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Alberta Premier Rachel Notley makes her way through the crowd during a rally in Edmonton on March 17, 2019.

JASON FRANSON/The Canadian Press

The leader of Alberta’s NDP is looking to win over voters who chose right-leaning candidates in the past, saying the rival United Conservative Party has not rid itself of its predecessors’ biggest shortcomings: the Progressive Conservatives’ sense of entitlement and the Wildrose’s intolerance.

“What is more clear every day is that Mr. Kenney didn’t bring the best of the PCs and the Wildrose together,” Rachel Notley said Wednesday. “He brought the sky palace to the shores of the lake of fire.”

A penthouse suite atop Edmonton’s Federal Building, dubbed the “sky palace,” came to symbolize what was perceived as a sense of entitlement by a former PC government led by Alison Redford.

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In the 2012 election, the Wildrose Party blew a late lead in the polls, in part, because then-party leader Danielle Smith refused to sanction a candidate who penned an anti-gay blog urging homosexuals to repent or face eternal damnation in hell’s “lake of fire.”

Notley said she respects why people had put their trust in the long-governing former Progressive Conservative party, since it had a strong tradition of defending Alberta. But she said the PCs were in power too long and left working people vulnerable by not doing enough to diversify the economy.

Notley’s New Democrats toppled the PCs after 44 years in power by winning a majority in the 2015 election. The PCs and Wildrose merged to form the UCP in 2017.

In the leadup to the April 16 election, two UCP Calgary candidates — Caylan Ford and Eva Kiryakos — resigned over intolerant remarks.

The candidate for Drayton Valley-Devon, Mark Smith, has also been criticized for past remarks about homosexuality. He was the UCP’s education critic.

On Tuesday, audio surfaced from a sermon Smith delivered in 2013 that was posted on the website of the Calvary Baptist Church in Drayton Valley, Alta.

On the recording, Smith discusses how TV programs try to convince people that love among homosexuals is “good love.”

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“Heck, there are even people out there, I could take you, I could take to you places on the website, I’m sure, where you could find out that there’s, where pedophilia is love,” he said in the recording.

Smith said he did not mean to equate homosexuality to pedophilia.

“I believe that people have the right to choose to be in the relationship that they desire. My comments from 2013 did not reflect that belief, and I unequivocally apologize for this. Period,” he wrote on Facebook.

Kenney said Wednesday he condemns Smith’s past remarks, but that the candidate would continue to run for the UCP on the values of “inclusion and dignity.” Kenney said he hoped Smith would reach out to LGBTQ Albertans.

Other candidates have replaced Ford and Kiryakos. When asked if Smith is staying on because the nomination deadline has passed, Kenney did not answer directly.

“Mr. Smith has been a member of the legislature for the past four years and his conduct suggests to me that he respects the policy of our party, which is one of respect for people regardless of who they love, their sexual orientation or sexual identity,” Kenney said.

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Notley said she expects the UCP record on LGBTQ issues will be a big ballot box consideration, along with the economy.

“We cannot let our economic troubles, as frustrating as they are, be an excuse to abandon our better selves,” she said.

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