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Brian Jean: Wildrose Edmonton office burgled, computers stolen, membership data being misused

Brian Jean

In an email to supporters sent late Sunday with the bland subject line, "A Wildrose Update," Opposition Leader Brian Jean drops a bombshell with the revelation someone broke into the party's Edmonton office several weeks ago, stole two laptop computers and tried unsuccessfully to walk off with the party's server.

Holy Cow! Watergate, anyone?

Jean starts a section of the email headed "I also want to update you on matters related to our party's data security” with another startling revelation: "Some of you have been receiving unsolicited calls and letters from another political party."

Jean doesn’t say whom in the email, or what the calls were about, but sources have confirmed, unsurprisingly, that the caller was the Progressive Conservative Party and the topic was the leadership campaign of Jason Kenney.

"I do not know how parts of our membership data appear to have been obtained by organizers in another party, but I have directed staff to investigate this and take all necessary steps to further protect our lists," the Opposition leader stated in the email to members. "I want to be very clear that the unauthorized use of Wildrose membership data and the protection of Wildrose information are serious matters for me."

Jean then appeared to connect a couple of dots, going on to make the statement the break-in had taken place.

"A number of weeks ago, our party office in Edmonton was targeted in a break-in," he said. (The party office is the only one in the building). "Some laptops were stolen and an unsuccessful attempt was made to steal Wildrose's computer server," he said. 

"We do not believe there was any data released during this incident but we cannot be certain. No credit-card information was contained on any of the missing password-protected laptops. A police investigation is ongoing and since the robbery we have moved our computer server offsite to a high-security location."

Jean concluded that section of the email with this: “I apologize to any of you who may have received unwanted contact from other political parties and, while Wildrose has always safeguarded our data, we will do even more to ensure the integrity of your information going forward.”

The lengthy email goes on to discuss the Wildrose party's efforts to unite the right -- as opposed to those of Kenney, the clear front-runner in the race to lead the PCs. Kenney's unorthodox plan, as is well known, is to fold the former governing party and merge it with the Wildrose, a project about which Jean is known to be unenthusiastic.

"In August I wrote to members and detailed my sit-down with Jason Kenney," Jean wrote later in the report to members.

"A few days ago I sat down for a short meeting with another one of the PC leadership candidates," he went on. "I took the opportunity to listen to him, and I told him about how Wildrose was doing. I told him what I told Jason Kenney and what I will tell every other PC leadership candidate: that I would not be involved in any secret negotiations and that only if a new PC leader has a mandate to reverse that party's formal position that rejects even talking to Wildrose will I sit down with them. But as always I commit to you that the ultimate decision will rest with Wildrose members." (Emphasis added). 

Describing the Progressive Conservatives as "going through a divisive fight right now," Jean then revealed another interesting tidbit: "I've heard some concerning reports from some of you that you’ve received unsolicited calls claiming that I am encouraging Wildrose members to buy memberships and influence the leadership vote in the PC party. This claim is absolutely false. I would NEVER ask our members to interfere in the activities of another party."

A Wildrose member not associated with the party leadership has confirmed he will ask Elections Alberta and the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta today to investigate the information breach.

Just to be perfectly clear, as Richard M. Nixon might have said, let me say this about that Watergate reference above. The chain of events that brought down the Republican president, who resigned in August 1974, began with what Nixon called "a two-bit burglary” of the Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C., on June 17, 1972. The FBI investigated and discovered a connection between the burglars, who had bungled the job and were caught and the Nixon campaign. The rest, including those thousands of subsequent--gate references, is history.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

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