Calgary·Exclusive

Alberta justice minister fined for distracted driving, called police chief about ticket

Alberta Justice Minister Kaycee Madu was fined for distracted driving and called Edmonton's police chief to discuss the ticket, CBC News has learned. 

$300 traffic ticket indicates Kaycee Madu was on his cellphone in a school zone

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

Alberta Justice Minister Kaycee Madu was fined for distracted driving and called Edmonton's police chief to discuss the ticket, CBC News has learned. 

Madu was pulled over on March 10, 2021, and fined $300 for being on his cellphone in a school zone, according to the ticket, which CBC News has obtained. 

Soon after, the minister phoned Dale McFee, the city's chief of police, and discussed the violation with him. 

"Minister Madu did contact me via the telephone concerned about a ticket. But just to be very, very clear, he never asked to get out of the ticket," McFee told CBC News in December, adding he didn't know exactly what was on the ticket.

"Everybody has to wear their decisions."

Madu, who is the United Conservative MLA for Edmonton-South West, paid the ticket before the end of that week, according to court records.

The chief said that during the call, Madu, who is Black, expressed concern about people of colour being stopped by police and, separately, political tension with the Lethbridge Police Service. At the 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. 

The minister confirmed those details.

"The officer indicated that he had observed me driving while distracted, alleging that I was on my phone. I disagreed, stating that I was not on my phone, as it was in an inside pocket," Madu said in a statement issued 12 hours after CBC News asked for comment. 

"Due to the timing of the incident, I wanted to ensure that I was not being unlawfully surveilled following the controversy surrounding the Lethbridge Police Service. I also raised concerns around profiling of racial minorities that was in the media at the time.

"Chief McFee assured me that that was most definitely not the case, and I accepted him at his word."

Just before the ticket was issued, Madu had warned the Lethbridge police chief to shape up or face government intervention.  A public inquiry into the police force is proceeding this year, conducted by the Law Enforcement Review Board.

The minister says he did not request the ticket be rescinded at any point during his call with McFee. 

"I regret raising the issue at all with the Chief McFee," his statement reads.

CBC News submitted a request for records related to the infraction using Freedom of Information laws, but the Edmonton Police Service said it would not confirm or deny the existence of any records because the matter concerned personal information about a third party. 

'Entirely inappropriate' 

A political scientist says the phone call to the chief was wrong no matter what the minister's intentions were. 

"It's entirely inappropriate for him to be involved in this matter," said Lori Williams, an associate professor of policy studies at Mount Royal University in Calgary. 

"It doesn't look like it's a generalized concern or support or promotion of equal justice and enforcement. It looks like it's personal.

"I think it's very important that the government reinforce the importance of that separation between the government and the administration of justice in the province," she said. 

Alberta's Opposition NDP issued a statement Monday afternoon calling on Madu to resign. 

"It is wholly unacceptable for the attorney general to engage with senior law enforcement regarding a penalty levied against him," Irfan Sabir, the party's justice critic, said in a statement. 

Madu has been minister of justice and solicitor general for Alberta since August 2020.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elise von Scheel is CBC Calgary's politics reporter and the producer of the West of Centre podcast. You can get in touch with her at elise.von.scheel@cbc.ca.

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