The mayors of Alberta’s two major cities have waded into the provincial election campaign, saying the remarks of some candidates hurt the image of their cities.
In particular, they focused on Allan Hunsperger and Ron Leech, two pastors running for the Wildrose in Edmonton and Calgary, respectively. Mr. Hunsperger came under fire for writing, in a year-old blog entry, that gays will spend eternity in the “lake of fire, hell.” Mr. Leech told a radio station he had an advantage in his multicultural riding because he’s white, saying Sikh and Muslim leaders “speak to their own people, in many ways.”
In each case, Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith declined to condemn the remarks, saying they’re the personal beliefs of her candidates, not those of the party.
On Wednesday, the mayors fired back – a rare move, as big-city mayors typically stay out of the fray during a provincial race.
Calgary’s Naheed Nenshi (who has repeatedly said he hasn’t endorsed a party) said Mr. Leech’s post-gaffe explanation – that he meant to say he wasn’t at a disadvantage because he’s white – didn’t address whether he believes, as he originally implied, that non-white candidates only represent non-white voters. Mr. Nenshi happens to live in the riding.
“His clarification did not in any way address the content of his comments. Does he believe ethnic [politicians]speak only to some?” Mr. Nenshi wrote in one of several Twitter messages, later adding: “It's not that he shouldn't have said it, it's that he shouldn't believe it. He has not yet said whether he does.”
Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel publicly questioned why Ms. Smith didn’t refute Mr. Hunsperger, saying homophobia isn’t welcome in his city. “We’re accepting and open and welcome everybody. We don’t want people to think that this is a place that people are not welcome,” Mr. Mandel told a local radio station.
Mr. Nenshi also said a comment by PC candidate Muhammad Rasheed, who said people in his diverse riding want to vote for “someone like them,” was “stupid, but not comparable” to that of Mr. Leech.
The gaffes of candidates have dogged Wildrose though much of the campaign’s final week. Albertans go to the polls April 23.