Posted on October 11, 2018

‘A Polite Racist Is Still a Racist’: UCP Disqualify Candidate Who Defended Photo with Soldiers of Odin

Emma Graney, Edmonton Journal, October 11, 2018

The United Conservative Party has disqualified a candidate seeking its Edmonton-West Henday nomination after he defended appearing in photos with members of the Soldiers of Odin.

UCP executive director Janice Harrington told candidate Lance Coulter in a letter Thursday he’s out of the race, after the party’s nominations committee disqualified him after reviewing transcripts of his comments about the photos.

“We strongly disagree with your seemingly sympathetic assessment of Soldiers of Odin and are frankly disturbed with your cavalier attitude taken to a hate group attending a United Conservative Party event,” Harrington wrote. “This incident has resulted in reputational harm to our party and its many members.”

The problems for Coulter and other Edmonton-West Henday candidates began last Friday, when members of Soldiers of Odin — an anti-immigration, white nationalist organization — showed up at the constituency association’s pub night. Coulter and his competitors Leila Houle and Nicole Williams were photographed with members wearing Soldiers of Odin vests and hats. The two women quickly distanced themselves from the group, saying they had no idea who they were.

Coulter said before a candidate forum Wednesday night that he knew who the group was before he agreed to be in photos with them thanks to a quick Google search that night.

He said he also found in that same search articles where the organization disavowed racism, “so I thought I’d give them the benefit of the doubt and have a conversation with them.”

He also said “they were acting friendly” and believed the issue had been “blown way out of proportion.”

That wasn’t good enough for the UCP committee.

“A polite racist is still a racist,” Harrington wrote referring to the Soldiers of Odin.

She said in the letter to Coulter that his comments showed he failed to act in the best interests of the party and its members. “You acted recklessly and demonstrated a level of irresponsibility that is not reflective of the calibre of the candidates the UCP is seeking,” she said.

Postmedia has reached out to Coulter for comment.

‘It comes a little late’: Notley

News broke about Coulter’s elimination as Premier Rachel Notley held a press conference about legal aid funding in the legislature building.

When asked about the development, she said she was happy the UCP took steps to disqualify Coulter, but added, “it comes a little late, quite honestly.”

Notley said this has nothing to do with politics, and everything to do with calling out racism and hate.

“There is no room for debate about how much racism is ok. Let’s just start there. There is a line that I believe the vast majority of Albertans understand exist, and the concept of neo-nazism is well past that line. It’s on the very distant other side of the line,” she said.

Notley repeated her earlier comments that the UCP has approved multiple candidates who were later linked to racist or homophobic comments or groups.

“We will not let the notion of civil discourse somehow be translated into the notion that we don’t talk about these things, because we must talk about these things to make sure that the disturbing lies we see across the continent are being combated,” she said.