Alberta Deputy Premier Kaycee Madu at yesterday’s camping news conference.
Alberta Deputy Premier Kaycee Madu at yesterday’s campy camping news conference. Credit: Government of Alberta Credit: Government of Alberta

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith never spoke directly to a Crown Prosecutor when she set out to interfere in the administration of justice on behalf of pandemic public health scofflaws, and nothing else matters.

That’s the United Conservative Party (UCP)’s story and they’re stickin’ to it. 

On March 30, the party trotted out Deputy Premier Kaycee Madu to make that point in response to reporters’ questions at an otherwise ho-hum news conference about more camping sites campily staged in a camp supply store. 

On the face of it, Madu was a strange choice for this effort, having lost his job as justice minister in February 2022 for – you guessed it! – trying unsuccessfully to interfere with the administration of justice by calling Edmonton’s chief of police about a traffic ticket he’d received.

On the other hand, we’re talking about Alberta and the UCP, so in a weird way it all makes sense. 

Premier Smith has admitted to having spoken with the justice minister and the deputy justice minister to express her unhappiness with the conduct of prosecutors and the progress of their COVID-19 public health prosecutions. 

But that’s OK because she didn’t speak directly with a Crown Prosecutor, Madu insisted at the newser as the brouhaha about a leaked recording of the premier telling an anti-vaccine street preacher she was talking “almost weekly” to Justice Department officials about his case entered its second day. 

Asked by reporter Julia Wong of the CBC if he still stood behind Smith in light of the revelation of the recording of the 11-minute conversation, Madu responded, “One hundred per cent I stand behind the premier.”

“I know the media, like, has always been interested in sensationalizing this particular issue,” he scolded. “I think what you saw happened was a media outlet that is continuing a defamatory act against the premier of Alberta and folks in high office.”

Getting to his key talking point, Madu continued: “There is nothing in the video, and I have watched all of those videos. I spent some time yesterday watching all of them. 

“It’s consistent with the premier’s concern during that time on the radio, during her time as the leadership candidate of our party, her concern about the welfare of Albertans many of whom had serious issues with the way the province handled the pandemic restrictions and lockdowns. 

“And so, I think the time has come for us to move past this particular issue.”

“The conversations that took place were limited to the premier having a conversation with her minister of justice, the deputy attorney general, her senior officials in the Department of Justice,” he added a little later, “and that is entirely appropriate.”

Now there’s plenty more of this, but there’s only so much you can stand to read and I can stand to type. This covers his argument, which under the circumstances is weak. 

Which is not to say I’m all that enthused about the NDP Opposition’s response to this, either. 

In a statement emailed to media Thursday afternoon, NDP Leader Rachel Notley called on Premier Smith to launch a 30-day judge-led investigation of the premier’s obvious interference in the administration of justice. 

Say what? 

Seriously, the NDP wants to defer judgment on this obviously improper behaviour by the premier of Alberta, likely until after the election, and neutralize what is unquestionably their best line of attack, a generous gift handed to them by the most utterly inept premier in Alberta history? 

Notley was certainly right when she said the leaked recording was unprecedented, black and white “evidence of interference in the judicial system by the premier of Alberta.”

But there’s no excuse for offering to hand Smith a lifeline in the form an easy-to-stall inquiry that would move the whole scandal onto the back burner. 

The NDP needs to start acting like a government-in-waiting that wants to win the election. 

For all intents and purposes, we are in the election period now, regardless of whether or not the writ has dropped. The election is supposed to happen in 60 days. This is no time for good-hearted business as usual!

The right course of action for the NDP is to hammer Danielle Smith relentlessly, every hour of every day, for her outrageous behaviour, her serial lying, and her habitual defiance of the idea of the rule of law. We’re unlikely to come across a clearer example of this than her fawning phone “conversation” with Pastor Art Pawlowski. 

The phrase “His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition” means the Opposition party is loyal to the Crown, not to the government it opposes!

Fortunately, as Madu demonstrated the UCP is acting like it wants to lose the election too. 

So the government, thank goodness, is unlikely to take Notley up on her suggestion, which might otherwise be a disastrous blow to the prospect of having a sane government in Alberta. 

Sorry, not Torry

Meanwhile, in Southern Alberta, it appears there may be some limits to the level of lunacy the UCP is prepared to tolerate from candidates – at least in Lethbridge where there is already one NDP MLA and the potential to elect another on May 29. 

On Wednesday, Lethbridge-West UCP candidate Torry Tanner – running against NDP MLA Shannon Phillips – posted a video on social media that claimed: “We are seeing increasing instances where kids, even those attending kindergarten, are being exposed to pornographic material or, worse yet, having teachers help them change their gender identity, with absolutely no parental consent or knowledge whatsoever.”

“We need to get involved on school boards, on parent councils, so that we can keep those precious little ones safe from this kind of outrageously inappropriate behaviour,” Tanner, who described herself in campaign material as an educator, says in the video. 

The blowback was immediate, and fierce. 

“Will you be issuing an apology on behalf of your candidate and party as she’s an official candidate of the @Alberta_UCP,” Alberta Teachers Association President Jason Schilling, a resident of the riding, asked the premier in a tweet. 

Instead, by mid-morning yesterday the UCP Twitter account had published a statement from Tanner resigning her candidacy. 

“During the nomination process I made a video that, at its core, spoke to my commitment to protecting children,” she said unapologetically and unrepentantly. “However, it’s clear that my choice of words have distracted not only from the issue I was trying to discuss, but are being used by my political opponents to hurt our chances of winning across the province.

“Accordingly, I have resigned as the candidate for Lethbridge-West.”

Premier Smith said in a statement she’ll be appointing a candidate for the riding soon.

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...