Ron Leech interview with jagpunjabi.com
A Progressive Conservative candidate is pointing to a new video that surfaced Friday where Calgary-Greenway Wildrose candidate Ron Leech says he enjoys an advantage over his rivals because he is Caucasian.
Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith defended Leech Friday — who apologized earlier this week for the comments he made on an ethnic radio station — saying he misspoke, he apologized for what he said and it's time to move on.
But Calgary-Greenway Progressive Conservative candidate Manmeet Bhullar pointed to an interview Leech did with Edmonton multicultural online TV station jagpunjabi.com as an example the comments were made more than once.
In the interview recorded roughly 10 days ago, before his controversial radio comments, Leech says "as a Caucasian I have an advantage that for the Punjabi community I am able to speak for the whole community and to lift the community up in our region."
"When a Punjabi leader speaks for the Punjabi, the Punjabi are listening, but when a Caucasian speaks on their behalf everybody is listening," he said as the host nods and agrees with the statement.
Leech said he been studying about Punjabi culture and religion so he can have a better understanding of their special needs in the community.
The Wildrose sent out a release to address the video's comments, saying "Leech has apologized for any comments he has made which have caused offence. He is committed to representing all voters in Calgary-Greenway, should he be elected."
Discrimination will not be tolerated, says Smith
Smith said Friday she refuses to throw anyone "under the bus."
"I take it personally when accusations of racism and bigotry are aimed at me and at my party," Smith said at a campaign stop in Calgary. "Let me be perfectly clear — a Wildrose government will not tolerate discrimination against any individual on the basis of ethnicity, religion, beliefs, background, disability or sexual orientation ... period."
Despite some reports earlier Friday that Edmonton-South West candidate Allan Hunsperger — who wrote in his blog last year that gays "will suffer the rest of eternity in a lake of fire, hell, a place of eternal suffering" — would be out as a Wildrose candidate, Smith defended him.
"Mr. Hunsperger's a good man," she said. "He's been engaged in public service for a long time. His private personal religious views would not interfere in his role as an MLA. If I believed his private personal views would interfere in his role as a MLA in serving his community, every single member of his community, I would have fired him."
She says she respects his right to his personal views against homosexuality and that there is separation between church and state.
Other party leaders have called the comments intolerant and say they wouldn't allow the candidates to stay.
Smith says it's now up to voters
Smith says her party will not tolerate discrimination against anyone for any reason — period — and she respects her candidates' right to their personal views. She says it will be up to voters to decide if her candidates should be MLAs.
Earlier this week, Calgary's Mayor Naheed Nenshi expressed disappointment that Smith hasn't condemned intolerance.
Now that Smith has done that, saying that she can tolerate a variety of views as long as they don't include hate or criminality, Nenshi feels better that all five party leaders have weighed in.
"Now that she's at least drawn a line, then voters can decide for themselves whether that's the right line or not," he said. "When there was no line at all, it made that decision much more difficult and before today I would argue that we didn't know where that line was."
He said on Friday Albertans should focus on building a great province, regardless of divisions on political issues.
"I hope that we can now talk about other important issues, like cities," said Nenshi. "I encourage everyone to visit citiesmatter.ca to learn more and I encourage everyone to vote on Monday."