Harper defends Calgary candidate, blames 'gotcha journalism'
Calls for a Calgary federal election candidate to resign over remarks connecting crime with immigrants are "an extreme example of a non-story being blown up," Conservative Leader Stephen Harper says.
In a campaign stop in his hometown of Calgary on Friday, Harper defended Calgary Centre Conservative Lee Richardson. Rival candidates in Richardson's riding and Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion have demanded the incumbent quit or be fired.
"He clarified a comment made before it was even published," said Harper. "I … do think that some of these stories are ridiculous examples of gotcha journalism that have nothing to do with anything that voters care about in this campaign."
Harper added there was no comparison with the case of Winnipeg-area candidate Lesley Hughes, whom Dion asked to step down over comments she made in the past suggesting Israeli companies were given a heads-up ahead of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S.
'Not the kid that grew up next door'
In response to a question about recent shootings in the city, Richardson told a reporter for FFWD, a Calgary weekly news and entertainment paper, that Canada has been too soft on crime.
"Particularly in big cities, we've got people that have grown up in a different culture," he said. "And they don't have the same background in terms of the stable communities we had 20, 30 years ago in our cities … and don't have the same respect for authority or people's person or property."
He later added: "Talk to the police. Look at who's committing these crimes. They're not the kid that grew up next door."
In an interview with FFWD the day after the initial interview, Richardson said he regretted his comments, the paper reports.
Richardson did not return calls from CBC News, but issued a statement late Thursday afternoon: "I stand by my retraction. Those who have known me through my long time in public service know that I have always supported immigration, have worked closely with our cultural communities, and have regarded diversity as one of our greatest strengths."
Calls for resignation
Dion joined Calgary candidates from the NDP and Liberal parties Thursday in calling on Richardson to quit or be fired.
Tyler Kinch, the NDP candidate in Calgary Centre, called the remarks disgraceful. Liberal Calgary Centre candidate Heesung Kim, an immigrant from South Korea, referred to the comments as "disturbing."
Richardson was first elected with the Mulroney government in the 1980s before being defeated. He returned to politics when he took Calgary Centre in 2004 and was re-elected in 2006, winning 55 per cent of the vote.