Calgary

2 more MLAs interviewed by RCMP in UCP leadership race investigation

Joseph Schow and Jordan Walker join six others who have been interviewed by the force in relation to the 2017 leadership vote that faces allegations of voter fraud and irregular campaign contributions.

Recent interviews mean 8 caucus members, including 5 in cabinet, have now been interviewed

Joseph Schow, left, and Jordan Walker, right, have been interviewed by the RCMP as part of an investigation into the 2017 UCP leadership race. (Twitter/UCP)

Two more United Conservative Party MLAs have been interviewed by the RCMP as part of the force's ongoing investigation into the 2017 UCP leadership race that elected Jason Kenney.

The latest revelation brings the total number of known UCP caucus members interviewed by the RCMP to eight, five of whom are cabinet ministers. 

As first reported in the Edmonton Journal and confirmed by CBC News, Cardston-Siksika MLA Joseph Schow and Sherwood Park MLA Jordan Walker have now been questioned.

Both men campaigned for Kenney in his leadership run.

"I was involved in the leadership race. I was the, I ran the field operations so I was kind of a ground team organizer co-ordinator," said Schow on Friday. 

He said his role was to help identify supporters and to "make sure you get an idea where support was."

Nature of interviews unclear

Schow said he was contacted by the RCMP and co-operated, but would not elaborate on what questions he was asked. 

He said he is not under investigation.

"It is an ongoing investigation so it wouldn't be prudent for me to really comment too much on the work they're doing," he said.

"But, I mean, you know, that would be with regards to the ... the nature of the questioning was about the leadership race. But that's really the extent that I feel comfortable commenting on given that is their investigation."

Walker did not return phone calls.

Robyn Henwood is the executive director of the UCP caucus and was the chair of the UCP leadership election committee.

She said she's not aware of what the RCMP asked the two MLAs and would only say it was related to the leadership race. 

She also said she's not aware of any other UCP MLAs, beyond the eight already identified, who have been interviewed. 

"I don't track it, sorry. I don't know," said Henwood. 

"What I know for sure is the ones who have check in and let me know."

She did say that neither she, nor any member of the leadership election committee, has been interviewed.

Police raid and other interviews

In addition to Schow and Walker, Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer, Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda, Culture Minister Leela Aheer, Seniors and Housing Minister Josephine Pon, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Jason Luan, and Calgary-East MLA Peter Singh have all been interviewed. 

As well, Singh's autobody business was raided in April, with the RCMP seizing computer equipment as part of its voter fraud investigation.

The RCMP confirmed it is investigating the UCP leadership race but wouldn't specify on the nature of the investigation.

Previously, CBC News confirmed the force was looking into allegations of irregular campaign contributions to the leadership campaign of Jeff Callaway and into allegations of voter fraud in the leadership election. 

It's alleged PINs needed to cast ballots in the leadership vote were intercepted and used to vote for a preferred candidate.

CBC News has identified fraudulent email addresses that were used to cast ballots in the leadership vote.

The UCP denies there was any wrongdoing or interference in the election.

Callaway's "kamikaze" campaign has also been investigated by Alberta's election commissioner, who levied $70,000 in fines against Callaway on Wednesday for allegedly funnelling corporate cash from Calgary businessman Robyn Lore into his campaign. 

That money was then allegedly donated under other people's names. 

Kamikaze campaign

Callaway ran for the purpose of attacking Kenney's chief rival, former Wildrose leader Brian Jean, before stepping down and endorsing 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.

Proving fraud a challenge, says criminologist

Mount Royal University criminologist Doug King says it's early to jump to any conclusions.

"I think first of all it is an indication that the RCMP are taking the allegations — and they are allegations at this point only — that there has been some form of criminal violation," he said. 

"The RCMP wouldn't be involved if it was a non-criminal matter."

He cautioned against conflating the election commissioner fines with criminal wrongdoing, saying the threshold to get to a criminal conviction is much higher. 

King also said proving identity fraud tied to the vote would be a difficult task, but the investigation is proceeding as one would expect. 

"You basically want to acquire as much information as you can as you move closer and closer into the middle of, you know, maybe your five or six individuals that you think may have had something really to do with organizing and setting it up," he said. 

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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