Leaked documents suggest coordination between Kenney, Callaway teams
A senior Jason Kenney campaign manager coordinated with a “dark horse” candidate in the 2017 United Conservative Party leadership contest to help Kenney take the party reins, leaked documents suggest.
In a timeline of events submitted to the Office of the Election Commissioner—obtained by CTV News in a cache of other communications materials—it’s implied that a senior Kenney staffer asked Jeff Callaway to run in the UCP leadership race as “a dark horse candidate.”
Emails between Callaway’s co-manager Cameron Davies and senior Kenney staffer Matt Wolf, among others, show the two sides appearing to work together in an effort to have Kenney beat 2017 candidate Brian Jean.
Many of the documents are direct emails between Davies and Wolf, who is Kenney’s current deputy chief of staff.
Other leaked files include speech and promotion materials, event tickets and notes on Jean’s comments to media and government.
Callaway’s campaign co-manager ‘coordinated’ with the Kenney leadership team
Davies alleges Kenney, John Wiesenberger, Happy Mann, Brad Tennant and several unknown others met at Callaway’s home, where they discussed Callaway running in the spot.
Davies would co-manage Callaway’s campaign for UCP leadership that year.
Nearly three weeks ago, he was fined $15,000 by the election commissioner for allegedly obstructing the office’s investigation into illegal campaign funding. Davies’ lawyer, Dale Fedorchuck, told CTV News he “terminated his file” with Davies Sunday morning.
While Davies says in the leaked document that he was not aware of any funding agreements between Callaway and Kenney, he defines his role on the Callaway campaign as having to “coordinate the communications with the Kenney Team.”
He called Randy Kerr a “primary conduit.”
Kerr was fired as the UCP candidate for Calgary-Beddington at the beginning of March after he was “not forthright in responding to the Party’s inquiries regarding his financial contribution to the Jeff Callaway Leadership Campaign,” the party said.
An August 2017 email from Davies to Matt Wolf, who is now Kenney’s deputy chief of staff, outlines themes for the weeks of Aug. 14, 23 and Sept. 1: “seeds of doubt,” consistency, and trust.
Davies then wrote to Wolf:
“Jeff Drops (although depending when debates are you may have other ideas?)
“By this time we hope Jean has attacked Jeff, lost his cool in a debate or two, gone off script to the media so we can release a series of ‘Screamin’ Jean’ sound cloud files in which he is screaming at the EC.”
The email lists “temperament” as the theme for Sep. 15.
In a later August 2017 email that contains a copy of a speech, Wolf writes to Davies, “Just some ideas of a rough narrative. Imagine it’s best to keep remarks short, and spend most of the afforded time taking questions. MW.”
The alleged ‘kamikaze’ campaign
In October 2017, Callaway pulled out of the UCP leadership contest and threw his support behind Kenney.
Both Callaway and Kenney have denied any collusion in a “kamikaze” campaign.
On Friday, the party leader said “there were interviews done with everybody who had been on my leadership campaign and the answers came back: there was no awareness, knowledge, participation of any kind.”
In a statement to CTV News on Sunday, the party’s executive director, Janice Harrington, said “communication between leadership campaigns is perfectly normal in a preferential ballot election and was within the rules of the 2017 UCP Leadership Election.”
However, NDP Minister of Health Sarah Hoffman said on Sunday she’s doubtful Kenney had no involvement in the allegations.
“Somebody who’s running against me for something has never said, ‘Hey, this should be our strategy for this speech.’ ‘Hey, maybe we should talk about timing of when you’re going to be dropping out of this race.’”
Hoffman added the newly revealed files have left her disturbed.
“These kinds of things do belong on Netflix. They belong on House of Cards. They don’t belong in the Alberta legislature.”
According to Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt, the latest information demonstrates “clearly unethical behaviour.”
“If you’re willing to recruit a candidate, write their speeches, develop a timeline, receive the audience tickets in return, would you not also take that one extra step and fund it?” he asked.
“It shines a light on the sort of leadership and tactics Kenney would use,” Bratt said. “What would he do if he was in power? What does it say about character and trust and honesty?”
Hoffman called on the United Conservatives to reveal the truth: “I think Mr. Kenney really has to come clean about the donations, come clean about their direct involvement in Callaway’s campaign and come clean with the Alberta public about just how far he will go to try to take power back in this province.”
RCMP are investigating allegations Callaway received improper donations during the 2017 leadership race and said that more information would be made available if criminal charges were laid.
On Sunday, Derek Fildebrandt also claimed he knew about the plan.
Fildebrandt told CTV News Kenney was directly involved and asked Fildebrandt himself to run before turning to Callaway.
“He most certainly asked Jeff to when I said no,” Fildebrant said.
Premier Rachel Notley officially announced her running for reelection in Edmonton-Strathcona on Sunday. At the nomination meeting, she said she wouldn't let UCP scandal define when she calls the election.
"If I were to have my calendar driven by the timelines around RCMP investigations into conservative wrongdoing, then we'd never have an election. So we're going to carry forward so Albertans have a chance to vote this spring."
The legislature is back in session on Monday, beginning with the speech from the throne.
With files from Timm Bruch