Kaycee Madu, Alberta’s justice minister, at the moment on a leave of absence (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney put his justice minister on the bench last night after a CBC story revealed one of the first things Kaycee Madu did after a traffic cop handed him a $300 distracted driving ticket for talking on his cellular phone as he motored through an Edmonton school zone was to call the city’s chief of police. 

“I have spoken with Minister Madu about the March 10 incident reported in the media today,Mr. Kenney said in a series of tweets published just before 10 p.m. “I conveyed to him my profound disappointment in his decision to contact the Edmonton Police Chief after receiving a ticket for a traffic violation.”

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

“I will appoint a respected independent investigator to review the relevant facts and to determine whether there was interference in the administration of justice in this case,” the premier said.

In the interim period, I have asked Minister Madu to step back from his ministerial duties,” Mr. Kenney tweeted. “Minister Sonya Savage will act as Minister of Justice and Solicitor General during Minister Madu’s leave of absence.” (Emphasis added.)

Political Alberta was soon abuzz yesterday after the scoop by CBC reporters Elise von Scheel and Janice Johnston revealed both the distracted driving ticket – a copy of which had somehow made its way into their hands – and the justice minister’s injudicious phone call about it to Police Chief Dale McFee. 

In an interview conducted a few days ago, Chief McFee told the reporters, “Minister Madu did contact me via the telephone concerned about a ticket. But just to be very, very clear, he never asked to get out of the ticket.

The reporters wrote: “The chief said that during the call, Madu, who is Black, expressed concern about people of colour being stopped by police and, separately, political tension with the Lethbridge Police Service.” 

While Mr. Madu didn’t respond to the CBC reporters’ calls for a comment, he did publish a statement last night that confirmed their report. 

“The officer indicated that he had observed me driving while distracted, alleging that I was on my phone,” said Mr. Madu’s statement. “I disagreed, stating that I was not on my phone, as it was in an inside pocket.

Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee (Photo: DiversityConference.ca).

“Later I spoke to Chief Dale McFee,” he continued. “Due to the timing of the incident, I wanted to ensure that I was not being unlawfully surveilled following the controversy surrounding the Lethbridge Police Service.” (This is a reference to the actions of several Lethbridge officers who illegally stalked former NDP environment minister and Lethbridge MLA Shannon Phillips, apparently because they disagreed with her department’s policy on use of all-terrain vehicles in parks.) 

“I also raised concerns about profiling of racial minorities that was in the media at the time,” Mr. Madu’s statement said. 

“Chief McFee assured me that that was most definitely not the case, and I accepted him at his word,” he said. “To be abundantly clear, at no point did I request that the ticket be rescinded.” However, he added, he regretted raising the issue.

Many Albertans quickly connected the dots between Mr. Madu’s phone call and the Kenney Government’s plan to eliminate traffic court, and with it the presumption of innocence for driving offences.

Former NDP MLA Brian Malkinson (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

As former NDP Calgary MLA Brian Malkinson tweeted soon after the story broke, “I guess this is why he is not worried about getting rid of traffic court. He has got the police chief on speed dial.

Other social media users pointed out sharply that the United Conservative Party leads a government that wants to create its own Alberta provincial police force, drawing the obvious conclusions. 

A Mount Royal University political scientist quoted in the CBC story, Lori Williams, described the call as “entirely inappropriate.”

“I think it’s very important that the government reinforce the importance of that separation between the government and the administration of justice in the province,” she said.

Her fellow Mount Royal political scientist Duane Bratt was more blunt. “Jean Charest resigned in 1990 as Minister of Sport for calling a judge about a case,” he said. “Calling a police chief about a case is very similar. Madu needs to resign, or Kenney has to fire him.”

NDP Opposition Justice Critic Irfan Sabir (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

NDP Justice Critic Irfan Sabir, a lawyer like Mr. Madu and Ms. Savage, quickly reached the same conclusion, calling on the justice minister to resign. “It is wholly unacceptable for the Attorney General to engage with senior law enforcement regarding a penalty levied against him.”

“It is striking that this same minister is in the process of removing Albertans’ ability to challenge traffic tickets without producing $150 with a week’s notice,” Mr. Sabir added. “Madu used his position as minister to initiate this conversation, and regardless of whether he asked the chief to cancel the ticket, it is political interference for him to have discussed it all.”

But if Mr. Madu loses his portfolio permanently, that will create a whole new set of problems for Mr. Kenney, Dr. Bratt observed. “If Madu leaves (which he should), it creates a set of musical cabinet chairs,he tweeted – and at a very bad moment for the UCP and the premier, both low in the polls with the pandemic continuing. 

“It’s the only Cabinet post that really requires professional expertise,Dr. Bratt argued in a series of tweets. Other commenters, like former Progressive Conservative Justice Minister Jonathan Denis, noted that courts have ruled it is acceptable to appoint a non-lawyer to the portfolio. 

Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Regardless, said Dr. Bratt, “besides Madu, there are only 7 other UCP MLAs with a law degree.” Four are already in cabinet and the rest are inexperienced backbenchers. So there is no obvious replacement. 

“The rest of the jobs are about political judgement, not necessarily expertise in the portfolio,” Dr. Bratt added. 

Of course, if political judgment were the key criterion, Mr. Madu, the only government MLA in Edmonton, should probably never have been in cabinet in the first place!

Join the Conversation


  1. If political judgement were the issue here, Mr. Madu would likely be past three strikes already. This is unlike Mr. Charest, who was more of an asset politically before his similar problems with the law. Mr. Madu also seems to be trying to confuse the Edmonton Police with the Lethbridge ones, who targeted a white female opposition MLA. Obviously Edmonton and Lethbridge are many miles apart and there are some other clear differences in the circumstances.

    However, Mr. Madu also is not easily replaceable. If he was, he may have been gone a while ago. Also in his favour is Kenney really does not like to admit he ever made a mistake. So, Kenney does not seem to fire people easily, if at all.

    Most likely Kenney will either shuffle Madu to another job, where calling the police is not as a big no no, or Kenney will just bring him back from this perhaps appropriately described “leave of absence”, once the furor dies down. Given the limited number of others in the UCP with the expected background to fill Mr. Madu’s particular position, I expect Kenney will find the later option more expedient.

  2. When you are in a position of authority, or even not in a position of authority, distracted driving is not acceptable. The harm it has done to many people isn’t a good thing. Many people were crippled, injured or killed from distracted driving. It’s the right thing to have Kaycee Madu removed from his cabinet position.

  3. Well, isn’t it true that hubris can get you into a fine mess … eventually?

    Kaycee Madu has been, until this instance, playing all the right moves. He has been fluffing the Dear Leader when he needs it and he declares “God bless Alberta” in the right moments, so his timing seems to be right. Of course, given the burgeoning dust-up over the effective abolition of traffic courts in Alberta, one would have thought Madu would have at least the self-awareness to know that a minister calling the police chief over a traffic ticket isn’t going to look good if it’s found out. Well, it was found out and Madu’s hubris has got the better of him.

    After the unseemliness over the Ristorante Parlour affair, it appeared that Madu was untouchable. And given that he was willing to commit whatever legislative nonsense to please Kenney’s desires, I thought that Madu was going to skate away again on this one. He is something of a joke in his own riding but remember this fact: Kaycee Madu is untouchable.

    Kenney can’t afford another scandal, with his own leadership about to be tossed by the UCP membership. And the man’s poll numbers, honestly, cannot get any worse. So, Madu gets a break and a few weeks in the sin bin, before he is found to be naive, contrite, and back in the good books. (Thanks to that not-so-independent investigation.) And, I suspect, Kenney will appoint Madu to another cabinet post — maybe the Treasurer and Deputy Premier. Now, that would be a first that Kenney can holler about. See, he’s progressive after all.

    Meanwhile, Brian Jean is still waiting for his nomination papers.

  4. Kaycee Madu has embarrassed Jason Kenney several times already, by making mistakes that are so egregious that I find myself wondering how he ever earned a law degree, and how he managed to pass the bar in Canada.

    Mr. Madu now wants us to believe him that his phone call to Dale McFee was not about getting out of his ticket. This is when it would be really advantageous for Madu to have credibility. Too bad he doesn’t have any.

    1. Bob you do not know how many times I have asked that question myself.
      How did this man pass the bar in Canada. Hopefully not by phoning the top person at the Canadian Law Association.

  5. Such irony. Madu seems to be siding with Licia Corbella in her column opposing Kenney’s changes to traffic court, “Corbella: Kenney chooses pragmatism over principle with new traffic court law”. Madu goes a step further than even Corbella would advise, as a Postmedia columnist. Madu is very, very pragmatic. You could say he is “Mr. Fix-it.”

  6. If Mr. Madu possessed a scintilla of integrity he would resign his Cabinet appointment.

    If Mr. Kenney possessed a scintilla of integrity he would have fired Mr. Madu.

    Clearly, this attribute is lacking in both these gentlemen. Albertans are poorer because of this.

  7. If his phone was In his pocket it strikes me as unusual that he immediately paid the ticket. Which was it ? Something tells me If he felt he had any case at all to say this was persecution ala Ms Hoffman, he would be.

    1. Well, if he was telling the truth about the phone being in his pocket, he should complain through the proper channels. I have spoken to enough people who have had genuine complaints about being charged for “driving while brown(or black or indigenous). But the cost of fighting such a ticket, especially considering bill 21 would make that futile. So, if he is telling the truth, (which is possible) the futility of fighting the legislation is brought into focus. Alternatively, he could be lying. Am I wrong about this?

      1. What do you think the odds that an Edmonton police officer who actually pulls folks over for traffic violations is going to miss that it’s the justice minister ?

        I definitely am not in the practice of siding with police officers, but I think there is no way he’s telling the truth.

        I’m thinking it goes one of two ways, oops, “sorry mr justice minister, have a nice day” or “oh shit I pulled over the JUSTICE MINISTER, I better do this by the book, lest I lose my job”

        I’m betting it’s the latter.

  8. There is some speculation in the twitterverse that there is no way Jason Kenney did not know about this until now. It happened March 10, 2021. Don Braid of Calgary Herald has written about this in his column:

    “The ticket episode was widely known in cabinet circles and talked about in jocular tones, sources say.

    The premier’s office was aware but that does not necessarily mean the information was passed on to Kenney himself. If not, it certainly should have been. And the result should have been Madu leaving the justice post immediately and permanently……”


  9. In other news.. A less than independent factotum will regale us all with baffle-gab and kind words for the dead. Catch her on youtube.

  10. “CBC News submitted a request for records related to the infraction using Freedom of Information laws, but the Edmonton Police Service said it would not confirm or deny the existence of any records because the matter concerned personal information about a third party.”

    Strange. Would Madu be a “third party” in this situation, or is there someone else involved? Don’t the police usually say if someone has been charged?

  11. Why would Madu not call the most powerful official to whom he could get access? This is how Kons operate, and it reflects the “I”m all right, Jack”, commerce-oriented mentality that dominates the Right, the ultimate “snowflakes”. Each one so special and deserving of unique consideration in any transaction. Albertans need to clue in and understand that one hands washes the other and most of us aren’t anywhere near the basin.

  12. The differences in ethics between our ruling political party, and the official opposition, is stark.

    Mr Dang of the NDP steps down when he discovers and confirms an AHS security loop hole, informs them, and is subsequently investigated by police. He immediately does the right thing, and we await the results of the investigation. In the meantime he is out of NDP caucus.

    Mr Madu, a Minister of the Crown, commits a traffic offence in March of last year, makes his highly inappropriate phone call soon thereafter, and we only find out about it now, 10 months later. One guesses we would have never found out if the CBC, doing the job of the media to hold all politicians accountable (hint hint Postmedia), had not uncovered the ticket. Mr Madu does not “step back” until his faux pas is revealed. Mr Kenney does nothing until the story has been divulged. Currently, it seems the Minister is only on a time out. Parliamentary tradition demands he resign. We shall see if the UCP penchant for dirty tricks and machinations, belligerent defiance, and mindless confrontation prevails.

    The UCP is the model of entitlement, bad governance, lacking in respect for our parliamentary traditions (hello Speaker Cooper), and unethical behaviour. Also, the fact that Ms Savage must cover during this fiasco, and Ms Lagrange quietly subbed for the Health Minister and Premier this past summer, speaks to how short the UCP bench is.

    UCP, this phrase has been used in a parliament elsewhere a couple of times. It applies to you as well. “You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”

  13. It appears that while the investigation into his behaviour takes place, Madu will be self-isolating at home. Meanwhile, to get to the bottom of this incident, Jason Kenney will put together one of his patented Blue Ribbon Panels. Eventually, Madu will contritely apologize–not for ignoring the Rule of Law, but for making a “mistake”.

  14. Have you ever seen a political party so hellbent on getting themselves defeated in the next election? I can’t wait to see which
    UCP clown comes forward next week. It’s like the Ralph Klein gong show all over again. We still have Danielle Smith making a fool of herself and now Brian Jean wants to rejoin the stupidity. He can’t wait.

    As the former MLAs I knew pointed out not one single one of these Reformers are smart enough to suggest that they should be following what Lougheed did. Collect proper royalties and taxes and run this province properly like Lougheed did, and Alaska and Norway are doing. Helping their rich friends steal the peoples oil and tax wealth to buy votes is all they care about. Lawyers told us a few years ago that the hundreds of billions of dollars Albertans had lost was the worse case of fraud the world has ever seen , but was done legally because stupid Albertans just kept allowing it to happen.

  15. I’m guessing the Justice Minister is the equivalent of a US state Attorney General. In 2006 Zulima Farber was NJ’s first Hispanic female AG. Her boyfriend got pulled over near their home. He calls her and she comes roaring up in her state SUV flashing her badge and demanding “Do you know who I am?”. The officers were intimidated and no citations were issued. Word got out eventually and she had to resign her post. Her sucessor was also a woman. One day she got pulled over for speeding on US 1 near New Brunswick, NJ in a high enforcement area. It was her first ticket and she just paid it. Months later a sharp reporter sptted her name among hundreds on the ticket docket. When they contacted her she was embarrassed but quietly paid the fine. She probably got points on her drivers license but it did not end her career.

    1. You are correct, Jim. Canadian justice ministers usually, bear the title Justice Minister and Attorney General, or Justice Minister and Solicitor General. Mr. Madu’s title is the latter. That’s a good story about Ms. Farber. It’s always a sound policy to suppress the urge to say “do you know who I am,” if only because the police officer, hotel desk clerk or restaurant server may not care. And, as you point out, things may turn out even worse if they do care. DJC

  16. The fall of Kaycee Madu may be a foreshadowing of the wild destruction to come.

    Madu is a lawyer so, presumably, he would have some understanding and respect for legal institutions, like the courts. Since the UCP government has seen fit to, effectively, abolish traffic courts, denying those who seek to defend themselves their day in court, we get an insight into the mind of Madu. He’s a lawyer who hates the mission of legal institutions and seeks to deny justice to others. There can be no doubt that Madu seeks to disenfranchise many for the sake of protecting the elites. For this, Madu gains power and privilege. For a person who goes on and on about how he has to bear tremendous injustices, he has no problem forcing injustice upon others.

    Madu is, in essence, the entire UCP government. It’s a government that is ruled by its Id: its most base desires, worst instincts, and most violent urges. It’s about much more than day-drinker and bad behaviour. It’s about a government ruled by teenage hormonal temperaments, sociopathic personalities, and psychotic mindsets. They are, at the least, willfully negligent; at the worst, a death cult determined to engage in a wholesale slaughter for amusement and personal enrichment.

  17. First of all, how did Madu ever become a candidate for the UCP in 2019? He has never demonstrated any competence since he was elected and has acted as an effective anchor for any aspirations for those who mistakenly thought that an ultra-right wing government in Alberta might be feasible.

  18. Hello Albertans,

    Is this a good time to remind Albertans that you voted for this? You get the government you deserve.

    How’s that RCMP investigation into Kenney’s leadership campaign going? It’s getting harder and harder to have any respect for law and order where the RCMP and the UCP are in cahoots.

    Next time you have a scandal-free government headed by a competent and ethical woman, don’t kick her out and vote for a fascist man.

    1. Buddy they barely picked up a majority of voters, a huge percentage of albertans choose to not participate in our gerrymandered, corrupt, petrostate politics. Madu is the only UCP MLA in the capital city of the province. Give it a rest with the condescension maybe.

  19. Not that it’s undeserved, but it’s beginning to look like a pile-on when it comes to any news which puts premier-on-a-bubble Jason Kenney in a bad light, including the frequent fumbles in his caucus’s dance macabre around the cabinet whack-a-mole table. There’s the faintest whiff of sympathy for the K-Boy that so many of his pinochle-heads have been struck from the roster like so many nurse- and doctor-forwards out for Covid injuries, mid-season which, to add euphemism to allusion, political discretion refers to as a “mild groin-pull.” Such is the typical K-Boy shrug about benching Kaycee Madu, now-former minister of Justice.

    As it stands, JK hints that Kaycee will be back for the playoffs PDQ—presuming no coaching change interim.

    However, while observers contemplate how to approach this latest QB sack—spring-board, step-ladder, or parachute —too little attention is paid to the seriousness of former cabinet minister Madu’s traffic offence: distracted driving in a school zone.

    Only his political career foul makes it less lucky than if he got busted doing the same thing in BC where the publicly-owned Insurance Corporation of British Columbia —ICBC, or, affectionately, “Icky-Picky”—provides pointed premium pain by compounding penalty points for compounding offences and pecuniary punishment that can’t be circumvented by shopping around for alternative private coverage. Nevertheless, the pleasures of socialized underwriting can never compensate the pain of losing a child to a distracted driver in a school zone or be compared to even Mr Madu’s serious lack of judgement.

    Thank goodness a child wasn’t harmed by Madu’s risky behaviour, assuming he actually was distracted by his phone. Contrast that with the risk taken by sounding like I’m going to tell a bad joke by asking what real estate agents, lawyers, politicians, and amoebas have in common: they’re always on their cell phones. Of course traffic cops have gained considerable experience looking for and busting such offenders since distracted driving suddenly became one of the leading causes of MVAs. And it’s not without a bit of zeal sometimes (once, a bicycle cop accosted me, stopped in five lanes of traffic-jam waiting for a notoriously long left-turn green a quarter-mile ahead, mistakenly thinking he saw me fiddling with my phone’s iTunes because, I guess, it was hosing rain and I was singing; in fact, I was only strumming my little parlour guitar which otherwise rides handily on the passenger seat beside me; in the circumstance he let me go, but humourlessly, I thought). One really needs to obey the rules, no matter who they are. In a school zone, it’s a really good idea to keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel (that cop was too young to be a Doors fan, I discovered, but I wasn’t anywhere near a school zone). Every driver, including Madu, should know this: do not screw up in a school zone, no exceptions!

    Traffic cops often impress pulled-over drivers with the number of infractions they could write up if they wanted to, usually to quell elevating disgruntlement and appear conciliatory while handing the offender (onus being reversed for traffic tickets, guilt is presumed until proved otherwise) the citation for only the most serious one of the suggested possibles. Not to presume Madu’s guilt—which he’s belatedly denied in public—, he could have, and therefore should have, contested the matter in court if he believed himself innocent. Since it happens to be his own policy to make such contests more difficult, but he hadn’t yet implemented it, he could sympathetically be seen as automatically—possibly unfairly— favoured by his special position: his own victim of his own circumstance. (Perhaps he could have pleaded a kind of unintentional self-entrapment—I dunno, I ain’t a lawyer.) But his subsequent behaviour effectively scotched any of that. The only way out was if nobody knew about it, although it’s not yet clear why that was so important to him. Anyhow, he blew that one, too, starting with an inadvisable phone call.

    Being the author of his own misdemeanour, Madu began working on a bigger sequel, this time seeking co-authorship with an immediacy —“soon after” being pulled over— that must have startled his first candidate, Edmonton police chief McFee. Assured the chief would take a call from the minister of Justice because it was so out of the ordinary he would presume it involved extraordinary urgency, Madu greeted the chief’s anticipation by effectively accusing his constable(s) of racial profiling. Madu, who is Black, said he was ‘just checking’ to see if it was true, but the improbability of getting an affirmation, even if it were true, is suspiciously disingenuous.

    The chief doubtlessly took it as a threat that, if he didn’t accept being set-up by answering the call in the first place, Madu implied he might become subject of an investigation like Lethbridge police were after surveilling an NDP cabinet Minister purely for political reasons. The Chief’s response was as deft as it would have been easy for Madu to just pay the damn $300 fine.

    We have statements of what was said from both Madu and McFee, but we can figure how it went down because the chief said he wanted to be “very, very clear [Madu] never asked to get out of the ticket.” There’s a ring of truth to that statement: given the immediacy of Madu’s phone call (indicating compulsive agitation), the insinuated accusation and subsequent threat, both amplifying the inappropriateness of the communication, and the clear implication that the minister of Justice thought he should be given special consideration which (possibly another oversight in the heat of passion) would have also implicated the chief, it’s more than likely Madu never got to actually asking for a pass because the chief wisely cut him off at the pass.

    It was probably as simple as interjecting that there wasn’t anything the chief could do because traffic tickets (including the one issued Madu) are serially numbered to ensure one can’t ‘go missing’ without being noticed. That is, before the minister could go too far, it’s likely the chief saved him from himself. At least as far as it went. Because the chief probably did snuff a potentially more serious ethical breach before it had a chance to happen, he neither felt it necessary to report the matter to nor that it might look like he’d turned a blind eye to help the now-former minister out. He did nothing further. The ticket was paid, nobody was killed. The dust of time had begun to bury it. And so it might have become. Nevertheless, it is newsworthy, if only just now news.

    Naturally some will wonder if the chief should have opened a file on Madu considering the proven potential for the now-former minister to test ethical thin ice but, in the context of their conversation, I think the chief can argue it was reasonable Madu be given the benefit of the doubt in this instance. The chief is probably reviewing his position in light of recent revelations, as he should and apparently has. There might be ethical questions here, but none about who is largely to blame—and certainly none about who was the smarter of the two.

    Madu didn’t seem to weigh the $300 fine against the possibility of not getting away with trying to weasel out of the ticket just because he was (underline “was”) Justice minster; nor against the fact that instead of making the case in court that his phone was in his pocket, which would’ve gone some way in absolving him, either way. He confirmed guilt for the traffic offence when he paid the ticket but, by doing it quickly, it looks like he hoped the matter would go away as fast and, plausibly, with recrimination for inappropriately phoning the chief of police in the first place (we wouldn’t have known this but for the FOI). Plainly he didn’t weigh $300 against putting the spotlight on the already piled-on K-Boy when sleuthing reporters eventually discovered the matter. Now everybody’s asking who knew what when. Regrets? Betcha he’s got a few—but he did it his way.

    Whatever it was (underline “was”) Madu thought worth erasing a traffic offence for (fortunately it wasn’t also a tragic one)— a paltry $300 fine—, it’s probably all for nought now. Like Preston Manning used to say: when you find you’ve dug yourself into a hole, first thing you need to do is stop digging. Madu would have done better to heed that advice. It’s not as if he didn’t know his party was pretty deep in a hole last March when all this happened: now he’s in a hole at the bottom of a hole that’s way deeper now, a year later. Way to go, Kaycee!

    He’s just dropped onto that growing pile under which K-Boy now struggles for political breath. And from a height multiplied by trying to get away with dodging a stupid traffic ticket. Well, well, well—a very deep subject.

    Nonetheless, it’d be churlish not to feel a little bit sorry for premier K who might not have been fully apprised of the matter until now. But, because of his own slipperiness, only a little bit.

    And we should hope former minister Madu thenceforth always observes the special rules of the road in a school zone: he may even safely consider himself a special person for doing so at the same time, as may we all—just stay off the damn phone!

    Okay? Okay!

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