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Why wouldn't Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer appoint an independent prosecutor in Kamikaze case?

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Alberta Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer. Photo: David J. Climenhaga

So riddle me this: Why wouldn't Alberta Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer appoint an independent Crown prosecutor to oversee the Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigation into allegations of voting fraud in the 2017 United Conservative Party leadership race?

Especially now it's been revealed by the CBC that Schweitzer, who himself was a candidate in that race, has been interviewed by the RCMP about what he knew of Jeff Callaway's campaign?

After all, as Lord Chief Justice Gordon Hewart of the High Court of Justice in London famously observed in 1924, "Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done."

As a lawyer, one would certainly hope Schweitzer is familiar with the principle enunciated by Justice Hewart in R v Sussex Justices, ex parte McCarthy.

Is the reason that Opposition Leader Rachel Notley, who as a New Democratic Party premier seeking a second term attacked the UCP for the sleaze associated with the leadership race that brought Jason Kenney to power, is asking for a special prosecutor?

The Kamikaze Campaign, as it has come to be known, was the effort by Callaway to knock off Kenney's principal rival, former Wildrose leader Brian Jean, in a way that let Premier Kenney portray himself as the Gentleman Jason of Canadian politics.

If that's why Schweitzer is resisting doing what's obviously the only proper course available to him under the circumstances, given his own involvement in the campaign in which Callaway's alleged "Kamikaze Mission" was conducted, that's an understandable human emotion. Alas, it's also a sound reason for ensuring that justice appears not to have been done.

Remember, Schweitzer himself complained that something was awry with the UCP's voting procedures at the end of the campaign. The party ignored him then and he dropped the matter.

Moreover, he's now the cabinet minister responsible for overseeing police investigations in the province, including those by the RCMP.

Or is the reason that the UCP won big and reckons it can bloody well do what it pleases as a result? Not a good reason either, it's said here, and one that suggests serious ethical lapses in the ranks of the UCP may go beyond Callaway's immediate circle.

Or is it just stubborn pride? A pious Christian like Kenney must be aware of King Solomon's take on haughty spirits, which he supposedly advised goeth before a fall.

Well, it'll be a while before the UCP has to worry about any falls. But every day Schweitzer delays appointing an independent prosecutor is a day he personally looks worse and the whole sordid affair -- which has resulted in $71,000 in fines being levied by the Office of the Election Commissioner -- smells worse.

As an aside, I'm sure the UCP would very much like to get rid of Election Commissioner Lorne Gibson, but that's a matter for another blog post.

Not appointing a special prosecutor won't stop the RCMP from investigating. It's an independent federal force, after all. But the optics are terrible nevertheless. It's hard to understand why this is happening when the best way out of this mess for everyone -- including the UCP, presumably -- would be to appoint a special prosecutor and let the case proceed independently from any suggestion of tampering.

As Justice Hewart continued: "Nothing is to be done which creates even a suspicion that there has been an improper interference with the course of justice." (Emphasis added, of course.)

What's so hard to understand about that?

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 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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