Alberta Premier Danielle Smith (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

It’s a dirty little secret of Canadian government that plenty of public business is nowadays conducted outside legitimate channels to avoid public accountability. 

Email, WhatsApp, ProtonMail and Signal are the 21st Century equivalents of a pot full of pink geraniums on your apartment balcony to signal a meeting in a darkened parking garage. 

Combined with the fact Premier Danielle Smith is in effect the boss of the Alberta civil service, this renders meaningless the “comprehensive review” of government emails over the past four months by the Alberta Public Service looking for messages between someone in the Premier’s Office and someone at the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service. 

“The review was conducted by the Public Service Commission and internal IT experts between Jan. 20-22,” the government said in a statement this morning

“Almost a million incoming, outgoing, and deleted emails were reviewed,” it said – although not by human eyes, obviously. 

Ergo, the statement reached the convenient conclusion that “no further review will be conducted unless additional evidence is brought forward.”

So that puts the ball back in the court of the CBC, which broke the story on Jan. 19 that a staff member in Ms. Smith’s officer sent “a series of emails” last fall to the ACPS challenging the way prosecutors were handling the cases that resulted from the blockade at the Coutts border crossing in February.

Accusations of interference with the administration of justice swiftly followed. 

At the least, the CBC is now going to need to explain why it is confident in the sources it agreed not to identify because they justifiably “fear they could lose their jobs.” 

Premier Smith, true to form, jumped right in with a statement of her own, also published on the official Government of Alberta website today. 

“I have full faith that the public service conducted a thorough and comprehensive review,” Ms. Smith’s statement said. “I would like to thank them for the seriousness with which they took this matter as well as their commitment to working non-stop over the past number days to provide Albertans with results to put their concerns to rest.

“An independent Crown prosecution service, free from political interference, is integral to the preservation of public confidence in the justice system,” she added piously. 

“We ask the media and public to also respect their independence as they carry out their important work,” the statement concluded self-righteously. 

Nothing to see here, folks. Move along please. 

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19 Comments

  1. Even I use Signal, and I am not the premier of a province who self-incriminated, then denied interfering in the justice system.

    So why set off this controversy in the first place? Seems like a crazy thing to do to yourself, but is there some motive that’s not obvious? Could it have the effect of court cases being dismissed?

  2. After all the gaffes, I would not trust anything Danielle Smith has to say.
    This from cbc.ca article:
    “Just how robust any email search would be depends on how technical employees conducted that search, says John Zabiuk, chair of Northern Alberta Institute of Technology’s cybersecurity program and an instructor at the Edmonton-based post-secondary institution. Searching for keywords relating to the subject of interest could capture more relevant results than examining a specific subset of senders and receivers, he said.
    It should capture any deleted emails if the sender or receiver was using a government address, as those emails would be stored on a server, he said.
    Any emails sent between two private email addresses wouldn’t be captured by a search, Zabiuk said.
    Many organizations also archive older messages to save space, and those would have to be manually returned to the email server to be included in the search, he said…..”

    https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/alberta-premiers-office-alberta-crown-prosection-service-justice-ministry-coutts-blockade-1.6723395

  3. Plausible deniability
    Nuances
    We don’t want you to do the right thing, we want you to give the impression you’re doing the right thing .

    1 million emails checked?? in 2 days, damn, now that is impressive….

  4. Not unlike that famous scene in Casablanca when Capt. Renault is shocked — SHOCKED — to find gambling going on in a casino, before closing it down a taking his winnings. Such is the crazy world of Danielle Smith, full of contradictions, distractions, gaslighting, and outright lies, before there are more lies piled on to cover those lies.

    Almost a million emails reviewed between Sunday and Monday mornings. Fast work there. And of course nothing was found, because who cares now? Smith said she spoke to prosecutors, before saying it was improper for her to do that (So she didn’t?) then claiming she had functionaries speak to to prosecutors, before walking that one back … far. At this point, anything Smith says is highly questionable and likely a falsehood. Should anyone be surprised at this point about whatever crazy conduct she’s believed to have done?

  5. Smith might think this was a clever way to make a problem go away. She might be counting on the CBC not wanting to reveal its sources and a reluctance to name who sent the e-mail, so that person will not be thrown under the bus or fired. This might work, but others who are aware or become aware of the email in question might not be so kind or circumstances may change (ex. the email sender might go to another job).

    It is not totally surprising this search turned up nothing. Smith probably really didn’t want to find anything and the person who supposedly sent the email is probably not eager that it be found right now either, lest they be thrown under the bus/fired. So all we can really say at this time is however rigorous the search was, no needle in the haystack was found yet, but that does not mean there is none.

    Based on past experience, I would not be surprised if something more comes out later about this email, probably at some time inconvenient for Smith – really anytime in the next several months, so then she will have even more egg on her face after this supposedly “thorough” search. As a former Premier used to say from time to time – Stay tuned folks.

    1. Dave: I remember an Alberta PC MLA, and cabinet minister, Lyle Oberg. He mentioned something about skeletons in the closet. Look what happened to him. There hasn’t been whistleblower protection in Alberta. If you start speaking out and exposing nefarious activity, you will end up paying for it. Another good example of this is Lorne Gibson. He was fired by the UCP, for investigating how the previous head honcho of the UCP got his political position.

    2. Yes Dave, I doubt that the CBC would run with this if the emails did not exist. Even if they haven’t seen them the CBC must have some assurance before publishing their existence. Ms. Smith is no dumb, inexperienced cat so I think she has some kind of confidence that the actual emails cannot be disclosed. Would anyone would do this if they thought there was any chance to be caught by a simple email search? Running the govt email search so quickly tells me that she knew the emails were not on govt servers. Likely just from one private email address to another.

      So how does she think they won’t be disclosed? The sender is not likely to fess up, but what about the recipient? Does the govt have something on the recipient? Like these private emails have been exchanged before, maybe for years? This would make the recipient culpable, with maybe legal implications if its an actual prosecutor.

      So many questions. Surely these emails do exist and if the CBC or someone else doesn’t bring them out that tells me there’s even more to this than what we’ve been told so far. I expected more news coming on this, but now I’m not so sure.

  6. “To many people, lying is the psychological armoring they need to survive in a scary, social world. The enemy is social disapproval.”

    For the Alberta “Margaret Thatcher” [Delusion of grandeur?] it [deception and a calculated inability to tell the truth] is about political and ideological survival and the ability to manipulate and control both the narrative and the audience, even as any moral authority is lost in the process.

    Noting that Ms. Smith has been very carefully instructed and trained well for the necessary role playing/play acting, that is she represents zero threat to the powerful and privileged in this Province and their ongoing orderly state of affairs. The ‘vetting’ process for being deemed ‘acceptable’, as the ‘people’s representative’ [the people she represents just happen to be the powerful and the privileged] is both rigorous and thorough.

    It is also noted that the hypocritical “elder statesman”, acting out his Abraham Lincoln fantasy has unambiguously stated that:

    “[Governments] commissioning an inquiry whose primary purpose is to investigate governmental response would mean that governments would be investigating themselves,” Manning wrote Nov. 2. “In the eyes of many Canadians, such a commission would lack the necessary credibility.”

    Or as stated above, “Combined with the fact Premier Danielle Smith is in effect the boss of the Alberta civil service, this renders meaningless the “comprehensive review” of government emails over the past four months by the Alberta Public Service looking for messages between someone in the Premier’s Office and someone at the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service.”

  7. In talking with friends about this on the weekend, we agreed the best outcome for the NDP would be for the investigation to find no offending emails. There is still enough time for the UCP to replace Danielle Smith with someone more sensible. The only thing better would be for the emails to surface in week two of the election campaign.

  8. You have to love this Reform Party Gong Show. It’s just like the stupidity we watched under Klein. I bet Jim prentice is saying here they go again. Most of us are still laughing about how Preston Manning bragged about master minding the merger between Smith and Prentice 3 months before it took place, yet for those three months they put on a brilliant performance of stupidity bashing each other in the legislature, making a complete ass of themselves deliberately hiding what they were planning, but then when Manning found out how unpopular it was he tried to deny he had anything to do with it. He sounded like Bill Clinton “I never had sex with that woman” . Does anyone remember the story of former premier of Ontario Mike Harris and Preston Manning travelling across Canada promoting a privatized health care system, spreading the lie that it would be a lot better. I remember reading it on the internet about how Canadians weren’t dumb enough to buy it, now I can’t find it and aren’t surprised that’s been removed.

    1. This is what disturbs me. I would trust those two reporters over Danielle Smith any day, but why run with it if you haven’t seen the e-mails? Seems like a recipe for disaster. Unless the source themselves sent the e-mails, their word is just not good enough for an accusation this big.
      The CBC now needs to put up or shut up; which is to say, the source needs to show their cards. If not, CBC needs to apologize.
      If they got this wrong, the credibility of reporters covering this government will be badly damaged, and there’s nothing Smith would like more than that.

    2. Where are you getting this from? Are you suggesting that the CBC is making this up? It appears to me that your wearing UCP goggles, believing only what you want to believe from the CBC and rejecting anything else that doesn’t even remotely support your bias.

      1. No David, you may be the one wearing the goggles. The CBC has to put up or apologize. Actually if they don’t follow up on the story no one is going to ask them to apologize but they should. JK Mill is exactly right especially about the credibility of reporters, although “credibility of reporters” is pretty much a fairy tale…

  9. A cover-up by any other name, is still exactly that. When you investigate yourself, you will exonerate yourself of any wrongdoing. Danielle Smith wants to clear herself up, and absolve herself of any guilt. We can’t expect nothing less than that from Danielle Smith and the UCP.

  10. There is nothing independent about this or any search for that matter when Smith’s cabinet and Smith herself oversee the Public Service of Alberta. It’s a cover up of a political crime and nothing less. In fact, obstruction of justice is every bit as serious as the original crime of violating the law when she tried to influence the crown’s office. Journalists have a duty to hold her accountable and not let her off the hook with this trickery. Where is the justice in Alberta and why is the crown’s office silent on the matter?

  11. Last night on The National, news anchor Adrianne Arsenault said the CBC stands by its report that a series of emails were inappropriately sent from premier Danielle Smith’s office to the Alberta Crown prosecutors’ office which interfered with its mandated independence from politics and politicians, especially so there never be any perception of partisan bias or favouritism about the office’s prosecutorial business.

    Yet Smith hasn’t much appeared to respect—and perhaps not even to grasp—that her job as our Sovereign’s first minister in the sovereign Canadian federate of Alberta is to make sure bills get passed into law by the constituted rules of parliamentary procedure, to govern the administration of on behalf of all Alberta citizens and residents, and to represent her province to the federal government and, occasionally, to first ministers of the other provinces and territories. Instead she appears to be using the King’s government to advance partisan positions intended to favour a particular interest group, and to have done so in a manner that offends the Crown prosecutor office’s mandated nonpartisanship. That might explain why Smith gets into trouble so frequently whenever she compulsively uses the premier’s office to stump controversial opinions as if fielding phone calls on a talk-radio show—a job she held for several years prior to returning to politics.

    But let’s not blame it on the ire of disgruntled callers to a radio show definitively biased in favour of right-wing viewpoints and naturally enthusiastic about show-biz sensationalism: Smith displayed her basic confusion, her substitution of radical partisanship for responsible public service, long before her radio-host gig, suggesting that was only a resource rather than the source. This characteristic was featured, even before that, during her stints as school board trustee and Alberta MLA.

    Anyway, it doesn’t matter so much where she got her misconception about public-service politics as it is why she apparently hasn’t learned any lessons from the infamous occasions when those misconceptions failed to breach the protocols designed to keep responsible governance on track, and those failures slapped her down—but only like a randy puppy.

    In the present progress towards the fullness of time, Smith’s office looks like it’s affecting a cover-up about said inappropriate emails, and the reason why is her own statements, not a witch-hunting fake-news media controlled by a shadowy, hard-left cabal. On campaign for party leader, she said she’d like to pressure Crown prosecutors to let her supporters off the hook for the serious bad stuff they did; after becoming premier she said she actually did pressure the supposed independent office —on a “regular basis,” no less; after getting into trouble for saying this—because even saying it can be perceived as interference—she then claimed she never did any of the things she said she would while on campaign and actually did once she became premier. She then added, unnecessarily, after saying it once, that “at no time” did she ever do any of those things, the emphasis rather underscoring the contradictions on record.

    And so, it’s not only suspect that her own office’s search for the evidence that could convict her claimed it turned up nothing on its boss, but rather that the whole thing raised the pot of stink when CBC effectively challenges her to either prove her excuse by way of categorically disproving the CBC’s claim, or by independent inquiry, or to confess. (Smith has already floated the ‘innocent-by-reason-of-ignorance-of-the-law’ in her typically ignorant way while rationalizing her impolitic behaviour in a way that precludes a not-guilty plea by reason of insanity—yet another symptom of the apolitical type.)

    I never thought Smith had any political chops whatsoever —at least not in service to the public good—so I wonder how much she appreciates the fact that the leader of the Loyal Opposition, former Premier Rachel Notley, as good as called Smith a liar with regard said interference—obviously not in the Assembly where such language is considered “unparliamentary” (even though the accusation could be artfully done euphemistically and under parliamentary immunity from defamation). Indeed, if Smith wasn’t so blinkered by her own partisanship, she might take a lesson from Ms Notley who, in this instance, appears to be making a valid political point without resorting to partisan name—calling, as sharp as publicly calling someone a liar is.

    Of course that, too, is a symptom of Danielle Smith’s ineptitude and overactive gob, one that affords her political superior the opportunity.

    1. Scotty: I’m not sure it’s ineptitude as much as maybe doubling down. The hint here is her ignoring Ms. Notley’s comments – she cares less about the opposition (official and public) and more about corralling her base. I’m not sure she has a winning plan but she has a plan of some kind, although yes her desire to always say something controversial does seem to get ahead of her brain a lot.

      “CBC effectively challenges her to either prove her excuse by way of categorically disproving the CBC’s claim” – the problem there is she can’t be expected to disprove the CBC’s claim. She is actually challenging the CBC to prove their claim. Can they? Will they? What Adrienne Arsenault apparently said is interesting but it doesn’t really contribute much. If the CBC doesn’t come back with proof of their claim this will die a quiet death on the vine. As I said previously it’s looking like the whistleblower is the recipient and if the recipient won’t let the emails be entered into this somehow that tells me the recipient is culpable. If there are a series of emails as apparently Adrienne claims why didn’t the recipient report this when the first one came in? If they did then what happened? Is this just a common-place occurrence?

      This is speculation of course but it’s the thing which makes sense from what we know and if true there is a very big story here indeed, beyond just blabbermouth politicians. We may be looking at long-term, consensual correspondence between politicians and members of the prosecutor’s office. This is why I continue to follow this and even write on a blog post which is getting past its best before date. I believe the emails exist and am hopeful but not confident that the CBC will come through.

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