Katherine O'Neill wins PC nomination in Edmonton-Meadowlark

Katherine O'Neill has won the nomination for the Progressive Conservative party in the riding of Edmonton-Meadowlark, the party announced Saturday evening.
Katherine O'Neill, former president of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party, said Jim Prentice encouraged her to run for the party because he wanted more mothers to get involved in politics. She called him "a true public servant." (CBC)

Katherine O'Neill has won the nomination for the Progressive Conservative party in the riding of Edmonton-Meadowlark, in a race that was marked with allegations of bribery and the disqualification of one of her opponents. 

O'Neill, a former journalist with the Globe and Mail, was announced as the winner following a vote on Saturday. 

“I’m ecstatic. We’ve been working seven days a week,” she told CBC News after the vote. 

The nomination race was rocked earlier this week after one of O’Neill’s opponents, Steve Benson, alleged that another candidate's campaign offered him money to drop out of the race.

Benson said he filed an affidavit with the PC party, alleging one of his opponents offered to cover his expenses if he stopped running, although he declined to name which campaign was involved. 

Both O'Neill and the third candidate in the race, Tom Choucair, denied any knowledge or involvement in the matter. On Friday, the party disqualified Choucair, but did not offer any details on why he was removed from the race. 

O'Neill said she was disappointed to hear about the bribery allegations, but is "confident" that the matter was handled fairly. She said she will work to regain the trust that the riding's voters may have lost in the process because of the allegations. 

“I would have loved it to be a three-person race," she said. 

“This hasn’t been good for the riding. This isn’t how it should have happened.”

O'Neill has now turned her attention to preparing for a likely spring election and will be focusing on infrastructure issues in Edmonton-Meadowlark, including the aging Misericordia Hospital. 

Ousted candidate demands apology

Choucair maintains that neither he nor anyone on his campaign has anything to do with Benson's allegations, and was only told that he was "not the kind of candidate we want to have."

He has since demanded an apology and has challenged the PC party to show any evidence of wrongdoing on his part. 

Until then, Choucair said the nomination should be reopened and he should be allowed to run again, and that not doing so would be unfair to both him and his supporters. 

“That voice was taken away from them,” he said.