Has the leadership of the United Conservative Party grown so disconnected from reality it imagines the release of the report of the so-called “public inquiry into anti-Alberta energy campaigns” will somehow win back the hearts of Alberta’s disillusioned public?
Or is it just having such a terrible week it’s decided throwing one more bad story into the mix won’t make much difference anyway?
Hard to say.
Copies of the oft-delayed report of the $3.5-million inquiry will be handed out to reporters this morning. Energy Minister Sonya Savage will release the whole mess – and it will be a mess – to the rest of us at 11 a.m.
Immediately after that, the stuff will hit the fan, where it will get mixed up with all the other bad stuff that’s already gone through the spinning blades this week.
As University of Calgary law professor Martin Z. Olszynski, a frequent and well-informed critic of Commissioner Steve Allan’s lengthy gong show, tweeted yesterday, “it’s been a wild 2 yr ride: cronyism, secrecy, climate denialism, delays, more cronyism, more delays, etc…”
By the sound of the notice sent to journalists yesterday, Premier Jason Kenney won’t put in an appearance at Ms. Savage’s news conference. Given the questions reporters would likely ask him, it’s hard to blame him. It wasn’t clear from the announcement if Mr. Allan will make it.
On Monday, after campaigning hard for conservative city council candidates in Edmonton and Calgary, the Kenney Government had to face the judgment of voters in both Alberta cities that they not only wanted progressive mayors, they wanted more progressive councils too.
The election results are widely – and rightly – being interpreted as a repudiation of Mr. Kenney’s approach to provincial politics.
Then there was the election-day meltdown at Elections Alberta, when someone at the Legislature’s supposedly unbiased and non-partisan election oversight office got the keys to its Twitter account and began sending out nasty tweets that smacked of the literary efforts of Mr. Kenney’s legion of “issues managers,” the technical term for paid social media trolls.
The story has legs. It goes to whether Elections Alberta can be trusted to do its job. Elections Alberta says it will investigate itself, and likely keep its conclusions to itself. But it promises to do better.
Then there was the ugly story of Ward 4 City Councillor Sean Chu, one of the most pro-UCP members of Calgary City Council.
He was named in a news story a few days before the election as the former Calgary cop who was tapped on the wrist by the Calgary Police Service in 1997 for discreditable conduct that was described as “inappropriate touching” of a 16-year-old girl. Mr. Chu was 34 at the time.
The CBC got wind of the story when it learned of an application by the victim last week in the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. The evidence and transcripts were sealed by the judge.
But it sure sounds as if the CPS has spent the past 24 years trying to block the efforts of the victim to pursue the matter, which involved a firearm. The victim said she was sexually assaulted at Mr. Chu’s home. Mr. Chu admitted to “foreplay.” No criminal charges were ever laid.
Could this get worse? It soon did.
On election day, Mr. Chu won, barely – scraping past his nearest competitor by 54 votes.
The CBC reported yesterday that in 2008 when he was running for the Progressive Conservatives in Calgary, he was involved in a fight with his wife that saw police called to his home. There they seized a firearm.
When Calgary Mayor-elect Jyoti Gondek said Mr. Chu needs to go, now, she was joined by a chorus of city councillors, departing and arriving, and members of the public.
But Premier Kenney and Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver said they needed more facts, and claimed the province doesn’t have the legal authority to intervene. “We still need to do our due diligence and find out what the facts are,” Mr. McIver said.
Last Sunday on social media, Mr. McIver’s wife had been telling Mr. Chu to “keep up the great work.” She later withdrew her support.
Outgoing Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi weighed in yesterday: “It’s simple. He must step down. If he does not, then the provincial government must act using powers under the Municipal Government Act to remove him.” After all, Mr. Nenshi noted, “they’ve spent years threatening school boards with dismissal. Can’t have cold feet now.”
If Mr. Chu is sworn in next week, more stuff will be coming through the fan, and rightly so, a lot of it right at Mr. Kenney and Mr. McIver.
You can almost see how the UCP brain trust might have concluded that whatever Mr. Allan has to say – and there are plenty of hints it’ll be pretty lame – will end the week on a better note than what’s happened up to now.