A United Conservative Party nomination race that saw one candidate retract statements made about the frontrunner and another candidate disqualified over offensive social media comments will be decided Wednesday night in Onaway.
Barb Costache, Dale Johnson, Everett Normandeau and Leah Wood are running to represent the UCP in Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland, a rural constituency northwest of Edmonton that includes the towns of Onaway and Mayerthorpe.
The winner will aim to unseat NDP MLA Oneil Carlier, the province’s minister of agriculture and forestry, in next spring’s provincial election.
The race became so heated that the local constituency association cancelled a candidates’ forum scheduled for last Saturday.
Progressive Conservative MLAs had represented the area for decades prior to Carlier’s victory in 2015.
In 2015, the vote was split nearly evenly between Carlier, PC incumbent George VanderBurg and Wildrose candidate John Bos.
Carlier could face a stiffer challenge now that the PCs and Wildrose have merged into the UCP.
That may be one reason why the nomination contest has become so contentious.
Leah Wood is perceived as the frontrunner. The business woman and former regional director of the Wildrose Party executive has earned endorsements from former Wildrose leader Brian Jean, and from UCP MLAs Nathan Cooper, David Hanson, Todd Loewen, Jason Nixon, Ric McIver, Angela Pitt and Leela Aheer.
Last week, Normandeau sent information to the media about past civil court cases involving Wood, suggesting she should be disqualified. On Monday, he retracted and apologized for the statements, which he acknowledged were “incorrect.”
Wood posted the letter on her Facebook page noting Normandeau had apologized for the claims, which she called defamatory.
“I hope that the other candidates in this race will follow suit and begin focusing on what matters — the constituents of Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland and getting rid of the NDP in 2019,” she wrote.
Earlier this month, the party disqualified Jerry Molnar, a business owner, for making a number of offensive and inappropriate social media posts, which included calling former Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne a “tranny” and jokes about sexual assault and sexual harassment.