Politics

Conservative deputy leader apologizes for comparing Pride parades to St. Patrick's Day events after criticism

Newly appointed deputy Conservative party leader Leona Alleslev is taking heat and has apologized for equating marching in Pride parades with St. Patrick's Day parades. 

Leona Alleslev made the comment during an interview with CBC Radio's The House

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer gestures to MP Leona Alleslev after she announced she is leaving the Liberal party to join the Conservative party last fall. She became deputy party leader this week and already is apologizing for an embarrassing on-air gaffe. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Newly appointed deputy Conservative party leader Leona Alleslev is taking heat and has apologized for equating marching in Pride parades with St. Patrick's Day parades. 

In an interview with CBC Radio's The House, Alleslev was asked about Conservative Leader Andrew's Scheer's struggle to quell questions about his personal beliefs on same-sex marriage during the election campaign. 

The Liberals had resurfaced a video from 2005, when Scheer spoke in the House of Commons against it. Scheer is also the only federal party leader who has not marched in a Pride parade. 

"I think that that's obviously his choice and we live in a country where that's his choice," Alleslev told host Chris Hall. "Have we asked anybody if they marched in a St. Patrick's Day parade?"

The backlash on social media was fierce after the interview aired, with many criticizing her choice of comparison. 

Conservative insiders expressed their distaste for the comment.

Jamie Ellerton, who ran Scheer's road campaign, and Melissa Lantsman, who helped the party during the election, recently wrote a scathing opinion article in the Globe and Mail, warning the Conservatives would be eternally relegated to second place if they couldn't move past their current stance on social issues. 

The two retweeted Alleslev's comments. Lantsman wrote "Hope it's all worth it, Leona Alleslev," while Ellerton posted a dozen examples of Scheer attending festivals with various ethnic and religious groups.

Rachel Curran, who served as former prime minister Stephen Harper's director of policy, said it was "one of the ugliest and most offensive things I've heard in a long time."

It wasn't just Conservatives weighing in. Liberals and New Democrats poked fun at Alleslev.

"Even if you choose to ignore the baffling analogical reasoning, Trudeau has actually marched in St. Patrick's Day parades..." read a tweet from Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith. 

NDP MP Charlie Angus added some historical context, saying "150 years ago, it would be fitting to ask a Conservative leader why he refused to march in a St. Patrick's Day parade." 

Writer Jesse Hawken added to that point "This comparison would work if there was still widespread and institutional discrimination against the Irish in Canada."

And the new minister of Indigenous Services cracked a joke. 

Alleslev tweeted out an apology on Saturday afternoon. 

"I would like to sincerely apologize for a comment I made on CBC's The House. Pride parades represent a wonderful celebration of the LGBTQ community and are an important symbol in the fight for LGBTQ rights," she said. 

"I have always stood unequivocally in support of LGBTQ rights and will continue to do so in my role as Deputy Leader and as a parliamentarian. I did not intend to make erroneous and hurtful comparisons — I apologize unreservedly."

Alleslev was appointed deputy leader earlier this week. She was elected in 2015 as a Liberal MP, but crossed the floor to the Conservative side last fall citing issues with the Trudeau government's handling of key files.

Click below to listen to the full interview

Conservative deputy leader and Toronto-area MP Leona Alleslev defends Andrew Scheer's right to his own personal beliefs on same-sex marriage and tells host Chris Hall why she is a good choice for deputy leader. 7:48

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.