Canada

Colby Cosh: The bizarre mail-tampering scandal threatening the political career of Calgary’s new Liberal MP

George Chahal, who led the polls in Calgary’s Skyview riding last month, is being investigated for allegedly removing an opponent’s flyer from a constituent’s mailbox

Article content

Who says political courage is dead? Liberal MP-elect and former Calgary city councillor George Chahal braved the camera’s eye on Monday night, joining CTV News to provide expert analysis of the municipal election. Chahal, who led the polls in Calgary’s Skyview riding last month, is being investigated by Elections Canada and the police for allegedly removing an opponent’s flyer from a constituent’s mailbox.

Advertisement

Article content

News anchor Tara Nelson understood that Chahal could not really be allowed on camera with such a massive thunderhead hanging over him, so she gave him a chance to shoo it away, asking him directly about the mail tampering. Chahal described it as a “dumb mistake,” which is what people who commit crimes almost always call them after being caught, and insisted that he had “co-operated fully” with Elections Canada’s ongoing investigation.

Security camera footage allegedly shows Liberal candidate George Chahal removing an opponent’s campaign flyer.
Security camera footage allegedly shows Liberal candidate George Chahal removing an opponent’s campaign flyer. Photo by Courtesy Glenn Pennett

Chahal hopes “we can move forward,” a locution that suggests he will fit right into Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet in due course. (He forgot the part of the Trudeau formula where he says his foul-up is an opportunity for us all to reflect, but he is still new to the federal scene.)

Advertisement

Article content

The timing of the federal and Alberta municipal elections seems to have been fortunate for Chahal. When a voter produced video footage of the candidate allegedly removing a Conservative brochure from his mailbox in the gloom of a Calgary evening, Chahal could perhaps have remained silent and pushed onward with preparations for a glorious parliamentary career. The ensuing city elections and their attendant referendums have provided fresh fodder for the news cycle.

Unfortunately, Chahal’s campaign manager took a unique approach to the accusations by the homeowner, Glenn Pennett: he immediately confessed on his boss’s behalf. Yes, Chahal had taken a Conservative brochure from Pennett’s mailbox, but he had an excellent reason to do it. Tory incumbent Jag Sahota’s campaign literature, you see, allegedly provided Pennett with mistaken information about his polling location. What looked like a sleazy theft was actually a helpful public service — one man’s lonely war against misinformation.

Advertisement

Article content

It’s worth noting that Pennett and a lawyer for Sahota have contradicted even this excuse: they allege that Chahal’s flyer actually bore the address for a polling station 18 kilometres away, and that Sahota’s flyer was the correct one, containing the same information Elections Canada would have given Pennett.

If that’s true, Chahal’s offence is not limited to the violation of Elections Act rules against interfering with election advertising, nor with the ordinary criminal law, which protects us from having our mailboxes rummaged through. (Doesn’t it?) Propagating incorrect polling-station data is something a Conservative campaign staffer went to jail for not so long ago.

My suspicion is that if some neighbours sent the cops video of me fiddling with their mail, I would be feeling the cold steel of a pair of handcuffs within about 48 hours. The Calgary police, however, referred the matter to their tactful, cautious “ anti-corruption unit ,” and while that is certainly not a phrase a politcian wants to have connected with his name, Chahal’s shenanigans don’t really fit a strict political definition of “corruption.” The word can, of course, just refer to anything that physically stinks.

Advertisement

Article content

Curiously, the punditariat’s reaction has mostly been to talk about how Chahal had been a shoo-in for cabinet , being the only victorious Liberal in Calgary, but that things are now probably a tad awkward . Not too awkward to persuade the TV news to disinvite Chahal from appearing on election broadcasts, but still a bit problematic.

Well, Chahal has promoted his alleged mail tampering from “exercise of a completely justifiable Liberal editorial privilege” ― I for one was thanking God I have an apartment mailbox with a lock on it ― to “dumb mistake.” We shouldn’t expect him to upgrade it further to “demented, grotesque act that ought to disqualify me from public office for life, and which, at a minimum, absolutely ought to trigger a byelection in Skyview.”

Advertisement

Article content

Journalists can afford to be cynical and to tell themselves that “every politician probably lifts stuff from mailboxes from time to time” before they whiz off to scrutinize Coun. Sean Chu’s 20th-century sex life . It is for the police and Elections Canada to defend the integrity of our homes and our democracy. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

National Post
Twitter.com/colbycosh

The big issues are far from settled. Sign up for the NP Comment newsletter,  NP Platformed.

Advertisement

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.



File source

Tags
Show More

Related Articles

Back to top button
Close