Con­tro­ver­sies be­fore elec­tion put Not­ley, Ken­ney on de­fen­sive

PressReader - BRUCE_CAROL_ROWE Channel - Con­tro­ver­sies be­fore elec­tion put Not­ley, Ken­ney on de­fen­sive
For those Al­ber­tans who are ea­gerly await­ing — or per­haps dread­ing — the up­com­ing pro­vin­cial elec­tion cam­paign, Rachel Not­ley’s NDP gov­ern­ment fi­nally came for­ward this week with a date.March 18.Mark it in red on your cal­en­dars. Or in green.Af­ter all, it’s the day af­ter St. Pa­trick’s Day, so it’s pos­si­ble Not­ley plans to be feel­ing lucky.Ex­cept March 18 isn’t the date for the elec­tion.In­stead, it’s the day the NDP has set aside for a throne speech in which the gov­ern­ment will lay out its agenda for the spring ses­sion — if there is a spring ses­sion.We still don’t know the gov­ern­ment’s plans for af­ter March 18. Some ob­servers be­lieve Not­ley will drop the writ im­me­di­ately, putting the prov­ince on course for an April 16 elec­tion.Oth­ers sug­gest the NDP will go to the trou­ble of re­leas­ing a bud­get and hold­ing a brief ses­sion. In that case, the elec­tion would be some­time in May.Re­gard­less, while we all wait for the starter’s pis­tol, there is still plenty of ex­cite­ment play­ing out in the pre-cam­paign pe­riod.Much of the com­mo­tion has come from the United Con­ser­va­tive Party which, un­like the other par­ties, has been hold­ing open nom­i­na­tion con­tests.More com­pe­ti­tion seems to equal more drama.The lat­est UCPer to cause a stir was Drumheller-Stet­tler MLA Rick Strankman, who an­nounced this week he is leav­ing cau­cus.While Strankman was crit­i­cal of the nom­i­na­tion con­test in his rid­ing, which he lost, his big­ger com­plaint was about “self-cen­tered pol­i­tics” that has sub­verted the party’s prom­ise of grass­roots in­put.Sim­i­lar gripes have been start­ing to pile up on Ja­son Ken­ney’s crew in re­cent weeks.Oth­ers mak­ing ac­cu­sa­tions of heavy-handed lead­er­ship or nom­i­na­tion con­tro­ver­sies in­clude: For­mer cau­cus mem­ber Derek Filde­brandt, for­mer cau­cus mem­ber Prab Gill, cur­rent cau­cus mem­ber Wayne An­der­son, 17 mem­bers of the Cal­gary-Fal­con­ridge con­stituency board who re­port­edly sup­ported a los­ing can­di­date, and four un­suc­cess­ful can­di­dates in Cal­gary-East.You’ll no­tice a com­mon thread among these folks, aside from their con­cerns, is that they have all been de­feated or ousted from the party in some way.Still, that doesn’t by it­self in­val­i­date their com­plaints, the sheer vol­ume of which is be­com­ing hard to ig­nore. (The party said Fri­day it found no mis­con­duct in the Cal­gary-East case.)But enough about the UCP, be­cause the NDP also had a fire or two to con­tain this week.Among them was a con­tro­versy around a nom­i­na­tion vote in Cal­gary-North East, one of the few places where the NDP has had a con­tested race.But the big­ger headache for Not­ley in­volved al­le­ga­tions made against West Yel­low­head MLA Eric Rosendahl by a for­mer con­stituency worker.Kath­leen Wester­gaard said Rosendahl pres­sured her to use tax­payer-funded work time to sell NDP mem­ber­ships and as­sist his re-elec­tion ef­forts.Such work­ers are per­mit­ted to vol­un­teer for po­lit­i­cal par­ties on their own time, but are pro­hib­ited from par­ti­san ac­tiv­i­ties while on the gov­ern­ment clock.Wester­gaard said she made this clear to Rosendahl, but that he even­tu­ally fired her last sum­mer for her re­fusal to ac­cede to his de­mands.While dif­fi­cult to know all that went on be­tween the two, a text mes­sage chain from 2016 pro­vided by Wester­gaard seems to show an MLA ag­gra­vated by his staffer’s re­luc­tance and strug­gling to un­der­stand her right­ful ob­jec­tions.“I get frus­trated with this stuff !” he texted at one point. “If I am not there in the fu­ture you won’t be ei­ther!”Rosendahl has de­clined to speak about the al­le­ga­tions, which left Not­ley to face the me­dia on Thurs­day.When the sub­ject came up, the pre­mier was not at her best.Her re­sponse was a strange com­bi­na­tion of de­fen­sive­ness and non­cha­lance, in which she shrugged off the al­le­ga­tions and showed min­i­mal in­ter­est in even find­ing out what hap­pened.Not­ley said she hasn’t ap­proached Rosendahl di­rectly but knows he has been in touch with cau­cus of­fi­cials and de­nied the al­le­ga­tion.The staffer in ques­tion had her em­ploy­ment end two years af­ter the text chain with the MLA, for rea­sons un­re­lated to the al­le­ga­tion, the pre­mier added.No in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion is planned un­less an of­fi­cial com­plaint comes for­ward.“Suf­fice to say, I don’t be­lieve it’s hap­pen­ing. If it is hap­pen­ing, of course we would re­spond. I haven’t seen ev­i­dence yet to sug­gest it is.”As such, Not­ley said she saw no rea­son at this point to avoid sign­ing Rosendahl’s nom­i­na­tion pa­pers.It was not ex­actly the full level of con­cern or in­quis­i­tive­ness you might ex­pect to see from a leader who has oth­er­wise cham­pi­oned so­cial jus­tice and women’s rights.The re­ac­tion called to mind the less-than-ful­some re­sponse pro­vided by the NDP last fall to­ward rev­e­la­tions that two of its MLAs had been ac­cused of sex­ual mis­con­duct.For both Not­ley and Ken­ney, they can only hope these in­ter­nal party con­tro­ver­sies fade from pub­lic con­scious­ness by March 18.In the mean­time, strap in, be­cause this pre-elec­tion pe­riod is of­fer­ing plenty of drama and in­trigue.

NDP Leader Rachel Not­ley says she saw no rea­son to avoid sign­ing the nom­i­na­tion pa­pers of West Yel­low­head MLA Eric Rosendahl, who is fac­ing al­le­ga­tions he pres­sured a con­stituency worker to use tax­payer-funded time to as­sist his re-elec­tion ef­forts.

© PressReader. All rights reserved.