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Soldiers of Odin attendance at UCP pub night a bad sign for Alberta politics

By Mickail Hendi, October 16 2018 —

United Conservative Party nomination candidates Lance Coulter, Leila Houle and Nicole Williams were recently photographed with members of the far-right anti-immigrant group Soldiers of Odin (SOO) that attended an event held by the party. This is certainly bad press — but not necessarily for the party itself.

The intent was somewhat unsurprising, as white supremacist individuals and organizations, including groups like the SOO, will tend to endorse right-wing politicians. The only exception to this that I could find was in 1990 when the Ku Klux Klan endorsed Harvey Grant, a black Democrat Senate candidate from North Carolina, because they thought having him in the U.S. Senate would inspire white supremacy.

So naturally, if members of the SOO are looking for a political pub night to attend in Alberta, they’ll go to one hosted by the UCP.

However, I don’t think that having white supremacists at your pub night automatically makes you a white supremacist and their attendance shouldn’t reflect on the UCP itself. This premise isn’t stated out of sympathy for the UCP — ideally, of course, the number of white supremacists at any pub night is zero.

But white supremacists are leeches. They crave the attention that a mainstream right-wing party has. And historically, when they’ve been given that attention, they’ve known exactly what to do with it. White supremacists of any stripe are desperate for mainstream attention and the UCP provides a perfect platform.

The UCP, which resulted from the merging between the former Progressive Conservative Party and the Wildrose Party, is an interesting phenomenon. The amalgamation of both parties created something dangerous to Alberta’s democracy — a two-party system. By merging, the PCs and Wildrose each decided that winning elections is more important than a party system representative of people’s actual beliefs. It condemns individuals on the right of the political spectrum to vote for them, regardless of what they really think of the party’s platform or leadership.

The UCP’s road to forming government, while still long and arduous, is much shorter than the path ahead of any of the other parties by virtue of being a consolidated right-wing party. All they have to do is elect a leader with a pulse, stay relatively quiet and watch the votes come in.

There is, however, a new element they’ll have to contend with — the diversity of thought within the party’s base of supporters. The UCP, who have cast a much larger net than they perhaps originally intended, have to somehow appeal to all of them.

And that’s where the SOO come in. As much as we hate to admit it — and as a brown man, I hate it a lot — there are white supremacists living within our society. These white supremacists, who mostly fall very comfortably under the right-wing umbrella, are unfortunately also voters. Since there is only one viable right-wing party in the province, if those white supremacists are going to vote for anyone, they’ll vote UCP.

The immediate effect of this is two-fold. First, white supremacists, being just one drop in the ocean of right-wing ideology, will have their opinions obscured in the blender of voices that is the UCP. But they also gain an avenue into the mainstream, which is what we are seeing now.

Was the SOO’s appearance at the UCP event a faux pas on the part of the party? Not necessarily. The three candidates are just politicians and being seen in the pub with the SOO members is just a case of bad politicking. But it’s indicative of a much larger problem with Albertan politics. Political parties are becoming less representative of the people they claim to represent. Expect to see a lot more people and organizations like SOO entering mainstream discourse in the future and think about the conditions that led to the UCP, who claim to represent an entire political wing, being chummy with the likes of SOO.

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