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EDMONTON—The day the newly elected cabinet of the Alberta government was sworn in, New Democrat Party (NDP) leader Rachel Notley and one of her Calgary MLAs sent a letter to the RCMP demanding an investigation into Premier Danielle Smith.
The letter, dated June 20, is addressed to RCMP K Division and uses a report from Alberta Ethics Commissioner Margaret Trussler as the basis for suggesting that the newly reelected premier made an “improper attempt to influence the independence of the legal system.”
The NDP letter suggests that the ethics commissioner “has done significant work in investigating this serious matter,” but states her report and the scope of her investigation are limited to the Conflict of Interest Act.
“In short, it’s clearly shown by Commissioner Trussler[‘s] report that Premier Danielle Smith in fact attempted to interfere with the administration of justice to help [Artur] Pawlowski with his criminal charges,” said the letter.
“We also know that she threatened journalists over coverage of this matter and even served legal notice to sue to one news outlet,” says the NDP letter, signed by Notley and Calgary MLA Irfan Sabir.
The RCMP did not respond by press time to an inquiry by The Epoch Times as to whether they will launch an investigation.
During the June 20 first sitting of the Legislature’s 31st Session, the first one held since the May 29 election, and just before the premier put forward a nomination for deputy speaker, Smith said she wanted to address the ethics commissioner’s report from May.
“Although I had no ill intent, the Ethics Commissioner found it was improper for me to contact the Minister of Justice in the way I did, and I apologize to all members of the Assembly and to all Albertans for the error,” said Smith, according to the Hansard transcript.
The premier said she had asked the minister of justice “to develop guidelines for an appropriate way to receive his legal advice on various legal matters, and I look forward to receiving that advice.”
“Further, in her report the Ethics Commissioner provided recommendations, which I accept, including that of mandatory training for MLAs regarding the structure of Canadian government and the roles of the three branches of government. I have directed our government’s Justice minister to organize this training for MLAs as well,” said Smith.
On May 18, the ethics commissioner found that the premier had contravened the Conflicts of Interest Act in her conversation with Minister of Justice Tyler Shandro, in relation to criminal charges faced by Calgary street pastor Artur Pawlowski following a speech he gave at the Coutts border protest in 2022.
The report, released with less than 12 days until the election where Smith was reelected with a majority government, also found there was no evidence that Smith or any staff in the premier’s office contacted prosecutors, or tried to influence Coutts and COVID-related criminal prosecutions, as the NDP and CBC News had alleged in a series of articles earlier this year.
Trussler stated that it was her opinion that Smith “inappropriately” talked to then-Justice Minister Tyler Shandro about criminal charges laid against Pawlowski, which the commissioner said was an “improper attempt to influence the independence of the legal system.”
The ethics commissioner said Smith’s conversation with Shandro was problematic, based on Shandro’s version of events. According to Shandro, who was not reelected, the premier asked him if there was anything he could do with regard to Pawlowski’s case, as she promised during her UCP leadership campaign.
The commissioner noted that Smith “did not direct him to do so.”
At the time the report was released, Smith made a statement saying she had always made it clear she “wanted to find a path of amnesty for those charged with non-violent COVID-related offences and violations during the pandemic.” She acknowledged that it is the commissioner’s opinion that the discussion was “inappropriate.”
Smith said at the time, and reiterated again in the legislature on June 20, that she “will be seeking legal advice on creating specific formal guidelines as to when and how a Premier may speak with a Minister of Justice in the future about policy issues and other sensitive matters.”
After Smith made the apology in the Legislature, Notley, now leader of the Official Opposition, told reporters the apology was “profoundly underwhelming and completely irrelevant.”
Just a few days ago, on June 18, the NDP called for a special prosecutor to investigate Smith, writing a letter to newly appointed Justice Minister Mickey Amery, a lawyer. The NDP demanded that a prosecutor from out of province be assigned to undertake an investigation into the premier. Sabir alleged on social media on June 16 that Smith “can’t be trusted.”
Amery declined, stating the matter was closed as the ethics commissioner had concluded her investigation.