Jason Kenney needs no provocation to trumpet the success of his United Conservative Party. He’ll even use allegations of crooked behaviour in a party nomination fight.
Asked about these charges, rising from the Calgary-East nomination, Kenney suggested it’s the price of great political success.
With a lot of people running for many nominations and a whiff of power in the air, you’re bound to get a bad apple or two, right?
Kenney could win the dreidel contest at a Hanukkah party. He’s a great spinner.
But his argument also happens to be true, in a general way. The average grifter is not drawn to the thought of four years in opposition.
Kenney said the party’s executive director, Janice Harrington, is investigating the allegations about the Calgary East nomination. The party’s legal counsel is also involved.
“One sanction is to remove the candidate,” Kenney said.
Harrington isn’t talking, but we know that the party has been aware of the charges for some time and hoped they could be resolved without all this messy publicity.
But the allegations leaked in Postmedia Thursday. They came with two sworn affidavits from people who say they were approached by campaigners for eventual winner Peter Singh, and offered inducements to vote for him at the nomination meeting.
The NDP was quick to pounce. Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman said police should investigate one woman’s charge that her credit card was used to buy a party membership without her knowledge. Hoffman called it potential fraud.
In the affidavits, Roy Thomson and Scott Burrell say they were offered 20 per cent off for work done at Singh’s auto shop, or $75 in cash, if they voted for him.
Both men said they refused. Thomson added that as he approached the hall on nomination night, the same man flashed a $100 bill and said that was his final offer.
It’s important to note that these charges aren’t proven. Also, in both cases it wasn’t Singh himself who made the alleged offers but people believed to be his campaigners.
Singh denies that his campaign did anything wrong. He says it’s typical sour grapes from nomination losers. The party wouldn’t be surprised if all this ends up in court.
From the party’s perspective these grapes aren’t just sour — they’re rancid. And they’re popping up right at the start of the real political season.
The legislature adjourned Thursday, clearing the way for full-time political warfare until the election next spring.
Near the final moment Calgary MLA Prab Gill, who quit the UCP caucus after a report found he improperly removed ballots at a nomination, lobbed another shot at his old party.
He said Kenney had used $40,000 in dubious PAC money to attack Brian Jean in the UCP leadership contest.
Gill had also claimed that contrary to the report by retired judge Ted Carruthers, he was not guilty of the ballot-tampering charges.
These folks are starting to remind me of the late-life PCs, who spent their final six months of government sniping at each other, right up to that disastrous election night in 2015.
In the Calgary-East case, four of the five losing candidates signed a letter alleging that violation by the Singh campaign “include fraud, forgery, improper inducement and bribery.”
The signatories included Jamie Lall, who was part of the PC endgame uproar, and Andre Chabot, former Ward 10 councillor and mayoral candidate.
They also provided the party with names, addresses and phone numbers of nearly 150 people who they claim were offered gifts and other inducements.
The four who signed profess to be nervous about bad publicity for the party, and themselves.
“With this situation on the verge of becoming public knowledge, we do not wish to be viewed as complicit in this matter.”
They ask for Singh to be removed as the candidate for Calgary-East.
A few days later, all the information became public.
Just like old times.
Don Braid’s column appears regularly in the Herald
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