Investigator Ken Brander, who is said to be outstanding in his field (Photo: Clarium Fraud & Compliance Solutions).

There’s smoke!

Is there fire?

Jeff Callaway, at left, with Mr. Kenney, not so long ago (Photo: Jason Kenney leadership campaign).

On Friday, StarMetro’s Edmonton and Calgary editions reported that the Office of the Elections Commissioner has hired a retired Edmonton Police detective to dig into reports Jeff Callaway’s 2017 “kamikaze” United Conservative Party leadership campaign was illegally funded.

Ken Brander, who has a background investigating fraud, money laundering and organized crime, will look into complaints that illegal donations were behind Mr. Callaway’s campaign.

In a recording that surfaced earlier this month, a voice identified as that of veteran Conservative political organizer Wendy Adam could be heard describing what it said was Mr. Callaway’s part in Jason Kenney’s successful effort to ensure that he and not former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean won the UCP leadership.

If the voices on the recording spoke the truth, Mr. Callaway’s job wasn’t to make a serious effort to lead the merged Wildrose-Progressive Conservative entity, but to deliver a “kamikaze” strike that would send Mr. Jean’s hopes to the bottom.

As an aside, StarMetro’s story had one of the more entertaining corrections of 2018: “This story has been edited from a previous version that stated Brian Mason was the former Wildrose Party leader. In fact, Brian Jean was the former leader.” Alert readers will recall that Mr. Mason is the former leader of the Alberta NDP and minister of transportation in the cabinet of Alberta Premier Rachel Notley.

Former Wildrose leader and UCP leadership candidate Brian Jean (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Back on Dec. 6, speaking inside the Alberta Legislative Assembly, former UCP MLA Prab Gill made similar allegations to those in the StarMetro story about an unnamed campaign, now widely assumed to have been Mr. Callaway’s. Mr. Gill said “more than $40,000 in very suspicious donations” was given to a UCP leadership candidate to undermine Mr. Jean’s leadership campaign.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, the Edmonton Journal reported that a former UCP member had filed a statutory declaration saying he signed up 1,200 members and “was told by Kenney to pay for the $10 memberships out of pocket.”

When Tariq Chaudhry tried to get the money back, the Journal reported, the party stiffed him for about half. Party memberships are supposed to be paid only by members themselves.

On Dec. 12, Highwood MLA Wayne Anderson filed a complaint with Elections Alberta about the conduct of the UCP nomination vote he lost in October to the Opposition party’s former constituency association president, RJ Sigurdson.

Another candidate in the Highwood Riding nomination filed a letter of complaint to the party and later complained to media she did not “receive the respect of a proper investigation.”

Former NDP leader Brian Mason (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Polling during the UCP leadership race in 2017 indicated Mr. Jean was better liked by voters than Mr. Kenney.

Mr. Chaudhry told the Journal he plans to make a complaint to the Elections Commissioner.

Mr. Brander, the former police detective, referred journalists’ questions to the Elections Commissioner.

Elections Commissioner Lorne Gibson has refused to comment.

The UCP denies it has done anything wrong.

Mr. Callaway insists his campaign made a serious effort to win and denies the allegations about it being run only to weaken Mr. Jean.

Mr. Kenney, as far as I can see, has not chosen to comment on the matter.

None of the allegations made by various parties have been proven in a court of law.

About a week remains in December, although the news usually slows down during the holiday season.

So, back to where we started, the existence of lots of metaphorical smoke is undoubted.

Does that mean there’s a fire or, as John F. Kennedy might have said, a smoke-making machine?

That remains an open question. It is one of several important Alberta political questions that are likely to be answered in 2019.

Join the Conversation


  1. In my mind, it is not so much as to whether there actually needs be a definitive smoking gun to go with all these odious allegations being levelled against the UCP these days, to directly impact their integrity, credibility and election prospects for 2019. What truly matters is the lasting political perception created by voters that occurs with this avalanche of negative and disturbing publicity — and will it stick like molasses until E-Day. Ask any venerable veteran of political election war rooms or any seasoned sagacious media pundit, and they will tell you “bad publicity” is like a dagger to the heart of any campaign. Just ask the 2015 PCs if you’re seeking validation.

    From my observations, by tracking Facebook and Twitter posts, the political throng of die-hard supporters for Jason Kenney are the kind of deplorables who don’t spell check their tattoos. For the mainstream silent majority of Alberta voters, chances are pretty, pretty good they are paying attention to the epic marathon of UCP bozo-eruptions and will vote accordingly in 2019 — the lack of a smoking gun notwithstanding.

  2. Politics is a dirty business. Most especially when there is a whiff of impending achievement of power in the air.

    I would not expect Jason Kenney to make any statement. This is danger. Let the Party speak just in case the get caught ‘mis speaking’.

  3. Excellent summation of the various UCP stories swirling around. Funny how Postmedia likes to stick to reporting the “facts” of these incidents without knitting them together. Greatly appreciated David, Merry Christmas.

  4. I suspect Mr. Jean, who does not come across a the poltically most astute, already had a fairly good idea he was stabbed in the back by some of his former Wildrose colleagues in their rush to anticipated power. However, it may not have been as clear to other Albertans, but is is becoming clearer now as more skeletons start to tumble out of Kenney’s closet of dirty tricks.

    The UCP is starting to look a lot like its other pedecessor party which consistently made ethically questionable choices and perhaps broke the rules in its desperate attempt to maintain power. It is ironic that Wildrose was often the leading and loudest voice against that type of behavior. Now the grassroots is largely silent or has been silenced, but unfortunately for Kenney not everyone can be silenced with the promise of power and perks and the truth has a way of coming out unexpectedly.

    It sort of has a Nixonian feel to it right now with things starting to tumble out before the election. I suspect many voters from that time wished they had paid more attention to the warning signs. In a democracy the voters get the government they choose, but sometimes it is not what they hoped it would be and the mirage disappears soon after the election.

    1. David,

      Brian Jean wasn’t stabbed in the back by the Conservative Party Establishment, he was stabbed in the front with smiles on the perpetrators faces. I would LMFAO if Brian Jean could exact his revenge on Jason Kenny personally at the right time during the provincial election with iron clad proof that shows to the majority of Alberta voters that JK is cunning, deceitful, foaming at the mouth slime ball who is hungry for power at any cost, who doesn’t care who he throws under the bus . If and when Brian Jean does, he can stab JK politically in the front and say to him as he falls to the ground say to him, I am doing this for your own good, and say The Lord’s Prayer as final comfort.

  5. Anybody who followed the UCP leadership campaign with any attention knew full well that Callaway was primarily in the race to get his hands dirty attacking Jean while letting Kenney take the high road in the debates. This isn’t news. Callaway really didn’t get anymore than a few jabs in and dropped out after the first couple of debates. Jean also used his own tactics where he had hoards of obnoxious supporters creating ruckus and cheering his every word during the debates drowning out everybody else to create the illusion of strong support. These supporters also jeered and booed Callaway heavily on the few occasions where he did criticize Jean. Also, Jean being ahead in the polls is irrelevant to this article since the WRP had also led decisively in the polls for the last two elections but never ended up forming government. Nothing unethical on either side here on the surface from what I can see, Callaway’s presence is not an issue and really didn’t make anymore of a difference in the campaign than Jean’s noisy supporters did. The issue is whether there were illegal donations made that Kenney knew about. I would hope that Kenney wouldn’t be this stupid as something like that would be guaranteed to come out in the general election but I guess that we will see.

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