Internal review of emails between province, crown prosecutors not enough: NDP, experts

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Internal review of emails between province, crown prosecutors not enough: NDP, experts
WATCH ABOVE: Premier Danielle Smith called an emergency caucus meeting Saturday. This comes following new comments made by Smith that her government will be holding its own independent review of emails between her office and crown prosecutors. Chris Chacon has the details. – Jan 21, 2023

The Alberta NDP and some experts are saying there needs to be an independent review done of the emails between the premier’s office and crown prosecutors, following allegations that a member of Premier Danielle Smith’s staff sent emails to the crown prosecutor’s office about prosecutions related to the 2021 Coutt’s blockade.

The CBC made the claim Thursday that emails had been exchanged with the premier’s office and crown prosecutors, but that the CBC had not seen them itself.

During 630 CHED’s Saturday morning show, Your Province, Your Premier, Smith said her office has an IT department looking through the emails between her 34 staff and roughly 400 prosecutors to “see if this email the CBC is referencing even exists.”

She said they should have results early next week.

“As soon as we see the emails exist, then we’ll make sure that we have a presentation to the public.”

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Smith first said during a Jan. 12 news conference that she had been in touch with crown prosecutors, then denied the comment a few days later on the radio show, saying she had used “imprecise language” at the time. The latter is the story she has stuck to since.

An Alberta Crown Prosecution Service spokesperson told Global News that “neither the assistant deputy minister of the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service nor the Crown prosecutor involved in the Coutts files have any recollection of receiving any emails from the premier’s office.”

A special caucus meeting is being held early Saturday evening, with all Alberta MLAs attending.

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“I want my caucus to understand the nature of this story,” said Smith. “The fact that (the CBC) … don’t have emails — they launched with the story, we are now having to verify it. I just want my caucus to be patient as we go through the process.”

Emergency caucus meetings have become common under the UCP government in Alberta, said Edmonton-Whitemud MLA Rahki Pancholi.

“This is a group of people who are completely mired in their own internal drama and creating chaos after chaos, and catastrophe after catastrophe that needs to be addressed urgently, rather than issues that are pressing for Albertans.”

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Political scientist Duane Bratt said he doesn’t doubt there is “caucus unrest” over the issue given the number of scandals involving the premier, “almost all of them related to COVID.”

He added that the NDP has been asking for this investigation before the story broke in the media, he said. And that was just because of the correspondence Smith has had with the Attorney General over these prosecutions.

Some Albertans, as well as the opposition government, have made it clear in the past few days that an internal review is not enough, said Pancholi, adding that an independent review by someone outside of government needs to be conducted.

“These are very serious allegations. We’re talking about political interference into serious charges that are related to things like weapons, conspiracy to commit murder against police officers. These are very serious charges that require a serious response from this government. An email review done internally is not going to cut it,” said Pancholi.

Click to play video: 'Alberta premier under fire over allegation of political interference'
Alberta premier under fire over allegation of political interference

She said that there needs to be a broader review as well because the premier’s story about this political interference has changed multiple times.

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“It’s not just about whether an email was sent or not… We need to look into who was aware of what was going on, whose direction was given, what communications were made, who authorized that, and how far back this goes.”

“If there was nothing there, I don’t think you’d be having this emergency meeting,” said Bratt.

“But it’s also quite possible that a staffer may have been using a personal email address, which is not supposed to be done, but that complicates the investigation.”

Any staffer who is contacting crown prosecutors should be fired, Bratt said, but if the premier is involved, then she’s going to be in trouble and people should ask for her resignation.

— With files from Chris Chacon and Phil Heidenreich, Global News

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