The News Rundown
- The media seized on a story Friday that the RCMP is following up on the Alberta Election Commissioners investigation of a UCP leadership candidate.
- The headline from the Calgary Herald read: “RCMP following up on questions regarding campaign of UCP leadership candidate”
- More vague and misleading headlines from the CBC suggested: “RCMP take over investigation of United Conservative Party ‘irregular financial contribution’ allegations”
- The UCP leadership candidate in question is Jeff Callaway.
- Jeff Callaway was the former president of the Wildrose party, he also mounted a campaign in the 2015 election but was unsuccessful.
- He later entered the UCP leadership race.
- It is alleged (and no hard evidence has been provided) that he entered the race solely to discredit former Wildrose leader Brian Jean.
- This is not illegal.
- What is under question is those who funded Callaway’s campaign. The question is, was money improperly put forward and funnelled through people who weren’t the actual donors? This is illegal if it happened.
- Of those who charge that this happened is independent and former UCP and Progressive Conservative MLA Prab Gill and former Wildrose and UCP candidate Happy Mann.
- Prab Gill was elected to fill the seat vacated by the untimely death of the well liked Calgary Greenway MLA Manmeet Bhullar.
- Prab Gill as also removed from the UCP caucus last July amid allegations he was involved in ballot stuffing at a June 30th association meeting.
- Ballot stuffing: The act of submitting one person entering multiple ballots.
- Allowing Prab Gill to act as a source of moral authority is downright appalling.
- Prab Gill is ultimately responsible for the focus from the RCMP because he filed a complaint with the RCMP regarding the UCP leadership race.
- The RCMP may be involved because of this or the optics involved since the UCP also sent Gill a cease and desist order to stop talking about the allegations.
- Sending a cease and desist order is not illegal.
- We’ll see where this goes but we have been doing our due diligence too.
- We have been following this story for the last 3 weeks or so here at Western Context. We knew this was coming, the timing is rather odd but first…
- Let’s talk about Randy Kerr
- Randy Kerr was the candidate for Calgary-Beddington.
- Almost two weeks ago he was removed as the candidate for… questionable contributions to the Jeff Callaway campaign.
- Party executive director told Global News: “In the last 48 hours, new information has come to our attention indicating Mr. Kerr was not forthright in responding to the party’s inquiries regarding his financial contribution to the Jeff Callaway leadership campaign.”
- The ability of this party to remove a candidate when there’s only smoke and not fire has not been understated whether it’s been Randy Kerr, Prab Gill, or anyone else with a hint of questionable character.
- The election commissioner did hand out fines in relation to the Jeff Callaway campaign at the start of March.
- The election commissioner role is one that was brought forward in an NDP piece of legislation to improve democracy.
- The current election commissioner is Lorne Gibson who has been around the block before, he served as the Chief Electoral officer under Premier Ed Stelmach.
- His contract was allowed to expire by the PC government on March 3, 2009 after issuing reports and recommendations regarding election laws in Alberta.
- Many of his recommendations went against the PC government of the day.
- In 2013 his lawsuit claiming $450,000 in compensation was dismissed when the judge found his employment ended when his contract expired.
- He alleged that he had been described as “too independent” and that, “[he] questioned too much and didn’t leave things as they were.”
- He was appointed by the NDP government as election commissioner last April. His primary task was “rooting out dark money” or money related to PACs which we have talked about plenty of times before on the podcast.
- He was voted in by the standing committee of legislative offices on party lines.
- And UCP members including… Prab Gill expressed doubt about his neutrality saying he brought, “stigma and baggage”
- So if Prab Gill initially thought Lorne Gibson wasn’t qualified and may not have been a good pick, why is he fine now? Perhaps it’s that they are now both on the same side of two different conservative parties?
- Connect the dots!
- Prab Gill, the election commissioner, and the media all have a stake in seeing this go to the RCMP. Prab Gill gets to go after his former party, Lorne Gibson gets to go after a conservative party, and the media gets the spectre of a possible RCMP investigation.
- Finally, Don Braid writing for the National Post summed it up best by providing text from emails between Brian Jean and the United Conservative Party.
- Brian Jean wrote: “The UCP is poised to win a landslide election and govern for a long time if it can demonstrate that it deserves the support and trust of Albertans,” he added: “We have to accept the denials of the official Kenney campaign that Jason was not involved in any way. Believing anything else would be unthinkable.”
- Yesterday on Friday, Jason Kenney told the media: “Actually, I did raise his (Jean’s) concerns with our party president at that time. And secondly, when we started to hear reports about potentially problematic donations to another leadership campaign, I asked our staff to talk to everybody that had been on my leadership campaign, so to see if they had any information or knowledge about inappropriate donations.”
- This combined with the ejection of Randy Kerr and Prab Gill last summer shows a party that is remarkably transparent when compared to the Federal government in Ottawa on something much simpler conceptually.
- While initial stories made it seem as though it was Jason Kenney and the UCP being investigated, it is actually the Callaway campaign and money funnelled towards it that is the focus.
- The Calgary Sun also published a nice editorial on Friday entitled, “It’s business — and personal”
- It has the closing argument: “We urge Albertans to take the hysterical claims with a grain of salt, study the issues and the platforms, and make an informed choice.”
- So with that being said, take what the media says with a grain of salt.
- If there's one story in particular that's defined 2019 in BC so far, it's definitely the troubles surrounding the Coastal Gaslink natural gas pipeline in central BC. It's proposed to run from the natural gas rich area of Dawson Creek all the way to Kitimat on the coast, where it can be refined and shipped.
- The problem is that though there is an overwhelming amount of First Nation support along the route for the project, one band in particular is being very troublesome for Coastal Gaslink, the Wet'suwet'en, located south of Houston.
- I've talked about the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline a few times this year already. The battle between the Wet'suwet'en and Coastal Gaslink made international headlines in January when the First Nation set up a blockade impeding the progress of pipeline workers, and the RCMP eventually arrested blockaders.
- But the Wet'suwet'en haven't given up trying to obstruct the pipeline project. A month ago, construction ground to a halt once again, upon the apparent discovery of millenia old artifacts upon the route. At the time, two stone tools, estimated to be between 2,400 and 3,500 years old, were found according to an open letter signed by members of the Wet’suwet’en and several archeological experts, addressed to the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
- The B.C. Oil and Gas Commission received a complaint from the Wet’suwet’en First Nation on Feb 14th. In a report released to the media at that time, clan spokeswoman Freda Huson said supporters recovered two stone tools.
- Coastal Gaslink voluntarily halted construction, cordoned off the area, which was the site of a proposed work camp, and requested an investigation by the BC Oil and Gas Commission. That investigation has now found that artifacts allegedly found near the construction of the Coastal Gas Link Pipeline was not their original location.
- A report released by the Oil and Gas Commission says “the soils upon which the artifacts were found would not typically contain any such cultural artifacts and this was likely not their original location.” The report also says the artifacts referred to in the complaint as “recovered” were not present.
- The original complaint received by the OGC stated two “lithic stone tools” had been found and recovered by Wet'suwet'en supporters and additional artifacts were observed but left in place.
- After a month's delay, Coastal GasLink plans to resume work within two weeks on the affected area, which includes the site for a planned work camp.
- The pipeline project has sown deep divisions within the Wet’suwet’en Nation. The hereditary chiefs insist they control the territory outside reserves and want to halt the pipeline’s construction, pitting them against elected band councillors on reserves who support the route. Coastal GasLink has been approved by all 20 elected First Nation councils along the route.
- Three Wet’suwet’en women who support Coastal GasLink say male chiefs overstepped their bounds when they stripped away the women’s hereditary titles. The three women − including two former house chiefs and a former high-ranking hereditary chief − founded the Wet’suwet’en Matrilineal Coalition in 2015, hoping the group would help bridge the wide gap between elected band councillors and hereditary chiefs.
- The 670-kilometre pipeline would transport natural gas from northeast B.C. to Kitimat on the West Coast, where Royal Dutch Shell PLC-led LNG Canada has started building an $18-billion terminal that will export liquefied natural gas to Asia. An estimated 28 per cent of the B.C. pipeline route would cross into the Wet’suwet’en’s traditional territory.
- If the pipeline is continually delayed, it may run the risk of being cancelled, which could have untold economic impact on small communities in northern BC that rely on the resource sector to stay alive.
- Quiet in all of this is John Horgan's NDP government. After being silent on natural resources for so long now, one has to wonder if Horgan would prefer that this pipeline get turfed as well, like the Trans Mountain expansion and Northern Gateway.
- The Safe Third Country agreement is no longer working as intended.
- Reminder: Safe Third Country Agreement with the US
- Memos and briefings obtained by Global News suggest that for a meeting planned on January 18, 2018 but later cancelled with US Homeland Security Security Kirstjen Nielsen cited the Safe Third Country Agreement as a key issue.
- The memo addressed to Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen also wanted to create a new steering group to address “immigration issues”
- Later in July 2018, former Toronto police Chief Bill Blair was made Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction.
- From the memo: “With the recent influx of asylum seekers to Canada, the Safe Third Country Agreement is no longer working as intended… Asylum seekers are evading the Canada-United States Safe Third Country Agreement by crossing into Canada between ports of entry where the agreement does not apply. This has brought to our attention gaps that may be creating a pull factor for people to cross illegally into Canada.”
- This goes back to episode 12 of the podcast when we first started discussing the issue at the border.
- Months after the briefing note and memo were delivered, Hussen was quoted as calling the Safe Third Country Agreement a “great tool” and an “amazing experience”
- The idea for the minister was to “[develop] a bilateral structure at the senior level, for our ongoing engagement on these issues.”
- They also wanted to formulate a plan that would work with the Department of Homeland Security and that would be agreed upon by both sides.
- From the documents it’s unknown if the Safe Third Country Agreement was to actually be discussed.
- In the fall of 2018, responsibility for the Safe Third Country Agreement was transferred to Border Security Minister Bill Blair.
- It has been said that Blair sent a letter to the US Secretary of Homeland Security but he has not said publicly if he feels the deal is working.
- When asked for comment by the media, Bill Blair’s press secretary replied, “Minister Blair is in discussion with his U.S. counterparts to address the loophole that permits people to avoid the provisions in the STCA and improve the way the ‘anchor relative exception’ is defined and applied.”
- Since January of 2017 and Justin Trudeau’s Welcome to Canada Tweet, 41,708 people have been apprehended by the RCMP for attempting to enter Canada between ports of entry.
- Early data provided by the Parliamentary Budget Officer pegs the price per entrant between $10,000 and $34,000. Doing the math this gives us a price range between $417,080,000 AND $1,418,072,000 to the Canadian taxpayer.
- In the past media has vilified town hall goers who ask the Prime Minister about this file or opposition attempts to ask questions about the Safe Third Country Agreement.
- We’ve also seen media columnists outright criticize Canadians for thinking it might be a problem. We have the information now, the memos say it is.
- When the Trudeau government paid Omar Khadr a settlement of $10.5M to avoid a battle in the court system, they helped Khadr avoid a second court battle as well.
- Khadr, a Canadian whose father had ties to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban was in Afghanistan during the aftermath of 9/11. In the early morning of July 27, 2002, a team made up of the 19th Special Forces Group, the 505th Infantry Regiment and about twenty Afghan fighters associated with Pacha Khan Zadran, were sent to a house on a reconnaissance mission.
- While at the house, a report came in that a monitored satellite phone had recently been used within 300–600 metres of the unit's location,and seven soldiers were sent to investigate the origin of the call.
- Led by Major Randy Watt, the group included XO Captain Mike Silver, Sgt Christopher Speer, Layne Morris and Master Sgt. Scotty Hansen, the last three from the 19th Special Forces Group; Spc. Christopher J. Vedvick from the 505th, and his fire team.
- The team saw 5 men inside with AK47s nearby, and so decided to wait for backup. When local Afghan militia were sent to get the people inside to surrender to an investigation, a firefight ensued. At least one woman and a child fled the huts, while the remaining occupants began throwing grenades at the American and Afghan troops, paired with intermittent rifle fire.
- During this, Omar Khadr threw a grenade that killed Sgt Christopher Speer and injured Layne Morris, permanently blinding him. Khadr survived the helicopter bombing of the compound afterward, and was taken into American custody. He was later transferred to Guantanamo.
- The family of Christopher Speer and Layne Morris filed a civil suit against the estate of Ahmed Khadr, claiming that the father's failure to control his son resulted in the loss of Speer's life and Morris's right eye. In 2014, Layne Morris and Tabitha Speer filed a wrongful death and injury lawsuit against Khadr. In 2015, a Utah judge granted them a $134 million default judgment after Khadr did not respond to the suit. In 2017, Morris and Speer filed an application to make the judgment enforceable in Canada, which has not yet been heard.
- In case the court case ever had to be settled, Khadr would probably prefer to not have any of the $10.5M on hand. Khadr has started spending the settlement, using $3 million to buy a strip mall in Edmonton last November.
- Documents related to the sale show the 9,150 sq. ft. commercial property was purchased with a cash lump sum on Nov. 29, 2018 by a numbered company, 2156536 Alberta Ltd., which lists Khadr as a director. The five-unit strip mall has an assessed value of just over $1.5 million, the documents show, and was last sold in 2009 for $850,000. Through his lawyer Nate Whitling, Khadr declined to comment about the purchase.
- The Rebel originally uncovered the story, which was posted on March 10th. The National Post, among others picked up the story a day later. The National Post said that it "obtained the documents Friday after receiving a tip from a source earlier that day. On Sunday, conservative media outlet The Rebel published a post about Khadr’s purchase."
- So this begs the question, why did the National Post sit on the story all weekend? Why did they only publish after The Rebel did all their work for them? And why did no other mainstream outlet report on Khadr trying to hide his money away in case of a future lawsuit?
Word of the Week
Fraud - wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Unearthing Fraud
Teaser: The RCMP investigates UCP leadership candidate Jeff Callaway, planted artifacts delay a BC natural gas pipeline, and a government memo reveals the failure of the Safe Third Country agreement. Also, Omar Khadr hides his money in an Edmonton strip mall.
Recorded Date: March 16, 2019
Release Date: March 17, 2019
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes