Alberta premier offers new version of Pawlowski conversation; NDP renews call for investigation

By The Canadian Press and Toula Mazloum

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith is offering up a new version of why she engaged in a controversial phone call with a Calgary street pastor in which they discuss his upcoming criminal case related to COVID-19 public health measures.

Smith told her Saturday morning phone-in radio show she took the call from Artur Pawlowski because she thought it was going to be in the context of his role as the leader of another political party, the Alberta Independence Party.

She says when the discussion veered into Pawlowski’s court case, she simply reminded him that she had tried to gain amnesty for COVID accused but was told by justice officials the cases must play out independently.

The call was leaked to the Opposition NDP, which played it for reporters on March 29, prompting Smith to announce a week ago she will not discuss the issue publicly because she is considering defamation action and can’t talk on the advice of her lawyer.

Smith had previously stressed there was nothing wrong with the call because she had publicly promised to look into COVID-related cases on behalf of the accused, but on Thursday stated that while no politician should discuss criminal cases with accused prior to trial, her call with Pawlowski was acceptable.

Legal experts say the call was a clear violation of the firewall between politicians and the justice system, noting Smith is heard sharing internal details of Crown case strategy, promising to make inquiries on Pawlowski’s behalf and reporting back to him while also telling him the charges against him were politically motivated.


Meanwhile, the NDP issued a statement Saturday claiming Justice Minister Tyler Shandro played an important role in Smith’s interference in the courts on behalf Pawlowski.

The statement asks Shandro “to appear in public and take questions.”

“On the doorstep in Calgary-Acadia, voters are appalled that Danielle Smith tried to block the prosecution of someone accused of encouraging violence against police officers,” said Diana Batten, Alberta NDP candidate for Calgary-Acadia. “As justice minister, Tyler Shandro played a central role in this and yet, he’s refused to answer questions about why he failed to protect our justice system.”

The Opposition says Irfan Sabir, Alberta NDP critic for justice, has written a “second” letter to Shandro asking him to launch an independent investigation, but did not hear back.

According to the NDP, Sabir previously wrote to Shandro on Jan.17.

“As Attorney General, you are responsible for upholding the integrity of Alberta’s justice system,” Sabir’s letter to Shandro reads. “The premier’s conduct harms that integrity, and only an independent investigation can repair this damage. If you act quickly, an independent investigation led by a judge can be completed before the election period. Albertans will make their own decisions, but they should have all the facts.”

CityNews reached out to Shandro’s office for comments.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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