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'My team never cheated': Brian Jean fires back at Jason Kenney over UCP vote

Brian Jean is demanding Jason Kenney retract statements that every campaign in the 2017 United Conservative Party leadership race operated voting stations.

Former Wildrose leader takes issue with Kenney's claim all campaigns had voting stations

Brian Jean looks at his leadership opponent Jason Kenney during a news conference in 2017. (Terry Reith/CBC )

Brian Jean is demanding that UCP Leader Jason Kenney retract statements that every campaign in the 2017 United Conservative Party leadership race operated voting stations.

At an announcement in Chestermere on Monday, Kenney told reporters that a leaked email from a former staffer explaining how to install VPN software so a computer could become a voting station was "nothing new."

Kenney told reporters the software allowed campaigns to set up a place for seniors or other people without computers to cast their ballots.

"That was a convenience that I think all campaigns offered to people who needed technical assistance," he said.

Hours later, Jean, who finished second behind Kenney in the October 2017 vote, fired back on Twitter.

"To set the record straight: my team never cheated, used VPNs or voter kiosks during #ucpldr race," Jean said.

"In fact we complained to committee when a team was caught using them. @jkenney needs to retract statements made this morning."

In a text message to CBC News, Jean said no more than six votes were allowed from a single IP address under the leadership rules.

He said his campaign complained after it was discovered that Kenney's campaign was using VPN (virtual private network) software that would allow multiple voting from a single computer. 

Jean has rarely commented on the leadership race since stepping down as the MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin in February 2018. 

In response to Jean, a UCP spokesperson said Kenney "obviously doesn't know the intricacies of how other campaigns operated (note that he used 'I think')."

"He was commenting in general on how all leadership campaigns made great efforts to ensure UCP members could register and exercise their democratic vote in the leadership election."

Earlier this month, independent MLA Prab Gill, a former UCP caucus member, sent a letter to the RCMP alleging that Kenney's campaign improperly manipulated the electronic voting process during the October 2017 leadership vote.

The campaign set up kiosks where votes for Kenney were cast using PINs sent to fake email addresses, Gill said.

CBC has not independently verified Gill's allegations. 

'Smear campaign'

Police spokesperson Fraser Logan confirmed the RCMP has received the letter but would not say whether it will launch an investigation.

Kenney said Monday that no one from the RCMP has contacted him.

He called the allegations a "ridiculous smear campaign" by Gill, who was kicked out of the party last year after a retired judge found that "on a balance of probabilities" Gill had taken ballots off the registration table at a constituency association meeting in Calgary last June. Gill called the investigation "flawed" and "a sham." 

A story from Press Progress surfaced on the weekend that said Gill's letter named a current UCP candidate as a supervisor of a so-called Kenney voting kiosk. That detail was redacted when the letter was first made public.

Kenney said the third-party vendor, the auditor and the leadership election committee confirmed there was no evidence of inappropriate voting in what he described as a rigorous process.

"All three leadership campaigns signed off and verified on the process," he said. "So this is just a sad case of sour grapes by somebody who made a very terrible mistake and has been asked to leave our party as a result."

Campaign workers for Jean and Doug Schweitzer, the third candidate in the race, raised concerns about the Kenney campaign's use of VPNs during the three-day vote.

The issue appeared to have been dealt with by the end of the day, with both Schweitzer and Jean urging their supporters to get out and vote.

Kenney won the leadership with 61.5 per cent of the ballots cast. Jean came second with 31.5 per cent. Schweitzer came third with 7.3 per cent.

Schweitzer is running for the UCP in Calgary-Elbow.

If you have information about this story, please contact Michelle in confidence at michelle.bellefontaine@cbc.ca.

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