CBC News has significantly altered a story it published earlier this year claiming Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s office had contacted Crown prosecutors and says it “regrets” those claims.
In January, the state broadcaster relied on anonymous sources to report that Smith’s office contacted Crown prosecutors and pressured them on Covid-19 and the Coutts border blockade charges. Smith, her office, and Crown prosecutors denied the allegations, and the CBC later updated the story to say it had not viewed the emails in question.
In May, during the Alberta provincial election campaign, the narrative further unfolded when an ethics report from Commissioner Marguerite Trussler was released finding “no evidence of such an email.”
In light of the report, the CBC said it re-interviewed its sources who could not confirm that emails originally described were sent directly from Smith’s office to the Crown.
“As such, we have updated this story and related pieces, removing references to direct contact between the premier’s office and prosecutors – which the premier has vehemently denied,” reads a lengthy editor’s note atop the article.
“CBC News regrets reporting direct contact by email.”
The Premier’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Smith has long called the allegations in the original CBC story “baseless” and called for a retraction and apology.
She even threatened a defamation suit in May, over a related article which said a phone call between the Premier and controversial street pastor Artur Pawlowski about his Coutts charges revealed that Smith’s conversations “with top Alberta Justice officials about pandemic-related prosecutions were more frequent and specific than she has admitted publicly.”
Smith has told the public she’s been in contact with Justice officials over whether it’s in the public interest to continue pursuing pandemic charges.
In Trussler’s report, the commissioner also found that Smith contravened the Conflicts of Interest Act in an interaction with the Minister of Justice and Attorney General over Coutts charges. Smith has since apologized.
But the public broadcaster’s reporting damaged the Premier for months as she faced allegations of judicial interference throughout the provincial election campaign.
The CBC head of public affairs Chuck Thompson said the publication took till July to update the story because “simply stated, that’s the time it took to do our due diligence.”