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Calgary UCP candidates take aim at political rivals over public safety

The NDP also fired back, questioning the UCP commitment to public safety if the Premier demonstrates alleged intervention in criminal cases for select people.

The war of words over public safety became a little more heated on Wednesday, as seven of Calgary’s United Conservative Party candidates held a press conference to condemn their political rivals, the Alberta NDP, on the issue.

Former UCP leadership candidate and current Minister for Municipal Affairs Rebecca Schulz took aim at NDP leader Rachel Notley, along with candidates in Calgary, Edmonton, and Lethbridge over alleged silence on public safety issues and legislative decisions those candidates made as MLA or as city councillors.

“[We are] taking bold action to tackle crime and disorder in part with our announcement yesterday to fund 100 more police positions in Calgary and Edmonton,” said Schulz.

“I would say that we are taking real action to address crime and disorder and we are working collaboratively with police to get the job done.”

When asked about the implementation of that program, given limitations from the Calgary Police Service to train more than 135 officers per year—a number that was already targeted to be met pre-announcement—Schulz declined to answer.

“I would say that that because it’s linked to yesterday’s announcement would probably be a better question for Minister Ellis. Just given the nature of today’s announcement, I don’t want to speak to that specifically,” she said.

Calgary UCP candidates Ric McIver, left, Rajan Sawhney, Pamela Rath, Josephine Pon, Whitney Issik, and Mickey Amery attended the press conference in support of Shulz.

Only Schulz took and answered questions from the media.

Transit safety, violence top of mind for voters said candidate

Schulz said that as a candidate door knocking, public safety has been top of mind for voters she has spoken to.

“As a mother, I know that this issue is top of mind for so many rights, but I also hear it from people like Cheryl,” Minister Schulz said.

“Cheryl and her co-workers take the train to work every single day. Her co-worker was vomited on on the way to work. She is afraid for herself and for her 18-year-old daughter who takes the CTrain to school.”

Schulz referenced statistics given by Calgary Police Chief Mark Neufeld and Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee regarding the number of homicides alleged to have been committed by people awaiting trial on other charges.

Since 2021 in Calgary, of the 45 individuals charged with homicide-related offences, 23 were on release.

She also referenced Chief McFee’s comments about the difficulties officers face from violence while attending calls and the types of weapons they encounter.

“I am running, again, to be the MLA for Calgary Shaw as a candidate—the United Conservative candidate—in the upcoming election,” said Schulz.

“This is something that I hear about every single day when I’m door-knocking, especially given that my riding is in the vicinity of the CTrain stations.”

In a response to the UCP, NDP Rachel Notley made reference to $12 million in cuts the provincial government made to funding for the Calgary Police Service.

“This is the UCP’s record when it comes to supporting Calgary communities,” she said.

Irfan Sabir, NDP MLA in Calgary-Bhullar-McCall, fired back, saying the refusal of Minister Schulz to denounce Premier Danielle Smith’s alleged intervention into cases involving Covid-19 public health charges, demonstrated their kind of commitment to law and order.

“Rebecca Schulz’s refusal to denounce Smith’s behaviour today means the UCP sees no problem with Smith trying to stop the prosecution of people accused of encouraging violence against police,” Sabir said.

“We believe the biggest threat to public safety right now is a Premier who believes she can interfere in our justice system and wipe away charges for a friend of hers who is charged with inciting violence against police.”

The NDP said they would be releasing the public safety plank of their platform shortly.

Social media and legislative comments becoming ammo for election

Schulz continued, making claims that Alberta NDP candidates hold resentment towards law enforcement and the justice system, referencing alleged comments made on social media in 2012 and 2020 by candidates in Calgary and Edmonton.

“Today we are calling on NDP leader Rachel Notley to have each of these candidates explain their comments and why they’re so out of touch with Alberta families,” she said.

Calgary-Bow NDP candidate Druh Farrell previously apologized in June of 2020, for a comment she made in regard to police-partner domestic violence. That social media post was shared by the UCP in a press release given to the media, although the comment itself had been deleted following the apology.

“Yesterday I tweeted about police brutality and domestic violence in law enforcement families. Since then, many Calgary police officers and their spouses reached out to me to share their disappointment with my tweet,” said Farrell.

“I was wrong. I apologize unequivocally to them, and to everyone.”

The UCP also provided a copy of comments made by MLA Rakhi Pancholi in the legislature during the debate over Bill 21, the Provincial Administrative Penalties Act.

That act sought to remove impaired driving offence cases from courtrooms, with a replaced immediate roadside penalty system.

“I’m all for spending less money on our criminal justice system and actually investing,” said MLA Pancholi.

“Now, I believe in investing those additional dollars into our communities. That’s where I believe the money we save on our criminal justice system should go.”

The Hansard extract given to the media excluded MLA Pancholi’s comments following that, “I believe that it should go into our communities and should support more initiatives so that police don’t have to do all the social work for us, so that we can actually ask our community agencies who work directly with people to support them.”

When asked about the appropriateness of using old social media against their political opponents, given statements against that same practice from the NDP by UCP candidates and Premier Smith, Schulz said that candidates have a responsibility to explain to Albertans “positions are “what their positions are when it comes to crime, policing and safety in our communities.”