Danielle Smith’s UCP are going hard on ‘law and order’ campaigning this season, riding high on the wave of social disorder that COVID, the war on drugs, and decades of rising inequality have cast across North America. But it isn’t just an election strategy—it’s an opportunity to funnel money and power to key donors and allies of the conservative movement. Recent announcements by the UCP about ankle bracelets and police commissions just revealed a couple of them.
In a campaign stop in Edmonton on May 9, Smith promised to force more people out on bail to wear ankle bracelets. Most of the media coverage since has focused on the fact that a provincial government doesn’t really have the legal authority to do this but few mention the connection between the UCP and a local corporation which builds and sells ankle bracelets.
Turns out a long-time UCP donor is Vince Morelli, the CEO of SafeTracks GPS, a company in the business of providing ankle bracelets and monitoring services. We’ve mentioned Morelli on the Progress Report before: in 2020 it was Morelli who invited his acquaintance and friend of the UCP, Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee, to a UCP fundraiser in 2020 where MLAs put on T-rex suits and had footraces on a horse track in Lacombe.
Another recent step in the UCP campaign has involved the appointment of provincial government reps to city police commissions, a result of one of the last big pieces of legislation enacted before breaking for the election—changes to the Police Act. One change allowed the province to appoint their own police commissioners. These commissions ostensibly exist to provide civilian oversight to the police but in practice the Edmonton and Calgary commissions spend an awful lot of energy cheerleading and defending them.. Just before the election the UCP appointed three people to the Calgary commission, one of them being Dr. Rob Tanguay. (They’ve appointed members to the Edmonton commission too, but won’t tell the public who until after the election is over.)
Tanguay is not just a UCP donor ($2200 in 2019 and $1000 in 2022) but he’s also been a key spokesperson for the UCP in their battle against a harm reduction approach to the drug poisoning crisis. Tanguay was on the review committee for an anti-supervised consumption site report produced by the government of Alberta that was widely criticized as both flawed and biased. Even Tanguay said he was sorry that the report fuelled anxiety about the future existence of supervised consumption sites, which the UCP used to promptly shut down two busy SCSs and replaced them with inferior and smaller-scale services.
Putting Tanguay on the Calgary commission specifically raises some serious questions about conflict of interest. Tanguay is the founder and vice-president of the Newly Institute, a psychotherapy clinic that specifically markets to police and which specializes in ketamine therapy to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. The Newly Institute brags about its partnerships with the Calgary Police Service, the Calgary Police Association and the city of Calgary. It even features their logos on their website.
The Newly Institute boasts of their partnership with the Calgary Police Service on their website.
How is Tanguay going to hold the Calgary Police Service accountable when they’re literally a client of his? How did his appointment get through vetting when this potential conflict of interest is so obvious?
While the Newly Institute and UCP both refused to answer any inquiries about this appointment or the nature of the business relationship between Tanguay and the CPS the CPS did get back to me with a short statement, “CPS does not have a contract with the Newly Institute. Any clients from CPS would be registered through a WCB contract.” No explanation was offered when I inquired about why the Newly Institute website says that it “proudly partners with,” the CPS.
So while the UCP have extremely cynical electioneering reasons to mash the crime and fear button to try and win the election, always remember that they’ll never miss a chance to take care of their friends and allies in the process as well.
Election debates are on
Several election debates were held Tuesday night, including one in Brooks, one in Livingston-Macleod, and one in St. Albert.
In Brooks, Danielle Smith faced off against the Alberta Party’s leader Barry Moroshita and Gwendoline Dirk from the NDP. The Brooks Chamber of Commerce livestreamed the debate, but unfortunately the stream cuts out about halfway through. Deirdre Mitchell-MacLean, a politics writer with a more centrist position than ours, provides a summary of the debate in this Twitter thread. (Yes, we noted the part where Mitchell-MacLean says Smith falsely claimed I paint swastikas on things, and we’re looking into it.)
Smith appeared to whip up a new platform plank on the spot, pitching that Alberta should start up its own version of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, which she claims could set the interest rate for mortgages lower. But the CMHC does not set interest rates.
In Livingstone-Macleod, several candidates were up against the UCP’s Chelsea Petrovic, the convoy- and anti-vaxx-adjacent mayor of Claresholm.
In St. Albert, candidates from the right are vying to dislodge Marie Renaud, the popular NDP incumbent who has held the seat since 2015. Renaud is known for her focus on issues facing people with disabilities. A load of right-wing agitators disrupted the event several times, shouting down Renaud to call her a liar and a c-word that my editor tells me I am not allowed to put in the newsletter.
The big show—Notley versus Smith in the party leaders’ debate—is set for tonight. The folks over at the Alberta Advantage podcast will be hosting a watch party for the leaders’ debate on Twitch.tv featuring friend of the show Jeremy Appel.
Councillor Michael Janz is hosting a presentation and community Q&A with Dr. Irvin Waller, expert and author of “The Science and secrets of ending violent crime.” The event is at 7pm in Telus Centre Room 150, at the University of Alberta (111st and 87 avenue). More details here.
Alberta’s ethics commissioner Marguerite Trussler finds that yes, Danielle Smith did violate the Conflict of Interest Act when she tried to influence the court case against far-right agitator Artur Pawlowski. Smith released a statement Thursday trying to spin the judgment against her as a win.
Anti-trans bigots in Calgary marshaled outside a high school in Calgary on Wednesday to yell at children.
A standard volunteer role during elections here is ‘scrutineering,’ where campaigns send a volunteer or two to the polling station on election day to oversee the counting of ballots. As Stephen Magusiak reports for Press Progress, the insurgent Take Back Alberta group that is taking control of the UCP is mobilizing their own volunteers to go scrutineer, and they’re priming them to cause a ruckus with a ‘training session’ that is heavy on election fraud conspiracy theories. TBA claims that the scrutineer project isn’t their doing but Press Progress has confirmed a pipeline connecting Take Back Alberta organizers to the scheme.
Investigative journalist Charles Rusnell has an extended write-up that names names on the culture of bullying and abuse that took place while Jason Kenney was premier. Kenney took his love of tormenting enemies to new heights and his minions delighted in executing his orders and it’s all exhaustively documented by Rusnell in the Tyee.
And finally I can’t do a newsletter without highlighting some of my own work. I recently published a story revealing the fact that Indigenous people were nearly 19 times more likely to get a transit ticket than a white person in Edmonton in 2020-2021. The city also found the time to hand out more than $1.2 million in trespass tickets to people with no fixed address in the same time frame.
- Yes, I am threatening to sue Danielle Smith over false statements she made about me at an all candidates forum in Brook earlier this week unless she apologizes and retracts what she said.
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.