It’s a blistering Sunday afternoon in July and supporters of Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party (UCP) are gathered around a smoking barbeque in a Sylvan Lake, Alberta parking lot. They’re all sporting dark blue caps with the UCP logo embroidered in white along the front, quickly amassing around a boyish-looking man for the chance at a handshake and a brief “thanks for your support.”
That man is Devin Dreeshen, 30, and is one of three candidates campaigning towards the July 12 by-election for the now open MLA position in the Innisfail/Sylvan Lake region, following a sexual assault case that forced the previous MLA to step down. He’s easy to spot in his on-brand “Conservative Blue” polo, khaki shorts and door-knocking shoes. Between serving up hot dogs, kissing babies and hating taxes, he’s your typical Conservative poster child.
In a section of his website called “My experience” the son of the Red Deer Conservative MP Earl Dreeshen describes himself as a “fifth-generation local farm owner, volunteer, and long-time conservative party activist” and talks up his experience advising former Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and other political gigs.
But nowhere on his webpage does he mention he was a MAGA-hat wearing Donald Trump campaigner in 2016.
On and off between February and November of 2016, Dreeshen and his colleague Matthew McBain followed Trump around the United States training volunteers, knocking on doors and even shadowing Ivanka Trump for some reason, according to their article “Inside the Trump Campaign.” (Subscribers only.)
After learning about his Trump adventure, I was left with so many questions, such as: why is he hiding this experience? How does he feel about the trade war? Does he still wear his MAGA hat? But these were questions that I would never get answers to, as Dreeshen proved to be the White Whale of provincial politicians.
After attempting to contact him through an unsuccessful trip to his Innisfail campaign office and countless phone calls, he was finally standing in front of me, about to answer for his support for Trump…or so I thought. Apparently Dreeshen is a very busy man (or so I’ve been told, countlessly). Upon my arrival to his event as his team was just finishing setting up. HIs mother and campaign manager, Judy Dreeshen, recognized me as the reporter interested in interviewing her son from my previous trip to his campaign office two days earlier. She was actually the one who had invited me to this supporters’ barbecue, but I was turned away as the man of the hour still had some doors to knock on.
After some time in a nearby coffee shop I returned to find him flashing smiles and making his rounds among supporters. As I finally approached him, hand extended, I barely got out “I’m the reporter that’s been trying to contact you” before a member of his communications team stepped in. Again, I was asked to come back after the event was over for a quick chance to talk.
Again I returned to find Dreeshen hidden away behind a shield of polite conversation. After what felt like forever in the rural Alberta sun, he finally wrapped up whatever he was talking about. And then, he was gone. Apparently to the bathroom, but not to be seen again for the duration of my time in Sylvan Lake. Without even a goodbye to his team or one of those handshakes he had been practicing all day, he was off to knock on some more doors, I assume. But still I held out some sort of hope. As his team struggled to find him, I again waited, until a volunteer finally said what I had known for the past 20 minutes: “I think he snuck off on you.”
At any level of politics, voters should be allowed the courtesy of knowing who they’re voting for. Once proud of his time with the Republican leader, Dreeshen is suspiciously quiet now. Whether it’s due to the looming trade war, trying to “rebrand” as an approachable conservative or trying to disassociate from literally anything that’s ever come out of Trump’s mouth—we may never know why he’s worked so hard to keep this period in his political career discreet. One thing is for sure though—if you don’t want people to find out about that time you casually trailed Trump around 26 different states and posed for pictures with his sons, don’t write an entire article about it and ask for photo credits on the accompanying picture.
Obviously, Dreeshen and the UCP did not respond to many, many requests for comment from VICE for this article.
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