A Saskatchewan Party candidate who resigned following social media activity his party considered concerning says he didn’t step aside because he did anything wrong and that he does not support the conspiracy theory QAnon.
“Reading a post, or sometimes even clicking the ‘like’ button does not signify support for, or agreement with, every word and every position held by the account holders while not participating in discussions,” former Saskatoon Eastview candidate Daryl Cooper wrote in a statement Sunday.
The party announced earlier in the day that it appointed a new candidate, Chris Guerette, who has been the CEO of the Saskatoon and Region Home Builders’ Association since 2016.
Party communications director Jim Billington said in a statement Saturday that the content and views Cooper “interacted with on social media” were “not representative of the values of the Saskatchewan Party,” its leader or its members.
Cooper said in his statement that he didn’t feel he’d done anything wrong, but stepped down because he “did not want to become a distraction in the debate about the important issues facing the province.”
PressProgress reported Friday that Cooper’s social media accounts had expressed support online for conspiracy theories about the origin of COVID-19 and that his account clicked “like” on posts that support QAnon – a wide-ranging baseless conspiracy theory suggesting many prominent people, including some U.S. Democrats, are involved in a child trafficking ring.
PressProgress also said that a separate post on Cooper’s account from May listed different conspiratorial theories around the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a connection to 5G technology and “Galactic Cosmic Rays.”
“Let me be clear. I am not a member of internet groups such as QAnon. I do not subscribe to or support conspiracy theories such as they advance. Any fair reading of my social media posts would make this clear,” Cooper said in Sunday’s statement.
Cooper wrote on Sunday that he’s a political rookie, and prepared himself by seeking diverse opinions, including reading a book by former Saskatchewan premier Tommy Douglas, and by browsing social media pages, blogs and news articles. Sometimes he shared some of them on social media, he said.
“For the past 19 months I worked tirelessly in the constituency and I believe I was making a good case to become the representative for the residents of Saskatoon-Eastview,” Cooper said.
“The voters have been denied the opportunity to have this option.”
Cooper noted voters in Regina Walsh Acres, where former NDP cabinet minister Sandra Morin was blocked from running under her party’s banner, were similarly denied.
The NDP has not said why Morin’s candidacy was blocked and Morin has announced she plans to run as an Independent.
Meantime, a different Saskatchewan Party candidate apologized Sunday for behaviour at a country music festival that was described in a newspaper story in 2016.
The Regina Leader-Post story said that Alex Nau, who is now a candidate in Regina Rosemont, and another man drank beer and used a loudspeaker to attract passersby at the Craven Country Jamboree to play a game called “Wheel of Fun.”
The story said wheel’s options included “funnel a beer, show your breasts, or have beer shot down your throat via a water gun.”
“A number of years ago while at Craven with friends, I was involved in an interview that referenced a ‘wheel of fun’ that included a disrespectful action,” Nau said in a statement.
“I understand how suggesting this action is disrespectful to women and regret my participation. It was wrong. I would not do this again.”
A statement from the Saskatchewan Party called the behaviour “clearly juvenile, inappropriate and disrespectful.” While it said it did not condone the behaviour, Nau would remain a candidate.
“Many have made mistakes at a younger age. The Saskatchewan Party takes the position that if one has learned from their mistakes and corrected their behaviour, it should not disqualify you from running for office,” the statement said.
A party spokesman said Nau was 21 at the time of the incident.