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Controversies Chase UCP

Controversies Chase UCP

Edmonton (ATB);MLA Prab Gill resigned from the UCP caucus after being caught up in a scandal involving alleged ballot stuffing at the founding meeting of the United Conservative’s new constituency association in Calgary-North East on June 30.
Also, Todd Beasley, a candidate running for the UCP nomination in Brooks-Medicine Hat, was asked by the party to drop out because he had posted anti-Islamic social media posts in 2017 where he referred to Muslims as “fools who are really worshipping Satan.”
And Devin Dreeshen, the UCP candidate who won last Thursday’s by-election in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, spent eight months in 2016 working as a campaign volunteer for Donald Trump.
However, to supporters of the UCP, the party’s internal screening process is a success. It caught and ejected Beasley before the nomination vote. The party also conducted an investigation into Gill’s behavior that led to him quitting the caucus.
And more than 80 per cent of voters elected Dreeshen in the by-elections despite his ties to the U.S. president.
It would seem one person’s definition of scandal is another person’s definition of success.
But the UCP is being careful not to proclaim its successes from the rooftops.
It just wants to move on.
It is, for example, refusing to release the report from the party’s internal investigation into Gill’s conduct.
An official with the party said it wants to “protect the privacy of those who provided testimony on this issue” and concluded “we now consider the matter closed.”
Likewise with the Beasley incident. When the party elbowed him from the nomination race, an official would say only Beasley had made social media posts that were “concerning” and “outside of mainstream.”
It was subsequent news reports that revealed that in a May, 2017 Facebook post Beasley made anti-Islamic comments that included calling the Prophet Muhammad a “sixth century rapist, pedophile” and a “murdering bigamist, sadistic warlord posing as a holy man.”
The UCP is not boasting about its screening process. The process didn’t catch Beasley’s past comments until a few days before the nomination vote. The party would just like for him and his opinions to go away.
As for Dreeshen, he indeed won a huge majority of the by-election vote. But he did that while avoiding any mention of his work for Trump.
When a journalist from Vice Canada tried to interview him during a by-elections campaign rally about his Trump connection, Dreeshen reportedly said he had to go to the bathroom and never returned.
It was only after the by election that he addressed the issue by saying he was not so much supporting Trump as he was trying to build political contacts in the U.S.
UCP leader Jason Kenney went one step further and praised Dreeshen’s work for Trump: “I think it’s actually helpful to have in our caucus an MLA who can get people on the phone in the U.S. administration, who knows some of them and has worked with some of them.”
OK, but why not say that during the by-election campaign? Why leave the Trump connection out of Dreeshen’s campaign literature? Why run from a reporter’s questions?
The answer is that Trump is not popular in Canada and to admit you worked for him is to invite controversy. Not that it would have made much difference to the outcome of a by-election race focused on Alberta issues in a Conservative stronghold. And Dreeshen was a credible candidate. But Kenney is nothing if not cautious.
He sees a path to electoral victory in 2019 and he will tolerate no distractions or self-inflicted controversies.
UCP supporters say Albertans should know the party’s vetting process is keeping out controversial characters.
But UCP critics want Albertans to wonder why the party seems to be attracting controversial characters in the first place.
Albertans are of the view that nomination process for various seats will surely be marked by chaos and may lead to defections.

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