Interim United Conservative Party leader Nathan Cooper says he has renounced views he held on LGBTQ issues when he worked a decade ago for a conservative group called Canada Family Action.
"Those statements do not reflect my views today in any capacity," Cooper said at a news conference in Edmonton on Tuesday. "I believe in an open and inclusive party for all Albertans regardless of their race, their creed, their orientation."
Cooper said it is important that society is inclusive and reflects the face of the province. He also credited the three openly LGBTQ members of the NDP caucus for helping him better understand the issues.
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"Over a ten-year period, you learn a lot," he said. "Values and views sometimes change.
"I think there were lots of things I didn't understand then, that I know now."
On Monday, Press Progress reported that in 2009 Cooper hosted a radio show called Family Action Radio, where he interviewed Scott Lively, an American evangelist who promoted anti-LGBTQ views. He wrote a book about why the "homosexual agenda" should alarm Christians.
Cooper at the time worked as the assistant to Canada Family Action president Brian Rushfeldt. The group was vocal in its opposition to LGBTQ rights.
Earlier Tuesday, the NDP caucus called on Cooper to resign as interim leader or explain why he promoted the views held by Canada Family Action.
Deputy premier Sarah Hoffman isn't buying Cooper's change of heart until he provides more information. She said he was "flat-footed" in providing examples of how he has changed when asked about it at the news conference.
"He owes an explanation to Albertans if his opinion has changed, in what ways, when and how," she said. "And if he isn't willing to do that, then he shouldn't be leading any party."
Kristopher Wells, assistant professor and faculty director of the Institute for Sexual Minorities Studies and Services at the University of Alberta, said many people believe a leopard never changes its spots.
So he said politicians like Cooper need to be measured by their actions, not their words.
"If he really has changed his spots, or changed his past attitudes, and evolved, as some people have described it, then let's see some action," he said. "Let's see some proof of that."
Cooper was first elected to the Alberta legislature as the Wildrose MLA for Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills in 2015 and served as the party's house leader.
He was chosen interim leader by the 29 members of the new UCP caucus on Monday.
Cooper announced Mike Ellis will serve as the deputy leader for the new party. Richard Gotfried is the UCP house leader, Jason Nixon is the new caucus whip and Prasad Panda is caucus chairman.