Alberta justice minister to 'step back' from duties during conduct review after traffic ticket: Kenney
Premier Jason Kenney has asked Alberta's justice minister to "step back" from his ministerial duties until an independent review into his conduct following a distracted-driving ticket he received in 2021 is completed.
Alberta Justice Minister Kaycee Madu called Edmonton's police chief to discuss a distracted-driving ticket he received, the Edmonton Police Service confirmed to CTV News.
Madu, the MLA for Edmonton-South West, was pulled over and fined on March 10, 2021, police said.
"Minister Madu had concerns about the context of the traffic stop," EPS spokesperson Cheryl Sheppard told CTV News in an email.
Sheppard added Madu did not ask Chief Dale McFee to rescind the ticket.
"The ticket remains valid and was issued correctly."
'I REGRET RAISING THE ISSUE'
In a statement, Madu said he was pulled over after leaving his home and that he ultimately regrets calling the police chief after the ticket had been issued.
"The officer indicated that he had observed me driving while distracted, alleging that I was on my phone," the justice minister said. "I disagreed, stating that I was not on my phone, as it was in an inside pocket.
"Later, I spoke to Chief Dale McFee," Madu added. "Due to the timing of the incident, I wanted to ensure that I was not being unlawfully surveilled following the controversy surrounding the Lethbridge Police Service. I also raised concerns around profiling of racial minorities that was in the media at the time."
At that time, a review into Lethbridge police conduct in 2017 was being prepared after reports of unlawful surveillance of NDP MLA Shannon Phillips, the then environment minister.
According to Madu, McFee assured him that this was "most definitely" not the case.
"To be abundantly clear, at no point did I request that the ticket be rescinded. I would never do that," Madu said.
"However, in that particular call, I regret raising the issue at all with the Chief McFee," he added. "I paid the ticket fully and promptly. I have the utmost respect for our men and women in uniform, and for the invaluable, often thankless role they perform."
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Kenney announced the independent investigation and that Madu would be stepping away from his ministerial duties on Twitter Monday evening.
The premier said he spoke with Madu and conveyed his "profound disappointment" over contacting the police chief after being issued the ticket.
"Minister Madu told me that he did not ask to have the ticket rescinded, nor was it his intention to interfere in the case, and that he promptly paid the ticket," Kenney said. "Nevertheless, it's essential the independent administration of justice is maintained.
"That's why I will appoint a respected independent investigator to review the relevant facts and to determine whether there was interference in the administration of justice in this case."
Energy Minister Sonya Savage will act as the justice minister and solicitor general during Madu's leave of absence, Kenney said.
"Details about the independent review will be made public in the near future," he added.
The Alberta NDP called on Madu to resign.
"It is wholly unacceptable for the Attorney General to engage with senior law enforcement regarding a penalty levied against him," MLA Irfan Sabir said in a news release from the party.
“Regular Alberta drivers do not have the ability to call their local police chief and discuss traffic tickets. Madu used his position as minister to initiate this conversation, and regardless of whether he asked the chief to cancel the ticket, it is political interference for him to have discussed it all."
Duane Bratt, a political scientist in Calgary, also said Madu should lose his job.
"You cannot have ministers of the crown, let alone the justice minister, calling judges and police chiefs about active cases especially active cases they are personally involved in," he said. "It should be an automatic case."
"There is a very long precedent in Canada that if you call a judge or police chief on an active case you have to step down."
Madu, who previously served as minister of municipal affairs, was named justice minister in August 2020.
"I don't know how you come back on this," said Bratt. "There's a higher threshold for being minister of justice."
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