UCP candidate screening went awry, says political scientist after reviewing 44-page questionnaire

A couple of United Conservative Party candidates have dropped out during the election after making racist comments. But those prospective politicians made it through the party's own extensive questionnaire. CBC News has obtained and verified a copy of the document.

'There shouldn't be as many candidate problems as they have'

UCP leader Jason Kenney says he's confident in the party's backgrounding of candidates but a Calgary political scientist says something went awry in the process. (Sam Martin/CBC)

A couple of United Conservative Party candidates have dropped out during the election after making racist comments and controversy swirls around some others on the party slate.

But those prospective politicians made it through the party's own extensive questionnaire that all its candidates must fill out, — a document obtained and verified by CBC News.

Some questions are mundane. But other questions are more personal.

All nomination contestants were asked to hand over passwords to social media accounts, and whether they've ever texted naked pictures or posted racist comments online.

Calgary political scientist Lori Williams reviewed the 44-page questionnaire, and said she found it quite thorough.

But the headlines generated during the provincial election campaign, she says, show something didn't go according to plan in the vetting process.

"There shouldn't be as many candidate problems as they have," Williams said.

"Some are creating problems now who are on the ballot and the party leadership doesn't see fit to remove them."

Online dating, sexting

The questionnaire illuminates what the party thinks could be politically damaging.

Candidates had to give the party access to their social media accounts and list any dating sites or apps they've used.

They were asked if they have ever engaged in "sexting or other explicit behaviour, including attending explicit events where photographs may have been taken."

This is a page from the UCP's questionnaire that details questions about sexting and dating. (Scott Dippel/CBC)

They were required to answer if they had ever been "accused of discrimination or been engaged in activities that promote hatred against people on the basis of race, national or ethnic origins, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation or disability."

Controversial online debates

Since the election was called, a question such as, "Have you ever been engaged in an online discussion about a controversial topic?" takes on a different look.

Two nominated UCP candidates have stepped down and been replaced since their online comments about immigration, Muslims and discrimination against members of the LGBT community emerged.

Candidates were encouraged to add additional pages. (Scott Dippel/CBC)

Headlines have been generated by several others for controversial past remarks or online posts.

Williams, who teaches at Mount Royal University in Calgary, wonders: what happened after the forms were handed in to the party?

"Either the disclosure wasn't complete in the first place or the review of the disclosure was not thorough," she said. 

"Or possibly the disclosure, when it was done, didn't flag anything because it didn't look out of line to the people who were doing the reviewing, or the reviewing wasn't done at all because the candidates were assumed to be star candidates."

Mount Royal University political science professor Lori Williams says the questionnaire is thorough, so she wonders why questionable candidates still got through. (Colin Hall/CBC)

There were several hundred candidates who sought UCP nominations across the province.

So, she said, it would have been a massive job for the party to review every questionnaire.

Controversy easily found

Some applicants were prevented from running for nominations because of their answers on the questionnaire. Multiple accepted contestants were disqualified over past behaviour after making it through the questionnaire.

In Brooks, a man was disqualified from a nomination race after likening Muslims to worshippers of Satan.

Another contestant in Edmonton was disqualified after posing with members of Soldiers of Odin, a group Facebook recently banned in a stand against "organized hate."

UCP West Henday nomination contestant Lance Coulter, right, in a photo posted on the Soldiers of Odin's Edmonton Facebook page. (Facebook)

Another sign of problems for Williams was that, while the party aimed to thoroughly vet its candidates, online material has emerged during the campaign that wasn't apparently first spotted by the UCP.

For instance, it missed a sermon given by UCP candidate Mark Smith in Drayton Valley-Devon.

For his part, UCP Leader Jason Kenney doesn't appear to be very bothered by the views of some of his candidates.

Kenney was asked Tuesday about whether the party's vetting process was up to snuff.

"I think we did a pretty good job but I will always say it wasn't going to be perfect and all I can tell you is, I'm proud of the slate of candidates that we have," Kenney said.

Candidates had to reveal all

The UCP questionnaire for its candidates also required them to consent to a criminal record check, a vulnerable sector check and a credit check. Contestants must list all of their addresses and phone numbers for the past 10 years.

  • Got a question about the election? Ask us. Text "ELECTION" to 587-857-5505 and we'll get back to you with the answer.

They also had to sign consent forms for information releases from the Canada Revenue Agency, the Canada Border Services Agency, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and the Department of National Defence, if applicable.

The questionnaire asks if the contestant had ever been accused of discrimination or sexual harassment. (Scott Dippel/CBC)

The questionnaire included a catch-all question at the end that takes on new light, given what's happened during this election campaign.

Candidates were asked to disclose anything in their personal, professional or business backgrounds that could cause embarrassment to the UCP or adversely affect their candidacy for the UCP if it became public during an election.

The questionnaire even suggested they could attach extra pages if they needed more room to explain something.


Scott Dippel

Politics Reporter

Scott Dippel has been at CBC News for more than two decades across four provinces. His roles have included legislative reporter, news reader, assignment editor and national reporter. When not at Calgary's City Hall, it's still all politics, all the time.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?