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Smith says candidate who made feces comment won't sit in caucus, decision final

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Five days after saying a United Conservative candidate who compared transgender students to feces in food could be given a second chance, Leader Danielle Smith has repeated the woman wouldn't sit in caucus if her party forms government.

Questions are being raised again about Jennifer Johnson's status as a UCP candidate after a social media post Tuesday night by someone from her constituency association suggested she's still a member in good standing and could enter caucus in the near future.

The Facebook post was deleted and replaced with one from the constituency board that said the message was posted by a volunteer who does not reflect its views.

It says Smith has made it clear that Johnson would not sit in caucus if she's elected Monday.

Smith was asked about Johnson during a news conference in Calgary and she said her decision is final, despite telling CTV last Friday that Johnson could be welcomed back.

“She has a lot of work to do. I believe in redemption. I do believe that people have the ability to have second chances. She’s got a lot of proving to do,” Smith told CTV.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley says she doesn’t trust Smith to follow through.

“Danielle Smith has actually changed positions on it a couple of times since the matter first arose. So, I think we can conclude that we cannot count on the UCP to make the right decision,” she said.

Dave Dale, who's the NDP candidate for Lacombe-Ponoka, says Smith must permanently eject Johnson from the UCP.

"Jennifer Johnson's bizarre and hateful views have no place in the legislature," he said in a statement.

"As a teacher myself, I can tell you that her comments put vulnerable children in danger. I can't imagine the hurt for students who are being publicly compared to pieces of excrement."

Audio surfaced last week from September 2022, before Johnson won the UCP nomination in Lacombe-Ponoka, with several homophobic and transphobic comments.

Johnson has apologized for the remarks, saying she's embarrassed she caused hurt.

WHAT THIS COULD MEAN IN A TIE

With 87 seats, and the tightest election in recent memory, it means the election could end in a tie, assuming Johnson wins and is forced to sit as an independent.

Trevor Harrison, a political sociologist at the University of Lethbridge, calls that scenario “unlikely,” but it would trigger a few things.

“It’s up to the lieutenant governor to ask somebody to form government if there’s no clear winner,” he said.

Harrison also points out the government picks the speaker, who is neutral in the house, but votes in the event of a tie on bills, among other things.

“Chances are though, if it came to a decisive vote, we would kind of expect that Johnson would vote with the party. She would not be voting with the NDP. It’s almost like she’s not in the caucus, but she’s of the caucus,” he said.

When asked if Notley would consider having Johnson in her caucus if it meant overcoming a tie-breaker, she said no, calling Johnson’s comments “absolutely offensive.”

CTV News has reached out to Johnson for further comment but has not heard back.

With files from The Canadian Press. 

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