More can­di­date trou­ble for UCP

Medicine Hat News - - FRONT PAGE -

ED­MON­TON A United Con­ser­va­tive Party nom­i­na­tion can­di­date has been turfed af­ter he and his fel­low chal­lengers were pho­tographed with an anti-im­mi­gra­tion group linked to neo-Nazis in Europe.

The other two can­di­dates said they didn’t re­al­ize they were meet­ing with the Soldiers of Odin. But Lance Coul­ter said he was aware of who they were and was OK with it, be­cause he be­lieves in free speech and felt obliged to re­spond to their po­lite con­ver­sa­tion.

UCP ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Jan­ice Har­ring­ton dis­agreed in a let­ter Thurs­day to Coul­ter that ad­vised him of his dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

“A po­lite racist is still a racist,” wrote Har­ring­ton.

“We strongly dis­agree with your seem­ingly sym­pa­thetic assess­ment of Soldiers of Odin and are frankly dis­turbed with your cav­a­lier at­ti­tude taken to a hate group at­tend­ing a United Con­ser­va­tive Party event.

“Our leader Ja­son Ken­ney has been clear that such hate­ful groups are not wel­come.

“This in­ci­dent has re­sulted in rep­u­ta­tional harm to our party and its many mem­bers.”

The party did not make any­one avail­able to com­ment about the de­ci­sion.

Premier Rachel Not­ley, asked about it at a news con­fer­ence, noted that the de­ci­sion didn’t come un­til six days af­ter the pub event.

“It’s good news that he has been dis­qual­i­fied. I would say it comes a lit­tle late, quite hon­estly, in this case,” she said.

“There is no room for a de­bate about how much racism is OK. There is a line that I be­lieve the vast ma­jor­ity of Al­ber­tans un­der­stand ex­ists. And the con­cept of neo-Nazism is well past that line.”

Coul­ter could not be im­me­di­ately reached for com­ment, but on his Face­book page ac­knowl­edged his dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion, and said a lot of peo­ple had reached out to him.

“Your sup­port and kind words have only strength­ened my re­solve to do what I be­lieve is right,” wrote Coul­ter.

“I will not lie for po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­di­ence. I will not sim­ply smile and tell peo­ple what I think they want to hear. I will treat all peo­ple with dig­nity and re­spect.”

The pub night was a pri­vate event at a bar Oct. 5 with Coul­ter and fel­low nom­i­nee can­di­dates Leila Houle and Ni­cole Wil­liams. All three posed for pho­tos with the Soldiers of Odin, who wore iden­ti­fy­ing jack­ets and hats.

When the pho­tos circulated in the me­dia over the week­end, both Houle and Wil­liams is­sued a joint state­ment condemning the group and say­ing they had no idea who the Soldiers were when they posed with them. Coul­ter did not sign the state­ment.

On Wed­nes­day, Coul­ter said he did a quick In­ter­net check on the Soldiers that night at the pub and de­cided to en­gage with them. He noted that while their Euro­pean ac­tiv­i­ties were ques­tion­able, the Cana­dian con­tin­gent ap­peared to be en­gaged in more be­nign com­mu­nity out­reach such as help­ing out at a soup kitchen.

Har­ring­ton said Coul­ter com­pounded his er­ror by not flag­ging the group’s pres­ence at the event so the UCP could take ac­tion.

“The party was never af­forded that op­por­tu­nity, in part be­cause you re­mained silent.”

Coul­ter is one of sev­eral UCP can­di­dates who have been dis­qual­i­fied or al­lowed to run de­spite mak­ing con­tro­ver­sial com­ments against mi­nor­ity groups.

Todd Beasley was dis­qual­i­fied as a can­di­date in Brooks-Medicine Hat in the sum­mer af­ter mak­ing anti-Is­lamic com­ments on so­cial me­dia.

Also in the sum­mer, San­dra Kim was al­lowed to run for the nom­i­na­tion of Maskwacis-We­taski­win de­spite ho­mo­pho­bic so­cial me­dia com­ments from 2015.

Cindy Ross, a one-time nom­i­nee for Cal­gary Fish Creek, apol­o­gized last month for on­line com­ments she made years ago op­pos­ing the open­ing of a mosque in Fort McMur­ray.

Ear­lier this week, Not­ley said Ken­ney needs to take the blame for send­ing con­flict­ing “dog whis­tle” sig­nals by condemning hate com­ments while si­mul­ta­ne­ously al­low­ing some of those who ex­press those views to run for his party.

CP FILE PHOTO

Ja­son Ken­ney’s UCP has turfed on of its can­di­dates af­ter con­tro­versy struck when he posed for pic­tures with a known white supremi­cist group and later ad­mit­ting to know­ing what he was do­ing.

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