Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says it’s troubling to hear a female candidate say she dropped out of the Progressive Conservative leadership contest due to abuse and intimidation.
Notley says the PC party needs to seriously investigate and report back.
“If a party or a campaign cannot conduct itself in a way to ensure the most basic of rules around inclusivity – for instance anti-harassment – then quite frankly that party or that campaign is not equipped to govern the province,” Notley told reporters at the legislature Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the two female candidates in the PC leadership race dropped out.
One of them, Sandra Jansen, said in a statement she had been harassed and intimidated by supporters of another candidate, and accused fellow leadership candidate Jason Kenney of bringing “Trump-style politics” to Alberta.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Kenney said, “I regret to hear of MLA Sandra Jansen’s allegations of having been treated disrespectfully at the recent PC policy conference and through social media.
“My campaign has exhibited a positive and respectful tone since it began. Neither I nor any member of our campaign team has engaged in personal attacks against other candidates.
“I condemn any disrespectful comments or conduct directed at people in public life.
“If anyone supporting my campaign has made personally disparaging remarks about other candidates, I would ask them to apologize and to participate in a positive and respectful manner.”
The other candidate to drop out, former Calgary PC MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans, has said she was concerned the party was moving too far to the right on social issues, but didn’t mention being harassed.
Progressive Conservative party president Katherine O’Neill said the committee overseeing the leadership race is investigating Jansen’s claims.
“We need to get to the bottom of this as soon as possible,” said O’Neill in an interview.
“We want to have an answer, not just for our membership, but (for) the public to know what’s going on here.
“As a woman, I’m very disappointed that there’s a feeling out there that this party doesn’t welcome females or that we’re not inclusive. That can’t be further from the truth.”
Jansen, in her letter, stated the harassment she received from opposition supporters in the hallway at last weekend’s policy convention was “the final straw” in an ongoing social media smear and insult campaign attacking her progressive views.
Both Kennedy-Glans and Jansen have also criticized Kenney for busing in delegates to the convention to vote for members of the youth executive. The youth wing has been given a number of votes for the delegated leadership convention, which takes place March 18 in Calgary.
Kenney said having young members involved in the process is good for the party and democracy.
There are now four candidates in the race: Kenney, PC MLA Richard Starke, former PC MLA Stephen Khan, and Calgary lawyer Byron Nelson.
Kenney, a former Calgary MP, has polarized debate in the PC leadership race.
He is running on a promise to call for a membership vote to collapse the party, then seek to merge it with the right-centre Wildrose Party and create a new big tent conservative coalition he said is critical to defeating Notley in the 2019 election.
The Wildrose is viewed as more socially conservative than the PCs, and both Jansen and Kennedy-Glans have said they worry Kenney is taking the PCs down the same path.