Star UCP candidate who resigned over white supremacist comments also questioned value of Pride parades

A star UCP candidate — who resigned abruptly after the revelation she once lamented there was a double standard for white supremacist terrorists — also questioned whether there were any "redeeming values" in LGBTQ Pride parades, CBC News has learned.

CBC News has obtained Facebook chat messages that show Caylan Ford — who was the United Conservative Party candidate for Calgary-Mountain View until Monday night — was asked in 2017 for her "take" on Pride events.

She warned the person she was communicating with on Facebook Messenger that such a conversation was "better had not in text" and "ideally where you are playing the devil's advocate."

"Why would one march in Pride?" wrote Ford.

"I mean, they trace their origins to the Stonewall riots, then emerged as a celebration of vice and transgression. What are the redeeming values?"

Ford, who has a master's degree from Oxford among other accomplishments, went on to say it was not a rhetorical question and she wanted to "hear an argument."

CBC News has seen and verified the Facebook Messenger discussion. The messages were provided by a source, described as a longtime Muslim conservative with deep ties in the party, to whom CBC News has granted confidentiality.

CBC reached out to Ford about the Pride parade message but she declined to comment on the record.

Laments 'replacement of white peoples in their homelands'

Other private messages that came to light Monday evening detailed a conversation between the same source and Ford on Aug. 15, 2017, in the wake of the deadly riots in Charlottesville, Va.

In one exchange, Ford lamented that white supremacist terrorists face a double standard compared to Islamic terrorists.

"When the perpetrator is an Islamist, the denunciations are intermingled with breathless assurances that they do not represent Islam, that Islam is a religion of peace, etc.," Ford wrote.

"When the terrorists are white supremacists, that kind of soul-searching or attempts to understand the sources of their radicalization or their perverse moral reasoning is beyond the pale."

Caylan Ford/Facebook

Later in the exchange, Ford said: "I am somehow saddened by the demographic replacement of white peoples in their homelands…. It's clear that it will not be a peaceful transition."

Late Monday night, after the messages went public, Ford announced on her Facebook page that she was giving up her bid for a seat in the Alberta Legislature.

Ford says her meaning was distorted

In the Facebook post announcing her resignation, Ford said her remarks on terrorism had been taken out of context.

"To avoid becoming a distraction in this campaign, I have decided to resign as the United Conservative candidate in Calgary–Mountain View," she said in the post.

​On whether she made the remarks, Ford said: "I can't speak to the authenticity of them. These are fragments of a conversation that was held years ago that were selected to maximize damage to me…. I'm not interested in attempting to explain or rationalize what's the context of an academic discussion."

Kenney condemns remarks

The controversy came just as UCP Leader Jason Kenney rallied his troops in response to the NDP throne speech on Monday and Rachel Notley's Tuesday call for a provincial election, set for April 16.

Ford was widely perceived to be a star candidate in the UCP firmament. 

She appeared with Jason Kenney in a video on her Facebook page last month, where the UCP leader touted her as a "remarkable" candidate.

"You are what I call the personification of the new generation of leadership," Kenney said in the video.

Ford also got a boost last week with a visit to her campaign office from Laureen Harper, the wife of former prime minister Stephen Harper.

Asked about Ford's resignation as he made a campaign announcement Tuesday in Leduc, Alta., Kenney said she did the right thing by choosing to get out of the race.

"Let me be clear: I condemn the remarks included in the text that she sent," he said.

Kenney rejected the suggestion that the controversy demonstrates the UCP is a magnet for people with extremist views, saying his party is inclusive and broad and had more diversity among its Edmonton candidates than in the NDP provincewide.

Kenney added that he was surprised by Ford's comments given her extensive education, her time working for the United Nations and her interest in the Chinese religious spiritual practice of Falun Gong.

"So I found her comments completely inexplicable," he said.

Bryan Labby/CBC

In her Facebook post Monday night, Ford said she strongly denounces extremism and violence, and stands with marginalized communities everywhere.

However, Kathleen Ganley, the NDP candidate for Calgary–Mountain View, was skeptical.

Even if Ford felt her words were taken out of context, "I don't believe there's any good context for the comments that she made," Ganley said.

"Jason Kenney has promised to root out these sorts of behaviours and these sorts of racist comments in his party and here, his star candidate has made exactly those sorts of comments," she said.

"And this isn't just a candidate who didn't get properly vetted. This is a star candidate that he convinced to move here from Ontario specifically to run in this election."

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he was glad Ford has dropped out of the race, but questioned why her response to the controversy did not include an apology.

"It was absolutely the right thing to step down, because clearly someone who expresses thoughts like that, no matter how academic or no matter how fancy [the] words you use, is not fit to lead a diverse community like this," Nenshi said.

Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt said Ford likely didn't make the decision alone.

"She says that her statements were taken out of context…. I have no doubt that the UCP brass have urged her to resign," he said.

Caylan Ford/Facebook

Ford's resignation is the latest in a series of controversies that the UCP has weathered in recent days.

On the weekend, CBC News broke the news that leaked internal documents showed Kenney's campaign collaborated with that of fellow candidate Jeff Callaway during the party's 2017 leadership race in an effort to hurt the candidacy of Kenney's chief rival, Brian Jean.

Last week, CBC broke the story that Alberta's Office of the Election Commissioner had turned over to the RCMP its investigation into allegations of irregular political contributions to the Callaway campaign.

Then on Tuesday night, the Office of the Election Commissioner announced additional fines in relation to Callaway's UCP leadership campaign.