The RCMP in Alberta confirmed Friday that it is looking into allegations involving donations to former United Conservative Party leadership candidate Jeff Callaway.
The involvement of the RCMP comes ahead of a provincial election campaign that could begin as soon as next week and marks the latest cloud to hang over Mr. Callaway’s bid for the UCP leadership. The governing New Democrats quickly attempted to link the investigation to UCP Leader Jason Kenney, who has repeatedly denied any connection to Mr. Callaway’s campaign and maintained the case has nothing to do with him.
RCMP spokesman Fraser Logan said the force is aware of an anonymous complaint that was initially sent to the province’s election commissioner.
“We are aware of those allegations and we are looking into the information that was provided to us," he said, declining to elaborate.
An anonymous letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Globe and Mail, was sent to the province’s election commissioner last fall questioning the source of some of Mr. Callaway’s donations.
Two people connected to Mr. Callaway’s campaign have since been fined by the election commissioner − one for donating someone else’s money and another for obstructing an investigation − and several donors said they have been approached by investigators and asked to provide evidence of where they got the money they donated.
Mr. Callaway, an investment adviser, has not responded to repeated phone and e-mail requests for comment. He was not at his office in downtown Calgary on Friday and a receptionist said she did not expect him in.
Mr. Callaway’s campaign has been under increasing scrutiny since late last year, when an audio recording surfaced in which UCP insiders appeared to discuss Mr. Callaway running a “kamikaze” campaign in which he would attack rival candidate Brian Jean so Mr. Kenney would not have to. Mr. Callaway did spend much of his campaign attacking Mr. Jean, former leader of the now-defunct Wildrose party, before dropping out and endorsing Mr. Kenney.
Mr. Kenney and Mr. Callaway have both denied such collaboration.
On Friday, Mr. Kenney said neither he nor the party have been contacted by either the election commissioner or the RCMP. He repeated his denial that he or his leadership team had any involvement with Mr. Callaway’s campaign
“This is not about our campaign, this is about someone else’s leadership campaign from 18 months ago," Mr. Kenney told an event in Edmonton on Friday.
He said the party will co-operate with any investigation if asked. He noted that the party had already passed along information on its own about a donation to Mr. Callaway from Randy Kerr, a UCP candidate who was dumped by the party last week.
Premier Rachel Notley said Mr. Kenney’s responses were not good enough.
“I think that we need to have Mr. Kenney come clean on all the different elements of this," she told reporters Friday after a speech in Calgary.
"The people of Alberta deserve no less,”
The election commissioner’s office declined to comment on the Callaway case, citing a policy not to publicly comment on investigations or even confirm their existence.
Earlier this month, the election commissioner issued a pair of fines totalling $15,000 to Mr. Callaway’s campaign manager, Cameron Davies, for obstructing an investigation. Through a lawyer, he has denied wrongdoing and is considering an appeal. The commissioner also fined Karen Brown, one of Mr. Callaway’s donors, $3,500 for contributing “funds given or furnished by another person.” She declined to comment when reached Friday.
Last week, the UCP issued a statement that said the party was removing Mr. Kerr as a candidate in a Calgary riding because he “was not forthright in responding to the party’s inquiries regarding his financial contribution to the Jeff Callaway leadership campaign." Mr. Kerr has not responded to requests for comment.
MLA Prab Gill, a former UCP caucus member who now sits as an Independent, also sent the RCMP a letter alleging that Mr. Kenney’s team used fraudulent e-mails during the leadership vote and said an officer interviewed him in response to his complaint. Mr. Kenney responded by threatening last week to sue Mr. Gill for defamation.
With a report from The Canadian Press