Race hatred mars campaign

CALGARY — A Wildrose candidate in the Alberta election is apologizing for suggesting he has an advantage in his ethnically diverse riding because he is white.

CALGARY — A Wildrose candidate in the Alberta election is apologizing for suggesting he has an advantage in his ethnically diverse riding because he is white.

And a Tory candidate in Calgary reported his office was inundated with extremist telephone calls calling him a “towel head” “faggot-loving” and “al-Qaeda” for his criticism of Wildrose policy on conscience rights and his attempt to organize a discussion on the issue with Wildrose candidate Rob Anderson, and Calgary’s gay and lesbian community.

“I think as a Caucasian I have an advantage. When different community leaders such as a Sikh leader or a Muslim leader speaks, they really speak to their own people in many ways. As a Caucasian, I believe that I can speak to all the community,” Ron Leech said on the South Asian program which aired on CHKF-FM, a multicultural radio station in Calgary.

Leech offered an apology for his remarks Tuesday. He said he had made them on the spur of the moment and hadn’t put his point across very well.

“I apologize if something was said at the moment . . . that misrepresented the community or myself,” Leech said at a campaign stop in Calgary.

“What I was trying to say, which didn’t come out that way and I apologize . . . is that it’s not a disadvantage for me to be Caucasian to represent the diverse cultures of my riding.”

Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith was not aware of the comments when asked by reporters about them Tuesday, but said she wasn’t concerned after they were read to her.

“No, I’m not concerned about them. I think every candidate puts forward their best argument for why they should be the person who can best represent the community,” she said.

Smith said Leech runs a private school which has a large number of people from different cultural communities and has made inroads with their leaders.

“I think he was perhaps probably commenting on his own ability, having been involved at the school and involved with the communities for as long as he has.”

Smith, who said on the weekend that there hadn’t been any “bozo eruptions” from any of her candidates, has now had three glitches in the last week.

Edmonton candidate Allan Hunsperger, a pastor, came under fire for a blog he wrote last year in which he said gays and lesbians would end up in an eternal “lake of fire” if they didn’t change their ways.

Smith stood by the candidate, saying a Wildrose government would not legislate any “contentious social issues” and her candidates can worship how they please.

“How they serve to worship or how they serve to conduct themselves in their private religious practice is quite frankly none of my business as a political leader.”

On Tuesday, in Calgary Buffalo, staff for Conservative candidate Jamie Lall had their office inundated with racist phone calls, from telephones with blocked numbers. Lall was at the time campaigning in Calgary’s Chinatown district.

According to a press release from Lall’s office Tuesday, when volunteers asked if the callers cared to leave a message, they responded in hate-fueled terms that included “towel head’ “faggot loving” and “al-Qaeda” and demanded that Lall “go back to where he came from.”

Lall is a native Calgarian of Sikh descent.

“I was born in Calgary, I graduated from the University of Calgary, and I’m a social worker who is now running for political office,” Lall said, in his release.

Lall had also recently called for Smith to pull the candidacies of both Leech and Hunsperger.

Premier Alison Redford said she was surprised at Leech’s remarks and said it wasn’t something that would be tolerated in her Progressive Conservative party.

Leech is seeking a seat in Calgary-Greenway, a new constituency formed from the redistribution of the former ridings of Calgary-Montrose, Calgary-Cross and Calgary-McCall. Calgary-Montrose was represented by Tory cabinet minister Manmeet Bhullar, who is seeking election in the new riding.

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