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The federal Conservative leadership race takes a sinister and juvenile turn

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Image: Conservative Party/Twitter

Probably the last thing the Conservative Party of Canada needs right now is a side battle over allegations of dirty tricks and data theft between the campaigns of the two leading candidates in an already uninspiring leadership race.

I mean, it's not as if frontrunners Peter MacKay or Erin O'Toole are the sort of leaders that stir the blood sufficiently to arouse passionate support among people who normally don't make a habit of voting Conservative.

About the best either of them could have hoped for was to generate a leadership contest with enough suspense to give the impression of a real race for a prize worth winning and then wait prayerfully for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to mess up again like he almost did last year.

Luckily for Trudeau's Liberals, departing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer wasn't even up to the task of being a placeholder leader until someone better was available to step in and whip the team into shape. That someone, presumably, was supposed to be Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, the master campaigner, if only it hadn't turned out having been given the opportunity to lead somewhere else he's been proving he actually doesn't govern very well.

Also luckily for the Liberals, after Jack Layton led the New Democrats to their high tide in 2011 and succumbed to cancer later that year, Dipper delegates to the party's 2016 convention in Edmonton had the poor sense to skid the leader that replaced Layton.

Yes, Thomas Mulcair looked pretty uninspiring in comparison and suffered a big setback in 2015, but, it's said here, he would have been exactly the right person to replace Trudeau and push Scheer aside in 2019 -- in other words, the only grown-up in the room.

Well, that's all 2020 hindsight, as it were. Both MacKay, the would-be once and future Tory leader, and O'Toole, who seems to be being marketed as Stephen Harper 3.0, are auditioning for the role as the adult candidate in the next federal election, whenever that is.

The former appears to be a young kid of 54, the latter an old man of 47 -- proving, I guess, the maxim that for Conservatives there's no shirt too young to stuff.

So the last thing they needed was for an ugly squabble with allegations of inter-campaign spying and dirty tricks.

The National Post reports a purloined password from the office of an MP supporting O'Toole was used to allow 144 of that candidate's Zoom meetings to be spied on by persons unknown who may or may not have been associated with MacKay's campaign.

Now the cops have been called -- never a good thing in an organization where more than one person may have dirty linen they'd rather not have aired.

A news release Friday from the O'Toole campaign said complaints have been filed with the RCMP, Ontario Provincial Police and Toronto Police Service against MacKay's campaign and "senior campaign organizer Jamie Lall."

Lall's name, of course, is familiar to Alberta readers.

In 2015, he was blocked from seeking the Progressive Conservative nomination in a Calgary-area riding for reasons that remain murky. At the time, premier and PC leader Jim Prentice said only that Lall had been vetted for good reasons, and his candidacy was disallowed.

Lall then ran unsuccessfully as an independent candidate.

After the election, he was banned by Elections Alberta from running again for five years for failing to file campaign statements in time. A judge later reversed that suspension.

Lall's response to the O'Toole campaign statement Friday was a tweet stating: "Not a single word of this is true."

Under Stephen Harper, Canada's previous Conservative prime minister and, a lot of Canadians hope, its last one, the party was already getting a reputation for too much electoral dirty trickery, robo-calling and voter suppression in the election contest that really matters.

Under Scheer, the party looked and sounded a lot like young Tories overdoing things at a model parliament. After the election was lost to Trudeau despite the PM's terrible campaign, it also began to look like a Prairie rump with not much support in the rest of Canada.

The current Conservative contretemps sounds both sinister and juvenile -- which are the two things the Conservative Party of Canada can least afford right now.

Meanwhile, back at the asylum, the lunatics are running Alberta

Speaking of what happens when you let the inmates run the institution, yesterday afternoon the Alberta legislature passed a motion by Central Peace-Notley UCP MLA Todd Loewen saying, wait for it …

"Be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly urge the Minister of Justice and Solicitor General to explore options to establish a voluntary civilian corps to assist law enforcement in Alberta."

What could possibly go wrong?

One can only imagine what Loewen, who has been known to bait NDP MLA Rod Loyola in the house about his Latin American roots, had in mind. The Twittersphere, naturally, went wild, with many references to brown shirts and other unfortunate historical precedents.

Fortunately, the justice minister need not look very far to find a good reason to settle this down, if he chooses. The RCMP has run an auxiliary program since 1963 that uses trained volunteers, aged 19 years and older and willing to give two years to the program. The volunteers are unarmed and required to wear an identifiable uniform.

Given this, there will be no need to hear from Loewen again for another three or four years.

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 at The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on his blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Image: Conservative Party/Twitter

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