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Alberta premier asks justice minister to 'step back' from job over phone call to police chief

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says he has asked Justice Minister Kaycee Madu to "step back" from his job after the CBC revealed Madu phoned the Edmonton police chief about a traffic ticket.

Energy Minister Sonya Savage to act as justice minister during leave of absence

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks after the United Conservative Party annual meeting in Calgary on Nov. 21. On Monday, Kenney said he has asked Justice Minister Kaycee Madu to step back from his ministerial duties (Larry MacDougal/The Canadian Press)

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says he's asked Justice Minister Kaycee Madu to "step back" from his job while an independent review examines if there was interference in the administration of justice after Madu phoned Edmonton's police chief about a traffic ticket.

The request follows a CBC News story Monday that revealed Madu had telephoned Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee to discuss a $300 distracted driving ticket he received on March 10, 2021. 

In a late-night announcement on Twitter, Kenney said that Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage will act as justice minister and solicitor general during Madu's leave of absence.

The premier said he will appoint an independent investigator to review relevant facts and determine whether there was interference in the administration of justice in the case. The findings of the review will be made public, he said. 

"In the interim period, I have asked Minister Madu to step back from his ministerial duties," Kenney wrote.

Kenney said Madu told him that he did not ask the chief to have the ticket rescinded, and it wasn't his intention to interfere in the case. Madu also paid the ticket.

Alberta Justice Minister Kaycee Madu was fined for distracted driving in March 2021, according to a traffic ticket obtained by CBC News. (CBC)

In a statement to CBC News Monday, prior to Kenney's announcement, Madu confirmed the incident and that he had already paid the ticket in full. However, he said he told the officer who pulled him over that he disagreed with the fine and that his phone was in his pocket. 

He said he called McFee because he wanted to ensure he was not being "unlawfully surveilled" following a controversy surrounding the Lethbridge Police Service.

At that time, the provincial government was preparing to step in after reports of unlawful surveillance and database searches conducted by Lethbridge officers on NDP MLA Shannon Phillips during her time as environment minister. 

Madu, who is Black, said he wanted to raise concerns about racial profiling with the chief.

"Chief McFee assured me that that was most definitely not the case, and I accepted him at his word … to be abundantly clear, at no point did I request that the ticket be rescinded. I would never do that.

"However, in that particular call, I regret raising the issue at all with the Chief McFee," Madu said. 

McFee has confirmed that Madu did not ask to get out of the ticket, and that Madu expressed concern about people of colour being stopped by police and political tension with the Lethbridge Police Service.

Justice critic says Madu should resign

On Tuesday, Alberta NDP justice critic Irfan Sabir called on Madu to resign his position in full — rather than just step back from ministerial duties.

"He cannot be on leave of absence or a paid vacation. He cannot sit in cabinet without portfolio. Stepping back is not the same as stepping down. He must resign," Sabir said.

He said he also wants to know whether Madu is still collecting a minister's salary. 

"It is inappropriate for any cabinet minister to interfere in the administration of justice, even more so when it's directly related to their own personal interest," he said.

Sabir further said a taxpayer-funded investigation is not needed, as the incident is undisputed. 

"The minister admitted to what he did. The chief of police confirmed it. Even the premier confirmed it. So what is the purpose of the investigation?"

The Law Society of Alberta, which monitors lawyers in the province, said they would investigate if a complaint about Madu was made, but that the results would only be released if he received a citation and it needed a public hearing.

With files from Elise von Scheel and Janice Johnston

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