CALGARY — A United Conservative Party candidate in the upcoming Alberta election who resigned over online comments she reportedly made about white nationalists is begging people to lower the temperature of political debate.
“I think we’re headed in a really dangerous direction when we heap scorn on each other,” said Caylan Ford, adding the remarks published by the left-leaning PressProgress website were out of context and don’t represent her views.
“I’ve been knocking on doors talking with voters for the last nine months and one of the concerns that I hear so frequently is people who are exhausted by divisive, narrow partisan politics and by negativity and our eroding capacity to reach for dialogue.”
Ford, who was running in Calgary-Mountain View, stepped down Monday night after the website reported on what it says was a private Facebook conversation from 2017.
The outlet published quotes attributed to Ford suggesting that while Muslims in general are never blamed in mainstream discussion for Islamist terrorism, conservatives are often tainted with the brush of white supremacy.
“You just don’t have the same attempts to separate the violent terrorists from the wider community of belief,” the website quoted Ford as saying.
She was also quoted as saying she is “saddened” by the replacement of white people in their “homelands.”
On whether she made the remarks, Ford said: “I can’t speak to the authenticity of them. These are fragments of a conversation that was held years ago that were selected to maximize damage to me.”
She said the report twisted her meaning.
“This article represents a gross distortion of my views and it doesn’t represent what I believe in. I’m not interested in attempting to explain or rationalize what’s the context of an academic discussion.
“I don’t want this to become a distraction for the duration of the campaign.”
Premier Rachel Notley said Tuesday she was “utterly shocked” by the reported remarks.
Ford was often referred to as a star UCP candidate. She spent part of the weekend campaigning with Laureen Harper, wife of former prime minister Stephen Harper.
Ford described PressProgress as “the media arm” of the New Democrats and suggested her treatment was typical of how the governing party conducts itself.
PressProgress says on its website that it operates under the Broadbent Institute’s mandate and focuses on issues that include social and economic equality and democratic renewal.
Ford acknowledged both left and right bear some blame for the current tone of the political debate, which has seen New Democrat cabinet ministers threatened with violence.
“I don’t think anyone is blameless,” she said.
But she said it’s not improving the province’s political life.
“The only people that will run for office in that kind of culture are people who are utterly without shame.”
Her resignation comes after documents leaked on the weekend suggest UCP Leader Jason Kenney’s leadership team directed the campaign of fellow candidate Jeff Callaway, as Callaway attacked and criticized Kenney’s main rival, Brian Jean.