Bad behaviour clouds policy announcements
Candidates under fire for drunk driving, racist views
Twe don’t have that type of poverty in Canada, we have low income Tory candidaTe chris alexander
he past behaviour of federal election candidates was in the spotlight Wednesday as Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff dumped a Quebec candidate who called aboriginal people “featherheads” and a newspaper revealed another Grit nominee had once been convicted of drunk driving.
A star Tory candidate, meanwhile, came under fire for his remarks on whether Canada has conquered poverty.
The controversies drove Wednesday’s policy announcements i nto the background as scrutiny of potential MPs and their pasts dominated the agenda.
The case of Quebec Liberal candidate Andre Forbes elicited the quickest reaction.
“As soon as I was apprised of past comments made by the Liberal candidate in Manicouagan, Andre Forbes, I immediately asked my staff to inquire about their validity,” Ignatieff said in a statement.
“As a result, Mr. Forbes has been informed that he is no longer a candidate for the Liberal Party of Canada. Mr. Forbes’ comments have no place within the Liberal Party of Canada.”
Forbes, who is Metis, founded an association called the Rights of Whites and made a series of allegedly racist comments which came back to haunt him after the NDP brought them to light.
“We all know that the aboriginals will not keep their jobs . . . I have worked for many years for Gulf Paper of Clarke City, which closed in 1968. Many Montagnais worked there. I only remember one who did a good job,” Forbes is quoted as saying in Le Soleil newspaper in March 2002.
According to the NDP, another organization Forbes ran — Metis Cote-Nord — also suggested in a letter to Hydro- Quebec in January 2009 that: “If our Metis community was formed of Muslims, homosexuals or of an association of elderly ladies making moccasins out of caribou skin, would Hydro-Quebec consult with us? Yes.”
When Postmedia News reached Forbes’ campaign office in Sept-Iles, Que., Christian Turgeon, an official with Metis Cote-Nord who signed the Hydro-Quebec letter, said Forbes only created the Rights of Whites organization to attract media attention to the plight of Metis people in the area, who felt excluded from negotiations between the government and the Innu.
Even then, Turgeon said he was surprised Forbes, a well-known Metis advocate, would have said anything racist because the Metis and Innu lived closely together.
Forbes was stuck in a snowstorm and couldn’t be reached for comment, Turgeon said.
Forbes wasn’t the only Liberal candidate to garner attention Wednesday.
Mandeep Bhuller, the Liberal candidate in Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission, B.C., was convicted in 2005 of impaired driving, according to court records reviewed by the Vancouver Sun.
He was found guilty on March 29, 2005 and sentenced to an $800 fine and a one-year driving prohibition.
“I made a serious mistake,” Bhuller said in an interview. “I’m embarrassed by it.”
Bhuller said the day he was pulled over he had taken some muscle relaxants for back pain and later had two mixed drinks while out with friends.
Bhuller said he has since tried to make up for his mistake by volunteering in his community and serving as a school board trustee.
Liberal party spokesman Brad Zubyk said Bhuller disclosed his conviction during the party’s vetting process.
“There was openness and contrition,” said Zubyk.
“There is no way this is a bad man.”
Bhuller has spina bifida and his condition has worsened since 2001.
He is in a wheelchair and no longer drives.
Controversy for the Conservatives Wednesday took the form of a short excerpt from a YouTube video.
In it, Chris Alexander, Canada’s former ambassador to Afghanistan and the Conservatives’ star candidate in the Toronto-area riding of AjaxPickering, told an audience in March he believed Canada had eliminated poverty in this country — at least by the levels the World Bank recognizes.
“We don’t have that type of poverty in Canada, we have low income,” Alexander said in the video.
“You’re lying,” an older woman interjected on the video, which was circulated by the Liberals in an attempt to suggest Alexander was out of touch with reality.
Alexander said the clip was taken out of context, and he was trying to suggest poverty in Afghanistan is much deeper than inequalities in Canada.
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper was also on the defensive, but on issues not related to his candidates.
Harper sidestepped questions about whether the Conservatives are monitoring Facebook and other social media sites to weed out individuals who aren’t considered trueblue Conservatives when they attend Tory rallies.
Harper declined to elaborate on an incident in London, Ont., in which two students were ejected from a Conservative rally after one of them had her picture taken with the Liberals’ Ignatieff.
Instead, he suggested the Tories had to turn people away from their ridings because too many were showing up.
The controversies overshadowed campaign announcements from the leaders.
Harper announced $50 million over two years for loans meant to help newcomers upgrade their skills so their foreign credentials could be recognized in Canada.
Ignatieff trumpeted his plan to bring high-speed Internet access to all of Canada’s regions within three years.
NDP leader Jack Layton unveiled a $537-million plan that would improve home care to Canada’s increasing population of seniors.