EDMONTON — Kaycee Madu says he understands why Alberta Premier Jason Kenney relieved him as justice minister after Madu phoned Edmonton’s police chief about a traffic ticket.
Madu says he did not phone Edmonton police Chief Dale McFee to get the $300 distracted driving ticket cancelled, but understands why people could have concerns about the call.
“With hindsight now I can see how that may be perceived,” Madu wrote in a series of tweets late Tuesday.
“There is a saying that perception is everything in politics and I regret raising the issue at all with Chief McFee.
“I paid the ticket fully and promptly.”
Edmonton police have verified that Madu never asked for his ticket to be cancelled.
The March 10 ticket and the subsequent phone call came to light in a CBC report on Monday. Kenney announced that night on social media that he had suspended Madu from his justice duties pending an investigation.
Kenney said the investigation by an independent third party would determine “whether there was interference in the administration of justice.”
It’s not clear if Madu remains in cabinet as a minister without portfolio or is now part of the United Conservative caucus backbench.
Justin Brattinga, Kenney’s spokesman, did not respond to an email request for clarification on Madu’s status or for an update on the investigation. He also did not respond to emails Tuesday asking when Kenney and his advisers were first made aware of Madu's phone call to the chief.
Kenney and Madu have not spoken or taken questions publicly on the matter.
Critics, including Opposition NDP member Irfan Sabir, say it’s clear Madu abused his political authority just by picking up the phone to call McFee.
Sabir said Madu should be fired as justice minister and said Kenney needs to take questions on who knew what and when.
“(Madu) is tweeting at 10:30 at night because he doesn’t want to answer questions about his stories and what the premier and his cabinet colleagues were first informed about it,” Sabir said Wednesday.
“We need to know who knew and why did no one do anything. Why is this coming out after 10 months?
“If anyone knew and did nothing, what does that really say about the government?”
Former UCP legislature member Drew Barnes said Kenney’s decision to leave Madu in limbo is in stark contrast to other cabinet and caucus members, including himself, who were forced out after challenging Kenney’s policies and leadership.
“It clearly shows the level of favouritism and cronyism under which the Kenney government operates,” said Barnes, who now sits as an Independent in the house.
“Here’s a cabinet minister that clearly broke a long-standing principle of Westminster democracies all over the world and should have been immediately removed from cabinet for that.”
Madu, in his tweet string, reiterated that he phoned the chief to seek assurances that he wasn’t being targeted by police because he is Black or because he is in a high-profile government position. He said McFee told him that was not the case.
Madu also took issue with the circumstances surrounding the ticket. He said while he was ticketed for driving while on his phone, his phone was in a pocket inside his jacket.
Both Barnes and Sabir questioned what the investigation will be looking into given that both Madu and McFee agree on the salient facts.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2022.
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press