July 13, 2019 12:34 am
Updated: July 15, 2019 10:09 pm

RCMP speak to more Alberta cabinet ministers as part of investigation into UCP leadership race

Brian Jean Jason Kenney, centre, celebrates his victory as the first official leader of the Alberta United Conservative Party with his opponents Brian Jean, right, and Doug Schweitzer in Calgary, Alta., Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
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Five UCP cabinet ministers have now spoken to the RCMP as they investigate allegations of criminal wrongdoing in connection with the party’s 2017 leadership race.

On Friday, spokespeople for Leela Aheer, minister of culture, multiculturalism and status of women, and Jason Luan, associate minister of mental health and addictions, confirmed both have spoken to the Mounties about the matter but neither are under investigation themselves.

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On Monday, July 15, a spokesperson for Minister of Seniors and Housing Josephine Pon confirmed to Global News that the RCMP “spoke briefly” with Pon about the matter, but “assured her that she was not under investigation.”

When contacted by Global News on Friday, the RCMP said it could not comment on the probe, other than to say an investigation into criminal allegations of identity fraud in connection with the leadership race is ongoing.

RCMP have previously spoken to Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda and Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer as part of their investigation. Spokespeople for those cabinet minister said they are not being investigated.

READ MORE: RCMP speak with Alberta infrastructure minister while investigating UCP leadership race

“[We’ve] been asking about the investigation into the leadership contest that ultimately led to this leader and our current premier, Jason Kenney, being elected,” Heather Sweet, the NDP’s ethics and democracy critic, told Global News on Friday. “We’ve asked repeatedly and this premier has refused to answer the question about how many members of his government cabinet have been interviewed, including himself, by the RCMP in relation to [alleged] voter fraud.

“If the RCMP are continuing to investigate, and continuing to talk to their [UCP] cabinet, then obviously something is going on and they [UCP government] should tell Albertans what that is.”

READ MORE: Calgary UCP candidate issues statement after RCMP raid on his business

Watch below: (From April 12, 2019) A Calgary United Conservative Party candidate issued a statement to declare his innocence on Friday night in response to a police raid on his business.

Lori Williams, an associate professor of policy studies at Calgary’s Mount Royal University, told Global News she could not think of a time when she’s seen allegations threatening a leader’s legitimacy like this.

“We’re talking about a sitting premier, whose selection as leader of his party is being called into question,” she said.

“There are allegations that people have fraudulently obtained emails and fraudulently voted for the current leader and premier — that’s huge.

“I mean it just doesn’t get much bigger than that,” Williams added. “Quite often, we’ll see something like this happen further from the apex of power, but this actually targets the person who is premier of this province. It is enormously important.”

Earlier this month, the head of the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service said an agreement is in place to receive assistance from an Ontario prosecutor with the criminal fraud investigation. The prosecutor’s name has not been released.

READ MORE: Special prosecutor to help with probe of UCP leadership vote

Watch below: (From May 30, 2019) Alberta is seeking a special outside prosecutor to assist the RCMP as they look into whether fraud was committed in the UCP leadership race won by Jason Kenney.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley had previously called for a special prosecutor to help avoid a conflict of interest, real or perceived, because Kenney and Schweitzer had both been candidates in the UCP leadership race and Alberta’s prosecutors now work for them.

“We called for an independent prosecutor because we believe that now that we know that the justice minister, who oversees the prosecutors in Alberta, is involved, that there needs to be someone who is independent,” Sweet said.

“The issue that we continue to have, however, is that they haven’t given us the name of who that prosecutor is and why was that person appointed from Ontario.”

The UCP leadership race has been tainted by allegations of wrongdoing. Earlier this year, Hardyal (Happy) Mann, a former United Conservative Party nomination candidate, accused the UCP of using fake email addresses attached to memberships in the October 2017 leadership vote.

He said he noticed a few people on the list didn’t have email addresses on their memberships, but they were later filled in. He said he believes the UCP used fake emails.

“I assume that the emails that have been registered, obviously the pins would go to emails,” Mann said.

“It’s not my expertise, this is something the RCMP is looking into.”

Watch below: (From March 27, 2019) Hardyal ‘Happy’ Mann was issued three fines from the Alberta election commissioner in relation to Jeff Callaway’s UCP leadership campaign. Adam MacVicar reports.

Former UCP MLA Prab Gill has also sent a letter to the RCMP alleging the UCP used fake emails to give Kenney more votes.

None of the voter fraud allegations have been proven and Kenney has denied involvement in any logistics like voting structure in the UCP leadership race.

Alberta’s election commissioner has also levied multiple fines in connection with wrongdoing related to campaign donations made to Jeff Callaway’s leadership campaign.

Allegations have been made that Callaway’s bid to become leader was a “kamikaze campaign” intended to go after Kenney’s primary rival, Brian Jean. Callaway eventually dropped out of the race and threw his support behind Kenney.

Emails obtained by Global News earlier this year show ongoing communication between the Kenney and Callaway campaigns throughout much of the race. They suggest Kenney staffers provided strategic direction, attack ads, speaking notes, speeches and media support to the Callaway campaign.

READ MORE: Kenney confirms UCP lawyer is speaking to RCMP about 2017 leadership race, says he’s certain no rules were broken

“There was staff communicating on communications material and stuff like that,” Kenney told Global News Radio in March, while speaking about his campaign staff’s dealings with members of Callaway’s leadership campaign. “This is not the least bit unusual that campaigns will communicate.”

Kenney has also vehemently denied that he helped to finance Callaway’s campaign in any way.

–With files from The Canadian Press’ Dean Bennett, Global News’ Adam MacVicar and Global News’ Julia Wong

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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