Dale Johnson wins UCP nomination in contentious Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland race

Dale Johnson has won the United Conservative Party nomination in the constituency of Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland.

One candidate retracted statements made about frontrunner, another disqualified for offensive posts

Dale Johnson is the United Conservative Party candidate in Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland. (Dale Johnson/Facebook)

Dale Johnson has won the United Conservative Party nomination in the constituency of Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland.

The nomination race saw one candidate retract statements made about another candidate, and another candidate disqualified over offensive social media comments.

Johnson, Barb Costache,  Everett Normandeau and Leah Wood ran  to represent the UCP in the rural constituency northwest of Edmonton that includes the towns of Onoway and Mayerthorpe.

Johnson will now aim to unseat NDP MLA Oneil Carlier, the province's minister of agriculture and forestry, in next spring's provincial election.

"I think we have a significant chance to become the next party that will be elected in this constituency," said Johnson. "We've worked at the nomination, talked to a lot of people and [have] already started working toward the next election."

Johnson is a longtime business owner and is a former municipal councillor and deputy mayor in Onoway. 

Heated nomination race

The race became so heated that the local constituency association cancelled a candidates' forum scheduled for last Saturday.

Progressive Conservative MLAs had represented the area for decades prior to Carlier's victory in 2015.

In 2015, the vote was split nearly evenly between Carlier, PC incumbent George VanderBurg and Wildrose candidate John Bos.

Carlier could face a stiffer challenge now that the PCs and Wildrose have merged into the UCP.

That may be one reason why the nomination contest became so contentious.

Leah Wood was perceived as the frontrunner. The businesswoman and former regional director of the Wildrose Party executive earned endorsements from former Wildrose leader Brian Jean, and from UCP MLAs Nathan Cooper, David Hanson, Todd Loewen, Jason Nixon, Ric McIver, Angela Pitt and Leela Aheer.

Last week, Normandeau sent information to the media about past civil court cases involving Wood, suggesting she should be disqualified. On Monday, he retracted and apologized for the statements, which he acknowledged were "incorrect."  

Wood posted the letter on her Facebook page, noting Normandeau had apologized for the claims, which she called defamatory.

"I hope that the other candidates in this race will follow suit and begin focusing on what matters — the constituents of Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland and getting rid of the NDP in 2019," she wrote.

Earlier this month, the party disqualified Jerry Molnar, a business owner, for making a number of offensive and inappropriate social media posts, which included calling former Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne a "tranny" and jokes about sexual assault and sexual harassment.