'Some weird gotcha game': Covert video appears to show NDP staffer leaving meeting with independent MLA

A video that shows a senior NDP staff person being surreptitiously recorded as he left the office of Independent MLA Prab Gill has caused a furor online, raising questions about party allegiances and controversial campaign tactics.

UCP posts video of NDP staffer Jeremy Nolais leaving a meeting with MLA Prab Gill

Independent MLA Prab Gill is shown leaving a federal building office after a meeting with NDP staff person Jeremy Nolais. (Unite Alberta/Twitter)

A video that appears to show a senior NDP staff person being surreptitiously recorded after meeting with Independent MLA Prab Gill has caused a furor online, raising questions about party allegiances and controversial campaign tactics.

Gill is a former United Conservative Party politician who resigned from caucus after a ballot stuffing controversy. He has since repeatedly accused the UCP of carrying out its own nefarious activities during the leadership race that saw Jason Kenney elected leader.

The 51-second video, black-and-white with added captions, plays in slow motion. It was posted to the Unite Alberta Twitter account, which is run by UCP Leader Jason Kenney's office.

In the video, Jeremy Nolais — director of issues management in the office of Premier Rachel Notley — is shown leaving an office in the Federal Building near the Alberta Legislature.

The video also shows Gill leaving the office, reportedly 10 minutes later. Gill gives a thumbs-up to the person holding the camera, but it's unclear if he knew he was being filmed. 

MLA Prab Gill leaving a meeting with Jeremy Nolais

4 years ago
Duration 0:50
Unite Alberta posted this video on Twitter suggesting Independent MLA Prab Gill might be joining the NDP.

The tweet questions whether the Calgary-Greenway MLA might be jumping to the NDP. 

It's unclear who shot the video or exactly where the person was standing.

Online, Nolais joked about his appearance, saying he would have taken the pen out of his mouth had he known he was being recorded.

Others questioned the ethics of filming the comings-and-goings inside a government building. Gill has an office inside the Federal Building, according to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta website.

"If people are putting our MLAs' offices under surveillance then that's a very serious problem and needs to be addressed," Transportation Minister Brian Mason said Tuesday.

"We meet with all kinds of MLAs in the opposition. I regularly meet with opposition MLAs. And to think someone is stalking me with a video camera, trying to play some weird gotcha game, is disturbing."

The UCP, however, said there was nothing strange about the video. The party characterized the meeting between Nolais and Gill as "not normal."

"This is in a common area in the building, it's not a normal thing to see a senior adviser to the premier of Alberta leaving an independent MLA's office in the Federal Building," said UCP house leader Jason Nixon.

"Someone who was standing there found it interesting and took a tape of it."

Nixon said the NDP government "does it all the time," and added that MLAs are aware they could be videotaped at any moment.

The UCP noted that in 2017, NDP staff took photographs of Kenney taping a video shoot outside the Federal Building. The NDP said they could identify the people standing with Kenney, and alleged that Kenney was using caucus staff to help with a partisan video. The UCP said at the time the NDP's assumptions about the shoot were wrong.

In the most recent incident involving Nolais and Gill, a spokesperson for the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly said the office is "looking into it." 

Gill has said he won't run for re-election.

On Tuesday he said he was "disgusted," found the whole experience "creepy and weird," and is worried constituents will be hesitant to visits their MLAs offices if they're afraid of being videotaped.

"The concern here is, how are we going to be able to do our jobs, to discharge our duty as an MLA, if these types of intimidation and bullying, like Trump-style tactics, are being deployed in Alberta politics now. This is the new low."

The video shows Jeremy Nolais, director of issues management for Premier Rachel Notley, after a meeting with Independent MLA Prab Gill. (Unite Alberta/Twitter)

The next Alberta election must take place before May 31. Premier Rachel Notley has not yet dropped the writ, but parties already appear to be in full campaign mode. 

Some political observers appeared dismayed at what such a video signals for the tone of political discourse in the province.

"It lends to the toxicity of our political environment and it keeps reinforcing the fact that politics is so broken, if this is the approach that we need to sink to now," said Najib Jutt, a political strategist with the government relations firm Statecraft Partners.

"I don't think this adds anything to anybody's position with an election looming."


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