EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is demanding Opposition Leader Jason Kenney “come clean” with voters on a spreading controversy involving one of his leadership rivals.
The CBC, citing email correspondence, is reporting that the RCMP has taken over an investigation into allegations of fraud in the 2017 race to see who would lead what was then the new United Conservative Party.
Kenney beat Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer and Brian Jean, who had been the Wildrose Party leader before it merged with the Progressive Conservatives.
Calgary businessman Jeff Callaway dropped out of the race before the vote.
“This is a very, very serious and troubling development and it begs the question: What would Jason Kenney say if the shoe was on the other foot, if it wasn’t Jason Kenney who was being investigated?” Notley said in a speech to union workers in Calgary on Friday.
“I suspect he would say the allegations are serious and that someone being investigated by the RCMP on serious and documented allegations of fraud should not be premier.
“And you know what? He would be right.”
The RCMP does not comment or confirm ongoing investigations.
Kenney and Callaway have denied claims that Callaway ran as a “kamikaze” candidate who would attack Jean, which would leave Kenney free to take the high road. Callaway was critical of Jean numerous times, quit the race before voting day and threw his support behind Kenney.
Elections commissioner Lorne Gibson had been investigating allegations that some donors to Callaway’s campaign broke the law by donating money provided to them by someone else.
Gibson fined Calgary UCP member Karen Brown for such an improper donation, as well as former Callaway campaign manager Cameron Davies for interfering in Gibson’s probe. Davies is appealing a $15,000 fine in court.
Jean, who left politics in 2018, has criticized Kenney of late for his fiscal policies but on Friday attacked him for the Callaway situation.
“This is what I was afraid of. I wrote long detailed emails about this mess to Jason Kenney in December, and Jason Kenney and the UCP board in February,” Jean wrote on Facebook.
“Nobody called me back. Nothing was done. People involved in this mess were kept on payroll and remained candidates. In politics perception is reality. And this perception isn’t great.”
Kenney said in Edmonton he informed the party executive and checked with his campaign staff in November.
“I asked our staff to talk to everybody that had been on my leadership campaign staff to see if they had any information or knowledge about inappropriate donations,” he said.
“The result of those inquires was that nobody was aware of, had heard anything about, or in any way participated in such activity.”
Kenney pointed out that his party disqualified Calgary nominee Randy Kerr last week when it learned Kerr had not been forthright about his involvement in the Callaway affair.
“This is about someone else’s leadership campaign from 18 months ago,” said Kenney.
“Neither I, nor my office, nor the United Conservative party has been contacted by the elections commissioner, RCMP or any other law enforcement agency. Obviously we would comply fully if we were.”
The affair is set against the backdrop of an imminent spring election call, but Notley said it’s not tactical politics.
“This is about alleged fraud and the trust that we can have in our political leaders.”