Alberta PC party investigates nomination irregularities amid allegation of bribery
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The Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta is investigating irregularities in the nomination process of an Edmonton constituency amid allegations that the incumbent MLA attempted to mislead a challenger’s supporters and offer a bribe through a proxy in order to undermine the challenger’s campaign.
On Monday, Metro confirmed an ongoing probe by the PCAA into the nomination process in Edmonton-Ellerslie, currently held by Naresh Bhardwaj.
Metro made repeated attempts to contact Bhardwaj, the associate minister for persons with disabilities, including asking him in person at the Alberta Legislature Wednesday to respond and supplying him with a written list of questions regarding the allegations, but he would only say: “I think anything related to the nomination should be directed to Kelley Charlebois." Charlebois is the PC party’s executive director.
The allegations against Bhardwaj stem from Edmonton-Ellerslie challenger Balraj Manhas' claim that he was called just days before the Feb. 21 nomination ballot and told by riding committee representatives to withdraw or be publicly disqualified on the basis that his nomination papers were invalid.
Metro has spoken to two of Manhas' supporters and received copies of their notarized statements. They claim Bhardwaj or others acting on his behalf attempted to have them sign pre-drafted affidavits claiming their names had improperly appeared on the challenger's nomination papers.
In one instance, Balbir Sidhu claims he was offered a $10,000 bribe paid either in Canada or in India by others working on Bhardwaj's behalf in exchange for claiming his signature and those of other family members should not have been on Manhas' papers.
Sidhu said he outright refused.
"I thought, 'Why would he do this?'" Sidhu said in an interview Tuesday. "Whatever the public wants for this area is supposed to be what happens."
Bhardwaj remained in a nearby car while the conversation with the proxy took place, Sidhu said.
In the other instance, Bilal Ali claims his family was approached late at night by three men, including Bhardwaj, and told to sign a document that he initially believed was to confirm their support for Manhas. It was only later, Ali said Tuesday, that he realized his signature was being used to run Manhas out of the race.
Ali said in an interview that three other members of his family had also supported Manhas and all signed the document allegedly offered by Bhardwaj.
None of the aforementioned allegations have been proven.
PC party representatives refused to delve into the specifics of their ongoing investigation Tuesday and again Wednesday, even after being informed of Metro's possession of the documents.
A spokesperson said Wednesday the party “confirms that there are many layers to this investigation” but declined to speak in further detail.
Instead, the party referred to comments made Monday when Metro first reported about potential issues with the nomination race.
At that time, Charlebois would only say that the party was looking into the race.
“The whole matter is still considered under review by the party,” he said.
Sidhu, meanwhile, said he hopes for a fulsome investigation.
In his sworn statement, he directly addressed Premier Jim Prentice.
"For God Sake Jim, please save Alberta from such corrupt inducements or bribes," Sidhu wrote.