Wildrose MLA stands by 'disrespectful' remark about Rod Loyola
'What does my ethnicity have to do with anything?' Edmonton-Ellerslie MLA asks
Wildrose MLA Todd Loewen isn't backing down from a comment he made in the legislature last week about NDP MLA Rod Loyola getting political funding from South America.
Loewen, the MLA for Grande Prairie-Smoky, was heckling while Loyola argued against a proposed change to the Tax Statutes Amendment Act that deals with political donations and tax credits.
According to Hansard, Loewen was called out by NDP government whip Estefania Cortes-Vargas for "insinuating" that Loyola gets funding from "people in South America."
Alberta politicians are prohibited from accepting political donations from anyone who lives outside the province.
Loewen said his heckle was based on Loyola's past expressions of admiration for the late leader of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez.
"That support is there," he said. "He has never renounced it. That is what it was in relation to."
Loyola, the Edmonton-Ellerslie MLA, emigrated from Chile as a child. He said the remark was disrespectful towards a sitting MLA and Albertans of South American origin.
"It's laughable. We all know that it is illegal," Loyola said of the allegation about South American political donations. "And the implication that it has is completely disrespectful, and the fact that they included my ethnicity in there just makes it racial towards me.
"What does my ethnicity have to do with anything?"
Loewen said his remark was part of a long history of heckling between the government and the opposition in the legislature. He agrees that discourse in the legislature is not always professional and could improve.
Loyola was the subject of another remark about Venezuela in the legislature two days later, this time from Wildrose MLA Wayne Anderson.
When Loyola said that he once owned a business, Anderson asked, "In Venezuela?"
Anderson immediately apologized for the remark when NDP member Cam Westhead raised a point of order about the use of insulting and abusive language.
The incidents prompted Loyola to make a member's statement on Monday about decorum in the house and an opposition that hurls "insults and racist remarks at members of this House for their beliefs rather than focusing on policy."
Loyola wants an apology from Loewen.
Loewen said he spoke to Cortes-Vargas about contacting Loyola, but Loyola refused the overture.