The Opposition Wildrose Party is accusing the province of bullying Edmonton's future mayor after the three front-runners were invited to $150-a-ticket fundraiser where the candidates were to be asked, “How will the new Mayor get along with Alberta’s Progressive Conservative government?"
"There's somehow some expectation that they're gonna pay homage to the PCs implicitly," Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith told CBC News Thursday.
"We all know that there's a lot of money that flows through to municipalities from the provincial government. And the implied threat is if you don't support the PCs, there might be repercussions."
'The implied threat is if you don't support the PCs, there might be repercussions.' - Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith
The forum with candidates Don Iveson, Karen Leibovici and Kerry Diotte was to be moderated by Edmonton Riverdale MLA Steve Young, who is also the government whip, and by Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths.
The description of the event, posted to the front page of the Edmonton Riverview Progressive Conservative Association website, stated that candidates would face "blunt questions" from Young and Griffiths.
Forum swiftly cancelled
The planned forum quickly unravelled after a Wildrose press release was distributed. Doug Griffiths's name and picture were removed from the website.
Don Iveson then announced on a Twitter conversation that he did not know the forum was a fundraiser and that he would no longer be taking part. In an email, a member of Karen Leibovici's campaign team, Warren Michaels, said Leibovici would also be pulling out.
"The only reason that we agreed to participate is because our opponents agreed to," Michaels wrote.
A message to Kerry Diotte's campaign was not returned.
Around 7:30 p.m., 2½ hours after the release, Young then announced on Twitter that the mayoral forum was cancelled, writing, "We only wanted to promote discussion. Good luck to all candidates."
It was not clear Thursday night whether the fundraiser itself was to go ahead, although the event description was eventually removed completely from the Edmonton Riverview PC Association website and it could not be found in its calendar of events.