Conservative leadership candidate Chris Alexander is distancing himself from an incident at a political rally outside the Alberta Legislature on Saturday in which protesters he was addressing started chanting "lock her up" in reference to Premier Rachel Notley.

The rally against carbon tax organized by Ezra Levant and his website The Rebel was attended by Alexander, among others.

"I was somewhat shocked, taken aback, mortified even, that this chant, this slogan, from south of the border was suddenly being picked up by everyone in front of me," Alexander said Monday in an interview on CBC News Network's Power & Politics.

"I wanted to get beyond it. I certainly didn't participate in it," he told host Rosemary Barton. "I as well find it offensive that people would be calling for illegal — even if some of them thought it was in jest — for illegal actions, threatening actions, against a sitting premier of Alberta."

A video of the rally shows Alexander breaking into a smile when the chanting began. He can also be seen waving his finger in what some have described as like that of a symphony conductor.

Asked why he was smiling and waving his finger rather than outright condemning the remarks with the microphone he was holding, Alexander said he was "playing for time."

Chris Alexander and the chant1:09

"I was listening to a very loud chant from people who picked it up spontaneously and weren't going to be stopped easily," he told Barton. "I started saying 'vote her out' as an alternative, and then I started making these points about the ballot box and democratic process."

Alexander said he was only waving his finger because he was "trying to find a moment to interject with what I thought was the real conclusion of what this discussion was."

Condemning the chant

Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose was unequivocal in her condemnation of the chanting, saying it was "inappropriate and unoriginal; obviously, we heard it in the U.S."

"We don't lock people up in Canada for bad policy, we vote them out," she said. "I don't know what to say — it's people acting like idiots."

Rona Ambrose on 'lock her up' chants0:50

Former federal Conservative cabinet minister Jason Kenney, who is currently running to become leader of Alberta's Progressive Conservative Party, was also quick to condemn the chanting.

"There are good reasons to oppose a carbon tax," he wrote. "But calling on our democratically elected premier to be 'locked up' is ridiculous and offensive."

Patricia Hajdu, the federal Liberal MP for Thunder Bay-Superior North and the minister for the status of women, said the chanting amounted to "verbal violence."

"What we are talking about is, trying to get more women into politics, and when we have a leader, or a contestant to become a leader, inciting violence towards elected officials, in fact it perpetuates the kinds of problems we've been talking about now for the last several weeks."

Patty Hajdu on 'lock her up' chant1:05

Two other Conservative leadership candidates also weighed in on the incident; Wellington-Halton Hills MP Michael Chong and Calgary MP Deepak Obhrai.

Chong said that while the right to free speech must always be defended, it must also be used responsibly.

 "In chanting 'lock her up' at one point in the rally, members of the crowd, in their anger, urged undemocratic action more worthy of a dictatorship than Canada's parliamentary democracy based on the rule of law," he said in a statement Monday.

Obhrai said, "We're witnessing Trump-style politics invading Canada."

Corrections

  • An earier version of this story incorrectly referred to Chris Alexander as a Conservative MP. In fact, Alexander was defeated in the 2015 election.
    Dec 05, 2016 10:15 PM ET
With files from The Canadian Press