PHOTOS: Shhhh! UCP voting in progress! (Photo: Wikimedia Commons.) Below: UCP leadership frontrunner Jason Kenney, and, like deer caught in the headlights, challengers Doug Schweitzer and Brian Jean.

Former Wildrose leader Brian Jean must rue the day he ever agreed to take part in a leadership “contest” with Jason Kenney, late of both Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper’s federal cabinet and the dying embers of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party.

The same, apparently, can be said of Doug Schweitzer, the third candidate in the race to lead the so-called United Conservative Party, although “race” isn’t exactly the right word either.

Both Mr. Jean and Mr. Schweitzer made an astonishing and unprecedented plea to party election officials just before midnight Thursday for electronic voting to be halted immediately because of ongoing misuse of voters’ personal identification numbers.

Postmedia reported that a submission from Mr. Schweitzer’s campaign alleged “secret use of software to falsify the sender’s IP address, expressly designed for the purpose of evading detection,” which the submission described as “suspicious behaviour.”

Yesterday, however, UCP officials blithely ignored the two unhappy candidates and declared that voting could proceed.

Robyn Henwood, chair of the UCP’s leadership election committee, was quoted by Global News as stating, “I am absolutely confident in the system of distributing PINs.”

“It’s an airtight system, we’ve had absolutely no complaints,” she said – bizarrely under the circumstances. “We do an ongoing investigation throughout the entire process and no red flags have come up at all.”

In other words, there’s nothing to see here, folks! Just move along, please.

The two candidates quickly knuckled under and voting proceeded.

Still, the fact two thirds of the candidates still standing in the UCP leadership race openly implied there is cheating against them in the election is hardly reassuring. This is particularly so in light of the accusations of bullying and intimidation against some of the candidates challenging the same front-runner in last spring’s Progressive Conservative leadership contest, and the fact the accusers are neither supporters of Alberta’s NDP government nor members of the now defunct progressive wing of the province’s conservative movement.

Mr. Jean and Mr. Schweitzer are, like Mr. Kenney, members of the party’s ideological right. Disgruntled, they are unlikely to switch their allegiance to the NDP, as did former PC leadership contender Sandra Jansen, who is now infrastructure minister, or declare they have been abandoned by their party, as does former PC leadership contender Stephen Khan.

As former PC deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk observed yesterday, “the standard for all votes is ‘reasonable apprehension of bias,’ which means, ‘if it looks like it stinks, it stinks.’ In this case, it reeks.” Mr. Lukaszuk was a candidate in the 2014 PC party leadership race that was won by Jim Prentice.

So what exactly is going on?

According to the allegations, an official in the office of former PC interim leader Ric McIver, who backs Mr. Kenney, advised Kenney supporters to rig their computers to get around the voting system’s limit of five votes per computer by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) application.

“You will need to download this VPN software to your personal computer if you are going to use your personal computer as a voting station,” a text from the official to a supporter read. “Otherwise you will only be able to have 5 people vote off your computer.”

In other words, a supporter of one campaign can get PIN numbers from hundreds of members who have purchased – or had purchased for them – UPC memberships, then vote for all of them from a single home computer. This is known to frequently happen with elderly voters and in some cultural communities in leadership campaigns.

Naturally, if Mr. Kenney is declared the winner today as expected after suspect voting, UCP officials will solemnly vow to look into the concerns and then later declare all to be well. The accounting firm that would do the investigation is reported to be associated with another of Mr. Kenney’s key supporters.

Mr. Kenney played a central role in Mr. Harper’s election strategy in 2015, which turned out to be a remarkable year for Canadian democracy.

It’s hard to believe that the same players would have played by the rules in 2015 if they had accurately read the tea leaves coming into the campaign against Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.

As is well known, electoral fraud by Conservatives took place in the 2011 federal election, although it was ruled by a judge not to have affected the outcome of the vote that year. A hapless minor player served time in jail.

Albertans and all Canadians would be advised to take note of more of this kind of behaviour before the same players can get their hands on the levers of democracy.

Voting closes at 5 p.m. today.

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  1. In other stories I read on this ‘election’, it appears there are about 65,000 members eligible to vote and another 45,000 members who didn’t bother to register to vote. How in heaven’s name has it come to pass that two fifths of a new party haven’t bothered to register to vote for a first leader?

    1. Members of Wildrose or PCAA parties who were grandfathered into the UCP, I think. Or maybe some are duplicates since some people held memberships in both.

    2. My spouse refused to send a copy of gov’t issued photo ID over the internet …. that’s how a party member CHOSE not to register, not “didn’t bother” ….

  2. With Brian Jean and Doug Schweitzer contending the vote is potentially compromised, look for legal action to follow the final count if any irregularities are found to exist. Don’t destroy the ballots or erase the hard drive UCP — Brian Jean and Doug Schweitzer are lawyers.

    FYI: The federal conservatives faced a similar episode of “ballot count discrepancies” at their CPC leadership convention in May. Coincidence?

  3. Can they not be bothered to vote, or are many of them not being allowed to vote? Voter suppression is a core strategy of the right. It just may have turned out that it is also applied to the right’s own supporters, if they are of insufficient ideological purity or are known to back the wrong candidate(s).

  4. Unlike primary elections in the States, which are regulated and administered by the State governments (a practice that has its own problems, especially with respect to Presidential elections), political party leadership and candidate nomination contests in Canada are purely internal matters, largely unregulated by any external agency. Only the Constitution and/or Bylaws of the party govern such votes, and it would be naive to expect any of those foundational governance documents to be fully mature in a party that is still neonatal. So, all of this is, at least technically, legal.

    But shenanigans like this do reflect badly on the party running the vote, and its ability to govern its own affairs, casting doubt on how they might behave n government. But, that is only true if the larger electorate is paying attention, not guaranteed in this age of
    the 140-character attention span.

  5. Oh, quelle surprise! Voting and ballot irregularities involving Jason Kenney’ s bid for a leading UCP.

    You know what would be a surprise, is if Kenney lost this so-called leadership contest.

    Hey, UCP – types, good luck with Kenney at the helm; you’ll need it.

  6. My righteous anger swells up at the prospect of more ballot box shenanigans by KKKenney. And, thanks to David for continuing to dig into these matters and bring them into the light of day.
    But . . . do we have sufficient evidence of fraud? Blog prefaces claims with “according to allegations.” That’s not enough to state anything without equivocation. Then there’s explanation in quotes on how to circumvent voting system by downloading VPN software. Did you see this memo? How did you find out about this memo?
    I would love to find criminal intent and nail the SOBs who perpetrate these crimes. But, we don’t have enough to go on. These are still just allegations.
    As we see on our doorstep and elsewhere, a sickness is pervading the democratic processes — note the crazy polling in the recent Calgary mayoralty race. Just imagine what it’s going to be like in the 2019 provincial election. Is the criminal justice system equipped to tackle the rising issue of electoral fraud? Should we not be pressing for criminal justice system to be more involved?
    May this be more than the bleating of an old man. Hope you have the energy, Mr. Blogger, to keep on digging.

  7. “It’s hard to believe that the same players would have played by the rules in 2015 if they had accurately read the tea leaves coming into the campaign against Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.”

    I see this a little different….

    Their 2011 robocall intervention was not needed – alas they had the numbers they needed w/o the fraud.
    The cheating only works in close elections. It was overkill.

    ( The electronic voting in the USA can be easily manipulated. Obama survived the cheating south of the border because he actually had a massive lead both times – a lead blunted by cheating but it was not enough to defeat him. Hillary likely won the electoral college but the close races in a few states were swung in her favour by fraud (imo) )

    Our very own CONs are much more limited in their ability to cheat in general elections … the paper ballot systems is our holy grail and last line of defense.
    Having been caught red handed in 2011, they would only risk massive fraud again if it was close. They read the tea leaves alright and decided to keep their powder dry for other times it is needed:
    After the recent Scheer “victory” (including mostly electronic voting) the ballots were quickly destroyed. ??!!??
    The pending Kenny “win” also involves e-voting. Easy to cheat in both cases …. and cheating likely happened – it is part of the right-wing DNA.

  8. I’ve always strongly opposed online voting for sovereign-government elections; I acquiesce to online voting for municipal offices because such charter governments at least have limited powers — they can’t run budgetary deficits, for example. Party elections are, of course, up to members to regulate. Presumably the UCP membership(s?) has accepted the ineluctable veracity and fraud problems inherent in online ballots (mail-in ballots have the same problems): it’s impossible to know if the proper people voted once per ballot and that facilitates a number of biasing or favouring techniques of cheating.

    The rationale behind online and mail-in type ballots is mainly minimizing expense, and secondly providing wider accessibility. It might be that party members are okay with electing a leader that might have used shady or ruthless means to win — that is, it might be some kind of indication of how low that leader is willing to go in sovereign-election campaigns to gain advantage over rivals. No sovereign election has ever been decided by online voting in Canada.

    The Cadillac of voting systems is the paper ballot hand-marked in a private booth by each voter who has had his or her eligibility checked at a designated voting place, and whose vote is registered so that nobody can impersonate or multiple vote.

    Is a contest among copartisans so trusting that the impossibility of verifying who voted how many times doesn’t really concern them? However, contests between rival partisans would only invite accusations of rigged voting if the same veracity impossibilities of online or mail-in ballots were involved.

    Two lessons that should be learned here: Jason Kenney has been elected using a system where veracity and fraud problems cannot possibly be eliminated, and this is an election amongst party insiders that doesn’t reflect the mood of Albertans at large.

  9. I imagine the UCP tried to douse the flames of the on line voting fiasco as quickly as possible. They probably called the two leadership candidates who brought forth their concerns on the carpet and did everything they could to silence them. I suspect a number of sticks and carrots were put forth by the party until they agreed to drop it, so the crisis was temporarily averted.

    However, things have a way of leaking out and if these candidates (or their supporters) are not happy with the outcome, stories from anonymous sources could start appearing along with further details or discussion about these shenanigans.

    I hope the auditors will follow up with all the voters who didn’t receive PIN’s, where someone called in to get a PIN or where the same address, phone number of e-mail is used for 5 or more members and not just take a carefully selected sample. They should ask all these members if they voted (or not) and cross reference that to the PINs used. If a number of members say they didn’t vote and their PIN was used, then there is a serious problem.

    The auditors should also probably do a name search for these members to determine if the address is valid and pay attention to where the supposed member may be incapacitated (ex. in a continuing care facility). Given the history of political shenanigans, they probably should also check if any are actually names that match those of the deceased.

    In the on line world, it could be fairly easy to sign up fake members. They might be able to hide the computers IP address behind a VPN, but the duplication of physical addresses, phone numbers or e-mail addresses would be a tell tale sign something was wrong.

    Hopefully the UCP and its auditors will take this seriously and not just try to sweep it under the carpet.

  10. The Alberta Party’s membership experienced a sharp increase following the announcement that Jason Kenney was elected as the United Conservative Party’s (UCP) first leader.
    “It’s hard to imagine how Greg Clark by himself could generate sufficient confidence for Albertans to trust him with the reins in power in the next election,” Lori Williams said. “He is the party, at this stage.”
    The thin edge of the Kenney Blade has Jumped off the ice surface just Like the Oilers, Harper and McDavid need to regroup and *Take a Knee*

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