Con­tro­ver­sial MLA Ben­ito loses Mill Woods nom­i­na­tion

Edmonton Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Karen Kleiss Jour­nal Staff Writer Ed­mon­ton

A south-side com­mu­nity cen­tre erupted in deaf­en­ing hollers and cheers late Tues­day night when Ed­mon­ton businessma­n So­hail Quadri beat con­tro­ver­sial Tory MLA Carl Ben­ito to win the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive nom­i­na­tion in Ed­mon­ton-mill Woods.

Quadri, a lo­cal printer and en­tre­pre­neur, im­mi­grated from Pak­istan more than two decades ago and has been an ac­tive vol­un­teer through the Lions Club and other or­ga­ni­za­tions.

“I won be­cause I worked hard,” Quadri said. “I have touched ev­ery com­mu­nity in Mill Woods, and I be­lieve I can serve this com­mu­nity.”

He de­clined to com­ment on the role that Ben­ito’s con­tro­ver­sial time in of­fice may have played in the vic­tory. “In a nom­i­na­tion we don’t talk about pol­icy, we just say: ‘I’m the can­di­date, can you trust me?’ ”

A to­tal of 1,363 bal­lots were cast. It was a pref­er­en­tial vote and Quadri won on the sec­ond bal­lot with 617 votes.

Ben­ito was a mag­net for con­tro­versy through­out his term in of­fice, re­peat­edly mak­ing head­lines for spec­tac­u­lar po­lit­i­cal gaffes.

Dur­ing his elec­tion cam­paign in 2008, Ben­ito pledged to use his en­tire salary to fund a schol­ar­ship for Mill Woods youth, but later re­neged. “If elected as a Mem­ber of the Leg­isla­tive Assem­bly for Al­berta, I will do­nate my MLA salary as a schol­ar­ship to young peo­ple in Mill Woods,” he said in his cam­paign lit­er­a­ture.

Af­ter he was elected, how­ever, Ben­ito said he only meant that he would give $75,000 over four years.

In Novem­ber 2010, The Jour­nal dis­cov­ered Ben­ito had failed to pay thou­sands in prop­erty taxes. When con­fronted, he blamed his wife.

“Be­fore my wife went on hol­i­day, I re­minded her to take care of all the bills, and ob­vi­ously she for­got to pay the rental prop­erty taxes,” he said at the time. He paid his taxes af­ter the debt be­came public.

Most re­cently, in­fight­ing and al­le­ga­tions of foul play forced pro­vin­cial party of­fi­cials to in­ter­vene in his rid­ing’s nom­i­na­tion process.

The frac­tious lo­cal pol­i­tics had been sim­mer­ing for months but con­tro­versy erupted on Christ­mas Eve when or­ga­niz­ers ran a small ad on page 66 of the Ed­mon­ton Sun in­di­cat­ing nom­i­na­tions would be open from Dec. 26 to Jan. 3.

Tories who wanted to chal­lenge Ben­ito for the nom­i­na­tion cried foul and pro­vin­cial party of­fi­cials were forced to step in, say­ing it was not ap­pro­pri­ate for a nom­i­na­tion to be “snuck in on the eve of Christ­mas.”

For his part, Ben­ito at­trib­uted Tues­day’s loss to the de­mo­graph­ics in Mill Woods.

“As you can see in Mill Woods, ev­ery­where you go you see the ma­jor­ity of the com­mu­nity is from Pak­istan and from In­dia. The num­ber of vot­ers from other com­mu­ni­ties is re­ally very min­i­mal,” he said.

“For any can­di­date, if you’re not from the Pak­istani or East In­dian com­mu­ni­ties, it is not easy.”

Asked what role his po­lit­i­cal mis­steps played in his de­feat, Ben­ito said they played no role at all.

John lu­cas, the jour­nal, file

Con­ser­va­tive MLA Carl Ben­ito

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