Calgary MLA Sandra Jansen announced Tuesday she’s withdrawing from the 2016 Progressive Conservative leadership race due to unprecedented harassment related to her stance on issues including women’s reproductive rights and an alleged a “hostile takeover” on the part of the PC party.
The president of the party said she’s deeply concerned and will refer the complaints to the leadership election committee for review.
“My presence in this race has so enraged a socially regressive element, that I fear it will take away from our ability to fight what is turning out to be a very hostile takeover attempt on the party that I am so proud of,” reads an email sent to Jansen’s email subscribers.
The only other female candidate, Donna Kennedy-Glans, also announced her withdrawal from the leadership race within minutes of Jansen’s email. Kennedy-Glans said in an email sent to reporters that she was withdrawing because “right now, politics in Alberta is polarizing and there is limited opportunity for centrist voices to be heard.”
Jansen, who was unavailable for further comment Tuesday, alleged a PC candidate was using “bullying tactics” and left her supporters with this advice:
“Work for a candidate who opposes the Trump-style politics imported to Alberta from Ottawa.”
The Calgary MLA has previously spoken out against former federal cabinet minister and MP Jason Kenney’s plan to “unite the right” in Alberta when he announced his leadership bid.
“If his goal is to collapse the PC party, then it would appear that he doesn’t fit the criteria for running for leader,” Jansen said in August, adding she’d leave it to the PC party executive to discuss Oct. 1.
An email attributed to Kenney said he was “disappointed” the two women were withdrawing and extended his “best wishes” Tuesday night. Kenney was not available for an interview with Global News, but released a statement quoting late Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed emphasizing the need for an “open democratic party.”
Jansen’s email did not describe an “open” process within the party and suggested hardworking young candidates were “pushed aside from executive positions so one candidate could garner a few extra delegates.”
“Under the guise of ‘wider youth engagement’, hundreds of youth with no previous ties to the party were bussed in to vote – regardless of eligibility,” reads Jansen’s Tuesday email sent to supporters. “Watching our dedicated PC youth candidates, some of whom logged thousands of kilometres this year volunteering for us, discarded like that, was heartbreaking.”
Following the email, Kenney retweeted a statement from PC youth president Sonia Kont, who posted a statement on Jansen’s “dubious allegations…in her attempt to save face after dropping out of the PC Leadership race.”
“As President of the PCYA, I will not stand by and let her slander the good work being done by the PC Youth,” Kont wrote. “Our members, both new and old, are decent kids who want to participate in the PC Leadership process. For Sandra to accuse them of “harassment” and “intimidation tactics” without a shred of evidence is completely unacceptable.”
Kont had deleted her Facebook post by Thursday.
PC Alberta president Katherine O’Neill said she expects all party members and candidates applying for the leadership to conduct themselves in a respectful manner.
“These allegations are deeply concerning and we will be reviewing them,” she told Global News.
O’Neill said she believes it’s a coincidence that the only two female candidates have withdrawn.
“I hope it’s a coincidence, because on a day where south of the border, there is a woman on the ballot for president for the very first time in our history, this disappoints me,” she said.
“Because it’s good to have different voices at the table—particularly in politics—and we really would’ve liked both women to be in the race.”
Jansen said her experience at the party convention on the weekend in Red Deer has left her “shaken.”
“Insults were scrawled on my nomination forms,” reads the email.
“Volunteers from another campaign chased me up and down the hall, attacking me for protecting women’s reproductive rights, and my team was jeered for supporting children’s rights to a safe school environment.”