A leaked audio recording appears to show that a candidate for the leadership of Alberta's newly-formed United Conservative Party was pushed into running in 2017 as part of a "kamikaze mission" for the eventual contest winner, Jason Kenney.
The UCP was formed in July 2017 as a merger between the province’s Progress Conservatives and the Wildrose Party, after Kenney won a PC leadership race on the promise to unite the two conservative parties.
The audio, shared online on Monday on Reddit and Twitter, appears to feature Wendy Adam, a campaign organizer for former Wildrose Party president Jeff Callaway, discussing how Callaway had agreed to run in order to attack Wildrose leader Brian Jean and therefore help Jason Kenney before stepping out of the race.
“What I’m telling you has got to stay with you,” Adam appears to tell another person on the recording. “Jeff is going to run a serious campaign, but the reason that we’re running Jeff as a serious campaign is because Jeff will be able to say things about Brian Jean that Jason Kenney cannot.”
Another voice in the audio then replied: "It's a kamikaze mission."
This appears to have prompted Adam to say: "Exactly"
Last week ex-UCP MLA Prab Gill rose in the Legislature to accuse Jason Kenney of colluding with another candidate in the UCP leadership race and many dismissed it as nothing but sour grapes. But this audio suggests otherwise. Give it a listen #ucp #ableg https://t.co/HqNuRRt38g— Progress Alberta (@ProgressAlberta) December 11, 2018
Curiously the video was very quickly taken offline after we posted about it. Someone doesn't want you to know about it. Luckily we downloaded a copy which you can listen to here. https://t.co/zDhEODGJya— Progress Alberta (@ProgressAlberta) December 11, 2018
A spokeswoman for the UCP did not respond to several requests for comment.
In an email sent to National Observer late on Tuesday evening, Callaway declined to directly confirm or deny whether he was a "kamikaze" candidate who entered the race to undermine Jean and help Kenney.
He said he ran on his own merits as the president of the Wildrose party — a position he held for years, and that he was in the race to promote key economic and energy policies that he said would create growth and support for social services.
"As we approach the next election over the coming months, I will not be distracted by those who wish to create division and confusion amongst the electorate," Callaway wrote in his email. "Alberta faces a fork in the road between economic prosperity or paralysis. As Conservatives, we must stay united to get our province back on track. I will be working with my fellow UCP members and candidates to elect a UCP government."
This statement came after Callaway had tweeted a message about his leadership campaign, posting a link to his financial disclosures.
Love the interest in my campaign of 3 big ideas: nat gas energized economy, access to tidewater, (Churchill: making progress!), & bringing investment back to AB. All more important than ever! Thanks so much to all donors, (see link), & supporters! https://t.co/83zMsnrTBF— Jeff Callaway (@JeffCallaway) December 11, 2018
"Love the interest in my campaign of 3 big ideas: nat gas energized economy, access to tidewater, (Churchill: making progress!), & bringing investment back to AB. All more important than ever! Thanks so much to all donors, (see link), & supporters!" Callaway wrote on Twitter.
The surfacing of the recording comes after Prab Gill, a former PC and UCP (now independent) member of Alberta's legislature, last week accused Kenney of colluding with another candidate in the UCP leadership race.
Gill made this accusation after he left the UCP caucus due to allegations that he had removed ballots for a vote to elect an executive at a party constituency association meeting on June 30.
Soon after Progress Alberta tweeted a link to the audio, the advocacy group tweeted that someone had removed it from YouTube. Progress Alberta then reposted the recording on the Soundcloud audio sharing site.
Jean and Adam could not be reached for comment.
Editor's note: This article was updated at 9:59 a.m. on Dec. 12, 2018 with new comments from Jeff Callaway.