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Election candidates unaware of email endorsement from interest group

St. Albert voters received messages signed by "St. Albert Patriots" encouraging support for those "clearly opposed" to the Badger-Lands solar farm.
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The full text of the email signed by Gord Hennigar is featured in this screenshot.

Residents wondering how an email addressed to “fellow St. Albert Patriots” made its way to their inboxes might want to know candidates endorsed there were also just as in the dark. 

The email, sent out Oct. 5, listed council candidates it said were “clearly opposed” to proceeding with St. Albert’s Badger Lands solar-farm project. The email — signed by Gord Hennigar — listed two mayoral candidates and nine council candidates. 

How many people and who exactly the email was sent out to, or how the list of addressees was attained, remains unclear. The Gazette reached out to all candidates whose names were included in the email. 

Mayoral candidate Angela Wood said she is unfamiliar with the email, but noted she has received several emails and phone calls as the election has been underway. 

Similarly, Bob Russell — the second mayoral candidate named in the email — said via email he knows “nothing” about the St. Albert Patriots Group it supposedly represents, but noted he recognized Hennigar’s name from his past involvement with politics. 

Hennigar did not respond to The Gazette’s request for an interview.

Wally Popik, Shawn LeMay, and Shelley Biermanski said they remembered getting an email a while back from Hennigar asking about the solar farm. 

“As candidates, our inboxes are flooded with questions,” Biermanski said. 

Ross Guffei seconded Biermanski, noting many people have asked information of the candidates with the purpose of “putting it on the Internet,” and that many of the questions revolve around issues that are polarizing. 

Organized brochure delivery 

Some candidates listed in the email — Sheena Hughes, Jennifer Cote, Wood, Biermanski, Mike Killick, Guffei — had organized a group to hand out brochures together. The Patriots email and the brochure group, however, are unrelated. 

Catholic school trustee candidate Greg Schell also had his brochures distributed as part of the group. 

Mike Killick said he was disappointed to see some comments on the Internet speculating what extent the candidates were working together. 

“This was just a way to get our information out to the voters as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Killick said. “I’ve told anyone with concerns that I’m happy to chat with them … and I hope residents take the time to read every candidate’s brochure, and decide on the candidates who are right for them.”

Guffei said Hughes had organized the delivery, and that he had been familiar with some candidates — like Killick — from participation in council matters, such as the Riverbank Landing public hearing. 

“We have similar philosophies, but if we get elected, we’re not going to vote together,” Guffei said of the candidates in the group. 

Hughes said she had reached out to candidates in an effort to find efficiencies. 

“I work with people who I think are good candidates,” Hughes said. “I don’t know how anyone is expected to distribute 26,000 brochures over a couple of weeks and do it effectively.” 

On the topic of the Patriots email, Hughes said any individual should have the right to voice their opinion. 

“It’s all free speech,” Hughes said. 

Leonard Wilkins compared the Patriots' email to going door-to-door and being asked questions by voters. 

“The only difference is whether you’re on record with written reply, or whether it’s hearsay based on what you’ve told them verbally,” Wilkins said. 

Popik said he would encourage electors to be skeptical about anything they receive via email, read on the Internet, or see on the news. Like Killick, Popik said electors who are interested in a candidate should give them a phone call to find out more.

“I don’t take anything I get over the Internet as gospel,” Popik said.

Kevan Jess echoed Popik, saying those in the process of selecting candidates to vote for should “spend time to look up their positions on everything.”

“Vote for someone you feel best represents your thoughts and feeling on all these issues,” Jess said. 

Jennifer Cote did not respond to a request for an interview at press time.