Street preacher Artur Pawlowski flanked by his supporters and facing the media on the steps of the Legislature in Edmonton.
Street preacher Artur Pawlowski flanked by his supporters and facing the media on the steps of the Legislature in Edmonton. Credit: David J. Climenhaga Credit: David J. Climenhaga

The circus came to the steps of the Alberta Legislature this week. The Pawlowski Bros. and Preachers and Press Corps Circus, that is, for lack of a better name.

Actually, notorious Calgary street preacher Artur Pawlowski didn’t appear to have brought his brother with him, but he did drag his son along, at least one of his far-right preacher pals, and several candidates for his Alberta Solidarity fringe political party for his noon press conference on the east steps of the Legislature Building.

The purpose of the presser, supposedly, was to expose the real dirt on Premier Danielle Smith’s controversial phone call to Pastor Pawlowski, which has blown up into a major issue in the campaign leading up to Monday’s provincial election. This would turn out to be a disappointment. 

But the event nevertheless attracted a good crowd from the Legislature Press Gallery. After all, Pawlowski was Ground Zero of the ethics investigation that concluded Premier Smith attempted to interfere with the administration of justice on his behalf. It obviously didn’t work. He was found guilty on May 2 in Lethbridge for inciting protesters to commit mischief during the Coutts border blockade in January 2022, and of breaching bail conditions. 

Yesterday, there were a few hecklers, a couple of hapless UCP supporters with signs urging right-wing voters not to split their votes, and several representatives of the usual right-wing video outfits.

But the bulk of the crowd were supporters of Pawlowski’s new fringe party and real journalists hoping to add a little colour to an afternoon when most of the election action was 300 kilometres south of Edmonton. 

Pawlowski – who apparently hasn’t been studying Dale Carnegie, the Canadian Constitution, or the Holy Bible very hard – loudly insulted the leaders of both Alberta political parties, the prime minister of Canada, the police, the justice system, the LBGTQ community, drag queens, public health officials, everyone there from the media, and probably others I’ve missed during what turned out to be more than an hour of calling his targets witches, devils, monsters, Gestapo, pathological liars, communists, Nazis and sundry other epithets.

Still, to give him his due, Pawlowski kept most of the press corps glued to their spots by opening with a prayer to cast the demons out of the crowd. I mean, who wants to give in to a sudden urge to look for a public washroom at a moment like that?

The Legislature’s wading pond was dry, part of a huge renovation project apparently intended to turn the area into a real-life set for The Last of Us – which may turn out to be appropriate depending on who wins the election Monday. Of course, even when it’s full, the pond is too shallow to drown any Gadarene swine that might have been driven from the presser, and the last creatures recorded frolicking there were UCP MLAs in July 2019.

The newser? I’m sorry to report it was a bit of a bait and switch. 

Pawlowski arrived late in a nice blue suit, evidently because no one had informed him the main steps of the Legislature were closed because of the construction project. 

But first the media had to suffer through a sermon by a preacher friend of Pawlowski, introduced only as Shawn from Red Deer. Shawn blamed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for former Alberta premier Jason Kenney’s Critical Infrastructure Defence Act, which seemed on brand if not entirely fair.

Then there was a speech from the leader of Pawlowski’s new political party, named and branded in apparent tribute the preacher’s Polish heritage. 

Then there was a speech from Pawlowski’s son, a young man who seemed almost as angry as his father. 

Finally, the main event began with Pawlowski himself at the microphone delivering an hourlong jeremiad about Smith, whom he called a communist and “a bloody murderer,” Notley, whom he called “a witch,” and the gathered media, whom he called liars and implied were all Whores of Babylon. (I am pondering an update to my LinkedIn page.) 

Alas, when he finally got to the promised Revelations about his conversation with Smith, there were only allegations

Pawlowski alleged that he was offered cash bribes by representatives of the UCP to be quiet, a guaranteed seat in the Alberta Legislature if he ran for the UCP in a safe riding, the chance to run Smith’s COVID response investigation (a position now occupied by Preston Manning), and amnesty from prosecution. 

Other than the amnesty, he was having none of it, he insisted. “I am not a whore.”

He offered no receipts, however, and grilling by the media failed to move him to name names or specify times. 

On the advice of his lawyers, he said, he couldn’t name the people in the government he talked to unless called to give sworn testimony. 

He denied the premier’s claim her call was just two political leaders talking politics – it was only ever supposed to be about his trial and how she could help get him off the legal hook. “This phone call was always about the same thing – when are you going to introduce what you promised, the amnesty bill for people like me and thousands of other Albertans.”

He said he didn’t know who leaked the video of the call but insisted, repeatedly, it wasn’t him. 

Smith’s office later issued a terse statement saying she “is unaware of any of the conversations or alleged offers referenced by Pawlowski in his comments today, and strongly questions the credibility of his claims.”

In a statement “to all Albertans” sent to media, NDP Leader Rachel Notley said, “I am deeply concerned about all we have seen today. Extremism being shouted from the steps of the Legislature. Hate and transphobia and a furthering of a division that only serves to harm Alberta.

“This is the fringe of the fringe, and these are the folks Danielle Smith has been giving her time to. This is who she interfered in the justice system for. She broke the law in order to get Artur Pawlowski’s charges dropped—a man convicted of inciting violence against police.

“Danielle Smith has given him a platform, and this is only the beginning. If Danielle Smith is elected Premier – this is what the next four years looks like.

“Enough is enough. This is exhausting. There is one way to put a stop to all of this and that’s by electing a new Alberta NDP government on Monday.”

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...