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“Troubling allegations have been made against Naresh Bhardwaj,” Premier Jim Prentice said in a statement at the time. “While these allegations remain unproven, they must be treated seriously.”Todd Korol/The Globe and Mail

An internal investigation by Alberta's Progressive Conservative Party into allegations of bribery against a sitting MLA should be immediately turned over to police, opposition members say.

Naresh Bhardwaj resigned from cabinet last Friday after allegations surfaced that he had offered a party supporter $10,000 to help keep his seat during a nomination race in an Edmonton-area riding. At the same time he stood down, Mr. Bhardwaj filed a $1-million defamation lawsuit against his accuser.

"Troubling allegations have been made against Naresh Bhardwaj," Premier Jim Prentice said in a statement at the time. "While these allegations remain unproven, they must be treated seriously."

Members of the opposition, however, say the Premier is not taking the allegations seriously, as he has so far refused to hand off the investigation to police, preferring instead to keep the probe within his party.

"I want the government to take responsibility. It's the Premier's job as the highest office holder in the province to take action," said the NDP's Brian Mason.

"If there is a criminal allegation, then it certainly is a responsibility of the government to turn that over to the police."

The Tory party did not return requests for comment. In Question Period on Tuesday, Justice Minister Jonathan Denis said the Tories and the Alberta government "do not investigate anyone. Investigations are done independently by the police and Crown prosecution service."

However, the allegations against the former cabinet minister have not been turned over to police, and the Premier's office confirms that a party investigation is under way.

Both the Premier and Mr. Bhardwaj have referred to the allegations as potentially criminal.

Mr. Bhardwaj's troubles began in mid-February on the same day he won his nomination race in the riding of Edmonton-Ellerslie. A supporter of Mr. Bhardwaj's main opponent wrote a sworn statement directed to Mr. Prentice, saying that earlier in the month Mr. Bhardwaj had offered him $10,000 in exchange for an affidavit stating he didn't sign the opponent's nomination papers.

"I was surprised at his offer as he pretends in the community that he is a very honest and learned politician," Balbir Sidhu wrote in his statement.

Mr. Sidhu, a long-time resident of Edmonton-Ellerslie, supported Balraj Manhas during his nomination run. Mr. Manhas is the well-known president of Edmonton's association for taxi drivers. Three days before the nomination vote, the nomination candidate was called by party officials and told that there were problems with his nomination papers.

He was given the choice of immediately dropping out of the race or the party would publically announce that he was being disqualified. Despite being presented with no evidence, Mr. Manhas dropped out.

"I'm looking for answers but I'm waiting," Mr. Manhas told The Globe and Mail.

"I believe in the leadership of the PC party and I've been a member for a long time."

On Feb. 21, Mr. Bhardwaj won the nomination race and will be the Tory candidate in an expected spring election.

"The allegations are absolutely false and I'm vigorously defending against them. The matter is in front of the court, no further comments," Mr. Bhardwaj said while walking into the Alberta Legislature on Tuesday.

Questions to the Premier about the allegations were ruled out of order by Speaker Gene Zwozdesky in the legislature on Monday. According to the Speaker, the issue is an internal party matter.