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

What did Jason Kenney know and when did he know it? 

Those are the most important questions arising from now-suspended justice minister Kaycee Madu’s telephone call a little over 10 months ago to tell Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee he’d been ticketed by a city traffic cop for distracted driving.

Kaycee Madu, the Kenney Government’s currently suspended minister of justice (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Whatever the purpose of Mr. Madu’s phone call – and that is the topic of considerable debate – it seems improbable Premier Kenney and his staff didn’t know anything about it until Monday, when the rest of us learned about the $300 ticket and subsequent call to Chief McFee thanks to a CBC News report by reporters Elise von Scheel and Janice Johnston. 

The Calgary Herald’s Don Braid, who has good sources inside Mr. Kenney’s United Conservative Party, wrote Monday that “the ticket episode was widely known in cabinet circles and talked about in jocular tones, sources say.”

And CTV said much the same thing yesterday, citing “several sources” of its own who said “senior staff within the premier’s office knew about Madu’s call to the chief within days of it happening, and that the incident was discussed among several cabinet members.”

Mr. Kenney, as is well known, is a micromanager who insists on being kept in the loop about everything his cabinet gets up to. One imagines there would have been hell to pay if something like this had been the topic of cabinet banter but some aide failed to let the premier in on the joke.

Plus, there is the matter of the Freedom of Information request filed by Ms. von Scheel and Ms. Johnston to find out more about the call. It was refused by the Edmonton Police Service, but just the same, once the request was filed everyone involved would have known exactly what the two reporters were looking for. 

So it’s quite hard to believe the premier didn’t know about something certain to be interpreted as an attempt to interfere with the administration of justice – by the justice minister, no less – and bound to be a political embarrassment. 

The simplest explanation  is that Mr. Kenney knew, and didn’t think it was that big a deal. Until Mr. Madu got caught, that is.

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

Of course, that’s not a topic Mr. Kenney is likely to want to answer questions about, so chances were vanishingly small he’d take NDP Justice Critic Irfan Sabir’s advice at a news conference yesterday to “come out publicly and state for the record when he and his cabinet were first informed of Madu’s actions.”

Eventually, Mr. Kenney may have to answer questions about his justice minister’s fate, but it’s doubtful we’ll ever learn from his lips exactly when he was tipped to the existence of the phone call to Chief McFee.  

As for Mr. Kenney’s intention to have a respected independent investigator review the circumstances to see if there was interference with the administration of justice, Mr. Sabir argued “there’s nothing to investigate.” Both Mr. Madu and Chief McFee confirmed what happened, he said, and the call clearly amounted to political interference. “This is simply a distraction.”

“Anything short of Madu’s resignation from Cabinet is simply not enough,” Mr. Sabir stated. 

Monday night, Premier Kenney announced he was putting Mr. Madu on the bench – the only bench the UCP’s only Edmonton MLA is ever likely to be appointed to at this point – until the investigation is complete. 

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

But the phrases the premier used – leave of absence, interim period, stepping back – left the impression this will be a temporary state of affairs. 

“Stepping back is not the same as stepping down,” Mr. Sabir complained. 

While Mr. Madu’s and Chief McFee’s accounts of the call are much the same – both recount a motive for the conversation not as unsavoury as trying to use a cabinet position to try to wiggle out of a $300 traffic citation – what they describe nevertheless meets the definition of interference with the administration of justice. 

And as the Lord Chief Justice of England famously ruled in 1924, “justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.”

So if Mr. Kenney disagrees, he at least owes Albertans an explanation of why. 

Meanwhile, other interesting questions remain as well: Why didn’t Chief McFee say anything 10 months ago? Surely he realized Mr. Madu’s call was improper!

Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw (Photo: Alberta Newsroom: Flickr).

Or did he do something? If he did, though, we don’t know what, who he may have told, or what happened.

Nevertheless, something led someone, most likely within the Edmonton Police Service, to leak a copy of Mr. Madu’s ticket to the CBC. 

Whoever it was, they must also have told the CBC’s reporters about the phone conversation with the chief. After all, that’s not something that could be inferred by just looking at the ticket. 

So who did that? And why?

Did Mr. Madu inform the government of his conversation with the chief before the CBC story broke? If he did, to whom did he talk? And what did they do? 

Unsurprisingly, there was no sign of Premier Kenney at yesterday afternoon’s COVID-19 briefing, where Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw flew solo. Had he shown up, as he often does, reporters certainly would have asked questions about the latest embarrassment. 

But then, as Dr. Hinshaw said in response to a reporter on a slightly different subject, “I … am not part of the conversations about who attends these press conferences. …”

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25 Comments

  1. If the head honcho of the UCP didn’t know what his cabinet minister, Kaycee Madu, was up to, this is absolute baloney. I’m not buying this for one second. Distracted driving is very stupid, no matter where it happens, and doing it in a school zone is very bad. If a child was badly hurt, or killed, I don’t think the head honcho of the UCP could brush this off. How would the UCP react, then? What if they were sued? Kaycee Madu isn’t fit to be an MLA. In another matter, and this pertains to Dr. Deena Hinshaw. The head honcho of the UCP, and the entire UCP, for that matter, will likely throw her under the bus again, as cases of Covid-19 in Alberta go skywards. The UCP aren’t fit to be in power in Alberta. Hopefully, in 2023, Albertans will have come to their senses and show the UCP the exit.

  2. Perhaps the supposedly independent investigator should be investigating Mr. Kenney here. As has been said, what Mr. Madu did already seems clear at this point. As to what Kenney and his office did about it, this is very unclear.

    This does seem to be a case of Kenney acting to suspend Madu only after what happened became public. Ten months is a long time to keep a secret in politics and it would have been much easier to keep the public in the dark on this than the Premier.

    I suspect after the travel gate debacle, Kenney really did not want the embarasment of having to fire any more of his hand picked ministers, particularly when they were trying to regroup for their hoped greatest summer ever. So, they just held off, perhaps in the hope this would not become public. After all, only a few people knew initially, Mr. Madu himself, the police chief and somehow after, some of his cabinet colleagues and the Premiers staff. So, Kenney probably hoped everyone would just remain quiet. So, it all rested on those few not talking. Unfortunately for Kenney and Madu, not everyone would keep this secret.

    One possibility is this could turn out like Harper’s Duffygate. It will never become very clear when Kenney knew about it, but it will continue to cast a shadow over Kenney as long as he remains in office. Of course, the person who tipped off the press could also have more to say, if they could shed some light on when Kenney knew. So Kenney may have to be very careful and vague in what he says about this, lest something that contradicts his denials comes out later.

    March sure does not seem to be a very lucky month for Conservative leaders in Alberta. Perhaps this is just another reason for Kenney to beware of the Ides of March, as the old saying goes.

  3. It’s so obvious their contempt for the people of this province even the astoundingly indoctrinated 26% who still claim to respect kenney and the ucpea. But hey when you have a dog that keeps eating your homework what can you do.

  4. Speaking of benches, the talent on the UCP bench is so shallow, Premier Kenney can’t afford to consider any transgression, no matter how egregious, a big deal. Replacing a justice minister in that caucus has to be like putting together a heart transplant team on the showroom floor of a car dealership in Sherwood Park.

  5. Rules are for little people.

    Over and over again Kenney and the UCP clearly show their contempt for Albertans by flouting any rules that don’t allow them to do whatever they want. It’s obvious that they think the rules don’t apply to them.

    Only in Alberta would Madu still have a job. Also, where is the Alberta legal profession in all this? Is this what passes for a lawyer in Alberta these days?

  6. Kenny has two choices.

    Tell the truth and say when he knew about Madu’s call.

    Lie, and claim he did not know. He will be caught out at some point by a leak. Someone UCP member or staffer who has a shred of integrity will leak this to the press.

    My guess is door number 2. Lie, deny, deny, deny. Loyal UCP backers will accept it. Problem is, there are fewer and fewer loyal UCP members and backers. They can see the writing on wall……even if the Premier cannot.

  7. The circus never ends. At least we can say the UCP is by far the greatest group of circus clowns ever put together in the history of this province. I am sure they will stay in the history of Alberta for that alone.
    Now it seems resigning in the UCP never happens, unless of course we fire them.
    We are their employers remember that.

  8. I don’t know how relevant this is, but Duncan Kinney reported last month that Chief McFee also attended a UCP fund raiser in August of 2020, along with 19 UCP MLAs. Mr. Kinney didn’t name all of the MLAs, so I don’t know if Kaycee Madu was one of them, but it does seem likely that Mr. Madu was aware that he phoning a friend when he made the call. Even if we believe Mr. Madu didn’t ask to have the ticket cancelled, I do wonder if he was hoping Dale McFee would offer to cancel it.

    https://www.theprogressreport.ca/edmonton_police_chief_attended_ucp_t_rex_derby_fundraiser

    1. I am having a lot of trouble getting the ludicrous but strangely appropriate image out of my head of UCP MLAs dressing up in T-Rex dinosaur costumes and racing each around a horse track. Thanks for the nightmares!

      1. Idea: this is how replacement UCP cabinet ministers should be selected for their posts in the future. Didn’t Doug Schweitzer win his heat? Seems like a plan.

  9. The premier is successfully moving toward his goal: undermining public trust in all government institutions and destroying democracy.

    This latest episode of UPTiaGIaDD is an “investigation” by an “investigator”. It is not a public inquiry led by a judge, so whatever it finds will be of little consequence and even less action. The question of impropriety, or public perception of impropriety, isn’t a question. The Justice Minister should not have done what he did.

    The Madu-Snafu is just a taste of things to come when Jason’s future Provincial Po-Po start issuing traffic tickets that presume guilt, and courts come with a user fee. Let’s apply the same logic to Kaycee Madu: he should be presumed guilty, and he should have to pay a user fee for this investigation and the investigator from his own pocket, not government coffers.

    Madu stills calls himself the Minister of Justice and Solicitor General. This whole “temporary leave of absence” will pass once the furor dies down. The joke’s on us. The investigation will find not even a soupçon of wrongdoing of any kind. Just as Madu will be cleared, the peasant class will be guilty as accused in traffic court come February 1.

    https://mobile.twitter.com/KayceeMaduYEG?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

    Let’s hope those police have learned their lesson about ticketing UCP cabinet ministers, or any UCP caucus members at all. If not, Kaycee Madu will be forced to call them for a chat about the weather, or the latest hockey game, wink, wink.

    I swear we are living in a red state.

  10. I have a suspicion Kenney didn’t know anything about the phone call because it’s standard operating procedure to not tell the premier anything. (As if he cares to begin with)

  11. Conflict of interest among Alberta politicians is a lot like Transubstantiation. Most deny the existence of the phenomenon entirely, and others attribute to it properties so mysterious and divine that it’s best not to have the average person consider them. This cuts across all parties.
    Meanwhile, 20.11% of Covid cases currently hospitalized in Alberta have receive three doses of the miracle vaccines. The unvaccinated heathens make up 18.49% of active cases, indicating that the vaccines are around -7% effective at preventing transmission and about 41% effective at preventing hospitalization, although the latter figure is dropping as the rate of vaccination rises. Conspiracy theory!
    https://www.alberta.ca/stats/covid-19-alberta-statistics.htm#vaccine-outcomes

    The National Post has now gone so far as to suggest that folks who are skeptical of the magic elixir hold such views due to cognitive defecits, but fortunately there are academics hard at work formulating operant conditioning programs to modify their behaviour, just like those developed using rats and pigeons.
    “’If there are Individuals who are more focused on immediate benefits than benefits down the road, it’s really going to be hard to convince them through messaging,” said Wilson. “But if you give them an immediate benefit, such as access to restaurants and bars and such, then you can potentially persuade them, if this research is accurate.'”
    https://nationalpost.com/health/living-for-the-moment-study-points-to-cognitive-differences-in-people-who-are-vaccine-hesitant

    Given that the minority of Albertans who have not acquiesced to the pressure campaign to submit to emergency-use prophylactic treatments (90% effective except for 89% of the population) have already lost all the “short-term” privileges, I don’t quite understand where this research will lead, but my cognitive short-comings have left me baffled by pretty much every single aspect of this phenomenon over the last two years. But any behaviour modification is welcome if it can flatten the curve. Two-week circuit-breaker? Remember the Maine? Go Flames?

    1. Blame-shifting. Straw man. Distraction. Gaslighting. This about Kaycee Madu, who claims to be a fan of accountability, but maybe not a fan of personal responsibility.

    2. @Murphy, once again, you manage to confuse, baffle, and lie by using statistics. I am not sure if you are doing this deliberately or are just obtuse. Please pay attention to what is actually on the AB government web page you reference, to wit:

      – 60.1% of cases (214,233/356,237) since Jan 1, 2021 were unvaccinated or diagnosed within two weeks from the first dose immunization date

      – 75.5% of hospitalized cases (10,505/13,918) since Jan 1, 2021 were unvaccinated or diagnosed within two weeks from the first dose immunization date

      – 73.2% of COVID-19 deaths (1,378/1,882) since Jan 1, 2021 were unvaccinated or diagnosed within two weeks from the first dose immunization date

      That is a direct quote from https://www.alberta.ca/stats/covid-19-alberta-statistics.htm#vaccine-outcomes, dated January 19, 2022.

      Also, when you look at the tables on this page, which are possibly confusing to you, please consider the tables that include the most relevant metrics. These are typically the tables that provide information on the rates of infection per 100,000. For example, for the age cohort of 50 – 59 years old (I am assuming you belong to this category, but I could be wrong), here are the numbers of hospitalized per 100,000: 3 doses = 17.76; 2 doses = 62.74; no doses = 1239.30. That is a pretty significant difference. If you are between the ages of 50 and 59 and are unvaccinated, you are 68 times more likely to end up in a hospital bed than someone in the same age cohort who is fully vaccinated with 3 doses.

      We know that vaccinations are not 100 percent effective in protecting you from breakthrough infections from Omicron. However, vaccinations do mitigate the risks of hospitalizations and serious illness. The numbers show this. Quite simply, these magic elixirs, as you refer to them, are safe and they work.

      I am surprised that more people have not responded to your posts. It is possible no one is reading your confused and confusing polemics.

      1. PHLOGISTON,

        Murphy is a well known troll on these pages. He cherry-picks stats and provides links to supposedly prove legitimacy but at the end of the day he’s just a Number Cruncher – drawing his own conclusions from dubious sources with no background in health or science to support his venom. I suspect that he is left alone to spread his BS because most people are under the assumption that if you ignore a troll they will go away. Unfortunately, this being the internet and all, that is simply not the case. In fact we need more readers like you to call out the trolls with reasoned and informed posts. THAT is the key to ridding a forum of a pesky troll. Strength in numbers.

        I don’t frequently comment here but I have noticed an uptick of trolls as of late which makes me want to change my usual passive stance. On the flip side it also indicates that our gracious host is doing a fantastic job of bringing the truth into the light, something that will always lure out the wingnuts to do what they do best: prove to the world that ignorance is definitely not humanity’s best trait!

  12. From his Twitter feed:

    Kaycee Madu
    @KayceeMaduYEG

    With all these in mind, I am one that always hold myself accountable for my actions. I respect the Premier’s direction for me to take a temporary leave of absence pending the outcome of the independent investigation.

  13. Meanwhile, in the UK, PM Boris Johnson is under extreme attack from his caucus to step aside. In light of his clear and egregious violations of restrictions for his own benefit, and his extraordinary buffoonery, he is being called upon to resign ASAP.

    In the words on one CON MP, paraphrasing the call for PM Neville Chamberlain to step aside in the aftermath of all the disasters he caused, “Please, in God’s name, go. Go now.”

  14. Has anyone thought to check Mr Madu’s health. It seems awfully strange only 11 months later he steps aside, recalling his error. As Premier Stumble and Bumble the performance continues. What a shameful shambles of a government. And Madu is ahem, a lawyer, who forgot conflict of interest. Surreal my friends.

  15. I think one interesting fact has not gained wide discussion – Alberta’s Minister of Justice is asking us to believe that he believed that he was, in effect, given a ticket for “driving while black.” Alberta’s Minister of Justice also echoed some of the disturbing allegations made against the Lethbridge police force.

    If the frickin Minister of Justice believes that Alberta’s/Lethbridge’s/Whoever’s police force is racist and corrupt, why are we acting as though this is business as usual? Why are we not asking him which specific actions he has taken in his capacity as Minister of Justice to address these problems?

    Not defending Mr. Madu necessarily, just pointing out that there are multiple unacceptable things going on here.

  16. What a farce this is.

    Madu claims to hold himself accountable for his actions, yet needs to be told to go on a leave of absence pending the outcome of an independent investigation. That does not appear to be holding yourself accountable for your actions. That appears to be waiting for someone else to hold you to account for your actions.

    He pleaded guilty to a traffic offense. He now claims the phone was in his pocket and he is innocent. What?! I thought he was a lawyer. Doesn’t he know that pleading guilty means you are guilty? I am not a lawyer, but even I know this.

    Furthermore, if the phone were truly in his pocket while he was driving through a school zone, the phone records would surely show this. If this were the case, why did he not fight the ticket? It would have been easy for a real lawyer or even one of those paralegal traffic outfits to get the ticket dismissed with that evidence. Demerits can have serious consequences for car insurance costs. Consequently, if you were truly innocent, fighting the ticket in court is the route to take, if only to reduce the demerits and pay a reduced fine.

    Does anyone believe that the investigation will be independent? That it will be conducted someone who commands near universal respect? This is all just a bunch of hand waving on the part of premier Bumbles who hopes that he can command some Jedi magic (these are not the droids you are looking for) to get people to ignore this egregious lapse of judgement on the part of the Kacy Madu, who truly deserves the high-hang punt from cabinet.

    One thing we can count on, though. Kenney will throw Madu under the bus to save his own skin, if it comes to that. And, Kenney should be worried. People in the UCP caucus are talking to the media about the fact that Madu’s lapse in judgement was well known among people in the cabinet. The knives appear to be out.

  17. Just to present a different perspective, I’ve seen some BIPOC commentators suggest that Minister Madu’s call to Chief McFee was appropriate with respect to ensuring racial profiling wasn’t at the root of his traffic stop. For instance, https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2022/01/18/he-got-a-ticket-then-called-the-police-chief-but-the-suspension-of-the-first-black-justice-minister-in-canada-is-drawing-criticism-from-some.html.

    Now, I for one don’t for one minute buy that argument, but I’m putting it out here for the sake of fairness and airing all legitimate views of this matter.

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