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Alberta MLA Prab Gill pushes back against UCP after report on alleged ballot interference is leaked

Prab Gill on the steps of the legislature back in the day (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Alberta MLA Prab Gill is back in the news, offering up the potential for more embarrassment for Jason Kenney and the United Conservative Party.

Stand by for Kenney to attack … Tzeporah Berman!

Isn't that what always happens when Gill hits the news?

Gill is the former Progressive Conservative and United Conservative Party MLA for Calgary-Greenway. He was pushed out of the UPC last summer after allegations he interfered with ballots in a June 30 party nomination election in another Calgary riding where he had given some thought to running next year. He now sits as an Independent.

Berman is the prominent Vancouver environmentalist the NDP once hired at the suggestion of some oilpatch executives to provide a green fig leaf to its Oil Sands Advisory Group. Arguably, the move backfired, and the co-founder of the Stand.Earth activist group departed that role in June 2017. She is a favourite target of the UCP, which believes she is a liability for the NDP government of Premier Rachel Notley.

Kenney, of course, is leader of the Opposition UCP and, if the narrative of his party and its media cheering section is to be believed, the premier presumptive of Alberta. Never mind the need for an election to make that official.

Back in July, Gill denied any wrongdoing but shuffled quietly off to exile on the Independent benches saying he wouldn't run in 2019 after the party completed its own investigation of the kerfuffle. The UCP refused to release the findings of its internal investigation, which it termed independent, by retired judge Ted Carruthers.

Since then, the media managed to get its hands on a copy of Carruthers' report, and Gill has had a chance to reflect on the situation that led to him being frog marched out of the UCP caucus.

The findings of the investigation, shall we say, might have been good enough for the UCP, but wouldn't result in a finding of guilt in a court of law.

As for Gill, he's had a change of heart about his decision to meekly go away last summer. He said this week that, in effect, he was bullied into quitting.

"Key witnesses were not interviewed or their statements were not taken," he complained to media.

On Tuesday, Gill stood up in the legislature on a point of privilege and said it was time to clear his name, calling the investigation "a sham," and terming the party's conduct in the nomination meeting "crooked and racist." He said party officials had told him he was only allowed to run in ridings where a majority of residents were of Indian origin.

"In my weakness I caved and agreed to quietly sit as an Independent," Gill told the House. "But by not defending myself to my fullest ability I left the impression that I had done something wrong."

Yesterday, political Alberta was abuzz with rumours Gill would join former UCP bad boy Derek Fildebrandt's Freedom Conservative Party (FCP) caucus in the legislature and perhaps run for the FCP in 2019 as well. He wouldn't confirm the rumours yesterday when asked by reporters on his way into the legislature.

He was immediately attacked by UCP House leader Jason Nixon, who was presumably up to his neck ex officio in the uproar last summer, as indulging in sour grapes after being found responsible for his own troubles.

For his part, Kenney appeared to have very little to say about this.

Needless to say, this situation is unlikely ever to be unraveled without a truly independent investigation.

In the meantime, though, tracked down by Bloomberg News in Poland where she is attending a United Nations climate change conference, Berman said of the NDP's planned oil production cap: "The writing is on the wall, we need to stop expanding the oil industry and create a plan for retraining and economic diversification."

Bloomberg's headline: "Wean oil-rich Alberta off crude."

Say what? Stand by for Kenney's attack on Berman!

Culture minister to wed in historic first

I'm sure most Albertans were delighted yesterday to learn Culture and Tourism Minister Ricardo Miranda, Alberta's first openly gay cabinet minister, will marry his fiancé, Christopher Brown. He will make history as the first Alberta cabinet minister to be married in a same-sex ceremony.

This revelation generated lots of news copy yesterday, although no one seemed to pick up on the fact Brown once had political ambitions of his own, running for the federal Liberals in Peace River-Westlock in 2015. That factoid was spotted by my sharp-eyed colleague, blogger Dave Cournoyer.

According to the CBC's report, Miranda and Brown were introduced by Children's Services Minister Danielle Larivee.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Photo: David J. Climenhaga

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