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Madu investigation not so impartial
The retired justice hired to investigate has Conservative familial connections
Adèle Kent, the retired Court of Queen’s Bench judge the premier hired to investigate the propriety of suspended justice minister Kaycee Madu’s phone call to the Edmonton police chief after receiving a distracted driving ticket, is the sister of two conservative politicians.
Peter Kent served as environment minister from 2011-13, while Kenney was minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism. Additionally, Peter Kent’s tenure as chair of the standing committee on national defence from 2013-16 coincided with Kenney’s brief tenure as minister of defence in 2015.
To be clear, this is not a conflict of interest, as there’s no discernible benefit being accrued to the Kent brothers, but it does raise questions about the investigation’s impartiality.
I appreciate that there are a myriad of family connections within the legal profession, but how hard is it to find a retired judge whose siblings aren’t conservative politicians?
I don’t think this was a media conspiracy to cover up a familial connection that was a Google search away, but based on my experience, this mishap evidences how short-staffed newsrooms expect reporters to cover an unreasonable amount of stories, making it difficult to always cover each in-depth.
In addition to announcing Kent’s appointment to the investigation, a government news release outlined its terms, which are to determine whether Madu’s March 10 phone call “constituted interference or an attempt to interfere with the administration of justice.”
Kent will report back by Feb. 15 and her findings will be public. Meanwhile, Madu will be stripped of his cabinet duties, and his $60,468 pay-bump for being a cabinet member paused.
Both Madu and Edmonton Police Service Chief Dale McFee admit that while the phone call took place after Madu received a $300 distracted-driving ticket for being on his phone in a playground zone, it wasn’t an effort to have the ticket withdrawn.
They say Madu simply called to ask the chief if he had been racially profiled (Madu is Black) or surveilled, as NDP MLA Shannon Phillips was by Lethbridge police when she was environment minister.
“If Chief McFee had alleged that he felt this was an interference in the administration of justice, then I would have made an immediate decision, but that’s not the public statement that we have,” Kenney said at a news conference last week.
In a Friday column, the Calgary Herald’s Don Braid revealed that while Kenney maintains he had no idea about the ticket until the CBC’s initial report on it last week, many of his close confidants were aware shortly after it occurred.
Braid named Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon, Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver, Kenney chief of staff Pam Livingston, his former chief of staff Larry Kaumeyer and sundowning UCP Twitter troll Matt Wolf as having known.
So either Kenney knew, or his staffers and colleagues deliberately withheld the information from him.
Either way, appointing one of his former cabinet buddies’ sibling to investigate the matter doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the investigation’s impartiality.
In other news …
A new report from Parliamentary Budgetary Officer (PBO) Yves Giroux says the price of cleaning up oil and gas wells in Alberta and Saskatchewan will reach 10 figures by 2025, vastly outpacing the $237 million in security deposits collected from oil and gas companies for cleanup.
The report notes that the percentage of active wells in Alberta (35%) and Saskatchewan (39%) is the “lowest share in recorded history.”
Over the past decade, the number of orphan wells has skyrocketed from 700 to 8,600 in Alberta and 300 to 1,500 in Saskatchewan.
More than half the $1.7 billion the federal government provided for orphan-well clean up was distributed to viable companies who could pay for it themselves. “If this trend of helping viable companies persist, existing funding could be insufficient to clean up wells that are orphaned,” says a PBO news release.
Regan Boychuk of the Alberta Liabilities Disclosure Project, whose research is cited in the report, told The Canadian Press that the PBO’s numbers are a gross underestimate.
Edited by Ximena González