Jason Kenney has expelled a member of the United Conservative Party who has a history of anti-Semitic and racist comments, as the fallout continues from Ricochet’s investigation into a white supremacist web store run by a group that includes four active members of the Canadian Forces.
Adam Strashok, who ran the call centre for Kenney’s campaign for leadership of the UCP and used to work for Conservative MP Bob Benzen, is also no longer part of Fireforce Ventures, the company at the heart of this week’s disclosures.
Fireforce announced on its Facebook page Tuesday night that “in the wake of the controversy currently embroiling our company, Mr. Adam Strashok has resigned his involvement in Fireforce Ventures.”
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Ties to the conservative movement
A profile of Strashok was released by Press Progress on Tuesday following up on Ricochet’s reporting. It provided more evidence of both his affinity for the far right and his close ties to Kenney and the mainstream conservative political movement.
Brian Jean, the former leader of the Wildrose Party and Kenney’s opponent in that leadership campaign, called out the UCP on Twitter, writing that Kenney needs to “kick these weirdos out of the party for the sake of decency.”
The #UCP and @jkenney need to kick these weirdos out of the party for the sake of decency. They should never have been there in the first place. There is no place for hate and bigotry in our society or political landscape. Stop playing footsy with freaks! #ableg— Brian Jean (@BrianJeanAB) October 30, 2018
Soon after Kenney did just that, releasing a statement that he had instructed party officials to cancel Strashok’s membership and that neither he nor his team were aware of Strashok’s “extreme views.”
Kenney said he has also asked the board of his party to develop a process for screening applicants for membership who hold hateful or extreme views, saying, “I reject unequivocally the voices of hatred and bigotry.”
He came under fire on Twitter for failing to mention in the lengthy statement that Strashok had held a senior position on his leadership campaign, and for dedicating the bulk of the statement to self-congratulatory references to his own track record.
Your actions don't always match your fine words.— Timothy Anderson (@AndersonBooz) October 31, 2018
Cozying up to Rebel Media. Niqab ban. Votes against equality rights. Grandstanding on the wrong side of protections for women and children. Lying - the frequent, irritating lying.
We have reason to mistrust.#abpoli #ableg
"Faith Goldy is always welcome in Alberta." - Jason Kenney— Eric K.????⌚???? Spooky #SandwichPope (@ericemoji) October 31, 2018
You know why your party is lousy with racists and extremists but you're too entrenched or too afraid to challenge you "Leader" to fix it.#ableg #abpoli
This statement fails to even acknowledge that *you* hired this man for over two months on your leadership campaign.— Kyall Glennie (@kyallNDP) October 31, 2018
The company at the centre of this story, Fireforce Ventures, has not responded to requests for comment from Ricochet and other media outlets. But on their Facebook page they announced they were parting ways with Strashok in a statement that argued that “history is all we sell, not a political message.”
According to Fireforce, “the notion that any of our commentary on the military actions of any nation as being racially charged is ludacris (sic).”
The maelstrom enveloping Kenney is an example of the dangers of tolerating the far right within mainstream political movements. The Strashok revelations come on the heels of a number of scandals involving UCP nomination candidates, several of whom were photographed with members of the Soldiers of Odin at a recent nomination meeting.
Kenney has come under fire from Premier Rachel Notley and other critics for dog-whistling to the far right, and failing to emphatically denounce supporters with extreme views.
Earlier this year a UCP candidate was disqualified for anti-Islamic comments, while another one-time candidate apologized last month for comments opposing the opening of a mosque. Another nomination candidate was allowed to run despite having made homophobic comments on social media.
Critics note that Kenney has responded to scandals around his candidates with dry statements on social media and has refused to conduct interviews or denounce them on camera, possibly leading those with extreme views to believe they have a place in his party.