Alberta Politics
Unsuccessful United Conservative Party nomination candidate Cindy Ross campaigns with her leader, Jason Kenney (Photo: CindyRoss.ca).

How far is the United Conservative Party prepared to go to be tolerant of intolerance? Quite far, apparently

Posted on September 08, 2018, 1:35 am
9 mins

MLA Richard Gotfried defeated candidate Cindy Ross last night for the United Conservative Party nomination in the Calgary-Fish Creek Riding.

Mr. Gotfried, narrowly elected as a Progressive Conservative candidate in a tight three-way race in the May 2015 Alberta election, has detractors within the UCP. Still, his victory has to be good news for the Opposition party given the recent revelation of Ms. Ross’s past comments about Muslims.

Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Richard Gotfried, who won his UCP nomination fight against Ms. Ross last night (Photo: Facebook).

On Thursday, an NDP news release based on some fairly basic opposition research revealed that three years ago Ms. Ross published social media comments comparing Muslims to bank robbers in a 2015 commentary about plans to build a mosque in Fort McMurray.

“What better place to have a large mosque,” she wrote sarcastically in the Facebook post that has since disappeared, but of which screenshots still exist. “Right in the middle of our greatest asset. This is bit like jailing the bank robber in the bank vault.” (Emphasis added.)

Despite her loss to Mr. Gotfried, this kind of commentary raises questions about the attitudes of people who support the UCP, not to mention the effectiveness and consistency of the tough vetting process UCP Leader Jason Kenney has repeatedly promised to prevent the “bozo eruptions” that have plagued conservative parties in Alberta.

How tolerant is the UCP of intolerance? Still quite tolerant, it would appear.

Of course, I’m not talking about the UCP’s political opponents, or people who advocate policies of which the party disapproves (for example, the anti-pipeline protesters in other provinces UCP supporters call “eco-terrorists”), or those who look for one reason or another like they might commit rural crime. For them, there is zero tolerance.

Ms. Ross’s official portrait (Photo: CindyRoss.ca).

I’m talking about candidates like Ms. Ross for the party’s own nominations. The UCP’s tolerance level for such people apparently remains quite high.

Having been busted by the NDP, Ms. Ross Tweeted a pro forma apology – “I apologize for any offence my old posts have caused.”

She emphasized she made the remarks a long time ago, said her views have changed, and claimed not to remember writing them anyway. “I have no recollection of the post or any context.”

The UCP’s official response was swift – and forgiving.

In a statement, UCP Executive Director Janice Harrington said Ms. Ross should be forgiven because “accepting that people can evolve is necessary for a tolerant province. People are allowed to grow and change their views over time.”

Well, forgiveness is an important value, but perhaps not so much for seekers of political office. At least, political aspirants who have said inappropriate things need to demonstrate their change of heart is sincere – and a couple of apologetic Tweets after you’ve been caught doesn’t really make the cut.

So why was the UCP so willing to forgive in this case?

UCP nomination candidate Sandra Kim (Photo: Twitter).

The revelation came less than 48 hours before the constituency vote, so dumping Ms. Ross at that hour would have entailed a delay. Still, most other political parties wouldn’t have let her stay on the ballot.

Perhaps Ms. Ross’s Tweeted repudiation of her past comments seemed like enough to leaders of a party in which such views would not seem out of place among elements of the party base.

The UCP didn’t extend such an olive branch in July to the disallowed nomination candidate in Brooks-Medicine Hat who said even more offensive things about Muslims, but there was no evidence Todd Beasley had changed his mind.

Another UCP official – Political Operations Director Jeff Henwood – reminded media in that case of Mr. Kenney’s promise of a thorough vetting process for all would-be candidates, and added that Mr. Beasley’s comments to a talk radio host (who was the leader of the Wildrose Party in 2012) were the sort of “vile, hateful views” the leader vowed would not be tolerated.

“Those who express hateful views towards entire groups of people are not welcome to run,” Mr. Kenney said himself. Except when they are.

UCP Executive Director Janice Harrington (Photo: Twitter).

At the very least, it should have been a warning sign Ms. Ross’s candidacy was endorsed on social media by Mr. Beasley!

Ms. Ross and Mr. Beasley are not the only examples of nomination candidates for a new political party already no stranger to bozo eruptions and similar political phenomena.

There was Sandra Kim, UCP nomination candidate in the Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin Riding who once posted a social media comment mockingly claiming veiled Muslim women are allowed to pass through Canadian airport security checks. She also indicated she was opposed to same-sex marriage.

Ms. Kim was also allowed to run for the nomination, although in her case too another candidate was chosen.

Then there was Devin Dreeshen, now the boy wonder of the UCP, revealed in July’s by-election campaign in the Innisfail-Sylvan Lake Riding to have gone south in 2016 to campaign for Donald J. Trump, who as president of the United States has been revealed not exactly to be a friend of Canada. No problem. After his victory in the by-election, Mr. Kenney rewarded Mr. Dreeshen by making him the party’s trade critic.

2012 Wildrose candidate Allan Hunsperger, author of the infamous Lake of Fire meltdown (Photo: Twitter).

And never mind the sitting MLAs who have racked up an impressive catalogue of embarrassments – including comparing the NDP government’s carbon tax to genocide (Rick Strankman) and Alberta led by the NDP to China under Mao Zedung (Mr. Gotfried himself).

The party stuck by a candidate who declared global climate change to be a hoax, but disallowed another who called former Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne “a tranny.”

There was no forgiveness for the ambitious Derek Fildebrandt, who was kicked out of caucus for failing to inform Mr. Kenney of problems with the law that had potential political repercussions. Mr. Fildebrandt now sits as a representative of the fledgling Freedom Conservative Party, an ideological effort in which he seems to play Friedrich Engels to Maxime Bernier’s Karl Marx.

The UCP has not yet had a bozo-eruption of the proportions of the notorious Lake of Fire conflagration that brought down the Wildrose Party just before the 2012 provincial election, likely saving the day for premier Alison Redford’s PCs.

That too was based on a blog post published long before its revelation, authored by Pastor Allan Hunsperger, a fundamentalist preacher with strong views on the eternal fate of LGBTQ people.

With Ms. Ross’s past comments, though, it seems as if the UCP is creeping close enough to the flames for Mr. Kenney to think seriously about investing in a better fire extinguisher.

8 Comments to: How far is the United Conservative Party prepared to go to be tolerant of intolerance? Quite far, apparently

  1. J.E. Molnar

    September 8th, 2018

    No surprises here folks.

    With nominated candidates like Ross and Kim and a smattering of others who didn’t cut the mustard, it would appear that Jason Kenney and the UCP came as advertised — xenophobic, homophobic and racist. When someone shows you who they really are, believe them the first time — feigned apologies notwithstanding.

    Reply
    • Graeme

      September 9th, 2018

      While your party has a sitting MLA who compared law-abiding gun owning Christians to terrorists without retraction. You call us racists and then you completely ignore the exact same behavior when it comes from your side. The left are bunch of virtue-signalling hypocrites and I am glad that average Albertans are finally waking up and getting ready the show Notley and her bums the door.

      Reply
      • Expat Albertan

        September 9th, 2018

        But some of your lot really are racists; Donald Trump has made them much less shy about showing their true colors. For example (and I realize this is primarily an American phenomenon, but there are Trumpists in the UCP caucus) anyone who destroys their Nike apparel are clearly revealing their racist hands for all to see.

        Reply
      • Scotty on Denman

        September 9th, 2018

        Racism is not law abiding and gun ownership is not so much Christian as it is a dog whistle you signal “average [white Christian] Albertans” with.

        Reply
  2. Mohamed Mahdi

    September 8th, 2018

    The UCP’s vetting system needs to be better. They can not rely on the ABNDP to vet their own candidates for them properly constantly. It’s impossible to catch everything but ross,kim, morin(lol) and others properly should have been scrutinized more carefully by the UCP. The fish creek ucp nomination race was essentially gotfried versus a candidate who tried to hold an illegal fundraiser vs a candidate with a really awful social media history. The UCP was lucky gotfried won againsgt those two. Other UCP nominees who are facing more extreme candidates might not be so lucky.

    Reply
  3. David

    September 8th, 2018

    The bozo’s keep popping up in the UCP, like dandelions in spring Now I am not sure how hard Mr. Kenney is trying to stop all of this. My sense is those candidates that have a closer connection to him may be getting an easier ride, than say some of the old PCs or old Wildrosers whose loyalty or ideology is suspect.

    However, this has to be one of the more bizarre situations – Ms. Ross has no memory of the post, but issues a tepid pro forma, I am sorry that I offended anyone apology, that didn’t seem very sincere or heartfelt and yet the party is so certain somehow her views have changed. Really?

    I get the sense there is some important things here they are not telling us. First of all, why was the party so forgiving in this case? Second, what caused her memory problems? Did she perhaps have a few too many glasses of wine (or something else) when she posted those comments?

    I suppose it may all be a moot point now and the UCP will hope that it will all be quickly forgotten, as she did not win the nomination – bullet dodged, maybe. I suppose in this case, now they only have Mr. Gotfried’s past silly comments to defend now. Why does this party keep jumping from the frying pan into the fire and seem to be continually playing a losing game of whack a mole with bozo comments?

    Reply
  4. Death and Gravity

    September 10th, 2018

    You are certainly sound like you’d be right at home in Kenney’s UCP; or rather, the GOP down souf.

    I am not sure how “law abiding”, “gun owning” and “Christian” go together in your mind, but based on my experience, the people who use all three terms to identify themselves also use rhetoric that would commit them to acts of terrorism were they the least bit convinced in their bluster. So I don’t suppose the NDP member—who in the absence of a quote or reference I assume you to be grotesquely misrepresenting—was all that far off the mark. Meanwhile, the UCP and it’s shifty little astroturf outfits are using the fear of rural crime to advocate for American style gun-buggery. So again, I don’t think any accusation of “terrorism” would be very far off the mark.

    It very much remains to be seen whether “average Albertan’s” agree with you, or will vote with you.

    Reply
  5. STEVE VAN LEEUWEN

    October 9th, 2018

    That too was based on a blog post published long before its revelation, authored by Pastor Allan Hunsperger, a fundamentalist preacher with strong views on the eternal fate of LGBTQ people.

    Apparently the evaluation of someone’s tolerance has now become their religious viewpoint. I wonder if the author actually knows what Muslims, Sikhs and Jews think about the eternal fate of unbelievers. I suspect if he investigated, he would find much the same sentiment as the Christian Pastor. This type of selective discrimination is unwelcome and damaging. We live in a free country. If people do not like Pastor Allan Hunsperger’s view they can express that at the ballot box like everyone else. To attempt to exclude them from politics because of their religious views is no better than someone who make disparaging remarks about the LGBTQ community. Much like the imposition of the state’s view on private schools, Mr. Climenhaga has simply exchanged one level of discrimination for another. Shame on you!

    Reply

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