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Political experts raise questions over latest Alberta cabinet shake-up


Premier Jason Kenney announced the shuffle in a news release Friday.

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Several Calgary political experts say they’ve been left with questions after a Friday afternoon cabinet shuffle that saw Tyler Shandro step into the justice portfolio and Kaycee Madu remain in cabinet.

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Premier Jason Kenney announced the shuffle in a media statement Friday after the release of a report examining Madu’s actions earlier this year. The Edmonton-South West MLA and then-justice minister made a call to Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee regarding a traffic ticket he received for being on his phone while driving.

The ministerial shake-up will see former Immigration and Labour Minister Tyler Shandro take over as justice minister, while Madu will remain in cabinet as minister of labour and immigration.

Doug King, a justice studies professor at Mount Royal University, said Shandro’s appointment as justice minister is problematic as the Law Society of Alberta is set to hold a hearing on three complaints launched against him relating to his conduct while he was health minister.

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Shandro made headlines in 2020 for confronting a Calgary doctor in his driveway over a social media post, obtaining personal phone numbers through Alberta Health Services to call at least one doctor, and emailing an individual who tried to contact a company operated by Shandro’s wife. The law society’s three-member panel will now investigate complaints regarding each incident.

“It seems to me to be contradictory in terms of who has to step aside,” said King. “Are these decisions being informed more by the political realities that the premier is facing as opposed to what is in the best interest of the justice system of Alberta?”

Justin Brattinga, Kenney’s press secretary, said “Twitter trolls” two years ago called for people to make complaints to the law society against Shandro, noting anyone can file a complaint. He said that several past justice ministers have had complaints brought against them.

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He said the complaints against Shandro are similar to frivolous complaints filed against top provincial public health officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw issued to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta.

“None of the matters raised are new and Minister Shandro is looking forward to resolving the matter through the standard process,” said Brattinga.

Duane Bratt, a political scientist with Mount Royal University, said there is a perception problem for the government to have Shandro take on the role of justice minister while there is an investigation against him, but he noted it’s a conduct hearing and not a justice hearing.

“This is a code of conduct over going to a neighbour’s house and yelling at that neighbour. I’ve previously argued that he should have stepped down over that,” said Bratt. “It’s obviously not a good look, but I don’t think it’s nearly as serious as the Madu (appointment).”

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Madu was removed from his position after it was revealed he called Edmonton’s police chief to raise concerns that he could have been racially targeted by a traffic stop in February 2021, during which he received a ticket for distracted driving. At the time, Madu had been overseeing files around the Lethbridge Police Service surveilling an Alberta MLA and on a file around police carding, the practice of police arbitrarily stopping racialized Albertans and asking them for identification.

Premier Jason Kenney and former justice minister Kaycee Madu.
Premier Jason Kenney and former justice minister Kaycee Madu. Photo by Greg Southam/Postmedia

A report conducted by Justice Adele Kent into Madu’s communication with the police chief found that while the minister did not interfere with the administration of justice, he had attempted to do so. Kent also concluded Madu’s actions could be perceived as interfering with the administration of Justice.

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Bratt said Madu should not remain in cabinet after Kent found he had attempted to interfere in the administration of justice. He said he believes Madu is still in cabinet because Kenney faces a leadership review in April and the minister can bring favourable votes to the Red Deer convention.

Meanwhile, King said he found the minister’s actions while receiving his ticket were as troubling as the following call to the chief.

“The police officer indicated that he didn’t think (Madu) was trying to get out of this ticket. But goodness gracious, the minister said three or four times, ‘I’m the Minister of Justice.’ If that isn’t an attempt to kind of flex his muscle, I don’t know what is,” said King. “I’ve been around police officers for 35 years and I can tell you that for most of them, when they heard that, it would have just made them more resolute in following through.”

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Speaking at an unrelated press conference, Kenney said that Kent’s report found there was no interference of justice stemming from Madu’s actions. He said that he believes Madu will do a “fantastic” job as the minister of labour and immigration.

“It was clear to me in reading that in Kent’s report that Minister Madu, did not call Chief McFee to seek a reversal on a ticket, but to raise broader issues, in particularly the issue of racial profiling,” said Kenney. “I acknowledge there is a particularly unique role of the minister of justice and solicitor general and Minister Madu ought not to have made the call. This was not the appropriate way to raise those concerns and that is why I asked him to take on new responsibilities.”

— With files from Lisa Johnson

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