No charges after voter fraud probe into 2017 UCP leadership race: Alberta RCMP

EDMONTON — There will be no criminal charges following a multi-year RCMP probe into alleged voter identity fraud in the 2017 United Conservative Party leadership race that saw former premier Jason Kenney elected leader.

“The Alberta RCMP determined that there were suspected instances of potential fraud, however there was insufficient evidence to charge any suspect,” RCMP Supt. Rick Jane told reporters at a news conference Friday.

He also said there was no evidence any leadership candidate orchestrated any fraud.

The investigation was launched after Kenney won the race to become leader of the party created from the merger of Alberta’s two conservative rival parties — the Progressive Conservatives and the Wildrose Party.

Kenney was leader of the Progressive Conservatives and defeated Wildrose leader Brian Jean and a third candidate, Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer.

Kenney went on to become premier when the UCP won the 2019 provincial election.

That same year, Mounties began investigating allegations of voter identity fraud.

Party members had voted by phone or electronically after receiving PIN numbers from submitted emails addresses.

There were allegations that bogus emails were created for some party members in order to hijack their PINs and vote without their knowledge or consent.

Police said there was some suspicious behaviour, such as multiple votes cast from the same phone number or from the same internet provider address.

However, they said the data doesn’t show which candidate received which vote and it’s not necessarily fraud for multiple votes to come from the same address given people from the same household could have voted.

RCMP also said investigators estimate the number of suspicious votes at 200, which would not have been enough to have tipped the balance in the race.

Kenney won with 36,625 votes, which comprised 61 per cent of ballots cast and was almost double that of his closest rival, Jean.

Mounties said the online voting platform was not compromised and that the party and leadership candidates assisted in the investigation, which ultimately cost almost $461,000 in overtime and travel.

“The RCMP investigation did not find evidence that any leadership candidate encouraged their volunteers to engage in identity fraud,” said the RCMP release.

Police also said there would be no charges surrounding the actions of a fourth candidate in the race, Jeff Callaway.

Callaway ran early in the race but later quit to back Kenney.

Callaway faced accusations he was never serious about running and signed up to attack and discredit Jean.

Callaway raised $95,000 in financial contributions, and police investigated whether he fraudulently raised the money if there was no plan to stay in the race.

“The investigation did not uncover evidence to establish that Callaway, or any other person, committed a criminal offence," said the release.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 8, 2024.

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press