Alberta Public Safety Minister Mike Ellis (Photo: AlbertaNewsroom/Flickr).

Thanks to yesterday’s airing of the Global News/Corus Entertainment Your Province, Your Premier radio show, we now have a little more insight into the United Conservative Party’s plan to create a “specialized prosecution unit to address deteriorating safety in Alberta’s major urban centres.”

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

“Public Safety” Minister Mike Ellis (whose portfolio’s title definitely requires scare quotes) was supposed to sit in for Premier Smith until the renewable-energy-generation moratorium started making waves and she changed her mind, uncancelling her previous cancellation. 

However, Mr. Ellis tagged along when Premier Smith decided to show up to do damage control on the renewable-energy file. 

As suspected, he revealed that the unit will operate only in Calgary and Edmonton – more evidence that its purpose is entirely political as it’s hard to pretend there are no drug and crime problems in such Alberta communities as Grande Prairie, Red Deer and Lethbridge. Indeed, Lethbridge was ranked No. 1 in Canada last year on Statistics Canada’s Crime Severity Index.

“We’re ultimately gonna have, uh, we’ll call it, uh, zones around Calgary and Edmonton which are really your two areas that have the highest propensity to have violent crime,” Mr. Ellis said. 

As noted previously in this space, professional analysis of urban and rural crime rates on the Prairies suggests this statement is false. 

“We’re gonna make sure that we have dedicated prosecutors that are going to actually do the bail hearings,” the former police officer, who is one of Ms. Smith’s two deputy premiers, added. “So we’ll not become the let’s-make-a-deal sorta game that’s been occurring right now in the court system.

“So,” he added, gratuitously, “for any of you defence attorneys who are listening right now, make sure you sharpen your pencils and are prepared to do bail hearings.”

I’m sure Alberta’s defence lawyers can be depended upon to do just that, and look up some legal precedents as well. 

Join the Conversation


  1. Interpretation: the wagons must be circled around these two cities with the highest propensity not to deliver landslide victories to UCP candidates. The people who are not the sharpest pencils in the box want you to know that this is not Let’s Make a Deal with Monty Hall. That would require a plaid jacket.

  2. Hello DJC and fellow commenters,
    IsEllis saying that the current prosecutors aren’t doing what they are supposed to do? Does that mean that prosecutors are overworked and can’t deal with all cases thoroughly? If so, the Alberta government can hire additional prosecutors.
    Does he mean that people charged with criminal offences will be treated ?differently ?/?more harshly? in Edmonton and Calgary? I don’t think that courts will accede to that.
    What kinds of alleged crimes require a “special prosecution” unit? I would think complex crimes may require prosecutors with specific expertise or more liaison with experts in specific areas.
    I fail to see why areas with more crime, if these even exist in Edmonton and Calgary, require a special prosecution unit. It seems likely that they need more prosecutors.
    Or is the problem a lack of judges to deal with all the cases? Then, the UCP can appoint more judges.
    Is this just a dog whistle to the “base” that UCP politicians will be “tough” on crime.
    Do the “base” realize how much money will be required to incarcerate numerous people awaiting trial instead of giving them bail? Obviously, some people shouldn’t be granted bail, but I would surmise that this is a small number.
    How much of their tax money do the “base” want to spend on incarcerating people rather than having health care or decent public education?
    I don’t like Ellis’s veiled threat to defence lawyers and the implication that somehow defence lawyers are the cause of the problem. Defence lawyers represent the best interests of their clients and everyone charged with an offence is entitled to representation to fairly present their case. Ellis’s implication is that a specific group, defence lawyers, are not to be trusted is an attempt to persuade citizens that public institutions are not to be trusted. Ellis is suggesting that defence lawyers somehow have an inappropriate influence in the judicial system.
    Stephen Harper personally attacked the ethics of Beverley McLachlin, the Chief Justice of the Supreme court of Canada as part of his crusade to destroy public faith in Canadian institutions, – one of the first tactics of those who wish to become dictators.

  3. The problem with criminal justice policy in this country is that the voting public doesn’t really care about statistics, data and evidence. It sees crime and wants something done about it, root causes and socio-economic factors be damned. That’s why we are seeing even BC’s NDP government calling for “bail reform”, which is code for locking up even more “presumed innocent” people than we do now.

    The criminal justice system also has a serious quality control problem. There are too many people in jail that shouldn’t be, and too many that should be but aren’t. The number of cases decided at trial but overturned on appeal is far higher than it should be, and there are too many unrepresented criminal defendants facing trial.

    The entire system needs a root & branch overhaul that focuses on punishing the factually guilty and acquitting the factually innocent. We also need fewer cases overturned on appeal — not by restricting grounds for appeal, but by getting better decisions by trial courts. We need to bring in a system of public defenders, or equivalent — one of the few components of the US system that should be imported — to ensure nobody ever gets imprisoned without a lawyer.

    Finally we need to decriminalize “victimless offences”, such as drug possession.

  4. The only folks I see committing crimes and getting away with it is the Edmonton City Police service.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.