You may have heard about some issues Jason Kenney is facing around his successful leadership campaign to lead the UCP. We alluded to it when we introduced him. As with most controversies, as it grew, the media gave it a name and simply started referring to it often without explaining it. So let’s dive in and get the TTC explanation of “The Kamikaze Candidate.”
What (allegedly) happened:
Let’s be clear here: everything is alleged to have happened and none of it has been confirmed (just like who ate the last piece of my wife’s pie…). OK, caveats and admissions done. Let’s get to the fun stuff.
Remember when we introduced the UCP and I told you that they are a merger of two former parties? You don’t? Aren’t hyperlinks great? Well, when the Wildrose and PCs joined forces in flash of conservative glory, the new party needed a leader. As you would expect, the two leaders of the parties that merged both wanted the gig. Jason Kenney and Brian Jean faced off as the front runners along with two other people. Spoiler alert: it’s one of those other guys that this scandal centres around.
Jeff Callaway was formerly the president of the Wildrose Party. He surprised a lot of talking heads when he jumped into the race. He was outgunned in every way and really didn’t stand a chance.
Shortly after Kenney won the race, allegations started to surface that things may not have been totally above board. People started suggesting that Callaway was never a serious candidate, but a plant by Jason Kenney (or someone in his campaign) to pull votes away from Brian Jean. Callaway could say whatever he wanted because he had no intention of winning. Get it? Like a kamikaze pilot… Do you suppose that’s where the media got the name? For a chronological timeline of the allegations click here.
If Kenney and Callaway had conspired for Callaway to be a secret candidate who existed to attack Jean, that would certainly have been unethical but not necessarily illegal. Where things take a turn into potentially criminal is in the funding of this supposed kamikaze campaign. Several former UCP insiders, including Callaway’s communications manager, say that because he was unable to fund a campaign on his own, the Kenney campaign funnelled money to Callaway – possibly through fraudulent means. The allegations here include people writing cheques to both campaigns using other people’s funds.
The details are still emerging and, as is often the case with these sorts of stories, are often conflicting and vary in their credibility. Kenney has addressed things publicly several times, but only in broad denials. He has yet to answer questions about any of the details. Callaway issued a statement denying things but has refused to comment otherwise.
The RCMP has opened an investigation into the allegations to see if any laws were broken. As soon as that investigation started though, everyone has declined to comment (which is standard and ethical practice in this sort of situation).
Kenney rightfully points out that leadership campaigns are different from general elections. Candidates and campaigns communicate and collaborate all the time. That is true. Funneling money is a much more serious allegation, but still potentially within limits of campaign laws if done correctly.
The bottom line:
The UCP wants this to go away. The other parties will do everything they can prolong it during the election. Ultimately, we can’t know how much truth there is to any of the allegations until a neutral investigative body complete their enquiry. The RCMP will continue to look into things but will almost certainly not be done before the election is over. Until then, most conservatives will use the “nothing to see here” mantra and everyone else will keep trying to bring it up whenever possible.