Calgary

Support for UCP remains solid, unwavering despite controversies

UCP supporters say controversial comments by current and former candidates and an RCMP investigation into possible voter fraud and irregular donations will not affect their intention to vote for Jason Kenney's United Conservative party in this month's election.

Bozo eruptions, leadership controversy aside, some Albertans solidly behind UCP and Jason Kenney

UCP supporters like Shawn Nelson say they remain solidly behind the party despite controversial comments and investigations into the 2017 UCP leadership race. (Submitted)

UCP supporters say controversial comments by current and former candidates and investigations by the elections commissioner and RCMP into possible voter fraud and irregular campaign donations will not affect their intention to vote for Jason Kenney in the April 16 Alberta election. For some, the controversies have solidified and even strengthened their support for the two-year-old party. 

Shawn Nelson, who farms near Stirling, Alta., says Kenney offers the best hope to get people back to work, to make life better for Albertans and to stand up for the province.

"Albertans are mad right now, they're hungry for work and they want to get back to the Alberta Advantage," he said.

Nelson says he's willing to accept and look beyond some of the so-called bozo eruptions from the party's candidates. He attributes some of the controversies to 'dirty politics' — how the UCP's opponents are digging up dirt on candidates for what was said or done in the past. 

He was referring to comments made by Mark Smith, the UCP candidate for Drayton Valley-Devon.

On Tuesday, audio surfaced of Smith suggesting that "homosexual love" isn't good love and compared it to pedophilia.

The remarks were made during a sermon he delivered to the Calvary Baptist Church in Drayton Valley in 2013.

Two Calgary candidates dropped out of the election after racist and homophobic opinions were revealed in posted comments by Eva Kiryakos and private messages by Caylan Ford

Nelson says he doesn't agree with the comments, but he's willing to look the other way. 

"I'm not saying I condone the things that were said but, you know, with my buddies, I'm sure I've said some things that I'm not proud of," he said.

"I'm looking more big picture."

Nelson says what matters to him is the economy and getting people back to work.

Stand up to rest of Canada

Paul Graf, a retired Calgary firefighter also living in southern Alberta, believes Kenney is the best leader to defend Alberta's interests against British Columbians and Quebecers whose policies, he says, hurt Alberta.

Paul Graf, a retired Calgary firefighter, is supporting UCP Leader Jason Kenney. (Submitted)

Graf, 60, has a list of grievances that includes the carbon tax, "out of control" government spending, stalled pipelines and what he describes as an anti-oilsands and anti-Alberta sentiment.

He says it makes no sense for New Brunswick and Quebec to purchase oil from places like Saudi Arabia and Algeria while B.C., which depends on Alberta crude oil, continues to fight the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

"We're backed into a corner." 

"I don't know if you've ever been in a bar fight, but you get backed into a corner, you fight a hell of a lot harder." 

"We're tired of it, and I think he [Kenney] is willing to take a stand," said Graf. 

Controversial comments

Natalee Bouman, who is a massage therapist and yoga teacher in Medicine Hat, says she is actually disappointed Ford and Kiryakos stepped down as candidates. 

"I'm a little disappointed in them, for backing down like that on their position," she said.

Bouman says Kiryakos should have stayed on as the candidate in Calgary-Southeast "after someone tried to drag her name through the mud."

Bouman, who is also part of the CBC's election focus group with Nelson, says she is leaning towards voting UCP. She says the party aligns most with her financial and political views. "I just hope the UCP comes back in," said Bouman. 

But she says her views "don't align" with Kenney's views on abortion and women's issues, but she believes the UCP will make things better for small business owners.

Leadership controversy a non-issue

Some UCP supporters also appear willing to look the other way when it comes to allegations swirling around Jason Kenney's 2017 UCP leadership victory. 

Alberta's election commissioner has fined several people donating money that wasn't their own to the so-called "kamikaze" candidate, Jeff Callaway.

Lorne Doktor said allegations that have surfaced against hthe UCP are all 'just part of politics.' (Submitted)

The Callaway and Kenney teams worked together during the leadership race to discredit their main rival, Brian Jean.  

"If it did happen, it's just part of politics and part of life," said Lorne Doktor, a retired police officer.

Doktor was asked whether he's concerned the RCMP is investigating allegations of voter fraud and irregular campaign donations during the UCP leadership vote. 

"It doesn't bother me at all, both parties probably do it," said Doktor.   

'Take Alberta back'

Data scientist John Santos of Janet Brown Opinion Research says many UCP supporters are most likely uncomfortable with the controversial statements and comments made by Kiryakos, Ford and Smith. 

He says they feel so strongly about taking Alberta back from what they consider the NDP's "accidental government" that they're willing "to overlook a lot of things."

"There is this sense of wanting to take Alberta back, they are not just the natural governing party of Alberta, but they ought to be the natural governing party of Alberta," he said.

"I wouldn't underestimate how strong that is of a motivator for people. They view this as their province and they are ready to do what is necessary to take it back and their supporters are willing to overlook a lot of things in order to take it back," said Santos. 

  • Alberta Votes 2019: CBC News brings you all the news, analyses and columns you need for the election

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said Natalee Bouman had decided to vote for the UCP. She says she is still undecided, but leaning towards the UCP.
    Apr 05, 2019 1:12 PM MT

About the Author

Bryan Labby

Enterprise reporter

Bryan Labby is an enterprise reporter with CBC Calgary. If you have a good story idea or tip, you can reach him at bryan.labby@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @CBCBryan.

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