'It belongs on House of Cards': Political rivals question Kenney's credibility after document leak

Alberta deputy premier Sarah Hoffman and Premier Rachel Notley both accused United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney of lying and questioned his ability to lead the province one day after CBC News obtained documents showing co-operation between the Kenney and Jeff Callaway campaigns during the 2017 UCP leadership race. 

'It doesn't belong in Alberta politics,' said deputy premier Sarah Hoffman

Deputy premier Sarah Hoffman, right, accused United Conservative Perty Leader Jason Kenney of lying when he denied collaborating with Jeff Callaway's campaign during the 2017 UCP leadership contest. (CBC)

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley accused United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney of lying and questioned his ability to lead the province one day after CBC News obtained documents showing co-operation between the Kenney and Jeff Callaway campaigns during the 2017 UCP leadership race. 

"I think the evidence that has come out and the memos that have come out make it pretty clear that on Friday, when Mr. Kenney stood in front of a bank of cameras ... and responded very calmly and cooly and confidently to those questions [about his leadership race], that he was lying, he was absolutely lying," Notley said after a rally in Edmonton Sunday. 

The leaked cache of documents show Kenney's campaign provided Callaway's team with resources, including strategic political direction, media and debate talking points, speeches, videos, and attack advertisements, all aimed at undermining Kenney's main political rival, Brian Jean.

The documents also show Matt Wolf, a senior Kenney campaign staffer and his current deputy chief of staff, communicated regularly with Callaway's communications manager Cameron Davies, and also on occasion with Callaway's campaign manager, Randy Kerr.

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A document prepared by Davies for the office of Alberta's election commissioner — with whom he is co-operating — alleges the Kenney campaign made a concerted effort to recruit a "stalking horse" candidate for the specific purpose of attacking Jean, the former Wildrose leader.

Callaway has not responded to multiple requests for an interview.

Kerr — who was removed by the UCP as a candidate in the riding of Calgary-Beddington for not being "forthcoming" about his financial contribution to Callaway's campaign — has also not responded to interview requests.

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"I think it demonstrates a profound absence of integrity and when you are seeking to lead a province as great as ours, I think the people who you are asking to vote for you should be able to believe that when you say something you are telling the truth," Notley said.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley speaks to a large crowd during her nomination as the NDP candidate in Edmonton-Strathcona on Sunday. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

Alberta's deputy premier said the documents and the controversy around the UCP campaigns belong on the pages of a blockbuster Hollywood script and not in provincial politics.

"It belongs on House of Cards, it belongs on Netflix, it doesn't belong in Alberta politics and I'm deeply disturbed by how many times he lied," Sarah Hoffman told reporters at a news conference in Edmonton on Sunday.

"And I think it certainly calls his character into question," said Hoffman. "It is 100 per cent an issue of trust."

"[Kenney] thinks that maybe he didn't do anything wrong ... But, even if he thinks he didn't do anything wrong, he lied about it many, many times. And if he's lying about that, which he thinks isn't wrong, what else is he lying about on the eve of the election? It is very concerning to me," she said.

In a statement issued late Saturday, UCP executive director Janice Harrington said the communication between the two campaigns was "perfectly normal in a preferential ballot election and was within the rules of the 2017 UCP leadership election."

The UCP has insisted his campaign did not collaborate with Callaway in a so-called kamikaze campaign. Callaway has also denied those allegations.

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But Harrington's statement did not address the contents of an internal email, dated Aug. 13, 2017, where Davies provides a timeline to Wolf that includes a rough date for when Callaway would drop out of the leadership race.

In a telephone interview Saturday, Davies confirmed to CBC News the campaigns had decided in advance when Callaway would quit the race.

Premier Rachel Notley also accused Jason Kenney of "lying" about whether his leadership campaign collaborated with rival Jeff Callaway.

"Callaway's withdrawal was something that wasn't necessarily negotiable," Davies said. "It was something that had been decided in a meeting in mid-July between Callaway and the Jason Kenney leadership team.

In a statement issued Sunday, Freedom Conservative Party Leader Derek Fildebrandt also accused Kenney of lying.

"On dozens of occasions and as recently as yesterday, Mr. Kenney has completely denied all of these allegations, and has claimed that those making them are lying," Fildebrandt said.

"Not everyone that brings forward an allegation is necessarily credible or telling the truth, but these are now backed up by hard evidence.

"The documents released last night show clearly that it is not the whistle-blowers that have lied, but Jason Kenney. This is no longer in the realm of experiencing things differently or differences of opinions, or even 'sour grapes.'"

In December 2018, StarMetro quoted Fildebrandt as saying he sat down with Kenney in the summer of 2017 and the two discussed the possibility of Fildebrandt running "a stalking horse campaign to undermine Mr. Jean."

Fildebrandt told the newspaper he decided he did not want to do that.

Jean has also not responded to interview requests.

A provincial election has to be held before May 31.

With files from Charles Rusnell and Jennie Russell