Kenney Strips Alberta Justice Minister of Duties, Orders Probe Into Call to Police Chief Over Traffic Ticket
Phil Heidenreich, Global News, January 17, 2022
Hours after it was reported that Alberta’s justice minister had called Edmonton’s police chief to discuss a distracted driving ticket he was given, Premier Jason Kenney announced he was removing Kaycee Madu from the cabinet post, pending the outcome of a probe into the matter.
“I will appoint a respected independent investigator to review the relevant facts and to determine whether there was interference in the administration of justice in this case,” Kenney tweeted late Monday night. “In the interim period, I have asked Minister Madu to step back from his ministerial duties.
“(Energy) Minister Sonya Savage will act as Minister of Justice and Solicitor General during Minister Madu’s leave of absence.”
Earlier in the evening, Madu issued a statement about the ticket he received last year and why he called Edmonton’s police chief about it after.
“To be abundantly clear, at no point did I request that the ticket be rescinded,” Kaycee Madu said in a statement issued Monday night. “I would never do that.
“However, in that particular call, I regret raising the issue at all with the (Edmonton Police Service) Chief (Dale) McFee.”
Global News first reached out to Madu’s office for comment on the matter Monday afternoon after CBC News broke the story about both the ticket and the phone call to McFee.
Global News has obtained a copy of the ticket Madu was issued. In a section of the ticket that says “description,” an officer had written in “distracted driving- cellphone.” The ticket says the alleged offence occurred at 9:25 a.m. in a school zone.
In a statement issued to Global News, the EPS confirmed Madu was handed a distracted driving ticket on March 10, 2021. However, further details about the incident were not disclosed.
“Minister Madu had concerns about the context of the traffic stop,” an EPS spokesperson said. “To be clear, he did not ask the chief to rescind the ticket.
“The ticket remains valid and was issued correctly.”
Madu said he paid the ticket “promptly” and in full and added he has “the utmost respect for our men and women in uniform, and for the invaluable, often thankless role they perform.”
“On the morning of March 10, shortly after leaving my home, I was pulled over by an officer of the Edmonton Police Service,” he said in his statement. “The officer indicated that he had observed me driving while distracted, alleging that I was on my phone. I disagreed, stating that I was not on my phone, as it was in an inside pocket.
“Later, I spoke to Chief Dale McFee. Due to the timing of the incident, I wanted to ensure that I was not being unlawfully surveilled following the controversy surrounding the Lethbridge Police Service. I also raised concerns around profiling of racial minorities that was in the media at the time.
“Chief McFee assured me that that was most definitely not the case, and I accepted him at his word,” said Madu, who is Black.
Earlier Monday, Opposition justice critic Irfan Sabir said he believes Madu should step down over the call.
“Minister Kaycee Madu must resign,” the NDP MLA said in a news release issued Monday afternoon. “It is wholly unacceptable for the Attorney General to engage with senior law enforcement regarding a penalty levied against him.”
“Regular Alberta drivers do not have the ability to call their local police chief and discuss traffic tickets,” Sabir said. “Madu used his position as minister to initiate this conversation, and regardless of whether he asked the chief to cancel the ticket, it is political interference for him to have discussed it all.
“There is a long-standing parliamentary precedent that prohibits this kind of behaviour. It is inappropriate for any cabinet minister to interfere in the administration of justice, even more so when it’s directly related to their own personal self-interest, and it’s utterly unacceptable when that interference is committed by the Attorney General.”