How many more clarifications will be required to explain the latest news report about Premier Danielle “Calamity” Smith’s interest in what Alberta’s Crown prosecutors have been working on?
Quite a few, by the sound of it.
No sooner had the brouhaha over whether Ms. Smith had been trying to influence prosecutors to take it easy on COVID-related charges started to settle down than the CBC reported yesterday someone in her office fired off emails to the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service last fall challenging decisions about cases resulting from the Coutts border blockade a year ago.
“I’ve never called a Crown prosecutor,” the premier had told listeners during her Corus Radio program last weekend. “You’re not allowed to do that as a politician. Everyone knows that.”
Postmedia’s reliably conservative columnists were certainly prepared to take Ms. Smith’s word for it.
“I have no doubt the premier never talked to any Crown prosecutors about halting court proceedings against Albertans charged for refusing to wear masks or holding in-person church services during the pandemic,” columnist Lorne Gunter of the Edmonton Sun declared yesterday, his column written not long before the CBC story appeared.
“In other words,” Mr. Gunter continued loyally, “I’m sure she never compromised the impartial administration of justice by pressuring prosecutors to stop prosecuting pandemic scofflaws.”
Mind you, the CBC story makes it sound as if the Premier’s Office wasn’t as worried about the charges faced by some turbulent priest as much as it wanted to get the guys charged with plotting to murder those Mounties off the hook!
Whatever was going on, it’s extremely hard to believe at this point Ms. Smith didn’t know exactly what the staff in her office was up on a file they all had to be talking about at the time.
Is she didn’t – as keeps happening with this premier – it shows her in almost as bad a light, unable, or perhaps unwilling, to ensure staff members obey the law.
The Premier’s Office issued a statement insisting the premier knew nothing.
“This is a serious allegation,” the statement said. “If a staff member has been in touch with a Crown Prosecutor, appropriate action will be taken.”
So at the very least, someone is now going to have to be thrown under the bus to save Ms. Smith from the tide of panic said to be rising within the United Conservative Party Caucus.
At this point, with the story still alive and lively as another weekend approaches, it’s hard to believe that the different factions in the UCP Caucus aren’t meeting secretly, organizing hush-hush conference calls and confidential Zoom meetings to plot ways to remove or save their calamitous boss.
This could become public soon.
Meanwhile, since the CBC story did not name the staffer alleged to have made the call, Albertans have the opportunity to play an entertaining game of Legislature Building Clue. Was it Ms. Scarlett? Rev. Green? Solicitor Peacock? A list of possible suspects can be found here.
Preston Manning now has a paid provincial partisan pandemic panel to run!
Will Preston Manning drop his plans for a national partisan pandemic panel now that he’s been offered a chance to run a paid provincial partisan pandemic panel?
Premier Danielle Smith told media yesterday the creaky godfather of the Canadian right, now 80, will have a budget of $2 million and be paid $253,000 to chair the “investigation” into how the Alberta government responded to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.
Only last fall, Mr. Manning was trying to drum up support for a “national citizen’s inquiry” to take an “independent” look into the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all the while observing “the highest evidentiary standards,” naturally.
In other words, to act as a sort of counterbalance to the national inquiry headed by a real judge at which participants in the Ottawa Occupation Convoy feted with Tim Horton’s coffee and donuts by Conservative Party leaders last February managed to make themselves look pretty awful.
But in a Postmedia column yesterday, the former Reform Party leader almost sounded as if his enthusiasm for the national inquiry is waning now that he’s found a paid gig. “I have been personally supportive of this initiative by participating in and providing advice to the support group organizing it,” he noted coolly.
“Most encouragingly, on the provincial scene in my home province, the new premier, Danielle Smith, has expressed a strong desire to strengthen Alberta’s capacity to deal with future health crises,” Mr. Manning went on, sounding more cheerful. “In particular, she has identified a need to appoint a panel to review the statutory basis of Alberta’s response to the public health emergency created by COVID-19. She has asked me to organize and chair the panel, an invitation which I have accepted with enthusiasm.” (Emphasis added.)
“The purpose of this panel would NOT be to review or rehash the entire gamut of the Alberta government’s response to COVID,” Mr. Manning insisted. “Rather the specific task of the panel would be reviewing the Alberta statutes that informed and authorized the government’s response to COVID-19 and proposing amendments to such legislation that might better prepare the province to address future public health emergencies.”
Whether or not the panel, other members not yet named, tries to conduct a witch hunt against public health officials who did their jobs or to undermine the Trudeau Government in Ottawa, no good will come from any effort to “review the statutory basis” of Alberta’s public health laws.
Likewise, the presence of Mr. Manning as chair will do nothing for the credibility of the panel’s recommendations.