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UCP leader's tweet fumbles response to Islamophobic group's harassment of worshipers at Edmonton mosque

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The original Al Rashid Mosque, which opened in 1938, is now located in Fort Edmonton Park. Photo: David J. Climenhaga.

Perhaps United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney needs to engage someone new to compose his tweets for him.

Kenney is a bright guy, so I'm assuming for reasons that will soon become apparent he doesn't come up with his own contributions to Twitter, the antisocial medium.

Last fall, when several members of an Islamophobic far-right splinter group calling themselves the Soldiers of Odin showed up at a UCP beer and chicken wings event, the fallout embarrassed the right-wing political party and its leader significantly.

To give the UCP its due, its leadership swiftly made it clear these particular volunteers were no longer welcome at their events, even if it was too late to stop screenshots of the photos of the Soldiers of Odin and their UCP hosts circulating on social media.

One of the three UCP nomination candidates who had accepted the Soldiers' RSVP didn't distance himself far enough, fast enough and was soon kicked out of the nomination contest and cast into utter political darkness.

Critics of the UCP and the federal Conservatives who pointed to constant dog-whistling by conservative leaders about the need for cultural practices fink lines and the supposed immigration crisis on Canada's long southern border were huffily dismissed by Kenney's supporters.

So when a group of men affiliated with the same radical group -- now lightly rebranded as the Wolves of Odin -- showed up Friday at a Sabbath prayer service at Edmonton's Al Rashid Mosque wearing hats with "infidel" stitched on them in Arabic, somebody associated with Kenney's Twitter account posted a series of well-meaning tweets intended to make it clear the UCP has no sympathy for this group or its activities.

"Little known fact: The Al-Rashid Mosque is Canada's oldest, operating peacefully since 1938," said one. (Emphasis, of course, added.)

The wording, needless to say, was all wrong. It didn't take long for Kenney's critics to point out that he never would have said the same thing about a Catholic church, say, if the embarrassing Canadian cousins of a Finnish neo-Nazi group had shown up there to insult to the Pope.

Kenney's Twittermeister could have saved his boss a lot of trouble by simply deleting the words "operating peacefully since 1938." They unintentionally imply an embarrassing and false assumption on the part of the UCP leader, and suggest dog-whistling to please the UCP's lunatic fringe has become a habit that's hard to break.

If Kenney made this mistake himself -- and anyone of us can convey unintended implications when we post statements on social media in a hurry -- then he would be wise to hire someone with a little less skin in the game to do his tweeting for him.

If nothing else, if he does, there's someone to blame in the event something really embarrassing happens -- say, like the guy who prepared Mr. Kenney's Elections Canada filings for him.

As for the men who visited the mosque with the obvious intention of intimidating worshippers, there are presumably more appropriate words than "infidel" they could stitch onto their hats.

Whatever their motive, it's obviously time for the Edmonton Police Service to stop "monitoring the situation" and start taking names and laying charges. This kind of behaviour cannot be tolerated.

Who wants to sabotage investigation into UCP leadership race financing?

Who is trying to keep witnesses from telling investigators for the Office of the Alberta Election Commissioner about "irregular financial contributions" to the Kamikaze candidate alleged to have been given the job of knocking off former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean in last year's UCP leadership race?

The Alberta editions of Star Metro reported yesterday the news organization has a copy of a letter from Election Commissioner Lorne Gibson sent to several participants in the investigation saying someone is attempting "to dissuade co-operation with investigators and hinder the proper disposition of matters in order to avoid these proceedings."

"If you have been contacted by any person who has, or has attempted to, influence your participation in this investigation it is very important that you bring this information to the attention of my Office immediately," Gibson's letter said.

A UCP spokesperson said the party is not aware of anyone doing anything like that.

CTF to challenge constitutionality of election advertising fine

Facing a $6,000 administrative penalty for violating Alberta's election financing law, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says it will challenge the constitutionality of the legislation in court.

In a rather overwrought op-ed published January 24 in the Edmonton Journal, CTF President and CEO Scott Hennig termed the NDP's legislation a "gag law" and compared it to policies of the Chinese government.

Hennig confirmed that a billboard attacking the NDP government's strategy for persuading Canadians of the benefits of pipelines was the reason for the fine. He said his organization placed it intentionally within sight of the office of the Elections Commissioner. "We understood putting up our billboard could result in a fine."

"Our lawyers' bills will dwarf the fine," he claimed. But perhaps the CTF, which apparently needs to solicit for donations constantly in order to stay in business, can get a friends-and-family rate from one of those right-wing legal advocacy organizations to which it has ties. John Carpay, for example, whose Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms has challenged Alberta's school gay-straight alliance legislation, is a former CTF Alberta director.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Image: David Climenhaga

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