A former executive director of the Conservative Party of Canada has been hired to serve in the same capacity for the United Conservative Party in Alberta, the party announced on social media Friday.
In a Twitter post, the UCP said Dustin van Vugt had been hired as its new executive director following a “competitive process.”
The party said van Vugt comes with strong experience gained during his time with the CPC and noted he got his first political job by working for an MLA in Ralph Klein’s Progressive Conservative government in Alberta.
“He has a strong vision for the future of our party as we build towards the next election,” UCP president Ryan Becker said. “His experience and leadership are strong assets and we can’t wait to see him get started in his new role when he begins in June.”
van Vugt parted ways with the CPC last year after the party’s fundraising arm fired him and launched an internal audit into how the CPC handles expenses. The move came soon after Global News reported that CPC leader Andrew Scheer was using party money to help pay for his children’s private school tuition, an arrangement van Vugt took responsibility for.
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At the time, van Vugt described the arrangement as “normal practice for political parties” and said “all proper procedures were followed and signed off on by the appropriate people.”
He said the funding was only a reimbursement of the difference between the cost of Scheer’s children’s schooling in Regina versus Ottawa.
Duane Bratt, a political commentator and professor at Calgary’s Mount Royal University, told Global News on Friday night that with regard to the tuition controversy, he believes van Vugt “took the fall, but he is well respected in conservative circles.”
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“The expense scandal is going to be pinned on Scheer,” he said in an email. “As the leader, it was ultimately his responsibility.
“It would have been tough for van Vugt to say no to the request to cover Scheer’s private school education for his kids.”
Bratt noted van Vugt is not the first ex-CPC staffer to join the UCP.
“It shows the deep connection between the federal CPC and provincial UCP,” he said. “Especially for (Premier Jason) Kenney who, of course, has deep roots in the federal party.”
van Vugt, whom the UCP said was born and raised in Calgary, takes over for Brad Tennant, whom the UCP thanked for the time he spent as the party’s executive director.
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–With files from Global News’ Mercedes Stephenson and Amanda Connolly