March 11, 2019 5:44 pm
Updated: March 19, 2019 3:00 pm

Former UCP candidate hopeful says he’s disappointed by Kenney’s appointment of Rhodes

Arundeep Singh Sandhu discusses disappointment at a gathering for community members to express concern about UCP leader Jason Kenney

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Community groups rallied around a former UCP nomination candidate for Edmonton-Meadows at a meeting in Edmonton on Sunday.

The gathering at the Aria Banquet Hall was held in support of Arundeep Singh Sandhu and saw community members raise concerns about the UCP Leader Jason Kenney.

Sandhu said he had been campaigning for the nomination in the riding for about a year, on what he says was an assurance from Kenney that it would be an open nomination.

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“[Kenney] indicated that he was happy to have me run,” Sandhu said. “He told me he wanted me to be the next MLA for Edmonton-Meadows.

“We proceeded with that knowledge, that this campaign would be open and fair, and that we would be able to sign up our supporters as members.”

But Sandhu said his hopes were dashed when in February, Kenney sidestepped a vote and appointed Len Rhodes, the former CEO and president of the Edmonton Eskimos, as the UCP candidate in that riding.

READ MORE: Former Eskimos boss Len Rhodes running for UCP in Edmonton-Meadows

At a news conference, Kenney said that the rules allow him to appoint up to four candidates.

“I don’t think that we should exclude people of Len’s caliber from the opportunity of public service simply because their professional obligations don’t allow them to run for nomination for six or 12 months,” Kenney said.

The decision to appoint Rhodes is disappointing to Sandhu, who is a lifelong member of the southeast community the riding encompasses.

“It’s been disappointing,” he said. “But it’s not about myself — it’s about thousands of United Conservative members in Edmonton-Meadows who haven’t had a chance to vote for their candidate to stand in the next election, to be their voice.

“I was running because my corner of the city, the city that I grew up in, needed a voice at the provincial table,” Sandhu went on to say. “I was supported by many members of my community here in southeast Edmonton to run for the UCP nomination.”

Sandhu said community members are frustrated too, and all who attended the gathering were there to make that feeling known.

“They wanted to express their disappointment,” he said. “They’re in shock at what they thought was unfair treatment.”

“Sixty-thousand UCP members have voted in nominations across the province. They’re wondering why they weren’t given the same right.”

Watch below: Some recent videos from Global News’ coverage of the UCP.

Sandhu said members of the community feel ignored and that they weren’t properly consulted about Rhodes’ appointment.

“They feel the top-down style isn’t what they signed up for,” he said.

Rhodes has since addressed Sunday’s gathering and the concerns that were expressed, and also spoke about the three other candidate hopefuls who were running in the riding.

“I think there’s a lot of passion,” Rhodes said. “There’s three candidates that represented the party very well by seeking nominations in the riding.

“I honestly have a lot of empathy for all three because I know they worked hard.

“It’s probably disappointing and somewhat of a shock when you’re told your efforts are going to be put to the side for someone else to come into the riding.”

Rhodes said the former nomination candidates haven’t all shared the same view on the matter.

“So far, two of the three have really shown team spirit,” he said.

“It’s about the party first. They’re seeing the bigger picture in terms of wanting the party to come out in front in the next election.

“I know one of the former nominees has expressed frustration. I understand. But I wasn’t part of the past. It’s been over two weeks now that I’ve joined the party. I’m seeking to be elected in Edmonton-Meadows, and I’m going to give it my 100 per cent.”

Sandhu said he will not be running again for the UCP.

“[My family and I] will be supporting whatever decision the community makes, but we will not be running again,” he said.

When asked by 630 CHED’s Ryan Jespersen about whether his days in politics are done, Sandhu revealed that he isn’t closing the door on that just yet.

“There’s still time before the election is called,” he said. “There’s still some developments to come. We’re waiting to hear just like everybody else. We’ll make a decision closer to game-time.

“We’re community-driven. We take it seriously when we consult with our grassroots.”

Sandhu said he cannot support the UCP leadership team and that he’s not alone in his frustration with the party’s leader.

“I’ve been hearing a lot more from a lot of the candidates, MLAs and volunteers. They’ve also expressed their disappointment,” he said.

Rhodes will be running against NDP candidate Jasvir Deol — who is an insurance broker — and Alberta Party candidate Amrit Matharu, who according to the Alberta Party’s website is an activist and entrepreneur.

The provincial election has not yet been called, but by law it must take place by May 31.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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