At the federal Progressive Conservatives' 2003 leadership convention, contender Jim Prentice received a most unwelcome endorsement. To a chorus of boos, fringe candidate Craig Chandler used his convention speech to deliver a virulent attack on frontrunner Peter MacKay for supporting the passage of legislation that added hate-crimes protection for gays; he then threw his minimal support behind Mr. Prentice. The endorsement, described by one of Mr. Prentice's advisers as "a slap in the back from someone with a knife in his hand," was widely seen to contribute to Mr. MacKay's eventual victory.
Mr. Prentice, now the federal Industry Minister, no longer has to worry about Mr. Chandler. But Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach does. To the horror of many provincial Conservatives, Mr. Chandler, a businessman and former head of Concerned Christians Canada, recently won the party's nomination in the traditionally safe Tory riding of Calgary-Egmont. Now, Mr. Stelmach is grappling with whether he can let someone with Mr. Chandler's views represent his party - a decision that, on review of the candidate's past behaviour, should not be difficult.
While campaigning for the nomination in August, Mr. Chandler made headlines with an online commentary in which he suggested that newcomers to Alberta "need to remember that you came here to our home and we vote conservative," advising them to "adapt to our rules and our voting patterns, or leave." But Mr. Chandler's most disturbing views undoubtedly relate to homosexuality. Earlier this year, a settlement arranged by the Canadian Human Rights Commission forced him to publish an apology for comments made on a radio program that he co-hosts - among them, reportedly, that "God sees murder as equal to homosexuality." As part of the settlement, he agreed to "cease and desist" from posting information on the Internet claiming that "homosexuals are conspiring against society" and that they are "sick, diseased or mentally ill."
His homophobia appears to know few bounds. On the website of Concerned Christians, he approvingly pointed to a letter by Calgary pastor Stephen Boissoin charging that "[w]ere homosexuality flourishes, all manner of wickedness abounds." When Belinda Stronach ran for the Conservative leadership, he suggested the presence of gay activists on her campaign team meant "a takeover from the militant homosexual movement" was at hand.
Should Mr. Stelmach and Conservative officials overturn Mr. Chandler's nomination, as they are said to be considering, it will undoubtedly provoke a backlash from hard-line social conservatives. But that is a sacrifice the Tories should make. While candidates need not rigidly rehearse their party's line on every issue, they should represent its basic values and principles. It is impossible to imagine, in this day and age, that Mr. Chandler is capable of doing so for any mainstream party.