The United Conservative Party is threatening to file a defamation lawsuit against a former caucus member over a letter he sent to the RCMP alleging irregularities in Jason Kenney’s leadership victory.
Prab Gill, who left the UCP caucus last summer following an internal party investigation into ballot stuffing, has alleged Mr. Kenney’s leadership team used fraudulent e-mails during the leadership vote. He outlined those allegations last month in a letter to the Mounties.
Mr. Kenney has dismissed the allegations as desperate “conspiracy theories” from someone who holds a grudge against the party. On Wednesday, Mr. Kenney noted that an internal investigation, conducted by a former judge, concluded Mr. Gill had engaged in ballot stuffing during a constituency board election in Calgary.
“He has made what we consider to be defamatory allegations against our entire party and we’re just not going to allow that to happen with impunity,” Mr. Kenney told a campaign event in Edmonton.
The UCP Leader unequivocally denied the allegations and invited Mr. Gill to produce any evidence he has under oath if the defamation case goes to court.
Mr. Kenney said he has been on the receiving end of all sorts of criticism during his political career but this was the first time he had threatened a defamation lawsuit.
“I just think this crossed every red line," he said.
The letter to Mr. Gill from lawyer Steven Dollansky, dated Feb. 25, reproduces Mr. Gill’s correspondence to the RCMP, in which he claimed Mr. Kenney’s campaign in the 2017 leadership race registered fake e-mail addresses that were used in the vote.
Mr. Dollansky writes that the allegations have significantly damaged the reputations of Mr. Kenney and the party, and he demands that Mr. Gill issue a retraction and apology within three business days. That deadline has come and gone.
“While we understand that you are disappointed in the fact that you were not permitted to seek a UCP nomination in the upcoming election, that does not justify this sort of malicious, irresponsible and outrageous conduct," says the letter, which was released by both the UCP and Mr. Gill.
Mr. Gill said he’s prepared to fight a defamation lawsuit, insisting he had a responsibility as an MLA to share the allegations with the RCMP. “You can’t just say it’s sour grapes," he said in an interview.
The RCMP declined to comment.
Mr. Gill has had a fractious relationship with the UCP since his departure. He has criticized Mr. Kenney and the party in the media, which typically prompts Mr. Kenney to bring up the ballot-stuffing case.
Earlier this week, the UCP posted a video online that showed Mr. Gill and an adviser to Premier Rachel Notley leaving a recent meeting in Edmonton, with a caption that suggested Mr. Gill may be aligning himself with the New Democrats. Mr. Gill said he was raising concerns about school funding in his riding.
“I don’t know why they’re sending me these letters, I don’t know why they are videotaping me,” Mr. Gill said.
The governing New Democrats have amplified Mr. Gill’s allegations, sending out a news release last month that highlighted Mr. Gill’s letter to the RCMP and calling on Mr. Kenney to address the allegations.
The provincial election campaign could begin at any time. The vote must be held by May 31.