Stepping out of line in the Wildrose Party will cost you – $1,000, to be precise.
At a campaign stop in Calgary on Saturday, Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith confirmed the good conduct bonds of $1,000 paid by anyone who ran for a party nomination. If they behave, they get it back.
So far, only candidates who actually won the nominations have had the money paid back, Ms. Smith said, but they're also on a leash: They’re asked to clear any media requests with head office.
“I mean, you can continue, I suppose, hoping that one of them is going to have a bozo eruption and I suppose maybe that's what you're upset about,” Ms. Smith told reporters in Calgary. Her implication was clear: it’s only media who are concerned about the lack of accessibility.
Bozo eruptions are indeed newsworthy, but the bonds nonetheless amount to de facto gag orders. It's worth noting that the entire Wildrose campaign has been airtight. Ms. Smith and other veterans, such as Senate candidate Vitor Marciano, handle a disproportionate amount of public speaking while the campaign manager and chairman don't give interviews – not surprising, given the deep ties to the notoriously airtight Harper Conservatives. (It evokes memories of one Alberta Conservative MP who avoided interviews and debates. He wouldn’t even talk to people who stumbled across him.)
That said, most – but not all – of the Wildrose candidates The Globe has asked for comment have replied, though some only by e-mail. When some do, however, they’re asked about degrees from unaccredited universities, photos with white-pride activists and their outspoken campaigns against gay marriage.
Others have a prior history of regretting quotes, too. Wildrose candidate Doug Faulkner, after losing a mayoral re-election bid in Fort McMurray to challenger Melissa Blake, once told the Calgary Herald that “lady mayors don’t go over well in industrial towns.” Another Wildrose candidate, Don Koziak, once kicked off a failed mayoral bid in Edmonton by declaring light-rail transit to be a dirty mode of transportation – cities should just widen roads instead, he said.
Wildrose candidates are overwhelmingly new to politics and, as such, new to dealing with media. After Thursday’s leaders’ debate, Ms. Smith said that inexperience is why they avoid the spotlight. Progressive Conservative Leader Alison Redford, for one, has started urging people to take a close look at their Wildrose candidate.
“Any member of our team that gets elected is going to be a strong member of caucus who I am very confident will be able to express their own ideas freely,” Ms. Redford said at one stop early in the campaign. “I understand that is not the case [with Wildrose] but I will speak only to Progressive Conservative candidates.”
Ms. Smith, however, said flatly the tight controls are to make sure the party doesn’t go off-message.
“I think people were expecting that we would have a bunch of eruptions and explosions and undisciplined candidates through the course of the election campaign,” she told reporters Saturday. "I'm sorry to disappoint you.”
With a report from The Canadian Press