Multiple UCP candidates facing backlash for various controversies
Four United Conservative Party candidates have come under fire for their behaviour or for the actions of close relatives.
Lacombe-Ponoka UCP candidate Jennifer Johnson compared transgender children to poop in cookies, then apologized Wednesday.
The next day, some UCP candidates distanced themselves from the comments.
Ric McIver, who is running in the Calgary-Hays riding, tweeted, "I completely condemn Jennifer Johnson’s comments."
Party Leader Danielle Smith pledged to remove her from caucus if Johnson wins her seat.
During a town hall event in Medicine Hat, Smith responded to an audience question about supporting LGBTQ2S+ youth and adults, saying, "I think we have to de-politicize these issues. These issues are very personal family issues, and every family has a loved one that they support."
CHANGE OF VOTE
One conservative Christian Calgary voter with transgender family members tells CTV News that she will not vote UCP on election day because of Johnson's comments and other moments.
"It shocked me and horrified me that she described transgender children and youth as feces and to me, that is absolutely hate speech," said Andrea Bell.
Bell also says there should be tougher consequences for candidates, and believes Johnson shouldn’t be able to continue to run in the upcoming election.
She says people in positions of authority are held to higher account because of the influence they wield, and their statements and actions cause harm.
"The transgender population suffers a lot," said Bell, adding that she's observed her family members flourish and thrive after receiving gender-affirming care.
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress Alberta Provincial Council, meanwhile, is calling for retractions and apologies from two other UCP candidates.
It says Calgary-Lougheed's Eric Bouchard demonstrated anti-Ukrainian sentiment by sharing a post with the hashtag "Zelensky war criminal," and it accuses Livingstone-Macleod candidate Chelsea Petrovic's husband of supporting Russian Leader Vladimir Putin in social media posts.
A release reads:
"We urge UCP Leader Smith and the UCP to disavow and condemn the anti-Ukrainian statements made by candidate Bouchard and the spouse of candidate Petrovic and urge the candidates to retract and apologize for their hurtful remarks."
Petrovic has previously issued a blanket apology for any of her social media missteps.
And Calgary-Fish Creek candidate Myles McDougall has apologized for his Facebook posts from 2020 that he said in a statement provided to CTV News were "racially insensitive and offensive, particularly to the Black and First Nation communities. I unequivocally apologize for doing so."
Meanwhile, a recent Angus Reid poll suggests these "bozo eruptions" have not exactly hurt the UCP's lead in the polls over the NDP, compared with the "lake of fire" comment that once crippled Smith's election hopes during her 2012 campaign as Wildrose Party leader in 2012.
"I think what this is indicative of is a greater desire to focus on the bread-and-butter issues, rather than a personality-driven drama. I think that's what's unfolding here," said Michael Solberg, partner at New West Public Affairs.
He says inflation, affordability, cost of living, health care and the economy will ultimately matter more than some comments he also described as "outrageous and frankly abhorrent."
BASKET OF BELIEFS
Another expert suggests controversial views have gained traction across the political spectrum, but especially in conservative spaces online.
"These social media echo chambers can increase the spread of misinformation. And the way that happens is these echo chambers become communities ... and the ideology within that community becomes more important," said Tim Caulfield, Canada research chair in health law and policy at the University of Alberta.
"It is remarkable, the tolerance that we now have for this kind of BS. It's harmful lies. And I don't think it was always like this," he added later.
"I think part of it is because of (former U.S. president Donald )Trump. He's moved the needle."
Caulfield also describes a "basket of beliefs" that can be associated with online spaces that eventually form communities that members take very seriously, as an alternate reality.
"It can, unfortunately, be very harmful, because what happens is those signals, those flags that you're supposed to adopt become more important than the truth and what the evidence actually says," Caulfield said.