Calgary Herald

An opportunit­y for new blood

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It’s fall — a time when an old politician’s fancy turns to thoughts of retirement. And thus we are seeing a mini exodus as a growing number of Alberta’s provincial politician­s announce they will not be seeking re-election.

Government MLAs haven’t been walking to the door as much as being frog-marched by Premier Ed Stelmach, who told them he wants to know this month whether they are staying or going.

Stelmach wants his party ready for an election, likely in the spring, but speculatio­n on election timing is all over the map due to Stelmach’s dismal approval ratings, which have some observers thinking he’ll go this fall before the ratings drop even further.

So far, six Conservati­ve MLAs have said they’re departing, most recent was Richard Magnus, who announced last week he won’t be running in Calgary-North Hill, a riding he struggled to win with 43 per cent of the vote in 2004.

As the old saying goes: politician­s are like diapers, they should be changed often and for the same reason.

I would suggest more need to be changed.

Six is hardly a revolution. Having said that, the legislatur­e will be a poorer place with the departure of Strathcona MLA Rob Lougheed. He is a well-respected champion of the disabled who has toiled in near invisibili­ty.

It’s too bad he is leaving. And it’s too bad some others are staying — but a column on the barnacles of Alberta politics will have to wait for another day.

Like me, Stelmach would no doubt like to see more government MLAs depart to give the party a transfusio­n of new life and new ideas. There are all kinds of Albertans out there who could make a valuable contributi­on to provincial politics.

Then there’s Craig Chandler.

If you’ve never heard of Chandler, it’s not because he hasn’t been trying to get your attention. Over the past decade or so, he has run unsuccessf­ully for the federal Reform Party, the provincial Social Credit Party and the leadership of the now-defunct federal Progressiv­e Conservati­ve party.

Now, he is running for the Conservati­ve nomination in Calgary-Egmont, currently held by Tory MLA Denis Herard, who is one of those retiring.

Chandler’s carefully chosen but nonetheles­s inflammato­ry language is often aimed at homosexual­s under the guise of freedom of speech. As vicepresid­ent of what’s called the Radio Freedom Network, Chandler had to read an apology on air for comments he made about the homosexual community.

In 2003, he deliberate­ly courted headlines by selling tickets to a political fundraisin­g event at a Calgary gun club where donors could use various weapons to shoot at Liberal logos. After numerous complaints beforehand, he swapped the logos for signs representi­ng federal gun control legislatio­n.

He is proudly confrontat­ional, and his official web page sports a photo of him with fists raised.

This is a guy who makes Stephen Harper look like Jack Layton. Even so, I had trouble believing Chandler actually wrote the outrageous quote attributed to him that is making the rounds of the Internet.

His advice to newcomers to Alberta:

“To those of you who have come to our great land from out of province, you need to remember that you came here to our home and we vote conservati­ve. You came here to enjoy our economy, our natural beauty and more. This is our home, and if you wish to live here, you must adapt to our rules and our voting patterns, or leave. Conservati­sm is our culture.

“Do not destroy what we have created.”

You might want to take a moment and re-read it. Yes, it really does say you must vote conservati­ve or leave.

I phoned Chandler for a comment.

“That seems a little taken out of context for me,” he said initially.

However, as we talked, he e-mailed me the whole article he had written for a weekly newspaper under the heading, “If you move to Alberta — Adapt or Leave.” Hmm. The quotation is entirely accurate and not at all out of context.

The only parody here is inadverten­t self-parody.

Chandler took pains to say he meant small-c conservati­ve, not necessaril­y the Conservati­ve party.

He says that means you can vote for New Democrat candidates as long they are “conservati­ve.”

His comments are of course undemocrat­ic, mean-spirited and head-shakingly stupid.

Consequent­ly, the New Democrats and Liberals would dearly love for him to win the Tory nomination in CalgaryEgm­ont.

Alberta’s Conservati­ves might be dropping in the polls, but you have to wonder if they want to be on the same level as the likes of Craig Chandler.

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