Alberta Politics
United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney, in the midst of the Kamikaze Mission investigation whether he likes it or not (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

This is serious now: the Mounties have entered the Kamikaze Campaign investigation

Posted on March 16, 2019, 2:24 am
7 mins

Some days Alberta politics are like that fine old Johnny Nash song: “I can see clearly now the rain is gone …”

A lot has happened since 3 o’clock yesterday morning when the CBC broke the story the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had taken over the investigation by the Office of the Election Commissioner into what’s come to be known as the “Kamikaze Campaign” to sink Brian Jean’s candidacy to lead the United Conservative Party and ensure Jason Kenney’s victory back in 2017.

Some things never change (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

But while it’s not exactly a bright sunshiny day here yet, metaphorically speaking, it’s a lot easier to make out what Mr. Jean was up to when his smoke-making machine started churning out signals he would be ready and available in the event something happened to make Mr. Kenney’s leadership of the UCP untenable.

That something, we now know, was the revelation investigators employed by Alberta’s Election Commissioner had discovered goings on “beyond the authority” of their office that led to the direct, formal involvement of the RCMP. The obvious inference of those three little words is that Election Commissioner Lorne Gibson’s ex-police investigators discovered activities by persons as yet unknown to us that went beyond mere violations of administrative law into something much more serious.

Former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

It appears probable someone close to Mr. Jean had a clear sense of when the Mounties were going to ride into the case and saw an election-eve opportunity for the former Wildrose Party leader to seize one last chance to lead the UCP into an election, possibly even to victory.

Not uncharacteristically, Mr. Jean seems to have bungled the complicated play. Still, he was gamely trying to stay in the game, with copies of recent emails to campaign officials and even a text message to UCP puppet master Stephen Harper handed over to a well-known political columnist with a large readership.

This is what I was afraid of,” Mr. Jean also Tweeted yesterday morning, with a link to the CBC’s story. “I wrote to @JKenney twice about this in last 3 months. Sent Harper a note. No one called me back. Nothing was done. People involved in this mess were kept on payroll and remained candidates.”

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

It’s certainly not good news for Mr. Kenney, a former federal MP and senior cabinet minister in Mr. Harper’s government, that the investigation is now in the hands of a powerful and disinterested federal police agency. At the very least, this is turning into a major distraction for his campaign just days, possibly even hours, before NDP Premier Rachel Notley has been expected to call an election.

Whatever the Mounties come up with, it can’t just be blown off as the work of an office created by the NDP Government that could be instantly shut down and its records shredded in the event the UCP emerges victorious. And while the mandate of the RCMP is broader than just enforcement of the Criminal Code, there is now a strong whiff of that surrounding this investigation now.

The social media pile-on by supporters of Premier Notley, plus Mr. Jean as well as other conservative politicians who have opposed Mr. Kenney’s takeover of the province’s conservative movement, was instantaneous.

Many called on Mr. Kenney throughout the day to resign. Many demanded that the election be delayed until the RCMP investigation was complete – a call that is not practical given the time police investigations can take.

U.S. Senator Howard Baker (Photo: Public Domain).

In Calgary, Premier Notley termed the entry of the RCMP in to the case “very serious and troubling.”

She asked: “What would Mr. Kenney say if the shoe was on the other foot?

“I suspect he would say the allegations are serious and somebody being investigated by the RCMP on serious and documented allegations of fraud should not be premier. And you know what? He would be right.”

Mr. Kenney, of course, tried to dismiss the implications of the Mounties’ involvement, pointing out that it’s not his campaign the police are investigating. But the relationship between Jeff Callaway’s campaign – the alleged “Kamikaze Mission” – and Mr. Kenney’s successful juggernaut is obviously at the heart of this story.

The key political question about Mr. Kenney is the same as the one Senator Howard Baker, Republican of Tennessee, asked about President Richard M. Nixon during the Watergate investigation in 1973: “What did he know, and when did he know it?”

Sen. Baker also famously observed that “it is almost always the cover-up rather than the event that causes trouble.” That’s something for Mr. Kenney to think about.

Meanwhile, in the Politics-Makes-Strange-Bedfellows Department, Mr. Jean is now said to be advising his former caucus bad boy Derek Fildebrandt, leader of the upstart libertarian Freedom Conservative Party.

The NDP Government’s Speech from the Throne is scheduled to take place Monday afternoon. An election will have to be called soon after that if the NDP intends to stick with the un-parliamentary Progressive Conservative “fixed election period” law mandating a provincial vote before the end of May that’s still on the books.

20 Comments to: This is serious now: the Mounties have entered the Kamikaze Campaign investigation

  1. Farmer Brian

    March 16th, 2019

    As we get closer to an election one thing becomes abundantly clear, the NDP’s re-election strategy is to do one thing and that is to attack Jason Kenney. And let’s be honest there is a good reason for that, NDP policies haven’t found a lot of public support. Calgary has the highest unemployment rate for a major city in Canada, there are no new pipelines under construction, a balanced budget is projected four years out but is based on pie in the sky resource revenues and Albertan’s still don’t support the carbon tax! As for myself nothing has happened that will change my vote. Enjoy your day.

    Reply
    • John T

      March 16th, 2019

      You could arguably point to global oil prices dropping that has created such a problem for Alberta. Just another reason to move beyond it. The tar sands projects are just not desirable either.

      Reply
    • Mark

      March 16th, 2019

      This is self inflicted by UCP and a pretty good sample of Karma being a b…. You can’t write this stuff #BetterOffWithRachel

      Reply
    • wlh

      March 16th, 2019

      Your time might be better spent telling your “hard working” buddy Jason Kenny to enjoy his day.

      Reply
    • David

      March 16th, 2019

      Interesting that no new pipelines have been built during Notley’s time in government. It’s even more interesting that no new pipelines were built in the period 2006 to 2015 when Conservative governments were in place in Alberta and Ottawa but I don’t recall that being a big issue during that time.

      Sure times are tough in Alberta, but that is the reason we have an NDP government now. If times were good in 2014 and early 2015, the conservative governments would have been re-elected.

      Reply
    • Farmer Dave

      March 17th, 2019

      Farmer Brian, I lived in Calgary from 1979 (boom year) until 1986 (recession) . The house I purchased in 1979 lost 40% of it’s value by June of 1986, houses were almost being given away, and the unemployment rate in Alberta was well above 10%. The deficit was rising faster then anytime I can recall.

      Farmer Brian do you recall who was the governing party of the day then?

      Reply
      • Farmer Brian

        March 18th, 2019

        Farmer Dave in 1986 Don Getty was Premier in Alberta and Brian Mulroney was Prime Minister. But blaming those 2 for the loss in value would be absolutely wrong. The recession in Alberta in that time period was caused by Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s national energy program and the low world price of oil. But the NEP certainly was the initial cause in a rapid increase in unemployment. A very high interest rate in the early 80’s didn’t help. As for the rapid accumulation of debt in Alberta during that time period, that was caused by the building of an unsustainable bureaucracy in Alberta by Peter Lougheed that couldn’t be supported when the price of oil dropped. People can believe what they wish but Alberta never does well when there is a Trudeau in Ottawa, their focus always is and was Quebec! Enjoy your day.

        Reply
  2. Bob Raynard

    March 16th, 2019

    David, a few weeks ago you wrote about someone alleging that the Kenney team took names of ordinary Albertans, created an email address for them, then signed them up to the UPC and had them vote for Jason Kenney using the new email address. At the time people commented that it was creepy, which it was, but it seems like it is also a form of identity theft, even if it did not result in anything being stolen from the victim. I wonder if this is what Mr. Gibson found.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      March 16th, 2019

      In fairness, the people may have willingly handed over their personal data on the understanding the UCP recruiter would “take care of everything for you.” DJC

      Reply
      • Political Ranger

        March 16th, 2019

        Yup! Just like they did in North Carolina (and Georgia and Alabama and Florida and Texas). I wonder if Kenney has a go-to contractor like the Republicans did in L. McCrae Dowless Jr.?

        Reply
  3. J.E. Molnar

    March 16th, 2019

    The fish rots from the head.

    Anyone blessed with a grasp of the obvious will clearly come to the conclusion that this was a Jason Kenney effort to win the UCP leadership at all costs — no matter what tactics were employed or what consequences and repercussions emerged. The person I feel empathy for is Brian Jean who was clearly duped.

    However, I think mainstream Alberta voters will be able to parse the UCP’s messages going forward and come to this conclusion — like their predecessors, the UCP are a party fraught with peril and unbridled corruption, completely untethered to the truth in their lust for power at any cost. If the RCMP investigation reveals criminal intent, I strongly believe this is the beginning of the end for Jason Kenney in Alberta.

    Reply
    • Political Ranger

      March 16th, 2019

      As the lead comment in this string indicates, it’s unlikely that this story will have any effect on Kenney’s supporters.

      Reply
  4. ronmac

    March 16th, 2019

    What’s most disturbing in this whole affair is the central character funneling the cash is Happy Mann. Really? You got a guy named “Happy” to carry out the dirty deed?
    Rule 101 of the Handbook of Nefarious Political Activities states whenever there is muchrucking to be done you should get a guy named “Bill” or “George” to do it. Somebody who can fade into the woodwork.
    You’d think Stephen Harper would know better.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      March 16th, 2019

      My boyhood friend Frank, who knew about how this stuff worked, always insisted the best name to perpetrate a fraud was “John Williams.” It’s faintly respectable (two first names, better even than two last names like McKenzie Porter, is the sure sign of the Upper Canadian upper classes), utterly Anglo Saxon, and not a stereotype (as is John Smith). I kid you not, I once heard a magistrate let an accused person named John Williams walk free after being charged with a minor criminal offence because he had “a good honest name.” DJC

      Reply
  5. March 16th, 2019

    I think your final paragraph is important. Alberta could return to the election schedule as laid out in the Alberta Constitution with a simple majority vote alone.

    I’m not saying it would be politically viable – but with unassailable legality the Election COULD be put off a whole year.

    Reply
  6. David

    March 17th, 2019

    There is trouble in river city! This has now gone past the point where Mr. Kenney can easily dismiss or stop things. Interestingly, one well known Canadian politician is now tied to an RCMP investigation and it is not Trudeau and SNC Lavalin, about which so much has been said or written about recently. Even if the local press, particularly Postmedia which seems quite amenable to mostly printing stories to show Mr. Kenney in the most favourable possible light, were to try to dismiss or ignore all of this, there is nothing like the magic words “RCMP investigation” to perk up the rest of the national media’s attention. This is even more the case when it involves someone like Kenney, a high profile and well known former cabinet minister from Ottawa (or did he really live in his mom’s basement in Calgary? … but I digress and will go back to focusing on the scandal at hand)

    In any event, I don’t think the UCP is quite ready to dump Kenney yet, although they may come to regret this later, so Jean’s gambit if it was that, was at best quite the long shot and premature. However, Jean probably doesn’t have much to lose at this point and as even Kenney, who I don’t think is the best political strategist, is probably figuring out those who don’t have much or anything to lose are the most dangerous kind to have as opponents. If Kenney hasn’t figured this out already he probably should talk to his former boss Harper who put his former opponent Peter MacKay in his cabinet and generally said nice things about him and supported him, even when MacKay was at various times a bit of a political liability. If Jean and some others had got the MacKay treatment, things might be going a bit more smoothly for Kenney right now. Jean probably had an idea where some of the bodies were buried right from the start, plus he has had considerable time on his hands in the last six months to find out much more.

    If I were the Alberta government, I wouldn’t be in a rush to call the election just yet. It would be good to let Mr. Kenney stew in his own juices for a while longer and more may come out. As for Mr. Jean, I don’t think he is quite as hapless as some of his political opponents are trying to make him appear. He has just put out the biggest “I told you so” in Alberta in some time, even bringing his former boss Harper into this. Mr. Harper may now be a bit more reticent to say anything bad about Jean in the future and it might be wise for Harper to remember his own former strategy from when he was PM – stay out of the uncivil war that is Alberta Conservative politics, as much as possible. If Kenney gets more tarnished, does the former PM really want the last thing to be said about him and his legacy to be that he supported a former cabinet minister of his now possibly under RCMP investigation?

    Reply
  7. Sam Gunsch

    March 17th, 2019

    Koch Bros. are right about now grilling their minions to find out if they can be connected to these Kenney Keystone Cops hosers.

    Reply

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