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4K UCP subscriptions purchased with six credit cards?

It might have seemed like a good idea when the Kenney government passed legislation last year allowing bulk buying of party memberships, but it was probably inevitable that such a dubious idea would sooner or later cause problems for the United Conservative Party. .

That time has now come.

On Saturday, the CBC reported it had a letter in its possession showing that Elections Alberta was investigating allegations of legally sketchy group buying of UCP memberships, presumably by Jason Kenney’s campaign to retain leadership.

The broadcaster quoted senior adviser to UCP leadership candidate Brian Jean, Vitor Marciano, as saying Mr Jean’s group complained to Elections Alberta in late March that someone had bought memberships wholesale earlier that month.

The excruciatingly carefully written CBC story went on to say that Marciano indicated “they named the Kenney campaign as part of their complaint,” a statement that doesn’t quite connect the dots.

Marciano told CBC about 4,000 subscriptions were purchased in March with just six credit cards.

Question: So what’s the problem if the Kenney government passed legislation in December 2021 making the practice legal?

Answer: Law 81, the An Act to amend the electoral lawsonly took effect March 31, 2022.

In other words, it would appear that even though the Kenney government passed legislation legalizing the practice, the prime minister’s supporters were in such a rush to use it that their campaign couldn’t wait for the law to take effect.

Indeed, even to comply with the new rules of the law, it would probably have taken more donors than six to make the cut.

This adds to a problem for Kenney because, while the UCP executive can be counted on never enforcing its own rules when The Maximum Leader is accused of breaking them, that is not the ‘UCP which applies the law.

That leaves the question of whether Elections Alberta – an office of the Legislative Assembly, which in turn is dominated by the UCP – can be counted on to take the allegations against Premier Kenney seriously. Marciano says he’s confident the bureau will and expects a proper investigation to take place.

As regular supporters of Alberta politics should know, the RCMP continues to investigate election financing irregularities and allegations of voter identity theft during the 2017 UCP leadership race won by Kenney and lost by Jean.

But that investigation has taken so long, with the RCMP apparently still dragging its feet, that many Albertans have come to doubt it will ever be solved.

Jean, who resigned as MP for Fort McMurray-Conklin in 2018 shortly after losing to Kenney, returned to political activity last year and won a by-election as the UCP candidate in Fort McMurray-Lac La Doe on March 15 of this year. He campaigned on a platform of dumping Kenney and replacing him as leader, which he says is the only way to prevent the NDP from returning to power.

When the UCP tabled Bill 81 in November 2021, it even faced opposition from some UCP MPs.

Along with the opposition New Democrats, UCP MPs David Hanson (Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul), Richard Gotfried (Calgary-Fish Creek) and Leela Aheer (Chestermere-Strathmore, who was kicked out of the cabinet in June last for criticizing Kenney) all argued in the Legislative Assembly that change was a recipe for trouble. It would encourage well-funded candidates to buy memberships on behalf of Albertans who may never know their identities were stolen to vote in a campaign, Hanson said.

They were also joined in their opposition by exiled former UCP caucus members Drew Barnes, Cypress-Medicine Hat, and Todd Loewen, Central Peace-Notley, who now both sit as independent MPs.

Their objections were of no avail. The government insisted such things would never happen, imposed a time limit on the bill and, after Kenney loyalists on the UCP benches staged a filibuster to shut down debate , passed it at the end of the December 7 evening sitting of the Legislative Assembly.

A day that will live in infamy, so to speak.

So here we are. It seems unlikely that if Kenney is named the winner on May 18, when the UCP plans to announce the results of the leadership vote, most Albertans will conclude there is something fishy about his endorsement.