multiple others are registered under email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The phone number for Singh’s shop was used as contact information for several registered members on the list.
The UCP leadership contest required members to vote using pins sent to their email address.
One cyber-security expert believes email voting raises many concerns, mostly because it’s difficult to clarify the identity of the person casting a ballot.
“How do we cast ballots in a way that’s secret, but is still verifiable?” asked Aleksander Essex, a cyber-security expert and professor at Western Univerisity. “So people have confidence that the results that are reported really are the real results, and in an online setting, that’s hard to do.”
The United Conservative Party and the RCMP did not respond to Global News’ request for comment.
None of the allegations against Singh has been proven in court, and no charges have been laid.
Earlier this year, the UCP cleared Singh of allegations of fraud and bribery in his nomination race.
The internal probe came after four of Singh’s nomination competitors wrote to the party with the accusations, also supplying sworn affidavits from several party members.
The party said there was no proof to support the accusations.
Singh won his seat in the Alberta spring election with 32.2 per cent of the vote.
Global News attempted to reach Singh at his home, business and through his lawyer, but has not received a response.
The RCMP have confirmed they are looking into allegations of possible wrongdoing in connection with the Jeff Callaway UCP leadership campaign. In late March, Kenney said a UCP lawyer had reached out to the RCMP.
Alberta’s election commissioner has already issued some fines for improper donations to Callaway’s campaign.
Throughout the campaign, Kenney has denied his involvement in the so-called kamikaze campaign that some believe was aimed at targeting Kenney’s main rival in the leadership race.
But emails released to local media, including Global News, show ongoing contact during the 2017 leadership race between the Kenney and Callaway campaigns — including Kenney staffers –providing strategic direction, attack ads, speaking notes, speeches and media support to the Callaway campaign to attack the Brian Jean campaign.
© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.