On Feb 25, 2022, Premier Kenney issued a misleading press release setting out his rationale for a Cabinet shuffle. Two cabinet ministers, who should have been (back) benched a long time ago, will swap ministries.
Kaycee Madu will “step aside” from his role as Minister of Justice and Solicitor General to become Minister of Labour and Immigration, while Tyler Shandro (who is currently under investigation by the Law Society) will become Justice Minister and Solicitor General.
Kenney says the switch was triggered by the investigation by retired Justice Adele Kent into Madu’s phone call to Edmonton’s chief of police, Dale McFee, after Madu got a traffic ticket for distracted driving.
Right, let’s see what Justice Kent said.
On the morning of March 10, 2021, a police officer (his name isn’t disclosed so we’ll call him the Cop) observed Madu driving his truck in a school zone. Both of Madu’s hands were on the steering wheel. His left hand was at the 9 o’clock position and his right was on a cellphone at the 3 o’clock position. The screen was facing Madu who was facing right and looking down.
The Cop pulled Madu over and told him he was being cited for a cellphone violation. Madu had three phones: his Legislator’s phone and his Minister’s phone were in his briefcase, his personal phone was in his left breast pocket. He denied using it.
The Cop said Madu was “moderately argumentative” and repeated 3 or 4 times that he was the Minister of Justice. Madu says he only said this once, at the end of their conversation after the Cop had written up the ticket. Madu asked for the Cop’s badge number. The Cop gave it to him and told him it was also on the ticket.
The Cop doesn’t follow politics and didn’t know who Madu was; he later confirmed that Madu was indeed the Justice Minister.
Phone call to the Chief of Police
Madu called Chief McFee at 9:45 a.m. They spoke for 8 minutes. McFee was on vacation and scribbled notes on the back of an envelope.
McFee said there was some small talk, then Madu raised the ticket, talked about the Lethbridge police running unauthorized surveillance on NDP MLA Shannon Phillips and the possibility he’d been racially profiled. (When Justice Kent asked Madu whether he thought he’d been racially profiled. Madu said he couldn’t comment on the Cop’s demeanor).
McFee refused to discuss the ticket, saying Madu had two choices, pay or go to court. Both Madu and McFee said Madu didn’t ask McFee to do anything about the ticket.
Justice Kent asked Madu why he paid the ticket. He said it was better to pay it and forget about it and in hindsight he’d just pay the ticket and wait the appropriate time before calling the Chief “to discuss the ticket.”
Justice Kent made the following findings:
- She accepted that as a Black man who was addressing relations between racialized people and the police, Madu could have questioned whether the traffic stop was motivated by race but said there was nothing to lead a reasonable person to conclude Madu had been racially profiled.
- When Madu identified himself as the minister of justice he was not attempting to intimidate the Cop in order to stop him from issuing a ticket.
- There was no support for Madu’s explanation that he called Chief McFee because he was concerned about being illegally surveilled by the police.
- She accepted that Madu’s reasons to call Chief McFee were in part motivated by the fact he was a Black man and dealing with issues of racism and took that into consideration.
…and here’s where it gets interesting
Based on these findings Justice Kent concluded:
- No, Madu did not interfere with the administration of justice because he did not ask the Chief to do something about the ticket.
- Yes, Madu did attempt to interfere with the administration of justice. “There is a process that the Minister knows well to address questions of police conduct. It does not start with a phone call to the Chief of Police. The very fact that the purpose of the call was to obtain assurance that the police were acting properly rather than going through appropriate channels is an attempt to interfere with the administration of justice.”
- Yes, the phone call created a reasonable perception of an interference with the administration of justice.
Kenney cites findings #1 and #3 in support of the cabinet shuffle. He never acknowledges finding #2, likely because if he admits Madu attempted to interfere with the administration of justice he should be bounced to the back bench or better yet, right out the door. And that would be a sorry end to the only UCP minister elected in Edmonton.
As for the decision to appoint Tyler Shandro to replace Madu as Justice Minister and Solicitor General, Kenney is clearly ignoring Justice Kent’s description of the position.
She said as the “the chief law officer of the province,” that person would be responsible for superintending all matters relating to the administration of justice and must be “held to a higher standard when assessing conduct.”
Shandro is under investigation by the Law Society for numerous complaints about his conduct including the allegation that his conduct brings the reputation of the profession into disrepute. As Rachel Notley recently put it, Shandro is “not really equipped to function in cabinet.”
If Kenney’s decision was truly based on Justice Kent’s report, he would not misrepresent Justice Kent’s findings, pretending it’s just a perception issue when Madu actually attempted to interfere with the administration of justice when he was responsible for the administration of justice.
Furthermore he would not turn a blind eye to the ongoing Law Society investigation into Shandro’s conduct.
But then again, we’re talking about Jason Kenney, the premier who is still under RCMP investigation in relation to claims his campaign used fraud, forgery and bribery to win the UCP leadership race in 2017.