With days ticking down until election day, Wildrose leader Danielle Smith is surely tired of dealing with questions about some of her outspoken candidates – but two mayors don't intend to let the issue go away.
Edmonton's Stephen Mandel and Calgary's Naheed Nenshi both spoke out against Wildrose candidates on Wednesday. We wrote a short news piece, but I'll follow up here with longer excerpts of what the mayors actually said, with help from our friends at The Canadian Press and Mr. Nenshi himself, who sent along a statement.
Mr. Nenshi was reacting to Ron Leech, the Wildrose candidate running in Mr. Nenshi's own riding, who said he had an advantage because he's Caucasian, and suggested Sikh and Muslim candidates typically speak to and for their ethnic groups.
It got the ire up of Mr. Nenshi, the first Muslim mayor of a major Canadian city.
"I don't normally comment on non-city issues, but this is a city issue. Our strength and our brand is about people from all over the world coming together to build an amazing community. That's why I was so disappointed in Mr. Leech's comments. I look forward to hearing from Ms. Smith about the gravity of the situation and her own comments on the issue," Mr. Nenshi wrote Wednesday.
Which brings us to Edmonton, where Mr. Mandel spoke with reporters the same day. He responded to Edmonton-area candidate Allan Hunsperger – who, like Mr. Leech, is both a pastor and a Wildrose candidate – saying in a blog that gays will spend eternity in a lake of fire.
"I don't think there's any place in our province for homophobia and or diminishing the value of any group to the greater good of our city and our society," Mr. Mandel said. "It's a bit disappointing about what was coming out ... I really believe we are a multidimensional, dynamic province and we believe it's the same of our city. We're accepting and open and we don't want people to think that this a place that people are not welcome ... We want them to see Edmonton as a place for their future."
The Edmonton Journal posted a transcript of his entire interview. There, he said that Ms. Smith's response – saying, essentially, that they were her candidates' personal views, not those of the party, and that she won't condemn them – didn't cut it.
"I've only seen the response on the comments about gay individuals so I'm not sure that satisfied me," Mr. Mandel told the Journal. He was later asked whether Ms. Smith's response refuted either candidates' views. "Well that doesn't refute anything, does it? I think everybody has a right to their own opinions, but when you're in government and you're making decisions about the future of my children or my grandchildren or your children, I think there's a standard which we need to accept that it is vitally important to the opportunity and equality within our province. And it's to me vital that people around this country see Alberta as a leader, one that stands for creating that opportunity for everyone and no one should be eliminated from the future of this province."
So, there you have it. Not only are the mayors of the two biggest cities condemning a Wildrose candidate, they're calling on Ms. Smith to do more to respond. If she doesn't, they might speak up once more; if she does, it keeps these stories (the types of which she'd previously called "bozo eruptions") in the news cycle.
Instead, she continues to praise her slate of candidates as second to none, saying they're human and prone to mistakes. She hopes to move on. But Mr. Mandel and Mr. Nenshi are waiting, each representing cities that, together, hold 44 of the province's 87 seats – or, a majority.