How might recent UCP controversies affect Lethbridge in the provincial election?

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The UCP is a party under investigation by the RCMP and has multiple board members renouncing their affiliation to the party. Will recent events have an impact on Lethbridge in the provincial election? Matt Battochio reports – Mar 19, 2019

Concerns raised about the United Conservative Party’s 2017 leadership race have recently been forwarded to the RCMP, who acknowledge they are now looking into them, and the party has had multiple board members renounce their affiliation to the party in the last month.

READ MORE: Kenney, Callaway campaigns worked together to undermine Brian Jean’s UCP leadership run, leaked emails show

Despite recent events, the UCP candidate for Lethbridge-East says his faith in the party and its leader hasn’t been shaken.

“Not at all, I understand the political process,” Nathan Neudorf said. “There are… things like this that do go on and every time you see a political campaign, you’re going to see all kinds of things happen.”

However, the same can’t be said for all party members. Earlier this month, six members of the Livingstone-Macleod UCP constituency board stepped down, including former president Maureen Moncrieff.

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“In the Wildrose Party, where I came from, we talked about things with the leader,” Moncrieff told Global News over the phone on Tuesday. “We were given our mandate from the people. This is not so with the UCP. Jason (Kenney) has the mandate, Jason has the process and we have nothing to say about it.”

Leaked emails obtained by Global News appear to show campaign managers for Kenney and Jeff Callaway worked together to attack Brian Jean during the 2017 UCP leadership race.

The emails came to light just days after the RCMP confirmed it is looking into the race, based on information provided by Alberta’s election commissioner, and raise questions about Kenney’s involvement, if any, in the backroom dealings.

One of the questions for voters is, how much do past events weigh on their minds at the ballot box? According to Trevor Harrison, a sociology professor at the University of Lethbridge, the fact the RCMP is looking into the UCP leadership race may have lasting effects.

“That particular issue I actually think is going to stick,” Harrison said.  “This reinforces somewhat negative views towards his (Kenney’s) character and character issues actually, to a large extent, drive how people vote in elections,”

READ MORE: Kenney defends his team communicating with UCP adversary during leadership race as ‘not unusual’

Harrison said he believes that one party may benefit from the controversy surrounding the UCP.

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“To the extent it does help some of the smaller parties,” Harrison said, “I think probably the Alberta Party might be a beneficiary, simply because they’ve tried to position themselves as a non-radical centrist party in between the UCP and NDP.

“It’s possible they may get a little bit of a bounce out of this,” Harrison added. “The problem for the smaller parties is they want to present themselves as something new, but the problem is they’re so new that most people will say that they’re not going to actually form government, ‘So is it a wasted vote?’”

Harrison said he believes three key issues will determine who forms the province’s next government: the economy, social issues and ethics.

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