'I respect the Premier's direction,' Madu says, facing calls to resign from all directions
Kaycee Madu still listed his job as Minister of Justice and Solicitor General on his Twitter biography Tuesday afternoon, despite being asked to "step back" a day earlier by Premier Jason Kenney.
Madu admitted Monday that he called Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee after he received a distracted driving ticket last March.
The Edmonton-South West MLA insisted he did not ask McFee to kill the ticket, but Madu said in a statement he now regrets "raising the issue at all."
“This demonstrates a level of arrogance and entitlement that is unbecoming of an elected official,” a UCP MLA, who asked not be named for fear of revenge, told CTV News Edmonton Tuesday. “I think he should resign from that position.”
That call was echoed by the NDP and a political scientist, and an independent MLA asked why Madu hasn't been fired yet.
"He cannot sit in cabinet without a portfolio, and stepping back is not the same as stepping down. He must resign," NDP Justice Critic Irfan Sabir demanded.
"You can't have ministers of the crown, let alone the justice minister, calling judges or police chiefs about active cases, especially not active cases that they are personally involved in," Mount Royal professor Duane Bratt explained.
“Over the past year, Premier Kenney has repeatedly punished both Ministers and MLAs for daring to question his leadership, but when a real case of misuse of power comes along concerning one of his handpicked cronies, the fix is in. That’s not justice; that’s cronyism,” former UCP MLA Drew Barnes said.
Barnes and Todd Loewen were both booted from the UCP for criticizing Kenney.
The premier has named MLA Sonya Savage as acting justice minister while Madu takes a "leave of absence."
"I conveyed to him my profound disappointment in his decision to contact the Edmonton Police Chief after receiving a ticket for a traffic violation," Kenney tweeted Monday night, after the story broke.
"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."
Meanwhile, several sources tell CTV News that senior staff within the premier’s office knew about Madu’s call to the chief within days of it happening, and that the incident was discussed among several cabinet members.
The premier’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
'CONCERNS AROUND PROFILING OF RACIAL MINORITIES'
Madu also has not taken questions from journalists, but he did publicly accept Kenney's decision in a statement issued late Tuesday.
"I am one that always hold myself accountable for my actions. I respect the Premier's direction for me to take a temporary leave of absence pending the outcome of the independent investigation," he wrote on social media, also offering a more detailed explanation his call to McFee.
On Monday, Madu said he called Edmonton's police chief to ensure he was not being unlawfully surveilled "following the controversy surrounding the Lethbridge Police Service" and given he had "raised concerns around profiling of racial minorities that was in the media at the time."
On Tuesday, Madu added that on March 10 when he was ticketed, he was on his way to a news conference at the legislature to speak about the Lethbridge Police Service.
He said he wanted to share the experience of being pulled over with McFee because of the timing and his public comments about racial profiling.
"I...wanted the Chief to hear about my own experience. As Minister, these are concerns that were constantly being brought to my attention," Madu wrote on Tuesday.
"That said, with hindsight now I can see how that may be perceived. There is a saying that perception is everything in politics, and I regret raising the issue at all with Chief McFee."
He reiterated he did not ask for the ticket to be rescinded, which McFee has confirmed.
A former Alberta justice minister said Kenney did the right thing removing Madu temporarily.
"In Canada, politicians don't direct police. They don't direct judges. And they also don't direct prosecutions. So just the perception of it all is what is what is really at the crux of the matter here," said Jonathan Denis, who served in the position from 2012-15.
Denis resigned in 2015, amid his own controversy. He was later cleared of any wrongdoing in court.
"I'd err on the side of caution that you don't want to make a knee jerk reaction or get into a trial by media situation. Let's find out what happened in the investigation then decide what's appropriate."
The revelation involving Madu comes just weeks before the justice ministry is set to eliminate Alberta's traffic court. Starting on Feb. 1, anyone hoping to challenge a ticket will have to pay as much as $150 and go through an online process.
"Meanwhile, the justice minister can just call up the police chief and complain about his ticket," Bratt said, echoing comments from Albertans.
“It is particularly galling that this Minister is currently overseeing changes that will deny procedural fairness for thousands of Albertans when they face similar traffic fines,” Barnes said.
Kenney said the findings of the internal review will be made public, "in the near future."
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Chelan Skulski and The Canadian Press
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