Alberta says no evidence found of email contact with prosecutors about Coutts

By Alejandro Melgar and The Canadian Press

The Alberta government says an investigation found no evidence of any email contact with Crown prosecutors amid controversy involving Premier Danielle Smith.

The investigation was conducted by Alberta Public Service in response to a CBC report alleging a provincial staffer had emailed the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service (ACPS) over cases involving the Coutts, Alta., border crossing blockade.

Kimberly Goddard, assistant deputy minister of the ACPS, told CityNews in an email it has “fully co-operated” with the review and says that any further suggestion of “impropriety without evidence are not warranted.”

“This unsubstantiated speculation harms the reputation of the ACPS and does a disservice to the dedicated professionals in ACPS who carry out their work with unwavering integrity,” her email reads.

The Justice Department says in a statement that over the weekend, civil servants reviewed about a million incoming, outgoing, and deleted emails spanning a four-month period and found no record of contact between prosecutors and the premier’s office.

The province says no further review will be conducted “unless additional evidence is brought forward.”

Meanwhile, the director of communications for Alberta Justice, Charles Mainville, said in a statement Monday afternoon that the Public Services Commission only reviewed Alberta government employee email accounts. It also said that no interviews were made as part of its review.

Members of the ACPS were not included in the search, same with any personal accounts through Gmail or Hotmail.

“There is no ability to conduct searches of individual’s personal email accounts,” the statement read.

Smith did not say the investigation would include talking to the 34 people in her office or Crown prosecutors handling the relevant investigations.

Previously, the Opposition NDP renewed its call for an independent investigation, saying Smith cannot be trusted given her conflicting statements on what she has said to justice officials about COVID-19-related prosecutions and her concerns about having those cases go forward.

Political scientist Lori Williams said a short, circumscribed search that does not examine personal emails will not overcome the government’s credibility gap on this issue, and that a full independent review is needed.

“What they’re trying to do is get this done quickly and, frankly, a bit dismissively,” said Williams, with Mount Royal University in Calgary.

“I don’t know the actions and statements so far reflect that they understand how serious this is. This isn’t just about a speeding ticket. This is about very serious criminal charges.”

Smith doubles down on claims she did not contact Crown prosecutors 

Smith announced Saturday on her Corus call-in radio show that an email search would be carried out. She again denied contacting prosecutors or having any knowledge of her staff doing so.

“The CBC has said they don’t have the emails. They did not provide us with names, and so I have asked for our independent public service to do a review of emails,” Smith told her radio listeners.

“We have an IT department that can look at all of the emails that have been received by Crown prosecutors and assess it against all of my staff and see if this email that the CBC is making reference to even exists.”

RCMP laid charges against several people involved in the three-week blockade at Coutts a year ago to protest COVID-19 restrictions. The charges range from mischief to conspiracy to commit murder.

Police have alleged a group at the protest was willing to use force against officers if the blockade was disrupted and described the threat as “very serious.”

The Alberta Crown Prosecution Service has said in a statement: “Neither the assistant deputy minister of the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service nor the Crown prosecutor involved in the Coutts files has any recollection of receiving any emails from the premier’s office.”

-With files from Carly Robinson

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