The Conservatives are stepping up their support for an independent incumbent MP in Quebec who had one of the worst attendance records in the past Parliament and whose outbursts as a former radio host were condemned as "racist and contemptuous" by the Supreme Court.
The tacit endorsement of André Arthur in Portneuf-Jacques-Cartier is all the more unusual in that after he became an MP, Mr. Arthur attacked certain Conservative ministers on-air, disparaging them as "lamentable" and "ridiculous" losers.
Mr. Arthur's riding just outside of Quebec City is the only one in the country where the Conservatives are not fielding a candidate of their own.
Carl Vallee, Conservative Party spokesman for Quebec, said the Tories have "a close affinity" with Mr. Arthur and they would "look favourably" upon his re-election. Mr. Arthur squeaked by the Bloc Québécois in 2008 by just over 600 votes.
To help Mr. Arthur hold his seat, Maxime Bernier, the former Conservative cabinet minister and a party heavyweight in the province, is planning to campaign with him on Tuesday, holding a joint news conference and going door-to-door.
"It gives me great pleasure to support him," Mr. Bernier said on Monday. "He's a friend and he advocates Conservative principles."
Mr. Arthur's principles have been controversial. Last February, while dismissing a class-action defamation suit against him by Haitian and Arab taxi drivers whom he ridiculed on his radio show, the Supreme Court stated Mr. Arthur "had become known for his distasteful and provocative language."
In an interview that aired on CHOI-FM in Quebec City on Aug. 23, 2007, shortly after a Tory cabinet shuffle, the shock-jock-radio-host-turned-MP directed some of his well-known on-air venom toward Stephen Harper's new team.
He lashed out at Bev Oda, then the heritage minister and now the Minister of International Co-operation, as "one of the worst ministers."
"She is lamentable - unable to find her behind with her two hands," Mr. Arthur said.
He made fun of Defence Minister Peter MacKay, dismissing him as "a loser."
"He's the one everybody is laughing about in Ottawa," Mr. Arthur said. "Peter MacKay is a ridiculous character."
The kindest words Mr. Arthur had for the Tory team were to say that Jim Prentice, then the industry minister who went on to tackle the environment portfolio for the Tories, was "not a bad" minister who spent all his time solving problems for the Prime Minister.
Mr. Arthur did not return phone requests for an interview Monday
But his Tory co-campaigner, Mr. Bernier, said Mr. Arthur's comments gave him no discomfort.
"Absolutely not. He is anindependent and he has his freedom of speech," Mr. Bernier said. "Who doesn't make mistakes in life?"
The independent MP generally votes with the Conservatives - when he is in Parliament. Mr. Arthur, who proudly admits he moonlights with a second paying job as a tour-bus driver, has missed one-third of the votes in the House of Commons since his election in 2006.
A House of Commons committee in 2009 tried to probe his frequent absences but was unsuccessful.
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