EDMONTON — The staffer at the centre of a spreading scandal over Alberta’s United Conservative leadership race says party leader Jason Kenney’s team did not direct and prop up a bogus candidate to attack Kenney’s main rival.
In a letter obtained by The Canadian Press, Matt Wolf says that when he worked on Kenney’s campaign, he shared policy and research ideas with the campaign of Jeff Callaway — but Callaway was his own boss.
“To be clear, this was not a ‘puppet’-type operation,” Wolf wrote in an email to the UCP caucus Sunday morning.
“Mr. Callaway made his own decisions for his own reasons. And while communicating with the Callaway campaign was hardly my preoccupation during the leadership (race), I did, at times push things like research materials to Mr. Callaway’s team.”
Wolf also said he is not aware of anyone on Kenney’s team illicitly funding Callaway’s campaign.
Such funding would violate Alberta’s election finance laws. Alberta’s elections commissioner has already fined one UCP member for making such an illegal contribution to the Callaway campaign, and the CBC has reported that the RCMP has now taken over the funding aspect of the investigation.
“Our leadership campaign did not in any way funnel donations to the Callaway camp — an act that would clearly be in violation of the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act,” wrote Wolf, who is currently Kenney’s deputy chief of staff for the UCP caucus.
“I am very confident that even a suggestion of doing so would firmly be rejected by our campaign’s leadership team at the time, and rightly so.”
Wolf could not immediately be reached for comment on Sunday.
He wrote the letter just hours after CBC published a story and supporting documents late Saturday night detailing communications between the two campaigns.
In those documents, later obtained by The Canadian Press, Wolf is shown in emails and other exchanges giving Callaway’s organizers talking points, speech and policy advice on attacking Kenney’s main rival in the race, Brian Jean.
One piece of correspondence discussed when Callaway should drop out of the race — something he eventually did three weeks before voting day on Oct. 28, 2017, throwing his support to Kenney.
Callaway was one of three rivals for the UCP leadership. The party was created after Kenney’s Progressive Conservatives and Brian Jean’s Wildrose party voted to merge.
Jean was seen as Kenney’s main rival in the race. Kenney defeated Jean and candidate Doug Schweitzer handily, with 61 per cent of the vote. Jean garnered 32 per cent.
Callaway, who had worked with Jean in the Wildrose party, repeatedly attacked Jean during the campaign in speeches, events and media scrums, questioning his policy ideas and financial management of the Wildrose.
Callaway could not be reached for comment.
The UCP did not make Kenney available Sunday, but the party’s executive director, Janice Harrington released a statement.
It read: “Communication between leadership campaigns is perfectly normal in a preferential ballot election and was within the rules of the 2017 UCP leadership election.”
Kenney and Callaway have previously denied that their campaigns worked together, and Wolf said in his letter that while his emails may look “unflattering,” the correspondence is normal practice among rival camps in politics.
Premier Rachel Notley, in a speech to supporters on Sunday, said Kenney already showed questionable judgment recently when his staff staked out and filmed a political opponent.
“But an alleged conspiracy to torpedo an opponent’s leadership campaign takes it to a whole other level,” Notley told supporters at her Edmonton-Strathcona nomination meeting.
“Mr. Kenney owes Albertans a full accounting, not just empty denials…. Mr. Kenney has demonstrated a profound absence of integrity, and Albertans deserve better.”
Derek Fildebrandt, a former UCP legislature member now running against Kenney as the head of the new Freedom Conservative party, said in a statement the documents show Kenney’s “willingness to do or say anything to obtain power; to corrupt and abuse the grassroots democratic promise to achieve his own ends.”
The allegations come at a super-heated time in Alberta politics.
Politicians return to the legislature Monday for a throne speech to begin a new session. The session could end at any time when Premier Rachel Notley decides to call the election.
By law, the 28-day campaign and vote must be held before June 1.
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
Four Central Albertans will play key roles in the new Alberta Government!
From the Province of Alberta
Premier Kenney appoints strong team ready to lead
Alberta’s 18th Premier, Jason Kenney, and his cabinet were sworn in at Government House in Edmonton on April 30.
“Albertans gave our new government a huge democratic mandate for bold change that gets our economy back to work and stands up for this province. This is a strong team that is ready to lead, and to deliver that change starting today.”
“Many of the ministers appointed are Albertans by choice and not chance, having immigrated to this province because they saw it as a land of opportunity that they now seek to serve. Alberta’s new cabinet includes farmers, teachers, tradespeople, small business owners, lawyers, business executives, musicians, oil and gas experts, public servants and a range of other professional backgrounds. These ministers are in touch with the lives of the people they will be serving.”
“This is a young, energetic and diverse team with deep experience. With an average age of 43, most members of this cabinet are new to public service. They ran for all of the right reasons: because they want to work hard to reverse years of economic decline and stagnation, and to get our economy moving again. This is a team that will be obsessed with creating jobs, showing the world that Alberta is open for business again, and fighting for a fair deal in Canada.”
Premier Kenney and cabinet will meet for the first time immediately after the swearing-in. They will be focused on getting to work on Day One, implementing the comprehensive United Conservative agenda. Later today, Premier Kenney will be launching his strategy to stand up for Albertans, beginning with a presentation to a Senate committee, opposing the disastrous Bill C-48 – a bill unfairly targeting and discriminating against Alberta resources.
Full biographies for Alberta’s new cabinet can be found on Alberta.ca.
Premier Jason Kenney, President of Executive Council and Minister of Intergovernmental Relations
Demetrios Nicolaides, Minister of Advanced Education
Devin Dreeshen, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry
Rebecca Shulz, Minister of Children’s Services
Rajan Sawhney, Minister of Community and Social Services
Leela Aheer, Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women
Tanya Fir, Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism
Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Education
Sonya Savage, Minister of Energy
Jason Nixon, Minister of Environment and Parks
Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health
Rick Wilson, Minister of Indigenous Relations
Prasad Panda, Minister of Infrastructure
Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General
Jason Copping, Minister of Labour and Immigration
Kaycee Madu, Minister of Municipal Affairs
Josephine Pon, Minister of Seniors and Housing
Nate Glubish, Minister of Service Alberta
Ric McIver, Minister of Transportation
Travis Toews, President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance
- Jason Luan, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions
- Dale Nally, Associate Minister of Natural Gas
- Grant Hunter, Associate Minister of Red Tape
- Muhammad Yaseen, Parliamentary Secretary of Immigration
Major non-cabinet assignments
- Jason Nixon, House Leader
- Doug Schweitzer, Deputy House Leader
- Ric McIver, Deputy House Leader
- Sonya Savage, Deputy House Leader
- Mike Ellis, Whip
- Joseph Schow, Deputy Whip
These are the key people Jason Kenney will be leaning on to help him lead the province
From the United Conservative Party
Premier Designate names senior staff
Team members include:
- Jamie Huckabay, Chief of Staff to the Premier: Born and raised in Lethbridge, Jamie was Chief of Staff to the Opposition Leader and UCP Caucus. Prior to this role, Jamie was a key member for Jason Kenney’s PC Leadership Campaign leading convention operations. Jamie has considerable private and public sector experience. He was previously Director at mobile technology firm Taplytics and Vice President at Gerson Lehrman Group. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Lethbridge, Masters in International Relations and Economics from Johns Hopkins University and an MBA from Oxford University. As the Chief administrator, Jamie will oversee political operations and implementation of the Premier’s agenda and priorities.
- Howard Anglin, Principal Secretary: Howard is a lawyer who served in the former federal Conservative government as Chief of Staff to the Premier Designate in his role as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and as Deputy Chief of Staff to former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He has degrees from McGill University and New York University, worked as a lawyer in private practice at international law firms in New York, London, and Washington, DC, and was most recently a constitutional lawyer running a national legal charity in Calgary. As the administration’s most senior political advisor, Howard will provide expert advice and direction to the Premier and Executive Council.
- Katy Merrifield, Executive Director of Communication and Planning: Katy is a long-time senior political aide from British Columbia. She served a variety of roles in the BC government including Chief of Staff to the Minister of Health and Jobs, Tourism and Economic Development, culminating as the Director of Communications to former B.C. Premier Christy Clark. She is also the first woman and youngest person to win a provincial leadership campaign in BC with the successful election of Andrew Wilkinson as current Leader of the Opposition. Katy will lead and execute the agenda for political communications and policy announcements.
- Christine Myatt, Deputy Director of Communications and Press Secretary:Christine is a long-time political aide from Alberta, having served in multiple senior communications roles in previous Alberta governments and most recently as Director of Strategic Communications for the Official Opposition. As Deputy Communications Director, Christine will be the primary contact for media relations.
- David Knight Legg, Head of Transition: David moved back to Alberta last year to advise the Premier Designate’s team on trade and finance. He originally hails from Lethbridge, where he received his undergraduate degree. David also has a Masters in Public Administration from Queens University, a PhD from Yale and a law degree from Oxford University. His professional background includes McKinsey and Company, Managing Director for Europe and Asia for the Gerson Lehrman Group and Global Head of Strategy at Commonwealth Bank. As Head of Transition, David is overseeing an orderly and seamless transition into government for the incoming administration.
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