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Defeated in UCP nomination battle, Highwood MLA takes complaint to Elections Alberta

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UCP MLA Wayne Anderson (Photo: Facebook).

Is it just seasonal, or is this the new normal?

No, I'm not talking about the weather and climate change.

I'm talking about the daily stream of revelations about unsavoury goings on inside Alberta's United Conservative Party under the leadership of Jason Kenney.

Highwood MLA Wayne Anderson has filed a formal complaint with Elections Alberta about the conduct of the UCP nomination vote he lost in October to the Opposition party's former constituency association president, RJ Sigurdson.

To request the investigation, the former Wildrose MLA used legislation introduced by the NDP that imposes some legal order on party nomination votes, which in the electoral Wild West of old were considered purely internal affairs.

Anderson defeated Progressive Conservative candidate Carrie Fischer in the May 2015 general election in the riding just south of Calgary. Fischer, in turn, had defeated former Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith for the PC nomination after Smith had crossed the floor to join the PCs the year before -- undoubtedly one of the factors that led to the election of an NDP majority in 2015.

Both Fisher and Anderson, who as a sitting MLA should reasonably have expected to win the nomination, ran for the UCP nomination -- losing to Sigurdson on Oct. 16.

Anderson told High River Online he'd complained to the party before going to Elections Alberta.

For her part, the news site quoted Fischer Monday saying the nomination process "raised red flags" with her supporters and that her seven-page letter of complaint to the UCP did not receive "the respect of a proper investigation."

The party says it reviewed the complaints -- which included preferential access to membership lists by one candidate and a lack of polling stations in towns where Fischer's support was strong -- but found no wrongdoing.

"I gave a lot of time and energy to this party," Ms. Fischer told High River Online. "I gave a lot of time and energy through this nomination process. I put my name on a ballot for them. I was hoping that that would give me some consideration when I'm bringing allegations and evidence to them. I had hoped that they would have at least considered it seriously."

Fischer is pondering an appeal to the party.

Meanwhile, Anderson seems also to have played a role in identifying some of the speakers in the recording that surfaced Monday night revealing Jeff Callaway's part in Jason Kenney's successful plan to ensure he and not former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean won the UCP leadership.

Press Progress reported yesterday that the voices in the recording belonged to "Callaway campaign organizer Wendy Adam in a conversation with her husband Udo and an unnamed male," naming Mr. Anderson as the source of the IDs.

As a candidate in the 2017 United Conservative Party leadership race, Callaway's job turns out not to have been to make a serious effort actually to lead the merged Wildrose-Progressive Conservative entity, but to send former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean's campaign to the bottom.

This was widely believed to be the case at the time, but in the absence of evidence, the story petered out.

Now the leaked audio recording shows how the plan actually worked. One voice describes Callaway's effort as a "Kamikaze run," a reference to the human-piloted suicide bombs used by the Japanese military in its last desperate defence of the country at the end of the Second World War.

"Jeff will be able to say things about Brian Jean that Jason Kenney cannot," says the voice identified as Adam's.

In 2017, Callaway told the Calgary Herald he made no deals with Kenney, either before launching his campaign or when he decided to withdraw from the race and ask his supporters to vote for Kenney.

Contacted by Press Progress, Adam refused to comment other than to say that Anderson "should elaborate on what else he knows about the recording of 'myself, my husband and another individual.'"

Fortunately for Kenney, none of this seems to have aroused any interest among mainstream media.

In Fort McMurray, meanwhile, Jean appears to be stewing -- and blaming everything on Quebec.

On Dec. 8, Jean (rhymes with poutine) tweeted that "it's time to start boycotting Quebec products here in Alberta" because, you know, Quebec gets equalization payments and Quebec Premier François Legault is reported to have said at the First Ministers' meeting in Montreal that "there's no social acceptability" for the Energy East pipeline in his province.

It's actually quite unclear what Legault meant. And as political strategies go, Jean's Big Idea is fairly lame. After all, since there are no provincial labelling rules, it might be difficult to determine just what is made where. And Legault, who became premier only in October, can hardly be blamed for the failure of Energy East a year earlier.

However, in fairness to the former MP for Fort McMurray -- who like Kenney voted in Parliament for the equalization formula he's now complaining loudly about -- it's entirely consistent with his misrepresentation of Canadian equalization policy over several years.

What do you want to bet the biggest victims of this scheme will be restaurants selling poutine made from Alberta potatoes, cheese and processed gravy? In the great Alberta tradition, the restaurateurs will then blame their troubles on the NDP for raising the minimum wage.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca

Photo: Facebook

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