Calgary

Investigation into Jason Kenney's UCP leadership campaign spreads

A former United Conservative Party member who said he was sidelined by the party after spending $27,000 on memberships and events has been contacted by an investigator from the office of Alberta's election commissioner. 

Tariq Chaudhry complained to Alberta's election commissioner in December, now investigators want to talk

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney's office said it has not been contacted by the Alberta Election Commissioner in regards to allegations levelled by a former member. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

The latest on this story | Jason Kenney says office investigating his leadership campaign isn't safe from cuts

A former United Conservative Party member who said he was sidelined by the party after spending $27,000 on memberships and events has been contacted by an investigator from the office of Alberta's election commissioner. 

Tariq Chaudhry complained to the commissioner seven months ago. 

In that complaint, he alleged Jason Kenney personally asked him to help recruit members of the Pakistani community and to "give out as many memberships" as he could in order to support Kenney's leadership bid. 

Chaudhry is a past president of the Pakistan Canada Association.

"I gave away many, but I could only afford to cover $6,000 worth," he wrote in a letter to the commissioner on Dec. 28, 2018. 

"Mr. Kenney told me that someone else will pay for the rest."

Eid events

Chaudhry also alleges in a sworn affidavit that Kenney asked him to consider running in the provincial election in the riding of Edmonton-Mill Woods and to host two Eid events — one in 2017 and the other in 2018 — that he was not reimbursed for. 

He says he also hosted Kenney at his home for "a large function/meeting" at his own expense. 

Chaudhry says he's out $27,076 for the events and the memberships. 

He alleges he attempted to give the money for the 1,200 members he signed up directly to Kenney at one of the events he hosted. 

"Mr. Kenney asked the $6,000 I had be paid in cash and told me he would arrange for someone to pick up the same at my home at another time," he wrote in his affidavit.

He said Kenney and the party stopped returning his calls and responding to texts after the second event.

"Senior UCP officials have made it clear they have someone else in mind to run as a UCP candidate in the next election in the Edmonton Mill Woods riding," he wrote. 

None of Chaudhry's allegations have been proven in court. 

Kenney's office did not respond to the specific allegations raised by Chaudhry when asked. 

"This issue has been aired previously," wrote spokesperson Christine Myatt. 

"The Commissioner's office has not been in contact with us regarding Mr. Chaudry's letter."

Investigator email

CBC News has confirmed an email was sent to Chaudhry by Dave Jennings, an investigator at the office of the election commissioner.

"I've recently been assigned a file relating to your complaint to our office regarding Jason Kenney's campaign(s) in 2017 and 2018," reads the email, dated July 30.

"Specifically, the allegations are that he had you buy UCP memberships and put on events that were not properly paid back or claimed/expensed."

The email says Chaudhry is not under investigation.

Steve Kay, the senior investigations manager at the Office of the Election Commissioner, said he could not comment on the email. 

"As you are aware the Office of the Election Commissioner does not comment on investigations that it may, or may not be, conducting," he wrote. 

'Kamikaze' campaign

The election commissioner has been investigating the 2017 UCP leadership contest for months and has levied $163,850 in fines tied to the campaign of Jeff Callaway, most for irregular donations. 

It's alleged corporate money was funnelled into the campaign and distributed using other people's names. 

Callaway ran a "kamikaze" campaign on behalf of Jason Kenney, now Alberta's premier. Kenney won the UCP leadership on Oct. 28, 2017, after the Alberta Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties merged.

Callaway ran for the sole purpose of targeting Kenney's chief rival, former Wildrose leader Brian Jean, and then dropping out of the race to support Kenney.

Both men deny the allegations, but CBC News has obtained emails showing higher-ups in Kenney's campaign circle providing resources — strategic political direction, media and debate talking points, speeches, videos and attack advertisements — to the Callaway campaign.

There was a timeline for when Callaway would drop out of the campaign and throw his support behind Kenney.

Kenney's deputy chief of staff, Matt Wolf, even emailed a resignation speech to Callaway the day he dropped out of the leadership race.

RCMP investigation

The RCMP is also investigating what it calls "identity fraud" related to the 2017 UCP leadership race. 

The Kenney campaign has faced allegations that it used virtual private networks (VPNs) to mask the addresses of computers in order to cast multiple ballots from one location.

That allegation was connected to the use of PINs acquired through the use of fraudulent emails.

CBC News has confirmed that fraudulent emails were used to cast ballots in the vote, but the UCP insists the process was clean. 

Five cabinet ministers and three MLAs have been interviewed by the RCMP as part of its investigation.

About the Author

Drew Anderson is a web journalist at CBC Calgary. Like almost every journalist working today, he's won a few awards. He's also a third-generation Calgarian. You can follow him on Twitter @drewpanderson. Contact him in confidence at drew.anderson@cbc.ca.

With files from Carolyn Dunn

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