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For week ended June 06, 1999 Posted 19 Jun 1999

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Is Red Deer big enough for Socreds, bitterrivals?

Summarized by Eric Bunker

Is Red Deer big enough for Socreds, bitterrivals?
Edmonton Canada Sun 6Jun99 L1
By Jonathan Jenkins: Legislature Bureau

RED DEER, ALBERTA, CANADA: Church member Randy Thorsteinson, former leader of the Social Credit Party, is in a war with other party officials. The controversy has split the right-wing conservative party in an angry debate over religion. The venerable Social Credit Party, the Socreds, was once an unassailable political force in the province but haven't elected a person to the Province's MLA for 20 years.

Bro. Thorsteinson led a mass exodus from the Socreds, in April, charging that elements within the party objected to his Mormon religion and were mounting a whisper campaign that he wasn't Christian enough.

Remaining party officials differ with that observation and say it was over the fact of their objection to his major focus against gay rights, abortion and gambling. These issues, they felt, were making the party look more like a religious rather than a political organization, and the former leader couldn't handle the internal criticism and was loosing control.

Bro. Thorsteinson took most of the party's directors and senior leadership with him and is planning a June 12th meeting in Red Deer as a launch pad for a new party. They feel very confident about the chances of this new party in being a significant political force.

Party spokesman, John Forget said, "It will be a fresh new beginning, a fresh new alternative for the 21st century. We've got a lot of new blood and a lot of new ideas."

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