EDMONTON — Alberta United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney, addressing party friction over nomination races, urged members to respect the outcomes and reiterated that those who promote hate will be turfed.
“Those who attack human dignity, those who express hateful views toward entire groups of people are not welcome to run for the United Conservative party,” Kenney told party members in a speech Sunday.
A week ago, the party disqualified Todd Beasley, a prospective candidate to run in Brooks-Medicine Hat constituency, over public comments Beasley made condemning the Muslim faith.
There have also been disputes among candidates in some other UCP nomination races and allegations of backroom meddling and interference.
Calgary legislature member Prab Gill recently quit the caucus after reports of ballot-box stuffing at a constituency election meeting.
Kenney urged members to keep their eyes on the big picture, to “keep in the front of your minds the sprit of unity that created this party.
“Whoever the members choose in those nominations, we must all fall behind that person and support them to be elected in the next legislature.”
Kenney made the comments to about 500 supporters in a campaign-style speech to mark the one-year anniversary of the party’s formation.
A year ago, members of the Wildrose and Progressive Conservatives voted overwhelmingly to join forces as the new UCP. Each party voted 95 per cent in favour.
Since then, Kenney has won the leadership of the new party, it has held a founding convention and has now nominated 20 candidates with multiple candidates vying in races in other constituencies.
The party has instituted a rigorous pre-screening process for candidates, and Kenney has long said he would not allow the extremist views of some individuals to undermine the work of thousands of party members.
With the election now less than a year away, he urged members to remain disciplined.
“Over these (next) 10 months, how we act, whether we conduct ourselves with that discipline, the ideas that we present for renewing the Alberta Advantage, the candidates that you nominate — these are critical decisions that will determine whether, and to what extent we have a mandate to bring the change that Alberta needs,” he said.
“I am counting on. Albertans are counting on you.”
It’s been a year of steps forward and back.
The party has been strong in polls and in fundraising, and Premier Racel Notley’s NDP has followed Kenney’s lead when he urged the province threaten to cut the flow of oil to B.C. over the Trans-Mountain pipeline standoff and to push the federal government harder on an equalization deal fairer to Alberta.
Kenney has also drawn criticism for calling for civility in political discourse while publicly dismissing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as an intellectual lightweight.
He also promised the grassroots would drive the policy process, but after party members voted in May to effectively out students who join gay-straight alliances at schools, Kenney said he wouldn’t implement it.
On Sunday, Kenney announced platform committees will soon be fanning out to consult Albertans to refine UCP policies.
“If we are honoured with the mandate to govern for Alberta, to put our province back on track, we will have to be a government for all Albertans, not just United Conservative members or voters,” he said.
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press