Don’t worry! It only looks like a North Korean ICBM. Premier Rachel Notley on the campaign trail (Photo: Twitter).

Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP clearly hopes to make Opposition Leader Jason Kenney’s character the ballot box issue for voters in the April 16 provincial election, but will the United Conservative Party’s scandals have as much traction now that the election writ has been dropped?

The risk for the NDP strategy, even if daily reminders of the UCP leader’s flawed character and his party’s problem with extremists continue, is that they will get lost amid the daily policy announcements both parties and their smaller rivals are bound to make during an election campaign.

Former UCP star candidate Caylan Ford (Photo: Facebook).

For a government generally perceived to be campaigning from behind its principal challenger in popular support, the campaign didn’t get off to a bad start from the NDP’s perspective, with near simultaneous revelations that more fines had been levied in the UCP’s “Kamikaze Campaign” scandal and that a high-profile UCP candidate had been forced to quit the race after her apparent white supremacist views became known.

On Tuesday, the day Premier Notley called the election, the Office of the Election Commissioner announced that it had levied two additional fines related to Jeff Callaway’s UCP leadership campaign in 2017, which has come to be known as the “Kamikaze Mission,” so called in a leaked recording of UCP strategists talking because its intent was allegedly not to win, but to knock off Mr. Kenney’s main rival, former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean.

UCP Leader Jason Kenney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The two $4,000 administrative penalties were levied against one Darcy McAllister. One was for contributing funds to the Callaway campaign that were furnished by another person, the other for “furnishing $4,000 to Maja McAllister, for purpose of making contribution to Jeff Callaway.”

The same day, it was learned that Caylan Ford, a star candidate personally recruited by Mr. Kenney to run in the Calgary-Mountain View riding had abruptly pulled out of the race after a progressive news site revealed she had complained that white supremacist terrorists are treated unfairly by the media compared with Islamic terrorists.

According to the report in Press Progress, Ms. Ford also expressed anxiety about “the replacement of white peoples in their homelands” and mused about the violent collapse of Western civilization as a result.

Chester Ronning Centre for the Study of Religion and Public Life Director Ian Wilson (Photo: University of Alberta).

Since then, her uncomplimentary views on LGBTQ Pride Parades have also come to light. They are “a celebration of vice and transgression,” she opined, asking: “What are the redeeming values?”

Well, so much for the Caylan Ford campaign, for the moment anyway.

This in turn prompted an understandable debate on social media about Mr. Kenney’s own views, particularly on race and LGBTQ rights, and, whatever they are, what it is about the UCP that seems to attract such characters from the dark fringes of the right.

And the evening and the morning were the second day.

No time like an election to talk politics? Not at the U of A!

One would think there’d be no time like an election to talk about politics, especially at a university

But as it turns out, not everyone agrees. Leastways, certain folk appear to be uncomfortable with the idea of a brisk discussion that might lead to a critical consideration of the consequences of implementing some of the policies being proposed by the Opposition in the upcoming Alberta election.

University of Alberta honorary degree recipient David Suzuki (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

A memorandum yesterday from the director of the Chester Ronning Centre for the Study of Religion and Public Life at the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus in Camrose, for example, announced that a coffee and conversation event about Alberta politics planned for today would be cancelled because … wait for it … an election has been called!

“As you probably know, yesterday an election was called in Alberta,” wrote an apologetic-sounding Ian D. Wilson to the centre’s friends and supporters. “Now that campaigning has officially started, the U of A President’s Office has asked all units at the University to ensure that our activities do not influence the election in any way.” (Emphasis added.)

University of Alberta President David Turpin (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Say what?

“The goal of this Ronning Centre event was to facilitate an informed discussion about the interrelationship of religion and politics in the Alberta context, not to influence anyone’s political position during the election season,” Dr. Wilson said. “But in this case, given the timing of the election call, we think it is best to follow the President’s advice with due diligence and to cancel the event.”

Hmmmmm. For those of you who think an election might be an ideal time to talk about politics and policy, perhaps the explanation is that U of A President David Turpin took enough of a beating from the UCP over that honorary degree for environmentalist David Suzuki last year.

Well, there’s no point beating him up again this time, as the former University of Victoria president has already announced he’ll be outta here after June 2020. So, whatever the reason for his typically Albertan excess of election caution, he’s only going to have to put up with one more typical Alberta winter.

Missionary, diplomat, educator and social democratic politician Chester Ronning (Photo: Harry Palmer, Creative Commons).

Chester Ronning, after whom the centre is named, would certainly not have had a problem with a briskly critical discussion of policy during an election, especially the kind of policies put forward by the UCP.

Born in 1894 in Xiangfan, China, to Christian missionaries, Mr. Ronning graduated from the University of Alberta in 1916 and returned to China in 1922 to continue his parents’ mission. He came back to Alberta in 1927 to serve as principal of the Camrose Lutheran College, which occupied the site that is now the U of A’s the Augustana Campus. Like Dr. Suzuki, he was awarded many honorary degrees.

Mr. Ronning served Canada as a diplomat in China, Norway and India, and led an attempt to bring a negotiated end to the Vietnam War in 1966.

In politics, he was elected as a United Farmers of Alberta MLA in 1932 and served as leader of the Alberta branch of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, the predecessor to the NDP, from 1940 to 1942.

He died on the last day of 1984.

Join the Conversation


  1. I have to say, I’m glad to see a real fight from people who aren’t comfortable with fighting. What we will have to decide about in this election, is the fiction of slashing revenue to generate revenue, versus the reality of needing to build revenue to generate strength. We’ll also be witness to what ends “SCC” people (So Called Conservatives) will go to paper over their last bastion of dysfunctional support! If you’re an Elders of Zion subscriber? See you later! If you’re Ayn Rand (before her need for welfare)? Come on down! If you’re Farmer Brian? I’d say, just keep the records, vote NDP! Otherwise the Kenney Krew Of Kind Konservatives will, lower your property values to such an extent that a pesticide company will buy you out and offer you a management job! Enjoy!

  2. I think how much effect the UCP scandals will have will depend on three things.

    First is the ability of the UCP to successfully change the channel. The bad news for other parties, is that Kenney is fairly adept at that and between distraction (including bringing out other policies) and hiding from controversy he will probably try to minimize the attention paid to it. Of course, there will be other parties out there trying to get attention about their own issues and platforms too, which may also take attention away from the UCP scandals.

    The second is whether any new or further information emerges. A scandal is like a fire and the oxygen is additional new information. If nothing further comes out, at some point it will no longer be talked about as much. That is not to say it will not inflict real damage, it probably already has. However, it takes a while for polls to catch up with things, as people who do not follow the news as closely hear about it and their opinions are shaped. It may not be for a week or two the full extent of the damage to this point is actually reflected in the polls. Another related danger for the the UCP is if it does something that reinforces any of the existing negative impressions of it, more importantly now during the campaign as more people are paying closer attention now.

    The third thing is how willing voters are to change their decision. If you have a very rigid and partisan division already, a serious scandal may not change voting intentions much, or they will quickly bounce back to where they were once the scandal dies down. For instance in the US, Trump’s support seemed to recover or bounce back if he could manage a few days of relatively gaffe free performance, although perhaps that was also just a reflection of low expectations of him personally. I think in Canada the partisan divides are not as marked and there are more voters in the middle. Also the UCP is a new creation so it will not automatically benefit from years of loyal support. Ironically, it may be supporters of a party not running this time that could decide the outcome of this election – former PC’s. They may be more naturally inclined to tilt right, so it will not be easy for the NDP to win them over, but they also have some serious concerns about the actions and directions of Kenney and the UCP, so he can not take their votes for granted either. They might not appear to be undecided, but their support for the UCP also may not be as firm as it might appear in some polls.

    1. Re former PCs & PC supporters, there is the additional factor of the Alberta Party. I’ve looked at their policy positions on their website, and while they are not fully fleshed out, it does seem that if you’re a PC-leaning voter who simply can’t bring yourself to vote UCP, but also can’t see yourself ever voting for the NDP, you could cast a vote for the Alberta Party and not feel like you need to take a shower afterward. Whether that will happen often enough for them to be a real factor on E-Day remains to be seen, but they do appear to have achieved a level of credibility not attained by some of the other minor parties.

  3. It is early days. Just think back a few years. It was all going to be perfect. The Harper Conservative polling showed that if they called an election they would maintain their majority.

    Harper was happy. He would be elected for another term, then have the opportunity to resign while at the top of his game. Jason Kenny was delighted. He fully expected to beat out out Peter McKay and others in the subsequent leadership race. His preparations were in full force. The gold ring would be his.

    Then came along the niqab debate. Oh oh, that projected majority looked as if it was going to be tight, tight enough to result in a minority Conservative win. Then, bang, along came the coup de grace in the form of the infamous Barbaric Practices Hotline. That was just too much for about 9 percent of Harpers faithful.

    That projected majority, revised minority turned out to be an amazing 154 seat majority for the ‘boy in short pants’. The Harper Conservatives essentially lost every large urban area (except Calgary) and did not win even one seat in the Maritimes. 905/416 was a disaster for them.

    So, it is never over until the ballots are counted. Just ask the crews on both sides about the surprising results in the last
    Alberta election.

    The Canadian public, I believe, has a deep down sense of fair play. This,combined with potential campaign mistakes on either side can make short work of any poll. And what about those polls in the last Calgary civic election????

  4. This has been something that happens each and every year. This is just their technique to stop them from doing this and also stay in power so we should not believe a single word of it.

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