Calgary-Greenway MLA Prab Gill, late of the United Conservative Party (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Astonishingly, the Prab Gill saga appears to have legs.

Yesterday, the Star Metro arm of the Toronto Star’s effort to create a national footprint, informed Alberta readers there’s no way the United Conservative Party will be revealing the contents of its insider investigation of ballot stuffing and snatching by Mr. Gill, who is the MLA for Calgary-Greenway.

Prominent B.C. environmentalist Tzeporah Berman (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The Star even quoted NDP Infrastructure Minister Sandra Jansen, once a candidate to lead the now-defunct Progressive Conservative Party in the topsy-turvy world of Alberta politics, assailing the Opposition UCP for not letting its members and the public know what was turned up by the investigation that led to the hasty departure of Mr. Gill from the UCP Caucus over the weekend.

Also yesterday, the CBC reported that the party had promised to pay back $7,245 the same Mr. Gill had billed to the Legislature – and therefore directly to taxpayers – for a party banquet at which UCP leader Jason Kenney spoke back in February.

Noting that the UCP had described the payment as an error – although surely one that took an awfully long time to correct – the national broadcaster even reported that Mr. Kenney had used social media to call the event a “wonderful evening with UCP supporters.” (Emphasis added.)

The late Jack Layton, leader of the federal NDP (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The UCP, which would desperately like this story to go away, still leads the NDP Government comfortably in several public opinion polls. Still, this journalistic trend must concern them just the same. The CBC has always had an independent streak, but even mildly critical coverage of conservatives by the province’s print media is something we haven’t seen in Alberta for a very long time.

Long dominant in the province’s two largest cities, Postmedia and its predecessor companies functioned as a virtual branch of various Alberta conservative governments at least since the late 1990s. With the arrival of the Star in Alberta, albeit as thin freebie papers, and Postmedia continuing to hemorrhage red ink, that could be changing.

Last week, the Toronto-based but largely U.S. owned Canadian newspaper corporation reported a net loss of $15.5 million in the third quarter ended May 31, with big declines in revenue and circulation in its increasingly shabby print division.

Mr. Kenney, meanwhile, may not be ready to take off again for B.C. and campaign for the Opposition Liberals if the furor refuses to die down, but he did try the next best thing on social media – attacking Tzeporah Berman, the prominent B.C. environmentalist the Alberta NDP once hired to include an environmentalist voice on an oilsands advisory committee.

Alberta Infrastructure Minister Sandra Jansen (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Ms. Berman was “let go” from that role, as the Canadian Press put it none too gently, more than a year ago, leaving few warm feelings in Alberta NDP circles. But that didn’t stop Mr. Kenney from pretending she’s still an NDP advisor in his effort to Tweet his way back to safer ground.

This leads to an important question: Is Devin Dreeshen, the 30-year-old Trump campaigner elected Thursday to represent the UCP in Central Alberta’s Innisfail-Sylvan Lake Riding, about to become the UCP’s answer to Ms. Berman?

You can take it to the bank that every time Mr. Kenney tries to tie the NDP to the environmental movement by way of Ms. Berman, someone on the other side is going to tie the UCP to Donald Trump via the line that runs through Mr. Dreeshen.

Speaking of important questions and Mr. Trump, now that the White House has ordered direct talks with the Taliban in hopes of ending the 17-year-old war in Afghanistan, who among Mr. Kenney’s former colleagues in the federal Conservative Party will label the U.S. President “Taliban Don”?

Alert readers will recall that back in 2006, the Conservatives defamed the late NDP leader Jack Layton as “Taliban Jack” for daring to suggest peace could not come to Afghanistan without the Western military coalition talking to the Taliban.

This cannot happen,” sniped Peter MacKay, then the Conservative minister of Finance. Now, of course, it has, presumably because it had to, just as Mr. Layton said.

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  1. Speaking as someone in his 7th decade, and tending to take a long view of events, might I suggest to Mr. Dreeshen and for that matter others in politics today, that in 30 or 40 years someone will ask them, “What did you do in the Trump era, granddad?” No time like the present to start working on a respectable answer.

    1. I’m like you: 7th decade of perspective.

      But, from a point-of-view point of view, whenever I talk with acquaintances in their 9th decade, they always seem to take a view considerably longer than the decades-difference between us would account for.

      I often wonder if youngsters will ever understand this.

      1. “I often wonder if youngsters will ever understand this.” Probably if they live long enough. DJC

    2. Speaking as an intersectional feminist who’s seen what the mainstream left and a significant surrogate for Secretary Clinton have done to trans women, be we out or closeted, I will be very proud to say that in the Trump Era, I recognized that the Lesser of Two Evils won the Presidency. I spoke out. I engaged people. I opposed hypocrisy. And I never forgot that all the smugness from those who were benefited enough by a system to be comparatively long-lived within it is not the equivalent of a broad historical view, tempered with wisdom, hard-won. If I live another 3 or 4 decades, that is how I will answer.

  2. Just after the UCP thought it had put out one political fire, another related one erupts. I’m not sure voters will appreciate Kenney trying to smother the first one with the political wet blanket of secrecy – Jason, its not good to keep secrets from the voters, but perhaps it may make it go away. If you make it too difficult to dig up the facts, perhaps no one will bother. Right now its hard to say for sure what Mr. Gill’s biggest crime was – shenanigans related to the nomination or being a former PC too moderate for Mr. Kenney’s taste and the former was just a convenient excuse to get rid of him.

    Interestingly, the UCP didn’t mention anything about Mr. Gill’s using around $7,000 for a party banquet, so I am not sure how that factored into things. Unfortunately, for Mr. Kenney the Star seems to be fearless and may have become the new little paper that could. It is interesting how many stories about Conservative shenanigans over the years are uncovered by media not based in Alberta. Of course, this will probably quickly go down the UCP black hole of secrecy too, but people are starting to wonder about the UCP and all its shenanigans.

    This has probably caused some concern and maybe even a bit of panic among the UCP leadership and staff. Mr. Kenney may sometimes sound like a populist, but unlike Trump or even Ford, he does not have an improvisational style – he seems to prefer things quite orderly and scripted. I suspect UCP staff were scrambling to come up with a distraction, any distraction – “hey look, is that Portia de Rossi running by the window outside? No, you mean Tzeporah Berman!”

    Of course, also on the UCP growing list of things not to talk about anymore is their shiny new MLA Dreeshen’s protracted involvement with the Trump campaign. I suppose someone could have a lot of fun asking Mr. Dreeshen all kinds of questions – “how do you feel about that deal with North Korea, how about that meeting with Putin? Do you think Trump has achieved peace in our time? Are the Taliban really so bad now that Trump wants to deal with them? Last, but not least – when did Mr. Kenney and the party know about your involvement with the Trump campaign?” The thought of this all will probably be enough to drive Mr. Dreeshen back to hiding in the bathroom for the rest of the summer or maybe even longer.

    Just like one of its predecessor parties, the UCP’s secret are starting to pile up. If they start tumbling out, the party could be in for a very bumpy ride.

    1. The question I would like to ask Mr. Dreeshen is ‘What policies that Donald Trump was campaigning on resonated with you so much that you suspended your career for 8 months to help them come to fruition?’

      Edmonton Journal columnist made an interesting report Tuesday afternoon on the CBC when he responded to Jason Kenney’s spin that Dreeshen’s connection with the US president would be a good thing: if it is a good thing, why was it kept a secret during the by-election campaign?

  3. …the Conservatives defamed the late NDP leader Jack Layton as “Taliban Jack” for daring to suggest peace could not come to Afghanistan without the Western military coalition talking to the Taliban.
    “This cannot happen,” sniped Peter MacKay then the Conservative minister of Finance.

    Is this the same Peter MacKay, newly elected leader of the Progressive Conservatives, who vowed the PC Party of Canada would never merge with Mr. Harper’s Canadian Alliance?

  4. The CBC story reporting that the details of the Gill affair will not be made public said the UPC wants to respect the privacy of the non-public figures who were interviewed in the investigation. I can respect that. I wish the UCP, however, would show the same respect to the teachers who participated in the curriculum re-write a while back. Instead they accused the NDP of some kind of cover-up for not naming the people involved in the re-write.

    In either situation, it isn’t hard to imagine the media looking up the non-public people if their names were released. Curriculum re-writes have happened every few years since the advent of public school without much fanfare, so I can’t imagine mainstream media would have much interest, but I can certainly imagine Rebel Media et al hounding some of the participants in hopes of a quote they could then misinterpret.

    In addition to protecting the non-public people mentioned in the report, the UCP also had to be a little worried about a bozo eruption. The fewer of their supporters speaking to the media unscripted the better.

  5. Anyone can inadvertently submit a fraudulent expense claim. Or make a mistake. Seems to be common with some politicians. And at epidemic levels in the Senate.

    The shame of it is that it has become so common that the public is numb to it. Pigs at the trough.

    It does, however, give us an insight into the true character of an individual.

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