Give Lance Coulter credit: The guy seems to be a very hard worker.
Leastways, the United Conservative Party nomination candidate in the Edmonton-Henday West Riding certainly had to work extremely hard to get himself kicked out of the party's nomination process.
Finally, late yesterday morning, the UCP -- oh, so reluctantly -- instructed Coulter to take a hike.
The former assistant to the Edmonton Griesbach Conservative member of Parliament Kerry Diotte was one of three nomination candidates in the Henday electoral district who invited members of Soldiers of Odin anti-immigrant vigilante group to a constituency association beer night and then posed for selfies with them.
But he was the only one of the three who wouldn't immediately disavow the "Soldiers" -- who turned up in their biker-style colours with S.O.O. emblazoned on their jackets, hats and T-shirts.
Instead, Coulter hunkered down for a spell, then came out swinging, defending the "Soldiers'" fundamental right to free selfies and his prominent role in it. He made a series of increasingly eye-popping comments that, if he's not a Soldiers of Odin sympathizer, sure as heck made him sound like one. He also effectively made UCP Leader Jason Kenney out to be a liar when he contradicted the leader's dubious claim the embarrassing guests had "crashed" the party.
Not only did Coulter say he knew who the Soldiers of Odin were and that they were coming, he argued he was supporting their free speech rights by appearing in their selfies. "People have a constitutional right to voice their opinions, and I'm not going to deny them that," he said Wednesday. "I thought I'd give them the benefit of the doubt."
Personally, though, I think it was Coulter's Hugo Boss comment that finally sealed his fate. Asked by an Edmonton Star Metro journalist about a Press Progress report saying he had indicated his support for alt-right groups on social media, including "liking" a call for a Muslim ban in public schools, he responded: "I wish I knew I was a white-nationalist, otherwise I would have worn the 1930s Hugo Boss."
In case you missed the Sartorial Report, the famous German fashion house founded by couturier Hugo Boss, an active Nazi who died in 1948, first made it big designing snappy uniforms for the German armed forces. Despite its sordid history, the company continues to operate under its founder's name in upscale malls across the planet.
But enough fashion news. Observing the UCP react to Coulter's embarrassing commentary was excruciating, even if you're disinclined to support the party. It was like watching the proverbial slow-motion train wreck. You had to ask: What's taking them so long? And why?
Before becoming an official nomination candidate, Coulter was vetted by what blogger Dave Cournoyer calls "the UCP's supposedly rigorous screening process."
At least UCP Executive Director Janet Harrington's letter to Coulter yesterday morning left little doubt about the candidate's fate. "We strongly disagree with your seemingly sympathetic assessment of the Soldiers of Odin and are frankly disturbed by your cavalier attitude taken to a hate group attending a United Conservative Party event," Harrington's letter stated.
"The incident has resulted in reputational harm to our party and its many members," it went on, most certainly speaking the truth, although the party nominations committee surely must bear some of the blame for of its painfully slow response.
"We are also extremely disturbed to learn that you were knowingly aware that members of a controversial group accused of hate were at a UCP event, yet did not attempt to notify members of the constituency association immediately in order to protect the Party's reputation," the letter said. "You declined to note your prior awareness to the Party when the matter was raised with you on Sunday, thus further compounding the harm. It seems that you were knowingly deceptive on this important point."
It concluded: "You acted recklessly and demonstrated a level of irresponsibility that is not reflective of the calibre of candidates the UCP is seeking. As such, the Nominations Committee has determined that you are disqualified as a nomination contestant for the United Conservative Party."
So here's your Hugo Boss cap, Mr. Coulter. Now, quick march!
The race to be the party's candidate in the West Edmonton riding, therefore, has now been reduced to two: Leila Houle and Nicole Williams. Both young women have political experience. Houle was a candidate in the 2008 federal election for the federal Liberals in the St. Paul Riding and in 2013 for regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations. Williams has been active as a volunteer in numerous federal and provincial Conservative campaigns.
Diotte did not respond to a request to describe Coulter's duties in his office, which it is profoundly to be hoped did not include clicking "like" under offensive social media commentary.
Commoners unwelcome at UCP swearing in ceremony
Meanwhile, the faux populism and elitist nature of Jason Kenney's UCP were on display yesterday -- but only for UCP insiders -- as two new MLAs elected in last July's byelections were sworn in behind closed doors.
Like the curious incident of the dog in the night-time, it was the unusual lack of pomp and celebration at what is traditionally in Alberta a public ceremony that suggests the true nature of Kenney's characteristic populist barking.
Contrast yesterday afternoon's secretive affair to the recent public swearing in ceremonies of governments led by premiers Rachel Notley, Alison Redford and Ed Stelmach and you'll get an idea of who values public participation and who wants a government of elites, by and for elites.
Even the most reliable mainstream media friends of the UCP were not informed about, let alone invited to, the secretive swearing in of Devin Dreeshen, MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake and Donald Trump's No. 1 man in Edmonton, and Laila Goodridge, MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin.
"Wouldn't the constituents of these two new MLAs want to know?" The CBC's Michelle Bellefontaine tweeted plaintively. I'll speak on behalf of the UCP here: What do constituents have to do with anything?
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.
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