Investigation uncovers no 'political interference' by Premier Smith's Office on Coutts blockade prosecutions

Investigation uncovers no 'political interference' by Premier Smith's Office on Coutts blockade prosecutions

Updated: 1 month, 26 days, 8 hours, 33 minutes, 45 seconds ago

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Alberta's UCP government conducted an internal review on allegations that the Premier's Office contacted the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service (ACPS) over charges laid after the Coutts Freedom Convoy blockade.

A CBC report last week alleged a staffer in Smith's office sent emails to the ACPS to challenge prosecutors on their judgment regarding the contentious blockade.

On Monday, Alberta Justice stated its "comprehensive review of emails" searched for "any emails sent to or received by the relevant prosecutors and staff in the premier's office over four months."

"The search included all emails in the government mailboxes, including emails sent from or to a non-government email address," said an Alberta Justice spokesperson, who also confirmed the Public Service Commission did not conduct any interviews in the case.

They did not uncover any record of electronic communication between Premier Danielle Smith's office and the ACPS. Smith said she's confident in its findings.

"No further review will be conducted unless additional evidence is brought forward," said Alberta Justice in a statement Monday.

On Friday, Smith told the Western Standard she does not know anyone in her office contacting the Crown's office over the Coutts blockade but vowed action if the investigation uncovered any correspondence.

"Crown prosecutors are a no-go zone," she said.

Despite the verdict, Opposition MLA Rakhi Pancholi, also a lawyer, called on the UCP to launch a fully independent investigation into possible political interference in the administration of justice.

"This isn't an investigation — it's an IT review," said Pancholi.

She said this request isn't just about the emails — it's the culmination of statements the premier has made since she came to office in October regarding Crown prosecutors and prosecutions related to COVID.

The premier initially said earlier this month that she had contacted Crown prosecutors over COVID prosecutions, then backpedalled on her comments a few days later, claiming she only spoke to the solicitor general and his deputy.

However, Pancholi believes contacting the solicitor general about these cases still constitutes political interference.

She accused the province of engaging in a "coverup," adding, "the [Premier] ... has something to hide."

ACPS released a statement Monday, conveying, "Continued suggestions of impropriety without evidence are not warranted." 

"This unsubstantiated speculation harms the reputation of the ACPS and does a disservice to the dedicated professionals in ACPS who carry out their work with unwavering integrity. It is wrong to suggest that the ACPS has been anything but ethical and appropriate in carrying out its duties."

Ultimately, Smith remained unbothered by the rhetoric from the Official Opposition.

"I am confident in the integrity and professionalism of my staff," said Smith. "That's why I am grateful for the non-partisan review completed this weekend by the Public Service Commission, which found no contact records between the premier's office and Crown prosecutors."

"I have complete faith that the public service conducted a thorough review. I want to thank them for the seriousness with which they took this matter and their commitment to working non-stop over the past few days to provide Albertans with results to put their concerns to rest."

"An independent Crown prosecution service, free from political interference, is integral to preserving public confidence in the justice system," continued the premier.

In a story Monday, Chuck Thompson, head of public affairs for CBC, said the public broadcaster stands behind the journalism in its report despite running the story without seeing the emails.