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Endless RCMP Probes Keep UCP Scandals off Voters’ Minds

Key witnesses in voter fraud and illegal donations investigations say police last spoke with them four years ago.

Charles Rusnell 16 May 2023TheTyee.ca

Charles Rusnell is an independent investigative reporter based in Edmonton.

The RCMP’s criminal investigation into massive voter fraud and alleged illegal donations in the 2017 United Conservative Party leadership campaign won’t be completed before the next provincial election.

In response to a query last week from The Tyee about the investigation’s progress, an RCMP spokesperson simply responded: “Still no updates.”

That frustrates former UCP MLA Prab Gill of Calgary, who filed a formal complaint to the RCMP.

“I almost have no faith left in the system,” he told The Tyee.

“It is sad if there is no justice,” he added. “This should be a first world country, not like some third world country here.”

The Tyee last week spoke with two key witnesses, including Gill, in relation to the voter fraud and kamikaze candidate schemes, which are the subject of ongoing RCMP criminal investigations. Both said they were last interviewed by the RCMP at least four years ago and have heard nothing since.

Dragging the investigation out so long dims the prospect of any convictions and fits a pattern of slow-footedness by the RCMP, observed Garry Clement, a former superintendent with the force.

But the fact that wrongdoing rooted in the origins of the UCP isn’t a hot issue on the campaign trail doesn’t surprise University of Calgary political scientist Lisa Young.

The voter-fraud scandal, although seriously anti-democratic, was four years ago and was directly tied to Kenney’s campaign and not current UCP leader Danielle Smith, Young said.

“By putting a different face on the party with a new leader, I think it has helped move past that,” she said.

“It has opened up other issues for the party,” she said, referring to a succession of scandals generated by Smith’s public statements that have dominated the public’s attention. A video recently surfaced in which Smith compared Alberta’s vaccinated people to Hitler’s meek followers and another video in which she mused about privatizing some of Alberta’s major hospitals.

About the kamikaze candidate scheme

In the kamikaze candidate scheme, Kenney’s campaign secretly ran a stalking horse candidate, Jeff Callaway, for the purpose of attacking and undermining Kenney’s main leadership rival, Brian Jean. A businessman also secretly funded $60,000 worth of donations made by straw donors to the campaign.

Despite documented evidence that the Kenney campaign co-ordinated the Callaway campaign, Kenney maintained the communication between the two campaigns was not unusual.

One of the organizers of the Callaway campaign scheme, Shuvaloy Majumdar, an associate of both Kenney and former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper, recently won the federal Tory nomination for Calgary Heritage.

About the voter fraud scheme

In the voter fraud scheme, organizers took names from lists without the individuals’ knowledge, assigned them fake email addresses, and purchased memberships in those names. They then used the fake email accounts to intercept security pins required to vote and voted en masse for Kenney in the leadership race.

Despite irrefutable evidence of voter fraud, the UCP has maintained there was no issue with the leadership vote.

The UCP fired Alberta election commissioner Lorne Gibson, who had been aggressively investigating election breaches by the UCP and issuing hefty fines.

Kenney also intervened to ensure the appointment of Janice Harrington, the party’s executive director, as the province’s seniors advocate, a position for which she had no education or training.

Clement, the former Mountie, led the force’s proceeds of crime division. He said it would be time consuming for investigators to obtain production orders for all the voting data on servers.

Then investigators would have to establish who the pin number was issued to, and get a statement from them about whether they had knowledge of, or consented to, the vote that was cast.

The next step would be to nail down who was involved in the scheme, including who generated the fake emails, obtained IDs from the duped voters and cast the purloined votes.

“And that is what they have to do in each and every case,” Clement said. “So it would be fairly time consuming.”

A photo of a middle-aged man with reddish hair, addressing the camera mid-sentence.
Former RCMP superintendent Garry Clement says the force has had ‘far too many of these types of investigations that go on in perpetuity. And the bottom line is, after so many years, the chances of conviction diminish by the number of months you're working on it.’ Photo via ACFCS.

Clement said if he was in charge of the investigation, “I definitely wouldn't direct that they go through the entire database, unless that was the direction of the Crown. I just don't see the point and if you can establish that 15 or 20 are bogus, you have established the bona fides of your case.”

It didn’t help the RCMP investigation that, in January 2020, two of its investigators left their recorders at the home of Alan Hallman, a long-time Alberta political operator and lobbyist with several connections to Kenney’s campaigns. It took the Mounties two days to retrieve the recorders.

Depending on what was on the recorders, Clement said, “it could be detrimental or effectively, kill the investigation.”

“If you muddy the waters in a way that may bring the administration of justice into disrepute, it's virtually impossible then to go get a conviction on anything.”

Clement said the RCMP has had “far too many of these types of investigations that go on in perpetuity. And the bottom line is, after so many years, the chances of conviction diminish by the number of months you're working on it.”

Voters’ fading memories

Even if the investigation had been completed, it likely wouldn’t make any difference in how Albertans intend to vote in the looming provincial election, said Young, the University of Calgary political scientist.

Young said most voters have already forgotten major scandals from the Kenney regime. She referenced the “imaginary pipeline,” the Keystone XL investment bet that cost Alberta taxpayers $1.3 billion.

But there was also former Alberta premier Jason Kenney’s deadly political decision to lift all pandemic restrictions in July 2021. Kenney’s Best Summer Ever resulted, as predicted by experts, in a fourth wave that caused thousands of needless infections and scores of deaths. As infections and deaths spiked, Kenney disappeared for 23 days and has never revealed where he went on holidays.

With two weeks until the provincial election, a new Abacus poll found 43 per cent of eligible voters intend to vote for the NDP compared to 35 per cent for the UCP. However a leaked poll by Janet Brown finds the UCP leading. Polls in April placed the two parties in a virtual tie.

Young said elections are normally a time when voters can hold governments to account by voting them out of power. But various iterations of conservative parties have always been favoured by Albertans no matter how inept or politically self serving, in part, because voters never believed there was a legitimate alternative.

That appears to be changing, Young said.

“I honestly believe that Alberta is slowly moving towards being a more normal democratic system in the sense that the idea that the government could change is a little more conceivable than it was 10 years ago.”

If you have any information for this story, or information for another story, please contact Charles Rusnell in confidence via email.  [Tyee]

Read more: Politics, Alberta

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