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Danielle Smith orders email review over prosecution pressure reports

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Danielle Smith says she's called for a review into allegations one of her staff members tried to influence Alberta's crown prosecutors.

The premier announced the review Saturday on Corus Entertainment's "Your Province, Your Premier" radio program. 

She says the public service, alongside the government's IT department, will be looking into emails sent between 400 crown prosecutors and 34 staff members in the coming days. 

"As soon as we see if the emails exist, then we'll make sure that we have a presentation to the public," Smith said on the show. "We'll know next week."

The review stems from a CBC report last week alleging one of the Premier's staffers wrote emails to prosecutors last fall. The report accuses that staffer of critiquing charges brought against COVID-19 protestors in border town Coutts. 

The emails were not shared in the CBC story and CTV News has not verified them.

"JUST HOW INDEPENDENT?"

News of the review hasn't quieted opposition NDP calls for a full, independent investigation done by an outside party.

"This is not sufficient to quell the chaos that the premier has fostered and encouraged," MLA Rakhi Pancholi said. "(Albertans) have said 'we don't trust you to investigate yourself,' and that's essentially what the premier has said she's going to do."

Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt also believes more than a review is needed. 

He points to a recent back-and-forth with Smith first saying multiple times she had personally contacted Crown prosecutors over certain charges, then backtracking to say her communication was only with the attorney general and deputy attorney general. 

"There's so much there that it does need to be investigated," Bratt told CTV News. "What version of events do you believe from the premier? Do you believe the videos that you saw? Do you believe her statements on the radio? Do you believe the statements that come out of her office? 

"She's running into a major credibility gap."

Bratt -- along with many Albertans on social media -- also pointed to what could be a major flaw in the review. 

"What if the emails were deleted, which they're not supposed to be? What if a staffer was using a personal email instead a government email, which they're also not supposed to do?"

COUTTS CHARGES 

In January and February of 2022, a self-described freedom convoy set up a blockade at the American border crossing in Coutts. 

Multiple protesters were arrested. 

"These are very serious charges, related to weapons, related to potential conspiracy to commit murder of police officers," Pancholi said. "The (justice) system needs to be able to do its job."

The Alberta Crown Prosecution Service denies it has been contacted by someone from the premier's office about the cases.

EMERGENCY CAUCUS MEETING

The UCP will hold an emergency caucus meeting Saturday evening, likely to address the allegations. 

"I'm sure there are caucus members -- particularly those in Calgary in vulnerable seats -- that are getting very worried," Bratt said. "Because these stories keep cropping up, week by week."

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