Independent MLA attacks UCP over 'crooked and racist' nominations

Independent MLA Prab Gill has launched a scathing broadside against his former party, alleging United Conservative Party nominations are “crooked and racist" and that an investigation into whether he was involved in ballot-stuffing was "a sham."

Prab Gill left the UCP caucus in July following an investigation into ballot-stuffing

Prab Gill was first elected to the legislative assembly in 2016. (Rachel Maclean/CBC)

Independent MLA Prab Gill has launched a scathing broadside against his former party, alleging United Conservative Party nominations are "crooked and racist" and that an investigation into whether he was involved in ballot-stuffing was "a sham."

The attack came in remarks to the legislature Tuesday,  with Gill accusing the UCP of interfering with nominations to get the results the party wants and threatening to drive him into bankruptcy.

"The grassroot UCP members have seen dozens of nomination races meddled with by the backroom party elite interested in installing yes-men, who will never object to the party leader, and not the candidate who has the real support of Albertans," the Calgary-Greenway MLA said.

Gill's current constituency was redrawn in last year's boundary commission report and he had been looking for a new riding to run in. Long-term conservative organizer Alan Hallman told him that Kenney wanted him "to stick to ethnically Indian areas in Calgary and that they would not interfere in my nomination if I did so," Gill said.

Gill left the party in July after the party investigated allegations of ballot-stuffing at the founding meeting for the UCP constituency association in the new Calgary-North East riding. The probe was conducted by a retired judge but the results were not released to the public.

At the time, Gill said he accepted the findings of what he called a "fair, independent process."

But on Tuesday, he called the investigation "flawed" and "a sham." He said the investigator accepted the account of his accuser and didn't interview other relevant witnesses.

"After the sham of investigation, I was told in no uncertain terms that my political career was done," Gill told the legislature.  "And it was suggested to me that if I continue to fight to defend my name, the party would use its massive financial resources to bankrupt me in court.

"This was happening at a complicated time in my personal life. If I did not resign my position in caucus, I would be kicked out. I decided to go quietly and not risk disruption to my life and debt of my friends and family. In doing so, I left the impression that I had done something wrong."

The UCP is dismissing Gill's allegations.

"Mr. Gill's accusations are without merit and the circumstances of his departure from the UCP caucus are well known and were well reported," UCP spokesman Matt Solberg said in a written statement, noting Gill's prior comments saying the investigation was fair.

"It's clear that this is a situation of sour grapes."

Point of privilege

Last week, Gill raised a point of order in the legislature arguing inappropriate comments were made in an exchange during question period with Municipal Affairs Minister Shaye Anderson.

Gill had asked if the premier would withdraw legislation that he said would create more political action committees, or PACs, in municipal politics.

"This is rich, about ethics, coming from this member, Mr. Speaker," Anderson responded.

 Anderson's remarks were defended by government house leader Brian Mason when submissions were made on the point of order. 

Speaker Bob Wanner agreed with Gill about the comments. But Gill raised the issue again Tuesday as a point of privilege because Anderson and Mason never apologized or withdrew their remarks.

MLAs can raise a point of privilege when they feel their rights in the assembly have been violated.

Gill said he wanted his side of the story in Alberta Hansard.

"Being accused of stuffing a ballot box is such an affront to a democracy, such a corrupt act that impairs my ability to conduct my business as an MLA," he said.

Wanner said Tuesday he would take some time to rule on the point of privilege.

Gill was first elected to the legislative assembly in the 2016 byelection to fill the seat formerly held by Progressive Conservative MLA Manmeet Bhullar. 

Bhullar was killed in November 2015 when he was struck by a vehicle after stopping to help a motorist on Highway 2. 

Gill became a member of the UCP when the Progressive Conservative Party he belonged to merged with the Wildrose in 2017 to create the new conservative party.