The Saskatchewan Party has a new candidate in the electoral district of Saskatoon Eastview.
On Sunday, less than 24 hours after Daryl Cooper resigned, the party announced Chris Guérette, CEO of the Saskatoon and Region Home Builders’ Association, will be taking his place.
“I am excited to join the Saskatchewan Party team and start talking to voters about our plan for a strong Saskatchewan,” Guérette said in a news release.
“Over the first week of the campaign, Premier Scott Moe has announced a number of new ideas to continue Saskatchewan’s strong recovery from the pandemic and make life more affordable for Saskatchewan people. It’s a great plan and I can’t wait to start my campaign.”
At a press conference, she didn’t seem deterred that she was replacing a candidate who has resigned for questionable behaviour online.
“Elections are not won on social media, they’re won on the doorstep,” she said. “I still have 22 days of several hours of day to gain the trust of constituents and that’s where I’m going to be sending my time.”
Plans to build trust
Guérette says she does not share the same views as Cooper and said she understands she has to spend a “a lot of time building that trust,” which she plans to do while door-knocking on the campaign trail.
“Those constituents deserve a candidate that is going to represent their views and work hard,” she said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for the role of those who choose to serve and I hope I can convey that trust and that message at the doorstep.”
Guérette originally ran for the Sask. Party nomination in the Saskatoon Meewasin electoral district, currently held by NDP leader Ryan Meili, but was defeated by Rylund Hunter.
The Sask.Party news release outlined how Guérette has over 15 years of experience working in the housing, not-for-profit, health and education fields. In the release, Saskatchewan Party Leader Scott Moe said he was pleased to welcome Guérette to the party’s campaign.
“Chris has been a real leader in her industry and has been working to build a strong economy and a strong Saskatoon for many years now,” Moe said in the release.
“I know she is also a tireless worker and she will be on the doorstep speaking with as many voters as she can over the last three weeks of the campaign.”
Cooper, who was the original candidate for Saskatoon Eastview, resigned from the nomination on Saturday.
This is after it was made public that he was sharing unproven theories about the source of pandemics and, as first reported by Press Progress — a left-leaning online publication that bills itself “as a counter-balance to corporate ownership in Canadian media and the growing influence of right-wing think tanks,” was interacting with QAnon supporters online.
At the press conference, Moe said his party has a thorough vetting process in place and said the posts were made after the vetting process was complete.
“We’ve taken the appropriate action once we realized these views were being shared by a candidate of the Saskatchewan Party,” he said. “And today, we are here appointing a new candidate for Saskatoon Eastview and we’ll be working very hard to ensure that Chris Guérette will be the Saskatchewan Party MLA for Saskatoon Eastview.”
Cooper distances from QAnon
Cooper released a statement Sunday regarding his resignation and the circumstances regarding it.
“I submitted my resignation from this team not because I did anything wrong, but because I did not want to become a distraction in the debate about the important issues facing our province,” wrote Cooper.
“Let me be clear. I am not a member of Internet groups such as QAnon. I do not subscribe to or support conspiracy theories such as they advance. Any fair reading of my social media posts would make this clear.”
Cooper, 59, sought various viewpoints through books, news articles, blogs and social media pages in preparation for his campaign, he said.
Reading a post, or clicking the “like” button, does not mean a person supports or agrees with what was posted on social media, Cooper’s statement said.
Although, the like button on Twitter is “used to show appreciation for a Tweet,” according to the Twitter Help Centre.
Cooper concluded his statement by saying cancel culture is interfering with “reasoned political debate” and “artificially reduces the choices available to voters.”
Candidate change could effect race: Prof
There are a few factors at play in whether or not Guérette will be successful in her bid, says Jim Farney. Farney is an associate professor and the department head at the University of Regina’s Department of Politics and International Studies.
The fact the party had to switch candidates as a result of a controversy — even if more goofy than scandalous — could have an effect on the race and the party’s overall brand, Farney said. He also noted the change in candidates could have an effect on campaign volunteers.
“Are the folks out doing the door-knocking and doing the literature drops going to be the same folks, or is Chris Guérette going to have to go out and find volunteers fairly quickly?”
Farney did note that it is unusual for a party to have such a prominent replacement ready to go after the resignation of a candidate, as it’s common for parties to put in place a “stop-gap” candidate as they seek out a new nomination.
He says this is not the case in Saskatoon Eastview
“This is a bit of a one-off event,” he said. “Partly because of the cause, and partly because of the strength of the person who stepped up to run for the Sask. Party.”
Farney noted that the controversy around Cooper could help spur more interest in the Saskatoon Electoral district race overall.
“I think it will increase interest, there’s a narrative that grabs you now,” he said.
Read Cooper’s full statement here: