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'Buddy, you are being set up': Disqualified PC candidate Jamie Lall makes text messages public

Private messages turned over to Metro by ex-Progressive Conservative candidate Jamie Lall raise further questions on whether the party was actively trying to disqualify him and secure a nomination for a Wildrose floor-crosser, says a political scientist.

Among the communications to Lall was one dated Jan. 31 from PC executive director Kelley Charlebois, in which he told Lall "(I) don't want you in Chestermere . . ." and, in another series sent a little more than two weeks later, one that read: "I think it has more to do with who you're running against then (sic) you."

"A lot of us asked you not go against him," reads another.

Lall was challenging incumbent Bruce McAllister for the nomination in Chestermere-Rocky View after McAllister, a former Wildrose MLA, switched parties and joined the PCs. There's been no indication McAllister has anything to do with Lall's disqualification.

The PC party was asked Monday to respond directly to the text messages in question, and offered a statement that read: "As we've said many times before, the reason for being disallowed from the race has been made clear to Mr. Lall."

Lall said he felt something was afoot when he was told he needed to meet with PC party private investigator Gordon Bull, who asked him "probing” questions.

In a series of text messages to friend and then-Justice Minister Jonathan Denis, Lall questioned why Bull had been called in to question him.

 Jonathan Denis

Jonathan Denis

On March 14, Denis told Lall to "hire a lawyer," and "Buddy, you are being set up," and "They're playing you for a dumb kid."

Jonathan Denis did not respond to requests for comment regarding the text messages.

Denis messaged Lall again on March 28, the day three of nine floor-crossing Wildrose members – including former leader Danielle Smith – lost their Tory nominations bids.

"They're doing this bc danielle lost. They see bruce losing," he said via text.

Lall received a text message from Charlebois at 11:28 p.m. that night informing him he could either bow out of the nomination vote due to be held days later or be publicly disqualified in the party's evening media release.

Lall said he didn't comply. The release was sent out at 12:29 a.m. March 29.

After reviewing the messages Monday, Duane Bratt, a political scientist with Mount Royal University, said, to him, it shows, "the smoking gun that they were trying to remove (Lall) months before March 28, (and) that they likely hired a (private investigator) to try to disqualify him and that's confirmed not just by Jamie Lall but by Jonathan Denis."

He added, "Jonathan Denis is not just an MLA, Jonathan Denis was the justice minister."

Lall says he's a victim of the Tory 'machine'

Lall told Metro he was a loyal Progressive Conservative volunteer for years, ran in a riding in the 2012 election he knew he couldn't win, and feels he's being punished for standing up to the party's "machine."

The comments came during a sit-down interview Monday in which he temporarily turned over his phone so the full slate of text messages involving his candidacy in Chestermere-Rocky View could be reviewed.

Lall said he began making inquiries about an MLA run around the new year, asking the party’s executive director Kelley Charlebois where incumbents would be retiring.

"I considered him a friend, a mentor," Lall said.

As proof of their past dealings, Lall pointed to a March 12, 2014 exchange during a time when Charlebois' leadership was being drawn into question publicly.

 Kelley Charlebois

Kelley Charlebois

"I have been advised my services are no longer required by the PC Party," Charlebois wrote to Lall at the time.

Lall replied, "It's horses--t is what this is. You shouldn't be the one taking the fall."

Come nomination time, Lall said he settled on Chestermere because he grew up there and has a local base of support.

But he said he quickly grew nervous of rumblings he'd heard of attempts to undermine his campaign. It was then that he reached out to Charlebois on Feb. 17, asking: "If I drop out of Chestermere, what's still available?"

The director responded via text, "Honestly, not much to run in . . . Varsity . . . want to be on the campaign instead this time?"

Lall responded that he'd heard of supporters being called and told that a vote for him was a vote against the party.

Charlebois responded, "It is dirty!"

"It was like, how many more do I need to take for the team?" Lall said Monday. "If this is how any political party is going to treat their own people, how do you think they're going to treat the general public? They have the machine and if they want to come at you, they will."

The PC party was supplied with copies of the text messages between Lall and Charlebois Monday, but did not make anyone available for an interview.

"As we've said many times before, the reason for being disallowed from the race has been made clear to Mr. Lall," PC campaign spokesperson Mike Storeshaw said. "He knows what it is. Our campaign is moving forward with an outstanding candidate, who will continue to be an excellent MLA for Chestermere-Rocky View."

Lall said he never expected to topple Liberal incumbent Kent Hehr in his failed 2012 MLA bid in Calgary-Buffalo. He was vetted by the party prior to that bid, too, but not by a private investigator.

He granted an interview with Gordon Bull from Forensic Group West Ltd. and supplied some documents that were requested.

Afterwards, on March 14, Lall reached out to then-Justice Minister Jonathan Denis to ask about such a process.

"The party says they use him for all candidates," he wrote.

But Denis responded: "BS. BS. BS."

Bull has also been tied to an internal probe of bribery allegations made against Edmonton-Ellerslie Tory incumbent Naresh Bhardwaj ahead of his own nomination vote.

An email supplied by Lall from a member of the PC Chestermere-Rocky View riding association, meanwhile, confirms he was an approved candidate on March 24, four days before he was then disqualified.

But both Charlebois and PC Leader Jim Prentice have maintained that the vetting of Lall turned up a reason to disqualify him.

"They (the nomination committee) made their decision in the case of Mr. Lall for good reasons," Prentice told reporters at a press event March 31. "I can't speak to you about what those reasons are because I think that's up to Mr. Lall, if he wishes to speak about it."

At the time, Prentice also said the losses of other former Wildrose candidates had "nothing whatsoever" to do with Lall's disqualification.

McAllister was contacted for comment on the text messages late Monday, but didn't respond by press time.

There's no indication McAllister had any connection to Lall's disqualification.

Some of the text messages turned over by Jamie Lall: