Alberta’s conservative justice ministers, both current and former, aren’t exactly covering the legal profession in glory.
Tyler Shandro, who serves as Justice Minister today, is under investigation by the Law Society of Alberta for “conduct that brings the reputation of the profession into disrepute” over a 2020 incident in which Shandro drove to a doctor’s house to berate him over some social media posts (as well as two other serious incidents). The physician, Dr. Mukarram Ali Zaidi, was a notable conservative activist at the time, which is perhaps why the criticism stung Shandro so. The Law Society argues that it was deeply irresponsible for Shandro to accept his nomination to Justice Minister while he was under investigation.
But Shandro’s story pales compared to the wild scandal now surrounding one of his predecessors, Jonathan Denis. If you’re an Alberta politics head you’re probably familiar with this name. Denis was Justice Minister in the last PC government, and he’s been skulking around conservative political circles for a long time. A former political staffer, Denis co-founded a robo-calling and polling firm with Pierre Poilievre that provided services to the Conservative Party before eventually securing an MLA’s seat and a couple of cabinet positions here in Alberta back when the PCs were in charge.
But just this week Denis was found in contempt of court and of the far more serious charge of intimidating a witness, former provincial medical examiner Dr. Anny Sauvageau, whose testimony in an ongoing lawsuit against the province bothered him. Denis’ lawyer sent Dr. Sauvageau a letter threatening a defamation suit over her testimony, even though Denis knows full well that you can’t sue someone over what they say in court.
A former justice minister found guilty of witness intimidation would be a scandal of its own, but an incredible side-plot has also emerged. Apparently Jonathan Denis hired a self-described “fixer” to acquire the phone records of a reporter. It feels like there’s still a lot more to come on this story (just how does this operative have access to phone records, anyway?) but all in all it was a very bad, no-good week for Denis over which we will shed no tears.
Shandro and Denis’ clown show this week follows hot on the heels of repeated embarrassments from the province’s last Justice Minister, Kaycee Madu, whose most recent hit involved him making a personal call to the Edmonton chief of police over a ticket Madu was given for distracted driving.
The nexus of Alberta’s old-boys-club right-wing political scene has one foot in oil and gas, but the other has always been in the mess of politically-connected local law firms that reap rewards every time there’s another phony constitutional challenge or lawsuit. If Denis and Shandro get their just desserts, we’ll be laughing. But there are a hundred more of these guys waiting in line for their turn at the trough, and the only real solution is to get the conservatives out of power as soon as we can.
- The latest Progress Report podcast features a new report on the School Resource Officer programs in Edmonton, which is to say cops in schools. Researcher Alex Da Costa and friend of the show Bashir Mohamed break down just how brutal this system has got.
Jeremy Appel has seen the future of conservatism in Canada and it is the “cheap romanticism and easy slogans” of Pierre Poilievre, who passed through this week on his campaign for the Conservative Party Leadership—a campaign that seems focused on wooing back the far-right fringe from the PPC.
Was Calgary city councillor Gian-Carlo Carra done dirty by the Calgary Police? It sure seems that way. According to Carra, he was involved in an altercation with a driver who nearly splattered him blasting through a crosswalk; Carra says he gave the vehicle an angry slap on its way past, which prompted the driver to get out and assault him. But CPS initially reported that they were investigating Carra over a “road rage incident,” which certainly gives the reader a different impression. Carra, one of the few sitting councillors who dared to criticize CPS, has stepped down from the Calgary Police Commission for the duration of the investigation. Pretty convenient for Chief Neufeld!
- With Kenney’s leadership review underway the Premier and his goons are working hard to appeal to the far-right. The latest tactic: deploying deeply deceptive, racist talking points about getting ‘critical race theory’ out of school curriculum. When pressed by a reporter to explain what critical race theory was, LaGrange did not answer the question. Critical race theory is a model of analysis taught in law school to prospective lawyers; you certainly won’t find it in any elementary curriculums. A slimy campaign by a conservative US think tank has convinced American Republicans—and by the sad sound of it, many Canadian conservatives—that what critical race theory actually means is any time anyone acknowledges that racism exists. Folks, anyone who rants to you about CRT is a fool, a bigot, or a slimeball trying to win the votes of both.
This is the online version of the Progress Report email newsletter. Don't depend on some social media or search engine algorithm to find this content in the future. Sign up to get updates on the most important local political issues in your inbox every week. If you like what we do at the Progress Report there is also one big way you can support us and that's by becoming a monthly donor. The regular donations of the 500 or so regular monthly donors keeps this small, independent media shop going.