Former UCP candidate who posed with Soldiers of Odin denied appeal

The United Conservative Party has declined to hear an appeal from a former nomination candidate who was disqualified for failing to tell the party he was aware of Soldiers of Odin's anti-immigration views before posing for pictures with them.

Lance Coulter claims he refused to lie 'when the party asked me to, unlike the other two candidates'

UCP West Henday nomination contestant Lance Coulter, right, in a photo posted on the Soldiers of Odin's Edmonton Facebook page. (Facebook)

The United Conservative Party has declined to hear an appeal from a former nomination candidate who was disqualified for failing to tell the party he was aware of Soldiers of Odin's anti-immigration views before posing for pictures with them.

Lance Coulter, who was running to be the party's candidate in Edmonton-West Henday, said on Sunday on his now-deleted Facebook account that his request to speak to the UCP board was denied.

"I condemn racism in the strongest terms," Coulter wrote. "However, ask yourself, can you combat racism in a meaningful way without talking with racists?

"I was disqualified because I refused to lie when the party asked me to, unlike the other two candidates."

Soldiers of Odin is an anti-immigration group founded in 2015 in Finland by Mika Ranta, a white supremacist. The Canadian branches of the group describe themselves as non-racist conservatives who seek to keep Canada safe.

Coulter and the other two nomination candidates Nicole Williams and Leila Houle posed for photos with Soldiers of Odin members who showed up at a party event at an Edmonton pub, prompting the UCP to condemn the views of the group. 

Williams and Houle immediately condemned the group and said they weren't aware of its views prior to posing for photos.

Coulter remained silent on the issue until Wednesday. He told reporters prior to a candidates forum that he knew who the Soldiers of Odin were. He described them as "cordial" and "polite."

Coulter was disqualified the next day via a searing letter from UCP executive director Janice Harrington, who took issue with his positive remarks about the group, and his failure to alert the party that they had shown up at a UCP event.

"This incident has resulted in reputational harm to our party and its many members," she wrote.

Harrington denied Coulter's contention the party asked him to lie. 

In a message on Facebook, Williams directed CBC to the statement she made when the issue arose last week.

"With six days left in this campaign, I am focused on earning the trust and support of Edmonton-West Henday UCP members, not my former opponent," she added.

When reached by phone, Houle referred questions to her media manager who she said would get back to CBC.