UCP Leader Danielle Smith says her decision is “final” to exclude candidate Jennifer Johnson from caucus if elected.
In a leaked recording from an event last September, Johnson likened transgender children in schools to adding feces to a batch of cookies.
In the days after Johnson’s comments were made public last week, Smith said Johnson would not sit in the UCP caucus, should the residents of Lacombe-Ponoka elect her.
But on Friday, Smith told CTV she had opened the door to Johnson rejoining the UCP caucus in the future.
“I believe in redemption,” Smith said. “I do believe people have the ability to have second chances. She’s got a lot of proving to do.”
But at an unrelated press conference Wednesday, Smith said: “I’ve made it very clear that I’ve made the decision that (Johnson) will not be sitting with our caucus, should she be elected. And that’s final.”
Smith’s remarks came hours after the United Conservative Party’s constituency association in Lacombe-Ponoka posted on Facebook that the candidate could still represent the party in the legislature.
“…The candidate is still a UCP member in good standing and there is the probability of her entering the UCP caucus in the near future,” the post from Tuesday evening said.
By Wednesday morning, the constituency association had removed the post and added a new message, saying the previously published comments do not reflect the views of the board, and were the words of one volunteer. The board said the volunteer’s access to the Facebook page has been revoked.
“Our leader has been clear that Jennifer Johnson will not sit in UCP Caucus if she is elected,” the Wednesday post said.
On Sept. 1, 2022, Johnson spoke at a Western Unity Group event in Stettler about “The Hazards of the Public Education System and Homeschooling/Pod Schooling as a Solution.”
A leaked recording captured Johnson saying Alberta’s highly ranked education system is meaningless while transgender students are in school. She likened their presence to adding a teaspoon of feces to a batch of cookies.
“We can be top three per cent but that little bit of poop is what wrecks it,” says Johnson on the audio.
Johnson also claimed a Red Deer school had litter boxes in classrooms for students who identify as cats, and she said schools should end sex education.
Last week, Johnson apologized for the language she used and said she would communicate her concerns about transitioning children in a more respectful way.
The Lacombe-Ponoka constituency association did not respond to an email or Facebook message on Wednesday.
Johnson also hadn’t responded to a phone call or email as of Wednesday evening.
Rakhi Pancholi, the NDP candidate for Edmonton-Whitemud, said during a Wednesday press conference that there’s nothing stopping Smith from readmitting Johnson to the UCP caucus in the future.
Pancholi called Johnson’s views “reprehensible,” and said she’s done nothing to prove she is worthy of public office.
“This goes to show that Danielle Smith hasn’t learned anything from that ‘lake of fire’ incident back in 2012. She’s simply saying what she needs to say to try to put out a fire,” Pancholi said.
In 2012, when Smith was running for premier as leader of the Wildrose Party, her campaign was derailed when earlier comments from Wildrose candidate Allan Hunsperger became more widely known.
In a 2011 blog post, Hunsperger said LGBTQ+ people “will suffer the rest of eternity in a lake of fire, hell, a place of eternal suffering.”