CALGARY – Days after a female candidate cited intolerable abuse as her reason for pulling out of the race for the leadership of the Alberta Conservatives, a male candidate says he has also had verbal threats aimed at him.
Jason Kenney told reporters at the Calgary Peace Symposium on Friday night that Sandra Jansen isn’t the only one who has experienced bullying.
Jansen pulled out of the campaign earlier this week, saying she could no longer take the personal and online abuse she has endured from supporters of another candidate.
She said it peaked at last weekend’s policy convention in Red Deer, when her nomination forms were vandalized and she was followed and harassed in the hallways of the convention centre.
On Friday, Kenney said at the same convention he had “people jabbing me in the chest and shouting expletives” at him.
He also said he has endured online attacks.
“People sometimes at political events let their emotions get the better of them and they should rise above that,” said Kenney.
Jansen has never identified Kenney’s camp as being the source of her problems – although she has accused him of bringing “Trump-style politics” to Alberta – but on Friday he pointed the finger at her camp.
More: Two women candidates quit Alberta PC leadership race
“One person’s campaign manager actually said he wanted to beat the expletive out of me,” he said. “That was Ms. Jansen’s campaign manager.”
Stephen Carter, who identified himself as a volunteer on Jansen’s campaign, admitted to Global Calgary that he made comments on a podcast but said Kenney had taken them out of context.
“I wanted to beat him electorally,” said Carter. “I wanted to see him in the field of battle of politics and win. But he wants to equate this to bullying.”
Kenney said some of his younger supporters were also shouted at by people “twice their age” while Carter said the supporters wreaking havoc belonged to Kenney’s team.
He said a number of adult volunteers from Kenney’s team “chose to follow Sandra up and down the hallway, saying she killed babies, getting into her personal space.
“I have done this for 20 years. I’ve never felt the need before to stand up and get ready to push somebody away from my candidate.”
Jansen has said she is weighing her options on leaving the caucus and party. Kenney said he hopes she stays in public life: “She has a lot to contribute.”
Jansen was one of two candidates to quit the race this week. Former PC legislature member Donna Kennedy-Glans also left, stating she was concerned the party was moving too far right on social issues.
Four candidates remain in the race: Kenney, MLA Richard Starke, former PC legislature member Stephen Khan and Calgary lawyer Byron Nelson.
Progressive Conservative party president Katherine O’Neill has said the committee running the leadership contest has decided to bring in a neutral third party investigator to check into Jansen’s allegations.
O’Neill said there is no timeline, but said they want to get to the bottom of what happened as quickly as possible.