Unsolved mysteries: Never mind those roaming charges, who leaked that Tory party membership list in 2011?

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Capt. Queeg of the USS Caine channels Alberta Tory Party leaders as he describes the search for the missing strawberries. Imagine what he would have done with a purloined cell phone bill or a leaked list of Tory Party members! Below: Dave Hancock, Thomas Lukaszuk.

Premier pro tempore Dave Hancock is said to be pondering an official hunt for the perpetrator of the leak to the Edmonton Sun of Tory leadership candidate Thomas Lukaszuk’s $20,000 Telus bill.

According to the Edmonton Journal’s account of the impending search for the missing strawberries, Mr. Lukaszuk complained to the premier about the leak, although it was not entirely clear form the story whether the former deputy premier actually asked for an investigation.

Meanwhile, on social media, some of Mr. Lukaszuk’s supporters blamed his political opponents for the purloined Telus bill ending up in the hands of the media.

That’s certainly a possibility. The timing was clearly designed to inflict the maximum damage on Mr. Lukaszuk’s campaign while leaving him the minimum opportunity to engage in damage control over something that is far from the worst offence ever committed by a politician. That’s certainly the sort of thing an opposing campaign’s war room might just do.

According to the Sun’s report early Monday, the documents were sent to the paper’s legislative reporter by someone inside the government and the identity of a Calgary resident was used fraudulently to have the package delivered by courier. The fraud potentially makes the leak a criminal offence.

Would anyone in a political campaign be dumb enough to commit a criminal office to advance the chances of their candidate? Oh, probably. (Michael Sona, c’mon down!) For the record, spokesthingies for both Jim Prentice’s and Ric McIver’s campaigns denied any involvement in the plot, the Journal said, and Mr. Lukaszuk’s campaign wasn’t exactly thriving on its own. So why bother?

On the other hand, there are plenty of people in the employ of the government, high and low, sufficiently displeased by Mr. Lukaszuk’s confrontational approach to any number of files to have been willing to fire a rocket in his direction, so it’s said here it’s not a slam dunk case that the leak originated with an opposing campaign.

What’s more, since at least in the short term the narrative reinforced the perception that the Redford-Hancock-Whoever Government is entitled and careless with public funds, I suppose we can’t completely rule out other political parties with no particular dog in the leadership fight from joining the growing list of suspects.

At this rate, it will soon be as big as a telephone book – those of you old enough to remember telephone books will appreciate the metaphor.

It’s said here the Tories, including Mr. Lukaszuk’s supporters, would be smarter just to drop the matter resentfully, because any search for the anonymous if unethical whistleblower will soon look like a witch hunt designed to suppress reports of irresponsible spending by government ministers – a perception that only reinforces the entitlement narrative.

On the other hand, if they’re going to do it, Premier Hancock should get on with it promptly.

Who can forget then PC Party president Bill Smith’s fierce vow in 2011 to root out the perpetrator of the purloined Tory Party membership list that was mysteriously leaked to a well-known pollster?

Readers will recall how, days before the second Alberta Progressive Conservative Party leadership vote in early October 2011, Alison Redford’s campaign effectively used an unexpected Calgary Herald-Environics poll of Tory Party members that showed her in second place behind frontrunner Gary Mar. This, arguably, created a new reality that motivated her supporters and gave her sufficient momentum to push her narrowly over the top.

The mid-September poll, which was controversial because it was based on a list of 22,000 card-carrying PC Party members passed on to Environics by a Calgary Herald columnist, whose mysterious possession of the list has to this day never been explained.

Using it for an opinion poll may have violated Alberta’s privacy legislation, and a furious PC Party President Bill Smith immediately issued a stinging rebuke on the party’s website of the unidentified villain or villains who allowed the “unauthorized and inappropriate use” of the party membership list.

The use of the list was “absolutely unacceptable,” Mr. Smith wrote. He vowed to get to the bottom of the mystery. “We will be contacting all leadership campaigns regarding this issue.”

For some reason, though, the party lost interest in pulling on that particular thread the instant Ms. Redford became the leader. “It’s the miracle on the prairies,” Mr. Smith later said of Ms. Redford’s victory.  “Nobody would have picked her.” After that, he quietly moved on and the press release vanished from the PC website.

It’s less likely the same thing could happen today – but that’s only because it’s quite possible the party doesn’t have 22,000 members any more!

Still, if Mr. Hancock doesn’t move forcefully on the matter of who leaked Mr. Lukaszuk’s phone bill, who is to say the investigation won’t fizzle out the same way again as soon as a new leader is in place?

That said, what Mr. Hancock really ought to be demanding is an investigation of scandalous roaming fees charged by Canadian cellular phone providers. Now, that would provide a public service!

Meanwhile, ministers of the Crown are advised to do what the rest of us have resorted to while travelling outside the Dominion. To wit: leaving their Telus devices at home in the sock drawer and, if necessary, buying a local “burner” for a modest price from a convenience store.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

Categories Alberta Politics