Calgary

Jason Kenney says office investigating his leadership campaign isn't safe from cuts

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says all aspects of the provincial government could be subject to budget cuts, including the office of the election commissioner, which is investigating his leadership campaign.

Alberta's election commissioner has been probing 2017 UCP leadership race for months

Jason Kenney says all aspects of government could face 'fiscal restraint' in the upcoming budget, including the office of the election commissioner. (CBC)

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says all aspects of the provincial government could be subject to budget cuts, including the office of the election commissioner, which is investigating his leadership campaign. 

Kenney made the statement one day after it was revealed the office of the commissioner continues to investigate the 2017 UCP leadership race and Kenney's campaign.

An email obtained by CBC News shows an investigator reached out to a former party member who alleges he spent $6,000 on memberships for others to support Kenney and that he was told by Kenney that a further 600 memberships he signed up would be paid for by someone else.

Tariq Chaudhry also alleges in a sworn affidavit that he was asked to put on two Eid events for Kenney to meet Edmonton's Pakistani community and was never reimbursed. 

"I've never asked anybody to buy memberships, but obviously the election commissioner wants to investigate this," said Kenney, when asked about the allegations on Wednesday. 

"That's his obligation, his right to do so, and we would happily cooperate with any inquiries that might come from the commissioner's office."

Funding the election commissioner

When asked whether he would commit to funding the office in order to avoid the perception of interference in an investigation involving his campaign, Kenney demurred.

"Well look, I'm not going to start improvising the October budget here," he said.

"Every aspect of government is going to be asked to participate in fiscal restraint. But obviously we respect the independence of that and other investigatory offices and they need the resources to do the job that they've been assigned in law."

Chaudhry alleges he was told by Kenney to run in the provincial election for the riding of Edmonton-Mill Woods, but that Kenney and the party stopped returning his calls and texts after the last of the two Eid events in 2018. 

None of his allegations have been proven in court. 

Ongoing investigations

It's not the only question hanging over the 2017 leadership contest. Both the RCMP and the election commissioner are investigating different aspects of the race and the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service has appointed an special prosecutor from Ontario to advise police on their investigation. 

The name of that prosecutor has not been revealed.

The election commissioner has so far levied $163,850 in fines tied to the "kamikaze" campaign of Jeff Callaway, mostly tied to irregular donations.

It's alleged corporate money was funelled into that campaign using the names of other donors.

Callaway ran a campaign for the purpose of attacking Kenney's main rival, Brian Jean, before dropping out as previously planned and throwing his support behind Kenney.

Both men deny the allegations, but CBC News has obtained emails showing higher-ups in Kenney's campaign circle providing resources — including 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 then deputy chief of staff, Matt Wolf, even emailed a resignation speech to Callaway the day he dropped out of the leadership race.

Wolf was recently rehired and joined the staff of the premier's office as director of issues management.

Identity fraud

The RCMP, for its part, says it's investigating allegations of identity fraud tied to the leadership race, which the party has insisted was clean.

CBC News has previously revealed that fraudulent emails were used to cast ballots in that vote. It's alleged PINs needed to cast a ballot were intercepted and used to vote for Kenney.

Calgary-East MLA Peter Singh had his business raided and computers removed by the RCMP as part of their investigation into the leadership race.

He, along with five cabinet ministers and two other MLAs, have been interviewed by the RCMP.

On Wednesday, the premier was asked if he was concerned about getting the investigations out of the way.

"Well that's not for me to decide," he said.

"If there are questions from any investigatory body, I'm always happy to cooperate, as is the United Conservative Party and anybody who's asked these questions. So, as I've said before, I'm proud of the work that our campaigns did."

Kenney said, as he has in the past, that he can't account for the actions of all those tied to his campaign, but if any wrongdoing occurred, those responsible should be held accountable. 

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.

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