Alberta Politics
NDP political advisor Jeremy Nolais in the creepy United Conservative Party video (Screenshot of UCP video).

UCP video of MLA and NDP advisor is certainly creepy – but is it ethical or even legal?

Posted on March 05, 2019, 7:26 pm
6 mins

There’s no question the thought of United Conservative Party operatives skulking around inside an important provincial government office building making videos of people coming and going is unsavoury, not to mention downright creepy.

But is this ethical? Is it even legal? Is it appropriate behaviour for a political party that obviously remains confident it will form the next government of Alberta?

Mr. Nolais (Photo: Twitter).

For those of you who think I must be exaggerating what happened, we know all this for the simple reason that on Monday evening the UCP published the video it made, replete with sarcastic comments, on social media.

The action in the slow-motion black-and-white video takes place in the confusingly named Federal Building, the historic block near the Alberta Legislature taken over in 1983 by the provincial government. Nowadays it houses MLA offices. Most parts of the building are not open to the public. People who work there have a reasonable expectation of privacy, in the legal sense of that phrase.

The hallway video shows Jeremy Nolais, a senior political advisor to Premier Rachel Notley, leaving an office. A janitor’s cart sits in the background.

Moments later, former UCP Caucus member Prab Gill can be watched leaving through the same door.

Mr. Gill is the Independent MLA for Calgary-Greenway who asked the RCMP to investigate allegations that voter fraud took place during the 2017 UCP leadership race, a political contest already marred by serious allegations one candidate was illegally funded to run a “Kamikaze Mission” to bring down former Wildrose Leader Brian Jean and ensure the victory of Jason Kenney. The Office of the Elections Commissioner has levied a $15,000 fine on a manager of that campaign for “obstruction of an investigation.”

Independent MLA Prab Gill emerging from his office door (Screenshot of UCP Video).

“Wonder why Premier Notley’s senior advisor Jeremy Nolais was busy meeting with Independent MLA Prab Gill in the latter’s office this afternoon,” says the Tweet by Mr. Kenney’s official UCP Opposition leader’s account. It continues: “Is the NDP Caucus about to gain a new MLA? Not sure if aligning with the NDP is a good move in Calgary, though…”

I can’t tell you who took the video, or how, but it seems reasonable to assume it was done by a member of Mr. Kenney’s political staff.

It appears to have been doctored and slowed down to make it look as if it came from a security camera, presumably to imply the people recorded were up to something bad. From the location of the camera, however, it seems more likely the recording was made with a smartphone.

Mr. Gill (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Political parties in Canada, unfortunately, long ago gave themselves an exemption from privacy legislation, so this is not the legal violation of privacy law it would be if you or I were to make a similar recording in an office where we worked – assuming, of course, we don’t work for a political party.

But surely this is a violation of an MLA’s privilege. The office of Alberta Legislative Speaker Bob Wanner is said to be investigating.

The recording is also, obviously, a violation of the reasonable expectation of privacy any person working in a private place should have.

Since Mr. Gill has played a role in an investigation being carried out by the RCMP, it is reasonable to wonder if making video recordings of him in such circumstances amounts to an attempt to intimidate, or to serve as a warning to others. A reasonable person could well conclude a subtext to the publication of this video was directed at other MLAs: Be careful who you are seen with! We are watching!

Section 264 (2) (c) of the Criminal Code of Canada partly defines harassment as “watching the dwelling-house, or place where the other person, or anyone known to them, resides, works, carries on business or happens to be.”

Is this an example of what Mr. Kenney calls “a respectful, policy based debate”?

If Mr. Kenney were a minister of the government, it would be reasonable to demand his resignation for allowing such behaviour on his watch.

Do you really want people who think this kind of thing is appropriate in charge of government records containing your private information?

6 Comments to: UCP video of MLA and NDP advisor is certainly creepy – but is it ethical or even legal?

  1. Rod Feland

    March 6th, 2019

    Wow!
    Do the bozo eruptions go right to the top?

    Reply
  2. Dave

    March 6th, 2019

    A party that was truly confident of winning the upcoming election wouldn’t be bothered to surveil Mr. Gill and record video of his comings and goings. I don’t know if it is legal, but it sure is icky or creepy if you prefer.

    Mr. Gill has made some serious allegations about Kenney and the UCP that if proven could cost it the election, so I could understand they are paying close attention to him if they think he might have something there. Do they seem nervous about this? Yes. Are they trying to intimidate him? Quite likely. Is Gill planning to run for the NDP? I really doubt it, but he and the NDP may have one common interest in ensuring the UCP’s dirtiest tricks are exposed, or it could have just been a meeting about fixing up a school in his area which led to a telligly suspicious over reaction from the UCP.

    Something here just doesn’t seem right and its bigger than the legality of this video or the ethics behind it, but I suppose we can talk about that for now while we wait for another shoe to drop.

    Reply
  3. J.E. Molnar

    March 6th, 2019

    Looks like Jason Kenney and the UCP are on message again this week and the message is we don’t know what the hell we’re doing.

    With their latest bout of McCarthyism, the UCP has jumped the shark. How creepy is this? Surreptitiously spying with video on your political enemies is the kind of insidious behaviour only seen in communist countries. This debacle is right from Vladimir Putin’s playbook. What is the UCP trying to tell us, comrades?

    Reply
  4. Pogo

    March 6th, 2019

    Now right here, we have the whole game plan! I smell conversion therapy? Ok, maybe Trumpism? Opportunism? It’s a soup with many spices! Your wannabe potentate is projecting 50,000 jobs with a 30% tax cut for the richest people who wouldn’t piss on you if you were on fire! Sorry, there DC! It’s the street talkin’! He’s cutting the legs off every program that actually does some good, while he’ll put on his supercilious sorry face, while he cuts! Are you stupid enough yet? The beatings will continue until moral improves! After all! The UCP is not happy until you’re not happy! In fact their righteous anger is reserved! Wait. It’s true!

    Reply
  5. Scotty on Denman

    March 6th, 2019

    Jeez! That just sent me mind reeling back to the hapless Stockwell Day, then leader of the hapless Reform-a-CRAP-a-Con Alliance party—the one that his ineptitude effectively split into two conservative parties, one part underscoring in its name the independence it desired to have from Day who, as I’m recalling right now, prattled off in a ubiquitous scrum in the halls of the Commons, something about Stockwell keeping assiduous surveillance of Liberal MPs and, especially, Prime Minister Chrétien for whom, he said, private House dicks had been deployed—and then Day couldn’t run away from that boner fast enough—well, with one of his feet in his tater-trap and enough room for two more. Newly Independent Deb Gray addressed the Opposition leader from another scrum scrumming the fallout of the now-benighted Day: “Not everyone is cut out to be a leader, Stock,” and assured he could step down without shame. He did step down.

    Oh!—those were the days! I still get a tear in my eye—every time I laugh so hard [a minute, please, while I regain my composure]. [Ahem! Sniff!!] why do I get that déjà vu feeling about this kind of déjà-vu-all-the-time-every-Day-is-special confirmation of conservative schismatic catechism? Oh yeah, it’s still all about “uniting the right”, an advertisement so old we should wonder at the persistence of its necessity. Nowadays it’s emphasized in the name of Alberta’s United Conservative Party, but it could just as well be interpreted as prescriptive, but at a frequency audible to only the chosen, as in: “United” because it yearns to be, “Reform” because it needed it, “Independent” because it had to be, “Progressive” because it should have been—as it would appear to the majority incapable of hearing the phantasmagoric, Orcan paean emitting from the depths of the sacred spring ringed by ancient, oaken Irminsil echoing the sirenic pangs of an Heroic Age unjustly deprived, the mystical redoubt of spiritual revival, and the holy return to wreak righteous vengeance aimed by the surveilling raven of a one-eyed Odin and recorded by the security cams of Christ.

    Enter the next uniter Stephen Harper, his mission to gather all the conservatives who hadn’t wanted to be herded together under one roof hitherto, his method treachery, his materiel the electorate-tattered rumps and self-shredded scraps of anglophone right-wingers (post-Reform Alliance, peri-Day Independent Cons, and crestfallen Progressive Conservatives—but none of les Bleus de Quebec then united under Preston Manning’s francophone twin Lucien Bouchard) along with covert neoliberals and American Geckoids who’d also hacked into the rival Liberals whose resultant internecine war Harper could accredit almost entirely his electoral successes, such as they were. But at least the right was united—even if asterisked to note the concurrent politcal anomalies which could be summed up as manifestations of post-Soviet neoliberal globalization and the stateless corproatocracy it sought to achieve.

    Irony abounds: for all its self-righteous surveillance of political rivals, the neo-right (traditional conservative parties infected with neoliberalism) has depended critically upon dismantling ordinary surveillance of public administration and electoral veracity—that is, of itself in office and on election campaigns. And by “surveillance” we should include by any news media or legitimate forensics. So while the UCP might entertain audiences of its own social-media channels with gripping, ripping comings and goings from socialist or liberal toilet cubicles, it condemns census intrusions upon the privacy of god-fearing Canadians, as well as media surveillance of its own members crossing the Queen’s road in broad daylight, especially when they lead to party fundraising events at a pub(~lic house) where full-patch members of the local, white-supremacist biker-gang are attendant in partisan support. Would that it didn’t happen, Jason Kekkenney can only say, longing for those heady HarperCon days (post-dazed-Day-daydreaming-days) whence the perpetually smoking craters in the historical record of things that didn’t so much not-happen but will remain as memorably mysterious as library-and-census-burning Harper would have it—for all to see, for history evermore.

    Like Scheer’s endorsement of neo-nazis at the truckers’ protest rally in Ottawa, KeKKenney’s private-eye ploy reminds how critical pandering to their partly-shared base must have become—and how secondary public opprobrium is in the minds of these moribund neo-rightists—otherwise, why risk it? Both should remember, after all, the exemplary buffoonery of Day’s surveillance and treachery of Harper’s secrecy, now historical facts for those who still believe history is instructive.

    And it is certainly creepy when you realize it might repeat.

    Reply
  6. Kang

    March 6th, 2019

    David, David: you just do not get it do you? This is Alberta. Rules mean exactly what the conservatives say they mean, nothing more and nothing less.

    When the cons or their foreign masters do something, missing legal deadlines (Mandel), window peeping, election fixing, spying, poisoning groundwater and rivers . . . anything, it is for the greater good which only they can see. Rules and laws be dammed. Since Klein this is the way things are.

    Jason just wants to bring back the good old days, by any means necessary and if that means using secret recordings to send a little STFU message to people who think the rules should apply equally to everybody, well, it’s all in a good cause, isn’t it? The only real question is are Albertans going to bend down and vote for Jason and his crew in the next election?

    Reply

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