Alberta Politics
Jason Kenney, Andrew Scheer and Tim Uppal, three principal figures in this story (Photo: Facebook).

Fallout from dual probes into 2017 United Conservative Party leadership campaign still drifting down

Posted on August 08, 2019, 2:17 am
6 mins

It may not be fair, and you may not like it, but politics is like French justice: Guilty until proven innocent.

OK, the French say it ain’t so, and we have to take them at their word. They’ve signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, bien sûr!

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

But in politics, not so much.

Why do you think political operatives love to leak a scandal just before there’s an election, when there’s not enough time to set the story straight, if straight it can be set?

So the fact the dual investigations into allegations of vote fraud in the 2017 United Conservative Party leadership race won by Jason Kenney, one by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the other by the Office of the Election Commissioner, continue to turn over new rocks, must be troubling indeed to the Alberta premier’s strategic brain trust.

In a way, it’s even worse for them that it’s happening at the start of the UCP’s mandate, when no sneaky political opponent with some fake news up his sleeve would go to the trouble of spreading a false story. Why bother? There’s far too much time for the victim of the tale to prove his innocence.

So reports like the Star’s saying the Mounties are now talking to federal Conservative politicians does not look good on either Mr. Kenney’s UCP or, one supposes, Andrew Scheer’s Conservative Party of Canada.

Calgary-East MLA Peter Singh (Photo: Facebook).

According to the Star, the RCMP have now interviewed Tim Uppal, the former Member of Parliament for Edmonton-Sherwood Park and former minister of state in Stephen Harper’s CPC cabinet who is now running in the Edmonton Mill Woods federal riding, hoping to unseat Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi.

A statement from Mr. Uppal, given to the Star by federal Conservative Party officials, said, “Yes, I sat down with RCMP.” This was followed by the disclaimer Albertans have now grown accustomed to hearing: “But I was not the subject of the meeting.”

Calgary-East UCP MLA Peter Singh, whose office was also raided by police with computers and records removed, and five cabinet ministers have also been interviewed by the Mounties. Each of the ministers said they were not the subject of their meetings.

So far, it would seem that no one is the subject of the Mounties’ investigation, which makes one wonder why they’re pursuing it. The explanation, of course, is that someone is, we just haven’t yet been told who it is.

The federal Opposition leader, of course, does face an election fairly soon, and he’s been dishing out some fairly questionable claims about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, so he can now expect to get as good as he gives.

Election Commissioner Lorne Gibson (Photo: Office of the Election Commissioner).

It’s Mr. Kenney, though, who really has to worry about the impression this is leaving — and not just with voters in Alberta, if we believe what we have been told about his personal prime ministerial ambitions.

Meanwhile, the CBC reported yesterday that Premier Kenney says the Office of the Election Commissioner will not necessarily be spared budget cuts just because it’s investigating his leadership campaign when he gets around to his big austerity campaign, which is to be introduced after the Oct. 21 federal election so that no one can accuse him of trying to sandbag Mr. Scheer.

The CBC popped that question after it discovered the office was investigating an allegation that Mr. Kenney himself had advised an out-of-pocket former party operative that someone else would pay for 600 memberships the volunteer had signed up. That, of course, would be illegal.

Asked whether he would commit to funding the office in order to avoid the perception of interference in an investigation involving his campaign, Kenney demurred,” the CBC reported politely.

Election Commissioner Lorne Gibson, appointed by the previous NDP government and not particularly liked by the Conservatives, has already slapped fines of more than $163,000 on people involved in candidate Jeff Callaway’s “Kamikaze Campaign,” which is said to have been set up to slime the campaign run by former Wildrose leader Brian Jean and then to go away when that work was done.

Oddly, at the time of the leadership campaign, this was spoken of as if it were common knowledge and no one seemed to mind. Now there are many denials.

I’m sure the UCP would love an excuse to send Mr. Gibson packing as soon as possible, and austerity might just provide the excuse they need. But they’re going to have to tough it out for a couple more months, by the sound of it.

The identity of the Ontario Crown Prosecutor who oversees the RCMP investigation remains a secret.

3 Comments to: Fallout from dual probes into 2017 United Conservative Party leadership campaign still drifting down

  1. ronmac

    August 8th, 2019

    I’m guessing Kenney’s leadership campaign was run by a gang of over zealous youngsters (maybe junior staffers from the Cdn Taxpayers Federation or other such AstroTurf group) who were running amuck, breaking rules they didn’t necessarily know existed, leaving more seasoned political operatives shaking their head.
    Stephen Harper had a flock like this surrounding him while in office. There were complaints that he was being insulated and long time Tory gunslingers were having difficulty getting access.
    “The boys in short pants,” one disgruntled high profile cabinet minister called them. Peter McKay, I think.

    Reply
  2. Dave

    August 8th, 2019

    Anything news related to the PC, sorry – UCP leadership convention (getting my scandal plagued parties mixed up today) can probably be summed up in four words for the UCP – BAD, BAD, NOT GOOD!!! I suspect Mr. Kenney would probably even secretly agree with my assessment.

    There is the slow drip, drip of revelations which could eventually have a corrosive effect on support for the UCP government. Sure it is still in the honeymoon phase right now, but come fall apparently “tough” choices will be made. I think that in combination with the simmering scandal that refuses to dies could cause a serious hit to UCP popularity and bring the honeymoon to a quick end. Its never fun when honeymoons end, Kenney could ask PM Trudeau about that if he wanted – oh on second thought he probably isn’t interested in getting any political advise from the PM. Trudeau was fortunate that his honeymoon was extended, perhaps because he seems to be a likeable person with charisma. Kenney seems neither likeable or charismatic.

    The UCP is really in a pickle here. If they too overtly force out the Election Commissioner, it could blow up on them. The commissioner might actually be more free to help the investigation, which will go on whether he is in the position or not. Kenney can’t fire the RCMP nor can he fire the out of province Crown Prosecutor leading it. He can’t even try trash the prosecutors reputation, a la Trump and the Republicans tried to do to Muller. Maybe Kenney if desperate could lean on Doug Ford to somehow reign in or restrain the prosecutor, but at this point I think Ford might be wary of adding another scandal to his own plate. Ford is already is dealing with a couple of them on political appointments – one to head the OPP and another on numerous questionable patronage appointments made by his former Chief of Staff.

    One of the reasons to establish the UCP was to get away from the tarnished and scandal plagued reputation of the former PCs. Perhaps might have helped them a bit to win the last election, but just because you are new, doesn’t mean your reputation remains unsullied or impeccable for long.

    Reply
  3. karl

    August 10th, 2019

    i know this is really immature and also puerile but i can’t help myself

    Kenny and the UCP are a bunch of hosebags

    there i feel better now lol !

    Reply

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