Documents show police chiefs used police resources to help elect the UCP. Now what?

Documents obtained by independent journalist Euan Thomson show that Alberta police chiefs, including Calgary’s Mark Neufeld and Edmonton’s Dale McFee, campaigned for the United Conservative Party in the run-up to the 2023 election—even using publicly-funded police resources to help secure Danielle Smith’s victory. 

Edmonton police chief Dale McFee was at the center of a police campaign to get the UCP re-elected. Image from the Government of Alberta newsroom, March 2024

The police have always been a powerful conservative political force. Former police chiefs end up as political candidates and politicians quite frequently—think Julian Fantino, Bill Blair and Rick Hanson. But what Thomson’s reporting has revealed was an unprecedented and coordinated campaign by police to elect their preferred political party–Danielle Smith’s UCP. 

The big player in Thomson’s report is an organization called the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police (the AACP). The document Thomson published has the details on a massive campaign marshaling police resources to support the UCP’s pro-policing, anti-harm-reduction ‘Alberta Model’ right before the May 2023 election.  

The police campaign combined dodgy arguments in favor of the UCP approach on drugs with a constant drumbeat of fear, and it was incredibly effective. The 2023 provincial election was decided in the suburbs outside of Edmonton and the more affluent parts of Calgary. Suburban fear of a violent, drug-riddled inner-city was created, harnessed and carefully controlled by Chief Neufeld and McFee to get the UCP elected. 

The police jealously guard their “operational independence.” It’s a key foundation of our ostensible liberal democracy that politicians are unable to tell the police what to do. But that concept flows both ways, if unelected police leaders are going to use their massive, opaque, impossible-to-rein-in budgets and considerable staff resources to ensure their preferred political party wins elections then it’s time they depart the profession of policing immediately. 

If you are a police commissioner in either Edmonton or Calgary you need to do your job and fire McFee and Neufeld. If you as a police commissioner can’t or won’t fire the chief then you should resign and be replaced with someone who will. 

If these police chiefs face no consequence for meddling in our politics we begin the slippery slide to a police state. What politician is going to resist working with such an influential and powerful group? What police chief is going to resist getting more and more involved in politics if nothing happens? 

The primary architect of the AACP’s plan to get Danielle Smith elected was a villain you read a lot about here: Edmonton’s police chief, Dale McFee. It’s his associates and staff that you see in the documents putting in much of the work. One of the notable names that shows up in the documents is Patricia Misutka. She’s the former chief of staff to former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel and the former principal secretary to former premier Jim Prentice. She is a canny political operator and the current executive director of corporate communications at EPS.

The pro-police think-tank that McFee started, the Community Safety and Knowledge Alliance, was also heavily involved in the AACP effort to keep the UCP in power. McFee argued that it was definitely not a conflict of interest when the Edmonton Police Commission hired the think-tank to produce a report that recommended the EPS should get a unique to the EPS funding formula that guarantees funding increases every year. 

I’ve often said how Chief Dale McFee is the real mayor of Edmonton. But McFee is much more powerful than any mayor. He’s the second most powerful unelected official in the province, behind only Marshall Smith, Danielle Smith’s chief of staff. 

Corruption and conflict of interest at this scale is just not going to go away on its own. And each time Alberta’s police get away with a scheme like their Danielle Smith election campaign, they entrench their power even more. 

That power lets them get away with brutal, arrogant, and corrupt practices that we all loath: the violent destruction of non-violent pro-Palestinian solidarity encampments, or EPS' refusal to be audited despite a massively increasing budget, or the constant and escalating horror stories of police violence that seem to hit the news week after week.

There’s no reforming corrupt power like this. It needs to be completely uprooted. And the place to start is by getting rid of Neufeld, McFee, and all of the commissioners and functionaries who have been enabling them.


  • A newborn is dead after a pregnant woman being held in an RCMP holding cell had an apparent seizure and was taken to the hospital. The baby was delivered by c-section and died a few hours later. Prior to her seizure the woman was taking medication prescribed by Alberta’s Virtual Opioid Dependence Program or VODP. This is a call centre where people with substance issues can get prescriptions for opioid agonist treatments like suboxone or methadone over the phone. But ASIRT only investigates cops—without a full fatality investigation, we can’t know what responsibility the VODP bears here.

  • Marshall Smith continues to be a horse whisperer to middle-aged, white, Ontario based mainstream journalist. The latest to fall for his spin are Globe & Mail's Marcus Gee, and presently-Substacking columnist Paul Wells, both of whom wrote fawning profiles of Smith and his 'Alberta Model' this month. Both articles conveniently neglect that Alberta's drug poisoning rates continue to spike. By contrast, here's some real journalism work from Robson Fletcher and Joel Dryden, covering new data that shows opioid poisoning is killing First Nations members in Alberta at a rate eight times that of the rest of the population.

  • The Progress Report has done some incredible work this week that I want to highlight. Jeremy Appel wrote up the final ANDP leadership debate on the weekend and was even able to tease out some actual policy disagreements amongst the love fest. 

  • Derek Fildebrandt is back in the news as the Calgary Police charged him uttering threats against four teens. His explanation is also especially unhinged but I won’t be linking to it as we have a strict no-linking out to the Western Standard policy here at the Progress Report. 

  • We have an exclusive follow-up to the deeply disturbing video that was released last week of a former EPS constable kicking a defenseless man in the head. It turns out there’s another video where he kicked another defenseless man in the head a year prior

  • And finally we have the most insane grievance I’ve ever read. A powerline technician who works for ATCO had his ankle shattered on the job by a power pole. Then his supervisors made it much, much worse. Don’t worry though, Nancy Southern, the billionaire nepo-baby who runs ATCO is getting the Alberta Order of Excellence in the fall.

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