May 24, 2024

Pawlowski claims Smith call was to address his charges, not about politics

The UCP ‘strongly questions the credibility of his claims’

Author of the article: Matthew Black Published May 24, 2023

Artur Pawlowski speaks about his interactions and phone call with Danielle Smith during a news conference on the steps of the Alberta legislature in Edmonton on Wednesday May 24, 2023.PHOTO BY DAVID BLOOM /Postmedia

The Calgary street preacher at the centre of a call caught on video that raised questions about Danielle Smith interfering in the justice system said Wednesday the discussion was never about politics, as she had claimed, and only about the criminal charges he faced.

Artur Pawlowski called a Wednesday news conference to “reveal the whole story” of his interactions with Smith in a reference to the video of a phone call between the two where she tells the pastor that she spoke with Crown prosecutors about COVID-related cases “almost weekly.”

“It was always about the charges,” he said of the call Wednesday. “From the very beginning I said I had nothing really else to say.”

He went on to call Smith “a pathological liar” and cited she failed to follow through on a plan to grant amnesty to those facing charges related to pandemic health measures.

“This phone call was always about the same thing,” he said. “Where are you going to introduce what you promised the amnesty bill for people like me, and thousands of other Albertans?”

“When you’re elected. Tell the people the truth. That’s what I want.”

At the time of the call, Pawlowski was the leader of the Alberta Independence Party.

He was later removed from that role and founded his own party, the Alberta Solidarity Movement, which is running 38 candidates, including Pawlowski himself, in next Monday’s election.

Pawlowski went on Wednesday to make a number of allegations about Smith and the UCP but, when pressed by reporters, was unable to provide any evidence to support his claims.

‘Strongly questions the credibility’

A UCP party spokesperson issued a statement following the event that claims Smith was “not aware of any of the conversations … referenced by Mr. Pawlowski in his comments today, and strongly questions the credibility of his claims.”

At an unrelated news conference held earlier in the day before Pawlowski’s, the UCP leader was asked about how many times she had spoken with Pawlowski.

“The person in question has been found guilty, and I have nothing further to say on that,” she answered.

Speaking to reporters later in the day, NDP Leader Rachel Notley noted Pawlowski’s allegations were unproven, but that “the volume on his voice has been turned up considerably” during Smith’s time in office.

“Art Pawlowski and extremists like him have far too much influence in the premier’s office, and what that means is that very bad decisions are being made, and what that also means is that really important work isn’t being done.”

During her campaign to become UCP leader, Smith pledged to add vaccination status to the Alberta Human Rights Act, but has thus far backed down from that promise since taking office.

In February, Smith denied Pawlowski would get special treatment but has changed her story on the phone call several times.

She first claimed she had used “imprecise language” and hadn’t spoken to Crown prosecutors but had talked with Justice Minister Tyler Shandro and his deputy attorney general.

She later offered a new explanation, saying she disagreed with some of Pawlowski’s extreme views but took his call because “I thought we were talking in the context of him being a political party leader.”

At the time of the call, Pawlowski was awaiting trial for breaching a release order and mischief of inciting people to block public property at the Coutts border crossing. He was found guilty of both charges earlier this month.

He also faces another charge under the Alberta Critical Infrastructure Defence Act — legislation passed as the UCP’s Bill 1 in June 2020 —  of wilfully damaging or destroying essential infrastructure, but no ruling was issued on that count pending a constitutional challenge from his lawyer.

Call contravened Conflict of Interest Act

Last week, the ethics commissioner ruled Smith had contravened the Conflict of Interest Act by discussing Pawlowski’s criminal charges with then-justice minister and attorney general Shandro.

“The purpose of Premier Smith’s call was to influence a decision of the Crown to prosecute Mr. Pawlowski,” Alberta ethics commissioner Marguerite Trussler wrote in her report.

“It is the first step toward the type of judicial system often found in a non-democratic or pseudo-democratic country where members of and friends of those in power are shielded from prosecution or are acquitted by the courts on the instructions of those in power.”

In comments after, Smith emphasized the investigation found no evidence anyone from her office emailed prosecutors regarding any COVID-19 prosecutions.

Pawlowski became known in the early days of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic after refusing to follow public health measures, and later being arrested at a protest outside of Health Minister Jason Copping’s home.

Years earlier, he expressed homophobic views including that homosexuals were led by Satan and that homosexuality was in part the cause of the 2013 Calgary flood, saying God was “weeping for the perversions of homosexuality.”

Voting day is set for next Monday although advance polls opened Tuesday and will remain open through Saturday.

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