05/04/2015 01:35 EDT | Updated 05/04/2016 05:12 EDT

Allegations against former justice minister push Alberta Tories off message

CALGARY - The day before the Alberta election, the governing Progressive Conservatives were forced to address lurid allegations surrounding their former justice minister's failed marriage.

A judge lifted a ban that had kept from the public allegations that Jonathan Denis kneed his estranged wife, Breanna Palmer, in the face, tampered with her car's brakes and threw temper tantrums while their months-long marriage fell apart earlier this year.

Justice Craig Jones also removed an emergency protection order against Denis. The judge said he was satisfied Palmer is "not in danger of family violence."

"I accept Miss Palmer's anxieties rising from her interactions with Mr. Denis ... are real," Jones said Monday. "I am not persuaded that they rise to the level of an objectively reasonable fear of family violence."

Denis, who has not been charged with any crime, said he was looking forward to getting back to the campaign in its final hours. But the decision didn't stop Palmer's allegations from being a hot topic as voters prepared to make their choice.

Premier Jim Prentice asked Denis to resign his cabinet portfolio on April 25 — three weeks into the campaign and a day after a judge granted Palmer a temporary emergency protection order. The order's details were sealed from publication, however, and Denis remained a candidate for the party in Calgary Acadia. Prentice said he had confidence in Denis as a person.

The Wildrose Party called for Denis to resign Monday given the "serious allegations" revealed when the publication ban was lifted.

Prentice refused to cut Denis loose.

"A marriage breakdown is a tragic circumstance for all involved. And that is what this remains, a matrimonial dispute that continues to be extremely difficult for both of these people," he said in a statement.

Palmer, a model and former beauty queen, provided a lengthy list of complaints against Denis, including that he ripped a TV out of the wall and the seat off a toilet as the relationship eroded.

She alleged that in the spring of 2014 he kneed her in the nose when she went to kiss him while he was in bed, causing her nose to bleed. Palmer said her car was broken into twice and both her clutch and brakes were damaged. She also alleged Denis's mother once locked her in the couple's home.

"She indicated they were both miserable," said Jones, who noted that not all of the allegations held up under cross-examination.

"Ripping the TV from the wall may not have been an accurate description of what actually happened," the judge said.

"The bloody nose incident arose as a result of a knee-jerk reaction of being woken unexpectedly by Miss Palmer attempting to perform an intimate act upon his person."

Denis hugged his lawyer after the decision and made a brief statement outside court.

"The court has totally thrown out the action against my mother and I. It's been a very difficult week for my family and friends, but I'm so thankful for all the people across the province who have contacted me," Denis said. "My priority in the next 24 hours is taking this suit off and getting back to the doors and winning Calgary Acadia."

Palmer would only say she was disappointed with the ruling.

Voters cast their ballots Tuesday with pollsters suggesting the 44-year Tory dynasty is being threatened by the Wildrose to the right and the NDP to the left.

The New Democrats, who have never won more than 16 seats in Alberta, are enjoying a wave of momentum following a debate that most pundits say leader Rachel Notley won.

Notley spent Monday campaigning in Edmonton. She said the party's message has resonated so well she thinks it can make inroads in traditionally conservative rural Alberta.

The chief electoral officer said Monday voting at advance polls was up 31 per cent over the last election .

— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter