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Alleged UCP electoral shenanigans begin to attract a wider audience than just Alberta

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Photo: United Conservative Party of Alberta/Facebook

Thanks to Opposition Leader Jason Kenney and the United Conservative Party leadership race he won last year, not to mention the way he won it, electoral politics in Alberta are starting to get international attention.

I kid you not! I had a long phone conversation on Wednesday with a journalist from San Francisco who specializes in reporting on election administration and voting technology. He's been reading about the allegations of a "mass vote rigging scheme" in the 2017 UCP leadership race and he wants to know what the heck's going on up here.

Just to be clear, the words in quotation marks came from a startling Press Progress report on Monday, not the American journalist, whom I shall leave nameless for the time being so he can do his work in peace and quiet -- after all, what he discovers might turn out to be interesting.

Typical American, though, the guy's more interested in what might happen in the upcoming U.S. presidential primaries that what did happen in what presumably appears from the perspective of the bright lights to the south to be a bush-league Canadian political party's leadership election.

Still, I guess we Albertans can be proud that even if the Americans are enjoying a terrible discount for our bitumen, we're doing something up here that's starting to be noteworthy.

The Press Progress story in question spent a lot of time explaining how the alleged electoral fraud scheme was supposed to have worked, with the collection of names of real Albertans, creation of fake email addresses based on those names, voting PINs then sent to political operatives who created the fake accounts, and fake votes cast at a Kenney Kiosk.

Confused? So am I. Read the story for yourself. However, let me add the traditional journalistic caveat: nothing has been proved in a court of law.

I can tell you I know for a fact there are a couple of Gmail addresses out there in my name that I had figured were just created by disgruntled readers. It scares me, though, that I might have voted for Jason Kenney without even knowing it!

In mid-February, Press Progress picked up on MLA Prab Gill's letter to the RCMP, in which the former UCP caucus member alleged "that Kenney's leadership team cast 'thousands' of fake votes using party memberships registered with 'fraudulent e-mail addresses' that were hosted on a server located 'somewhere offshore.'"

For his part, Kenney dismissed the allegations, calling them "completely ridiculous conspiracy theories" and asking in a sarcastic reference to the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, "am I going to be asked tomorrow if I was really on the grassy knoll?"

Kenney is safe from that one. He wasn't born until 1968. As for whether or not UCP long-shot leadership candidate Jeff Callaway was actually on a "Kamikaze mission" for Kenney, that conspiracy theory remains unsettled, although as noted here earlier it was taken as assumed back in the fall of 2017 and nobody seemed to reach for a sardonically dismissive reference to U.S. political history.

Speaking of which, Kennedy famously observed that "where there is smoke, there is usually a smoke-making machine."

There's enough smoke in this case though, that you really have to wonder if there's an actual fire.

I have always wanted to write about Kenney and Kennedy in the same blog post, not merely because spell-check has the bad habit of turning the former into the latter, but because Kenney when he was younger reminded me of Richard M. Nixon, Kennedy's unsuccessful rival in the 1960 U.S. presidential election.

I am referring, of course, only to their physical resemblance, real or imagined.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Photo: United Conservative Party of Alberta/Facebook

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