Edmonton

Former Eskimos president Len Rhodes appointed UCP candidate

Len Rhodes, former president and CEO of the Edmonton Eskimos, has been appointed the United Conservative Party candidate in Edmonton-Meadows.

Three other candidates had been running for the nomination in Edmonton-Meadows

UCP Leader Jason Kenney looks on as Len Rhodes, the newly appointed candidate in Edmonton-Meadows, speaks to the media Thursday. (John Shypitka/CBC)

Len Rhodes, former president and CEO of the Edmonton Eskimos, has been appointed the United Conservative Party candidate in Edmonton-Meadows.

Rhodes's final day with the CFL club was Wednesday. He had announced Feb. 11 that he was stepping away from the organization. He recently ended a term as chairman of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce. 

Three other candidates — Arundeep Singh Sandhu, Joel Mullan and Sant Sharma — had been running for the UCP nomination in the new southeast Edmonton riding since the summer.

UCP Leader Jason Kenney told an Edmonton news conference Thursday that a rule allows him to appoint up to four candidates, to allow high-profile people like Rhodes to run.

"We believe it is in the best interests of Edmonton-Meadows and of Edmonton to have a candidate of his tremendous calibre carry the conservative banner in the next election," Kenney said. 

He said the appointment of Rhodes is supported by the UCP constituency association in Edmonton-Meadows.

"I don't think that we should exclude people of Len's calibre from the opportunity of public service simply because their professional obligations don't allow them to run for a nomination for six or 12 months," Kenney said. 

Rhodes doesn't live in the southeast Edmonton riding. His home is in St. Albert, which borders Edmonton on the northwest side.

"I want to work with Jason. I want to work with the party," Rhodes said. "It's more than one person. It is a party and we're going to be a team. But we're going to be aligned and we're going to work together." 

Candidates Mullan and Sharma attended the news conference. Sandhu did not. 

'Shame on me for sticking around'

A couple of UCP members tweeted that they are leaving the party over Kenney's move. Natalie Pon is close friends with one of the people running for the nomination. 

"Shame on me for sticking around the UCP and volunteering my time for as long as I did after the May AGM," she said on Twitter. "I was naive and stuck around for a friend. Now I have no reason to."

Longtime conservative Warren Mitchell said on Twitter he "was walking away. Jason Kenney and his team treat people like crap."

"Now I find out that after Jason told one of my best friends [Arundeep Singh Sandhu] for over a year that he would get a fair nomination, he broke his word by sending [Allan Hallman] to deliver the news," Mitchell tweeted. "Didn't have the courage & decency to do it himself."

Mitchell and Pon declined requests for interviews.

Three people are vying for the NDP nomination in Edmonton-Meadows: MLA Denise Woollard and challengers Chand Gul and Jasvir Singh Deol. The candidate will be selected on Sunday. 

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