Calgary

Christian group likens Tory candidate review to witch hunt

A Christian group is accusing Premier Ed Stelmach of being intolerant to people of faith, as the Alberta Tories review the candidacy of outspoken activist Craig Chandler.

A Christian group is accusing Premier Ed Stelmach of being intolerant to people of faith, as the Alberta Tories review the candidacy of outspoken activist Craig Chandler.

Chandler won the Tory nodearlier this month to run inCalgary-Egmont riding, but Stelmach has troubles with the candidate's past that the party wants to review before signing off on his nomination papers.

In January, Chandler agreed to issue a public apology for anti-gay statements made on his radio show in exchange for the withdrawal of complaints to the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

"Part of the overall agenda will be discussing some of the issues that have come up," Stelmach said of a meeting in Red Deer Saturday where Chandler will be allowed to argue for keeping the nomination he won.

Jim Blake of Concerned Christians Canada likened the review to a witch hunt, targeting social conservatives and evangelical Christians.

"This is not an issue of Craig Chandler being an intolerant person," Blake said Wednesday. "It's a party that's saying we don't want people of faith in our party that are going to speak their values in any way, shape or form, even if it's not in the political forum."

Chandler used to run the Christian group, but Blake said he's speaking out against growing intolerance of religious views in the Tory party.

Chandlerwouldn't comment on the debate, but the president of the Tory riding association in Calgary-Egmont said he'll quit ifthe nomination is overturned.

"There's nothing in the constitution that says that Craig shouldn't be the nominee," David Crutcher said.

"If the party had anything to disqualify him whatsoever, they should have said immediately — not wait for a couple of weeks afterwards."

Disqualification could bring discontent

A vague section of the Alberta Conservative constitution states that a duly nominated candidate shall be approved by the leader if that's in the best interests of the party.

"Who determines that? Is it the leader? Is it the president? Is it the party executive? They're really caught in a difficult situation," said Duane Bratt, who teaches political studies at Mount Royal College in Calgary.

Bratt said disqualifying Chandler could mean a lawsuit and coulddamage relations with some rank-and-file Tories, even if it pleases others.

"That's a fractured political party, and Craig Chandler's nomination is just one sign of that," Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft said Tuesday.

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