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Progressive Conservative candidates Jason Kenney and Sandra Jansen attend the Alberta Progressive Conservative party leadership forum in Red Deer, Alta. on Saturday.

Dean Bennett/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Alberta's Premier believes women have lost ground in politics after the only female candidates in the race to lead the province's Progressive Conservatives dropped out, with one alleging harassment and vulgar smears.

"It's one of those things: Two steps forward, one step back," NDP Premier Rachel Notley told reporters Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Sandra Jansen and Donna Kennedy-Glans ended their respective campaigns to lead the PCs. It came on the same night that Hillary Clinton lost the U.S. presidential election in a race in which gender became a flashpoint.

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Ms. Jansen alleged she was harassed at the PC convention this past weekend. Ms. Kennedy-Glans, a former MLA, insists she folded because the PC party was not open to her centrist positions.

Ms. Jansen alleges some of the convention-goers attacked her by writing insulting remarks on her nomination papers. Some people wrote explicit and derogatory phrases on the forms, wishing death upon her in some cases, according to one member of her team. Others confronted her on the sidelines of the convention in Red Deer, Alta.

"Volunteers from another campaign chased me up and down the hall, attacking me for protecting women's reproductive rights, and my team was jeered for supporting children's rights to a safe school environment," she said in a statement. The outspoken politician also noted ongoing attacks on social media.

Jason Kenney, a former federal Conservative cabinet minister who is among the men seeking the PC leadership, condemned the alleged attacks on Ms. Jansen and more broadly against women.

"I condemn any disrespectful conduct or language directed at anybody in public service and in this context, within the PC leadership election," he said in an interview Wednesday. "I think such conduct can be particularly egregious when directed at women in politics."

Mr. Kenney said he is not aware of any members of his campaign team misbehaving in such a way, though he said if his supporters acted inappropriately at the convention he hopes they apologize and conduct themselves with more civility.

Still, he suggested some level of incivility goes with the territory.

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"During the course of this weekend, I had people who don't agree with me pushing their fingers in my chest or hollering expletives at me," he said.

"Unfortunately, some of that goes with when people get in a political context. Sometimes people don't control their emotions. I don't condone that for a second, but I'm saying I myself have faced disrespectful behaviour."

Mr. Kenney said he regrets Ms. Jansen's decision to drop out of the race, and applauded her public service. "We need a healthy range of views in the leadership election," he said.

Members of the PC executive team are investigating Ms. Jansen's allegations.

Ms. Notley drew a parallel between the loss of the only two women in the PC leadership race and Ms. Clinton's election loss.

"There was much hope that we would have seen a female president of the United States for the first time," said Ms. Notley, Alberta's second female premier

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"That's a bit of a step back because we thought we were on the way there from the perspective of women moving forward in politics."

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