Alberta Politics
United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

A question begged: Where were the UCP’s top operatives if they weren’t vetting candidates?

Posted on April 11, 2019, 1:28 am
7 mins

Apparently someone in the United Conservative Party could run a sophisticated vote-diversion scheme but the party didn’t have the technical wherewithal to operate a simple candidate vetting process capable of eliminating candidates with a high potential for causing embarrassment.

And not at the same time either, so it’s not as if there was a conflict of skilled hands to do essential work among the party’s crack technical operatives.

Former UCP MLA Prab Gill (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

This would seem to be the most obvious conclusion from a pair of startling CBC Calgary stories about the UCP published in the past few hours.

Leastways, it’s pretty obvious the party wasn’t assigning its top operatives to the vetting file.

According to the newer of the stories published yesterday, there’s verifiable documentary evidence plus witness statements indicating that UCP political operatives unknown used at least a small number of email addresses “fraudulently attached to United Conservative Party memberships” to vote in the party’s 2017 leadership race, which was won by Jason Kenney.

The addresses were used to “harvest” personal identification numbers that were then used to vote for one candidate or another.

The CBC Calgary investigative team didn’t check all of the 100,000 members they surveyed on a leaked membership list, only 49 that had obviously screwy sounding email addresses. Then they talked to some of the real people who supposedly voted in the leadership election and were told they never actually voted and didn’t recognize the email addresses.

Just to make things a little weirder, one of the iffy domains – Mail.deanfrench.ca – has been linked to the chief of staff of Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Mr. Kenney’s bromantic partner in politics.

The CBC story noted that the practice sounded heck of a lot like claims made by former UCP MLA Prab Gill in February that the same procedure was used by Mr. Kenney’s campaign team to cast votes for their candidate. A lawyer for the UCP threatened to sue Mr. Gill if he wouldn’t stop saying that.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Meanwhile, the RCMP is investigating the voting procedure as well, the CBC said.

Remember, all this supposedly happened at the same time the shenanigan-rich “Kamikaze Mission” to sink Mr. Kenney’s principal rival, former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean, was going on. And the voting process certainly didn’t please Mr. Jean’s campaign manager.

The party strenuously denies there was any fraud. For Mr. Kenney’s part, he told the CBC, “all I can tell you is that I believe 60,000 people voted in the leadership,” and that more than 60 per cent of them voted for him.

Moving along to yesterday’s other CBC story, Calgary reporter Scott Dippel reported that at the start of the current election campaign the UCP asked its candidates to fill out a form that asked all the right questions but then, by the sound of it, didn’t bother to read their answers.

Either that, or they didn’t bother for some other reason to spike some the applications from candidates whom it should have been obvious would cause them problems.

“Either the disclosure wasn’t complete in the first place or the review of the disclosure was not thorough,” Mount Royal University political scientist Lori Williams told the CBC.

“Or possibly the disclosure, when it was done, didn’t flag anything because it didn’t look out of line to the people who were doing the reviewing, or the reviewing wasn’t done at all because the candidates were assumed to be star candidates,” she added.

Yeah, that sounds about right.

I can tell you that it’s not that hard for political parties to discourage candidates they’re not comfortable with without actually doing anything at all. You just don’t ever get around to approving their application until – oh!  sorry! – it’s too late.

But even a procedure that simple was apparently too much for the UCP to organize.

For Mr. Kenney’s part, he said, “I think we did a pretty good job but I will always say it wasn’t going to be perfect and all I can tell you is, I’m proud of the slate of candidates that we have.”

Premier Rachel Notley put some hard spin on the first story later yesterday, telling a prominent columnist in Calgary that if Mr. Kenney became premier and was then investigated by the RCMP, he’d have to resign.

Mr. Kenney reacted to that one with fury, accusing the premier of running “a campaign of character assassination.” Unlike Mr. Gill, though, the UCP hasn’t yet threatened to sue Ms. Notley.

I can tell you this, Mr. Kenney’s reaction was not the approach that would have been taken by any of Alberta’s seven Progressive Conservative premiers, every one of whom would have laughed it off as if it were risible nonsense.

Well, maybe Mr. Kenney’s just got a hotter temper than those other premiers.

7 Comments to: A question begged: Where were the UCP’s top operatives if they weren’t vetting candidates?

  1. David

    April 11th, 2019

    I would say the person who is damaging Mr. Kenney’s character the most right now is Mr. Kenney himself. We can’t say for sure at this point how much Mr. Kenney knew about or how involved he was in the fake email scheme. However, it has gone past the point of just dismissing Mr. Gill’s allegations as baseless, clearly there is something to them. I suppose Mr. Kenney is at a fork in the road, come clean now or continue to cover it up and become part of the obstruction, if he isn’t already.

    It did seem suspicious the leadership race, which was expected to be closer was won so overwhelmingly by Kenney, almost too much so to be credible. Mr. Kenney had a reputation as a good organizer, but perhaps his team and maybe he himself were also good at some darker aspects of getting out the vote. Yes Kenney denies this, but he also still denies the kamikaze campaign too despite a lot of evidence that it existed and he knew about it, so his credibility is not so good right anymore on the issue of leadership race shenanigans. It would probably be good if he came clean on that one too right now.

    The vote tampering and illegal donations are probably the biggest potential legal problems the UCP and Kenney may face. Some people are already facing serious charges and fines and it doesn’t look like they all want to take the bullet for their main man, as much as he would like to throw at least some of them under the bus.

    If he wins the election it could be a short enjoyed victory until the RCMP investigation closes in. I think Nixon got two years or so, but he had more levers of power to try stop or derail the investigation than a provincial Premier does. It could be a quick six months when it all unravels and Kenney is left to wonder at the end if it was all worth it. Would he also become a political parriah for the rest of his life? Would Brian Jean magically reappear to once again try save the day for the UCP? Just a few things to think about in this spring of discontent.

    Reply
  2. Brian Gibbon

    April 11th, 2019

    The UCP vetting process was never intended to keep homophobic, racist, climate-change-denying, misogynistic, far-right conspiracy believing nutcases OUT of the UCP. It has worked instead to insure that there are just enough of them IN the UCP to pander to the vilest emotions of the UCP base — dipping their toes in the lake of fire without going for a full-fledged plunge. Ms. Williams’ observation that the people doing the vetting shared the same views and therefore were completely blind to their idiocy is spot on, and mirrors the inability of people INSIDE their silo from blaming anyone except OUTSIDERS (people not like them) for their problems.

    Reply
  3. J.E. Molnar

    April 11th, 2019

    A RCMP indictment for money laundering and email fraud would not be hard to take just about now.

    When it comes to knowing about political hi-jinks and chicanery — Jason Kenney knows a thing or two about political hi-jinks and chicanery because he’s done a thing or two. (With apologies to Farmers Insurance)

    Reply
  4. Bob Raynard

    April 11th, 2019

    If you look at the people who have been involved in controversies lately, Caylan Ford, Mark Smith, David Dorward*, and even Jason Kenney, they are either star candidates like Ms. Williams said, or incumbents. As such, disqualifying them would be much more embarrassing than it would be to disqualify a stranger. How could the UPC tell the people of Drayton Valley that their sitting MLA is too bigoted for the party? How egregious would a bozo eruption have to be for the party to dump Jason Kenney?

    The issue of star candidates is also interesting. It seems like it would be in poor taste to invite someone to be a candidate, then ask them to fill out the vetting form. Len Rhodes, the star candidate Jason Kenney appointed for Edmonton Meadows comes to mind. Mr. Kenney argued that Mr. Rhodes was too busy with his Edmonton Eskimos job to contest the nomination conventionally. When, then, did Mr. Rhodes fill out the form, which apparently was 44 pages long? Did he do it before he was appointed, when he was too busy, or did he do it after he was appointed, when it would have been really embarrassing to disqualify him?

    *Although not currently an incumbent, David Dorward was the MLA for Edmonton Gold Bar before the 2015 election. His accounting firm is also the independent auditor that said the UPC leadership contest was free of problems.

    Reply
  5. Brogan

    April 11th, 2019

    A party that has to lie and cheat and court white supremacist support like the Harper-Kenney fascists is fully, unambiguously ideologically, ethically and intellectually bankrupt. They exist to enrich themselves at the cost of others and it’s more blatant with every word and action.

    Reply
    • Murphy

      April 12th, 2019

      And that differs from the PC regime under Getty, Klein and Stelmach how? Heather Forsyth? Stockwell Day? Steve West? Ron Liepert? Ted Morton? The Kons are no worse today than they were thirty years ago.

      Reply
  6. Athabascan

    April 12th, 2019

    “Leastways, it’s pretty obvious the party wasn’t assigning its top operatives to the vetting file.”

    I disagree with your statement above. I would argue that his “top” operatives, the bar being as low as it is, did in fact vet all the UCP candidates. They knew exactly the kinds of people they wanted. Brian Jean called them “freaks.”

    After all, if you want to be the leader of an intolerant extremist party you need extremist and intolerant members in your caucus.

    Reply

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