Former Alberta PC Party leadership candidate Donna Kennedy-Glans said she’s sorry if Sandra Jansen dealt with bullying or harassment during her campaign, but it wasn’t something she faced.
“It wasn’t my experience; it hasn’t been my experience,” Kennedy-Glans told Global News Wednesday.
“The fact that it exists at all is intolerable. Whether or not it’s pervasive is another question. The fact that it exists at all is wrong.”
Calgary MLA Sandra Jansen announced her withdrawal from the 2016 Progressive Conservative leadership race Tuesday, citing 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 has said she’s deeply concerned and will refer the complaints to the leadership election committee for review—something Premier Rachel Notley said needs to happen, calling Jansen’s allegations “deeply troubling.”
“I anticipate that the conservative party will look into them and take them very seriously and report back,” Notley said Wednesday afternoon.
“If a party or a campaign cannot conduct itself in a way to ensure the most basic of rules around inclusivity, for instance anti-harassment, then quite frankly that party or that campaign is not equipped to govern a province.”
But Kennedy-Glans, the only other female candidate who’d been in the race, said her withdrawal had to do with the “conservative movement within the party”—not harassment.
“I have a team of people who are fiscal conservatives and social progressives and we all felt there wasn’t a lot of room for that kind of thinking in the PC Party at this point in time,” she said.
“The conservative movement within the party is determined and it’s organized and it has an awful lot of resources and that was very, very clear to us.”
Watch below from Nov. 8: News Talk 770’s Danielle Smith reacts to Sandra Jansen and Donna Kennedy-Glans’ withdrawal from the Alberta PC leadership race
Jansen, who was unavailable for an interview Wednesday, alleged a PC candidate was using “bullying tactics” and left her supporters with this advice in an email sent Tuesday:
“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. He is running on a promise to call for a membership vote to collapse the party, then seek to merge it with the right-centre Wildrose Party, creating a new big tent conservative coalition he said is critical to defeating Notley in the 2019 election.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Kenney said he “regrets” to hear of Jansen’s allegations of “disrespectful” treatment at the PC convention and on social media.
“My campaign has exhibited a positive and respectful tone since it began. Neither I nor any member of our campaign team has engaged in personal attacks against other candidates,” it said.
“If anyone supporting my campaign has made personally disparaging remarks about other candidates, I would ask them to apologize and to participate in a positive and respectful manner.”
Kenney went on to say he’s tried to “praise the public service of Sandra Jansen and others engaged in the PC leadership process” at every occasion.
A Tuesday email attributed to Kenney said he was “disappointed” the two women had withdrawn.
“I hope that the thresholds for entering the PC leadership race, including $50,000 and 500 nomination signatures from across the province, are not a hindrance to the entry of candidates,” said the statement on Kenney’s behalf.
But Kennedy-Glans said signatures and money weren’t factors in her decision.
“We have 800 signatures and we only need 500 and we’ve got a great fundraising base—I’m not worried about that,” she said. “My worry was taking a team of people who wanted to participate in centrist politics into a room that is fully occupied by a farther-right conservative movement.”
There are now four candidates in the race: Kenney, PC MLA Richard Starke, former PC MLA Stephen Khan, and Calgary lawyer Byron Nelson.
With a file from The Canadian Press