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Good morning. It’s James Keller in Calgary.

When the Alberta government announced an essay contest in February that asked young women for their vision for the province, it was criticized by political opponents as patronizing and unnecessary compared with real issues that needed attention.

The province’s legislative assembly, which ran the contest, recently posted the winners, including a third-place entry that has been widely condemned as racist and sexist while echoing the far-right Great Replacement conspiracy theory.

The ensuing storm prompted the legislature to abruptly remove all of the entries from its website. The United Conservative Party MLA who spearheaded it and helped judge winners, Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk, issued two successive attempts at an apology. Neither Ms. Armstrong-Homeniuk, who is now associate minister of status of women, nor anyone else in the government, has explained which other UCP MLAs were part of the judging panel or why they felt the essay should be selected for recognition.

The third-place essay focused on women’s ability to give birth and proposed rewarding Albertans for their “reproductive service.”

It argued that Albertan women need to have babies to avoid allowing “foreigners” to “replace” the population, which the author said amounted to “cultural suicide.” It also argued that, for this reason, women should not be encouraged to enter male-dominated industries.

Ms. Armstrong-Homeniuk’s issued a statement Tuesday morning that said she did not agree with the essay and it should not have been chosen as a winner, but it did not offer an apology or an explanation for why it was selected as a winner, who was involved in that decision, or what in the essay she objected to.

Ms. Armstrong-Homeniuk later revised that after, she explained, her caucus colleagues raised concerns about the essay. That second statement included an apology and said awarding the essay was a “failure on my part.” Like her first statement, it did not shed any light on how or why the essay was chosen, and her office did not answer questions about who else was on the judging panel.

The third-place prize was $200 in merchandise from the legislature gift shop.

The Opposition New Democrats said none of their MLAs were involved in the contest, which Rakhi Pancholi, the party’s children’s services critic, denounced as “horrific” and a “nod to the Great Replacement theory.”

The Great Replacement is a racist conspiracy theory that falsely claims that white people are being “replaced” by people of colour.

The essay was also criticized by several candidates for the UCP leadership, including Rebecca Schulz, Rajan Sawhney and Leela Aheer.

This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here.