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"That is false:" Khan responds to Kenney's accusation

UCP leader said PC leadership opponents worked together against him

Former PC leadership candidate Stephen Khan says UCP leader Jason Kenney isn’t telling the truth about the race to lead the Alberta PC Party two years ago.

At a campaign event Tuesday, Kenney accused Khan, Richard Starke and Byron Nelson – all of whom competed for the former party’s leadership in late 2016 and early 2017 – of having worked together in a “completely integrated” campaign against him “because they didn’t want the free enterprise parties to merge.”

“I can tell you, I can promise you unequivocally that is false,” Khan, a St. Albert resident, told the Gazette.

Several media outlets, including CBC and Maclean’s Magazine, reported this past week that after the PC and Wildrose parties merged to form the United Conservative Party, Kenney’s UCP leadership team collaborated with rival candidate Jeff Callaway to run a campaign to take down Brian Jean.

According to Maclean’s report, which included leaked emails, Kenney’s and Callaway’s teams conducted a “kamikaze” campaign against Jean. The report detailed communication between the two camps, which included sharing talking points and communications plans.

Most of the emails were between senior Kenney campaign staffer Matt Wolf and Callaway’s director, Cam Davies.

In accusing his former PC leadership rivals of working together, Kenney characterized their co-operation as “orders of magnitude more” than the co-operation between his and Callaway’s campaigns.

Khan told the Gazette comparing the two situations is a “tactic” and called it “Trumpian whataboutism.”

He said “absolutely” he, Starke and Nelson talked during the leadership race, because the three of them travelled across the province to attend local PC debates, while Kenney only attended a handful of party-sanctioned debates. He said while Nelson is a “good person” and Starke is one of his good friends, each was running with the purpose of winning.

“I always knew that Richard was trying to kick my butt and wanted to win. I was trying to kick Richard’s butt and wanted to win. I know Byron and his little-engine-that-could campaign, they believed they were going to win,” he said.

“They were always respectful, dignified (and) graceful in everything that they did.”

He added he doesn’t think Kenney actually believes the group colluded, but that the UCP leader was attempting to redirect attention away from the controversy currently surrounding him and was trying to conflate two different things to justify his actions.

“It’s not an apples-to-(apples) comparison,” he said.

Khan declined to discuss the details of the PC leadership race.

The race launched in October 2016. Khan quit the race in January 2017, saying he felt the race had become too nasty to continue, with the campaign having become more about the antics of party members and less about policy and vision for the province.

Jennifer Henderson

About the Author: Jennifer Henderson

Jennifer Henderson is the editor of the St. Albert Gazette and has been with Great West Media since 2015
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