I don’t usually get political but I’m afraid I need to in this case.
The recent explosive headline in Alberta is that Danielle Smith – currently Alberta’s premier and leader of the United Conservative Party (UCP) had a phone conversation with Artur Pawlowski, a pastor who is currently awaiting verdict on his criminal trial for “mischief” – essentially for inciting protesters to block traffic during the early days of COVID in Coutts, Alberta.
There is an Alberta election upcoming in May. The NDP are desperately seizing on this story for much-needed traction in the battle, with the assistance of the media and the public. Surely, their premiers never talk to prosecutors.
Smith had been previously accused of “inappropriate” communication with the Alberta Prosecution Service (Crown) in relation to these charges. She appears to hold the view that the charges are mostly political and frivolous – perhaps a reasonable viewpoint though certainly not mainstream – and has suggested that the Crown drop the charges. Initially, multiple emails were confirmed by anonymous, “well-placed” sources to CBC to have been sent by Smith’s staff to prosecutors. The existence of these emails were vehemently denied by both Smith and the Crown (the latter claiming to have searched nearly a million government emails finding no evidence of contact between Smith and the Crown – the search details being confidential, of course – perhaps as strong an internal investigation as SCOTUS did on its infamous recent Dobbs leak and subsequent decision).
Now, there is a video/audio recording of Smith’s phone call with Pawlowski. She seems frustrated (by the sound of it) that the Crown is not dropping the charges, and promises to continue further efforts to achieve same. Of course, she is now being pilloried for her attempt to “politicize” the Crown – essentially obstructing justice by giving her opinion to the Crown about these proceedings. At minimum, being clueless about how non-political the Crown is supposed to be and lying about her role.
What no one is criticizing are the Crown’s ethics and honesty, strangely. If the emails and/or recording exist and are valid and reflect reality (which I don’t see any reason to assume otherwise), how is Smith the only one doing something wrong? If her intervention is inappropriate, surely the Crown should have told her so immediately, disclosed the emails to the media and everyone else and made a big fuss about it. Instead, they deny the existence of the emails. Go figure.
Who did leak the emails and/or recording to the media (I’m aware that the video was available privately on YouTube for some time)?
The following educated guesses appear reasonable:
- Pawlowski himself – however, I don’t see much reason for him to have done so. Smith already went out of her way to help him – why would he stab her in the back? Plus, he has morals.
- Another enemy of Smith (e.g. Independence Party, which just booted Pawlowski, incidentally). This would be a bit of a conspiracy theory – they’d have to hate the UCP enough to attempt to destroy it, despite much common political ground.
- Someone from the Crown’s office – if these emails exist (and the denials are lies), I’m guessing they’d be accessible to any prosecutor in the province? My understanding is all file-related correspondence is saved on an internal database that all prosecutors can access (or at least the prosecutors who need to access it – if not all). So Smith’s emails would have been shared – at the very least – internally with some Crowns. Even if the emails do not exist, surely Smith can be taken on her word that she had “almost weekly” phone conversations with Crowns about the files – surely there’s a record of those somewhere?
If it was someone from the Crown’s office who leaked it, why would they do so? Perhaps to trash Smith and her party? Score political points of some kind?
If that is the case, do they not realize that they also make the Crown look bad at the same time (for covering for Smith – assuming her behaviour is inappropriate)? And for possible ethical violations more serious than hers (she’s not a lawyer and is not bound to comply with legal ethics the way lawyers are)?
So many questions, so few answers. Even more puzzling is how no one else is talking about this.
Danielle Smith discussed COVID charges ‘almost weekly’ with justice officials, according to leaked call | CBC News
CBC News stands by Coutts story despite statement from Danielle Smith’s office | CBC News
No emails found between Alberta premier’s office, prosecution following weekend search, justice ministry says | CBC News
Alberta premier’s office contacted Crown prosecution about Coutts cases: sources | CBC News
Alberta Independence Party ousts leader Artur Pawlowski | CTV News
NDP wants investigation following CBC report of Alberta premier’s office contact with Crown prosecutors | CBC News
Alberta premier says she was ‘imprecise’ when saying she contacted prosecutors | CBC News
Prosecutor says pastor’s fiery speech at Coutts blockade was criminal | CBC News
 “That original story of Jan. 19 included allegations by well-placed sources that a staffer had sent a series of emails to the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service challenging the prosecutors’ assessment and direction of the cases stemming from last winter’s border protests at Coutts. The premier’s office denied the allegations, saying Smith had no knowledge of anyone on her staff doing so.