Kenney calls allegations against UCP ‘ridiculous’
As allegations against the United Conservative Party grow in number and force, leader Jason Kenney has remained steadfast he did nothing wrong.
Leaked emails between Cameron Davies, the campaign co-manager for Jeff Callaway in 2017, and Matt Wolf, a senior Kenney team member, suggest the two men were part of a coordinated effort to undermine Brian Jean’s campaign for leadership and help Kenney win the vote.
Callaway dropped out of the race in 2017 and threw his support behind Kenney.
While RCMP investigate the donations Callaway received during his run, he and Wolf have been asked to explain their exchange of strategy, written speeches and promotional material.
Kenney’s team has said the emails only illustrate normal communication.
On Monday, the party leader responded to the allegations himself: “The notion that sending press clippings and a couple of memes and talking points to a campaign is directing, I think, is ridiculous.”
Kenney said he understood Callaway would be running an “exploratory” campaign after a meeting in July 2017.
“Either I hoped to get his endorsement, or… if he continued to actual balloting, I hoped to get the lion’s share of second ballot preferences from his supporters. And so it was quite normal in that context that our two campaigns would communicate.”
The party leader also said he wasn’t briefed on the details of daily communication between the two leadership campaigns.
However, two people have alleged Kenney was directly involved: Davies and a former UCP candidate, Hardyal ‘Happy’ Mann, who both say the leader attended a meeting where the “dark horse” plan was discussed.
“We were there and this was the first meeting of our discussion about ‘kamikaze’,” Mann recalled.
“Mr. Kenney has an appetite from Day One for this type of thing.”
Whether the alleged collusion between Callaway and Kenney’s teams is illegal—or just unethical—depends on the money trail.
According to Davies, $60,000 was deposited into his account by a Calgary business and he was tasked with distributing the money to donors, who would then pledge it to Callaway. If true, the deposit would break Elections Alberta rules that mandate personal donations cannot exceed $4,000, nor can they be submitted on behalf of someone else.
“At its very best, it amounts to a very dark, backroom politics focused on thwarting democracy. At its worst, it is criminal in nature,” Premier Rachel Notley said, adding she believes Kenney’s integrity has been discredited.
On Sunday, Wolf told The Canadian Press his emails may look “unflattering” but were not part of a “puppet-type operation.”
“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.”
Mann said five other men attended the meeting with him and Kenney, among them Kenney campaign manager John Weissenberger and Shuvaloy Majumdar, who is employed by Stephen Harper’s consulting firm.
None of those preset at the meeting have responded to CTV News’ request for comment.
With files from Timm Bruch