A United Conservative Party MLA in southern Alberta who unexpectedly withdrew his bid to run for the UCP in the next election says he did not want to fight a tough nomination battle over the government’s response to COVID-19, and that he does not intend to support the only other person who entered the contest.
Roger Reid, a first-term MLA in Livingstone-Macleod, announced this week that he dropped out of the UCP nomination race in the riding. He made the announcement the day after nominations closed, with only Nadine Wellwood, a former federal candidate for the People’s Party of Canada, submitting papers by the deadline.
Mr. Reid said he would not vote for Ms. Wellwood if she succeeds him as the party’s candidate. Ms. Wellwood has a long history of posts on social media in which she has compared vaccine passports to Nazi Germany, promoted ivermectin as a cure for COVID-19, and spread the conspiracy theory that U.S. President Joe Biden stole the 2020 election from former president Donald Trump.
“I think her focus is not where the people of Livingstone-Macleod are focused,” Mr. Reid said in an interview when asked if he would support Ms. Wellwood. “What she has been posting and what she’s been speaking to is not addressing the broad concerns of most of the residents of this riding.”
Ms. Wellwood said she did not have time to respond to questions on Thursday.
Mr. Reid’s decision not to support Ms. Wellwood underscores potential divisions within the UCP over the province’s response to COVID-19, which Alberta Premier Danielle Smith made a cornerstone of her leadership race that ended in her election on Oct. 6. Ms. Smith also opposes immunization mandates and expressed skepticism about COVID-19 vaccines.
Ms. Wellwood’s application will also test Ms. Smith’s and the party’s tolerance for controversial candidates, who must submit to an internal vetting process.
Conrad Van Hierden, the president of the UCP’s Livingstone-Macleod constituency association, confirmed local officials are vetting Ms. Wellwood’s application. He is not part of that six-person panel, which will decide whether to allow her to run after a process that typically includes reviewing social-media activity. The UCP’s provincial board, which is now controlled by directors supported by a populist group opposed to vaccine mandates and public-health restrictions, also has the power to weigh in on candidate nominations.
Take Back Alberta, the right-wing organization that endorsed all nine of the UCP’s new board members and has emerged as an influential group pursuing power within the party, supports Ms. Wellwood. TBA is focused on protecting personal liberty and freedom and, as a result, rails against immunization mandates and public-health restrictions.
Mr. Reid, the outgoing MLA, said that while he believes the government’s decisions related to the pandemic should be examined, fighting a tough nomination over a single issue – COVID-19 – will not benefit his constituents.
“It’s not the immediate issue for Albertans,” he said. “And I really think it’s not an election issue.”
Residents, Mr. Reid said, have other concerns, such as containing inflation and access to health care. He said he can better serve Albertans by devoting his remaining time in office to pursuing solutions to these problems.
Ms. Wellwood has an extensive online presence that includes publicly available posts to Twitter and Facebook as well as videos published on YouTube. In one video, posted a year ago, she compared vaccine requirements to Nazi Germany, where an estimated six million Jewish people were killed in the Holocaust.
“You may think that this is an extreme comparison, but it really is not,” she says in the video. “The Germans didn’t initially come out and say: ‘If you’re Jewish, over on this side. If you’re German, on this side.’ It was: ‘Papers, please.’”
Before entering the UCP leadership race to replace former premier Jason Kenney, Ms. Smith said she would put her name forward as a nominee in Livingstone-Macleod, which includes her home in High River. She is now running in a Nov. 8 by-election in the riding of Brooks-Medicine Hat, where the UCP MLA resigned shortly after Ms. Smith won the leadership in early October.
The Premier’s office did not answer whether Ms. Smith would sign Ms. Wellwood’s nomination papers because it involves assumptions about party nominations.
UCP spokesman Dave Prisco said in a statement that the party has a “thorough” vetting process for candidates. “It includes a detailed application, background checks and an interview with the local candidate nominating committee composed of party volunteers,” he said, noting it would be inappropriate to comment further until the process is complete.
Ms. Smith, in her first press conference as Premier, said those who chose not to get the COVID-19 vaccine were the most discriminated-against group in her lifetime. Like Ms. Wellwood, she has promoted ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19, which has been repeatedly debunked.
Meanwhile, Alberta’s New Democratic Party this week revoked Marilyn North Peigan’s candidacy for Calgary-Klein based on comments she made on social media about a Calgary city councillor and one of his family members, who is on the Calgary Stampede board. On Thursday, she apologized.