Bribery allegation, disqualification rock Edmonton-Meadowlark PC nomination

Tom Choucair, a candidate for the Progressive Conservative nomination in Edmonton-Meadowlark, has been disqualified by the party's nomination committee.
Steve Benson (right), shown here with former premier Dave Hancock, is alleging someone from another campaign offered him cash to withdraw from the PC nomination race in Edmonton-Meadowlark. (steverbenson.com)

Tom Choucair, a candidate for the Progressive Conservative nomination in Edmonton-Meadowlark, says he is 'extremely devastated' after he was disqualified by the party's nomination committee.

The party made the announcement on Friday after another candidate, Steve Benson, alleged someone from another candidate's campaign offered him money to drop out of the race. 

The email from PC Alberta offers no details on why Choucair was disqualified. Choucair told CBC News that neither he nor anyone from his campaign offered cash to Benson. 

Tom Choucair learned he was disqualified as a candidate for the PC nomination in Edmonton-Meadowlark in a phone call from the party's nomination committee. (choucair.ca)
Choucair learned he was disqualified in a phone call from the nomination committee. The only reason he was given was that he wasn't "the type of candidate they wanted."

"Personally, the party wants a particular person to be the nominee," he said. 

Choucair declined to name that individual, saying that it would become clear when the results are announced on Saturday. 

"The stage has been set," he said.

Choucair says that he has been getting phone calls from higher-ups in the party pressuring him to drop out. Choucair said he sold 500 party memberships, manyto new or first-generation Canadians.

The nomination vote will go ahead Saturday with two candidates: Benson and Katherine O'Neill. 

Affidavit filed with party 

Benson announced in an email sent to the Edmonton-Meadowlark PC Association that he had filed an affidavit with the party.

Candidate Katherine O'Neill says she has no connection to the allegations made by Steve Benson. (katherineoneill.ca )
“The affidavit concerns an approach that was made to me by a representative of another campaign to drop out of tomorrow’s nomination race for a cash payment,” Benson wrote.

“I was told if I dropped out of the race I would receive a payment to cover all of my expenses.”

Benson does not name the campaign that allegedly made the offer, which he said he did not accept.

In written statement, O’Neill said her campaign was not involved.

“In no way am I associated with the serious allegations outlined in a statement released by Steve Benson earlier today,” she said.

“The reason I got into politics was to restore integrity and honour to public service. These allegations trouble me deeply, and I’m confident the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta will address them thoroughly before tomorrow’s vote.”

Earlier Friday, Naresh Bhardwaj stepped down as the associate minister for persons with disabilities after the party received bribery allegations involving someone on his campaign. 

Bhardwaj denies the allegations and is taking legal action. 

With files from the CBC's John Archer