A construction worker has been sentenced to four months in jail - to be served on weekends - for threatening Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach, a Provincial Court ruled yesterday.
Ronald Labelle, 57, was convicted in March of 31 threats and weapons offences in connection with a call he made to the Premier's office last September announcing his plan to dig up Mr. Stelmach's farm, hurt him and kill his cattle.
"Politicians must be able to serve the public without the fear of harm," Provincial Court Judge Fern LeReverend said yesterday.
Deterrence and denunciation in this case is so pressing that incarceration is the only reasonable sentence, she said, adding that no evidence was presented to suggest Mr. Labelle didn't intend to actually carry out his threats of violence.
Mr. Labelle, who asked the court to allow him to spend weekends in jail in order to keep his pipefitting job, will spend only three months in custody in light of time already served.
He has also been sentenced to two years probation and is banned from owning firearms for 10 years.
Police seized nine rifles and five shotguns - none of them were registered or licensed - from Mr. Labelle's home.
The maximum sentence in this case could have been five years in prison.
Mr. Labelle pleaded not guilty to the charges and did not testify during the trial.
But yesterday he issued a defiant, detailed statement on the social networking site Facebook to address the three convictions for uttering threats.
He said his comment about digging up the farm was meant in reference to Alberta's practice of sending some raw bitumen to the United States for refining instead of keeping the work at home.
He said that shooting the cows was in reference to all the livelihoods being lost in Alberta due to Mr. Stelmach's economic policies on labour and the environment.
He also said the "death threat" was "completely fabricated" by the Premier's office in order to invoke fears of terrorism.
"I said, 'Somebody should pop him right in the nose,' " Mr. Labelle wrote.
He was also contrite.
"I apologize to Ed Stelmach and his family if my phone call on September 7, 2007 caused any undue stress or hardship on them. I understand from watching the news that he and his family were 'shaken' by the statements listed above and for that, I am sorry," he wrote.
His son told reporters outside the court that the sentence is too harsh.
Crown prosecutor Shane Parker argued yesterday for a jail term of three to four months followed by three years probation.
He described Mr. Labelle as a man who "seems to lash out" by using, or purporting to use, a firearm, when he drinks alcohol and is stressed.
Mr. Parker also noted Mr. Labelle's conviction in 1986 for pointing a firearm and his 1989 conviction for uttering threats against his former wife.
In both instances, he was sentenced to one day in jail and 18 months probation.
Defence lawyer Chris Zilinski suggested a conditional sentence of six months followed by up to 18 months probation would have been more appropriate.
"He has kept his nose clean since this incident," he told the Edmonton courtroom yesterday.
Mr. Stelmach has remained unfazed by the affair, almost unaware of the ongoing court proceedings.
He told reporters yesterday in Calgary he wouldn't comment on what he considered a fit sentence.
"It's up to the judge - he heard the evidence," he said.
The judge in the case, he failed to notice, was a woman.
Judge LeReverend also referred to the 2004 case in Calgary when a man was sentenced to 30 days in jail after hitting former premier Ralph Klein in the face with a banana cream pie, but described that attack as one of "humiliation, not fear."