Notley request for special prosecutor denied for UCP leadership investigations
A request from Alberta’s NDP for a special prosecutor to oversee police investigations into the 2017 UCP leadership race has been denied.
On Thursday, Notley wrote to the province’s deputy attorney general calling for Phil Bryden to appoint a special prosecutor from outside the province to oversee the investigations.
While Notley is confident the RCMP will conduct independent investigations, she said she is concerned over potential interference now that the United Conservative Party has formed the government.
“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 Thursday.
Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer and Premier Jason Kenney both ran as candidates in the UCP leadership race.
“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. “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.”
But the deputy attorney general denied the request on the grounds that police investigations are already independent of government.
“Elected officials are not involved in operational decisions or investigations of police, including the RCMP,” Bryden wrote in a statement. “As such, elected officials are not involved in directing a police investigation, nor do department officials need to take additional steps to ensure police independence.”
Bryden said if there was a case that would be appropriate to involve a Crown prosecutor from outside Alberta, it would be an independent decision by police.
“That decision is made independent of the Minister,” Bryden said. “It is at the discretion of the police to initiate any involvement by a Crown prosecution service.”
Despite the denied request, Notley plans to continue pushing the issue.
“With the greatest of respect to the current government, I think that they’re absolutely wrong,” Notley said in Calgary on Saturday. “We will continue pushing it every single day, we’re going to be reminding people about what it looks like in other provinces when governments are transparent.”
Notley also asked for ethics commissioner Marguerite Trussler to conduct an investigation into whether the Conflict of Interest Act has been violated. Notley said she made the request for an investigation in case her request to the attorney general was denied.
“Should that request be honored, it may well be that the request for your office’s involvement becomes moot,” Notley’s letter read. “However, until that happens, we are deeply concerned for the integrity of this process as it currently exists.”
But the ethics commissioner can’t confirm or deny whether there is an investigation ongoing.
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 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 Calgary-East UCP MLA-elect Peter 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 whether or not they voted in the leadership.
They said investigators also asked them to confirm the email address attached to their membership.
The UCP leadership contest required members to vote using pins sent to their email address.
Singh’s Calgary auto-shop was raided by the RCMP days before the election.
Although it is not known what police seized from Singh’s business, in a statement released on Facebook, Singh said the items were returned the next morning.
“I stand firm on my innocence,” Singh said in the statement dated April 12. “I have fully co-operated with the RCMP.”
The RCMP have confirmed they are also 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.
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.
Kenney has denied his involvement in the so-called “kamikaze campaign.”
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