There have been allegations for months that Jeff Callaway was a “kamikaze candidate” who only ran to hurt Brian Jean’s campaign.
Gavin Young / Postmedia
Lorne Gibson, Alberta’s election commissioner, says he welcomes court appeals of big fines arising from the UCP leadership contest.Gibson recently fined former UCP operative Cameron Davies a total of $15,000 on a charge of obstructing a commission investigation.Then a donor named Karen Brown got a $3,500 fine for using funds provided by another person to donate to Jeff Callaway’s campaign.Gibson says appeals will help clarify his new role and the relevant legislation. “I would always welcome the input of a judge to review the process we go through.”But in these politically explosive cases, appeals are also the only way the public will ever get the details.Gibson says that once an appeal goes before a judge, “I’d effectively be released from my non-disclosure requirement. “If a judge wants to review the decision I’ve made, and whether I followed proper procedure, whether it’s a correct decision, a lot more information can be brought out, both what the plaintiff brings forward and what the defence is requesting.”Davies intends to appeal. Dale Fedorchuk, his lawyer, says documents are being prepared and will be filed next week.Related Fedorchuk says he isn’t worried about the facts spilling out.“We realize that and we’re prepared for it,” he says. “My client says he didn’t obstruct anything.”The public certainly has a high interest in what’s going on here. There have been allegations for months that Callaway was a “kamikaze candidate” who only ran to hurt Brian Jean’s campaign and help Jason Kenney, the eventual winner by a 2-1 margin.The suspicion is that select people were given money to donate to Calloway so he could pay the $57,000 entry fee.All the donors had to stay below the $4,000 maximum, so the job was spread around quite widely.Where that money would have come from, we still don’t know. Anyone responsible might be hoping we never do.Equally guilty under the law is the person who provides the original money; the one who passes it along as a donation; and the candidate who ultimately gets it.This business is a political centipede with a lot of shoes left to drop — although Gibson, bound by law, can’t say if he’s investigating further.One thing that does bring the hammer down hard, though, is any hint of obstructing a commission investigation. That charge got Davies two fines of $7,500 each. The controversy has certainly hurt Kenney and the UCP. The NDP trumpets the details almost daily. Most people, including UCP members, don’t want big money thrown around for sneaky political purposes.
UCP leadership candidates from left: Jason Kenney, Doug Schweitzer, Brian Jean and Jeff Callaway during a leadership debate on Sept. 20, 2017.
But the odd fact is that the suspected playbook — Callaway entering the race to hurt Jean and help Kenney — is not against any law.“The regulations apply for contributions, but in terms of a voting process for a nomination or leadership contest, these things are not regulated because they’re considered internal party matters,” Gibson says.Candidate alliances aren’t unknown in leadership contests. Federally and in the provinces, politicians will often run to show the flag, fully intending to throw support to someone else, usually for political advantage.But improper donations are another matter. If tainted fundraising fosters an alliance, is there a question about the validity of the UCP outcome?The one person who might be tempted to wonder — and eventually do something — is Brian Jean.He has reportedly been seething since Kenney said every leadership campaign used Virtual Private Network (or VPN) services to harvest votes. Jean insisted that’s false.Jean was annoyed again when Kenney’s camp noted that Davies, now decommissioned by the UCP, used to work for Wildrose when he was leader.Jean is unlikely to erupt, though. With an election near, few conservatives want a civil war that would threaten UCP chances.After the voting, though, this party is unlikely to be a palace of harmony.Don Braid’s column appears regularly in the Herald.email@example.comTwitter: @DonBraidFacebook: Don Braid Politics