Former Alberta conservative justice minister Kaycee Madu and former premier Jason Kenney.
Kaycee Madu with then premier Jason Kenney in 2020, the year Madu became Alberta’s justice minister. Credit: Alberta Newsroom / Flickr Credit: Alberta Newsroom / Flickr

On Thursday, the Law Society of Alberta quietly posted a notice stating that one “Kelechi Madu, KC engaged in conduct that undermined respect for the administration of justice when he contacted the Edmonton Police Services Chief of Police regarding a traffic ticket he received on March 10, 2021, and that such conduct is deserving of sanction.”

Kelechi Madu, better known as Kaycee Madu, was minister of justice when he picked up the phone and called Dale McFee. It’s hard to believe his position didn’t have something to do with why Chief McFee took his call.

So, the Law Society’s quiet notice is a major news story by any measure. 

The trifecta of former justice ministers

But since the legal profession’s self-regulating body was already investigating allegations of inappropriate conduct by two other former Conservative Alberta justice ministers, the situation went from merely unusual to unprecedented.

The other two are Tyler Shandro, KC, who took over from Madu in premier Kenney’s February 2021 mini-shuffle, and Jonathan Denis, KC, named to the portfolio in 2012 by Progressive Conservative premier Alison Redford. 

Shandro’s Law Society hearing is underway for allegations of unprofessional misconduct as health minister. Final arguments are scheduled to be heard on Sept. 5

Voters in his Calgary-Acadia riding had sent him into political retirement on May 29, replacing him with New Democrat candidate Diana Batten by a mere 25 votes. 

As for Denis, who also represented the Calgary-Acadia riding, his political career ended in 2015, when he was defeated by the NDP’s Brandy Payne.

PC premier Jim Prentice had relieved him of his cabinet duties before the 2015 election. A date for Denis’s Law Society hearing has not yet been set.

Without word of a lie, Shandro, Denis, and Madu, have all been honoured with the Kings Counsel designation!

Breaking the Madu story

Independent investigative journalist Charles Rusnell reported on the ministerial trifecta in a story published Friday by The Tyee.

Rusnell left the CBC in December 2021. According to him, fellow CBC reporter Elise von Scheel had received word of Madu’s distracted-driving ticket soon after it happened. But the CBC sat on the story for more than 10 months for reasons unknown.

Then the CBC learned that Rusnell and his long-time colleague Jennie Russell had received the tip and were working on the story. Both were working independently by that point.

The CBC published the story on January 17, 2022, more than 10 months after von Scheel got word of Madu’s ticket.

When the story finally broke, both Madu and Chief McFee insisted that Madu hadn’t asked to have his $300 fine pulled. Madu denied being on the phone while driving altogether. Madu, who is black, also expressed concern to McFee he may have been racially profiled by the officer who pulled him over.

“Chief McFee assured me this was most definitely not the case, and I accepted him at his word,” Madu said in a statement sent to Rusnell and other reporters at the time. 

“To be abundantly clear, at no point did I request that the ticket be rescinded,” Madu’s statement said. “I would never do that. However, in that particular call, I regret raising the issue at all with the Chief McFee.”

He concluded by saying he paid the ticket promptly, and had the utmost respect for the police. 

Nevertheless, members of the Kenney government frequently gossiped and joked about the minister’s misadventure for months before the story became public.

Soft consequences for Madu

When the story did break, though, Kenney moved Madu out of the justice portfolio and asked retired Court of (then) Queen’s Bench Justice Adèle Kent to look into the affair. 

She concluded that Madu had indeed tried to interfere with the administration of justice, but that he hadn’t succeeded. Still, there was a “reasonable perception” he had.

“The minister of justice cannot phone the chief of police to discuss his traffic ticket,” she said in her report, stating what should have been obvious. 

So when the Law Society began to receive calls from members of the public and the legal profession demanding an investigation, it would have been pretty difficult for it to conclude there was nothing worth investigating. After all, a former superior court judge was on record saying there was. 

Nevertheless, the Society obviously didn’t hurry to launch a hearing, even after the May 29 election. 

Before the election, the consequences for Madu were not particularly severe. 

After Kent’s report was published, Kenney moved Madu to the labour portfolio. And when Danielle Smith became premier, she named him minister of skilled trades and professions – and deputy premier. 

Only in the May 29 election this year did voters in his Edmonton-South West riding have the opportunity to weigh in. They sent him packing, overwhelmingly electing the NDP’s Nathan Ip. 

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...