Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Saga of Craig Chandler

When the saga of Craig Chandler broke this fall, I didn't blog about it. As much fun as it would have been to skewer Craig (and after reading this post, you'll fully appreciate just how much fun it is!), the fact was he was just some guy going for the Tory nomination and I didn't think comments of his, no matter how ridiculous they sounded, were really newsworthy until he became an official candidate.

Luckily for us, that day has arrived.

For those unfamiliar with Craig Chandler, as they say in Pushing Daisies, the facts were these:

-If you're from outside Alberta, you might remember Craig Chandler as the guy who showed up with between zero and six delegates (depending who you ask) at the 2003 leadership race and threw his support behind Jim Prentice, much to the dismay of the Prentice team. In the words of wikipedia:

The night before the PC leadership convention, Chandler delivered a platform that the Canadian Press described as homophobic, fundamentalist and "neoconservative to the bone." James Muldoon, a fundraiser for front runner Peter MacKay, described Chandler as "the true black face of neoconservatism. He could live to be 100 and he'll never know the meaning of, I am my brother's keeper." [1]. Chandler's statements were called "bitter and resentful" by MacKay, whom Chandler criticized for supporting of the passage of Criminal Code of Canada amendment Bill C-250 that added homosexuals to the list of groups protected by hate crimes legislation.

-You may also remember Craig as the guy who organized a fundraiser where you could pay to shoot guns at Liberal logos.

-Craig has been a member of the Reform Party, Social Credit Party, Progressive Conservatives (federal and provincial), and Canadian Alliance. He the campaign manager for the Alberta Alliance candidate in Calgary Egmont last election. I remember him showing up at the all candidates debate and asking an abortion question last time.

-In August, Craig got headlines by posting the following online:

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 can watch the CTV recap here, featuring a great closing tag by Darrell Janz: that Craig has the nomination, I think it's fair to ask a few questions that have been on my mind for quite some time:

1. Ed Stelmach responded to Craig's initial comments by saying "This province has welcomed newcomers and we will continue to welcome newcomers.” Why then, did his communications director use the same talking points as Craig to blame Stelmach's plunging poll numbers on new Albertans?

2. If people have to "adapt or leave" to the political culture of where they live, does that mean that Craig needs to leave a "left of centre" country like Canada? Should Conservatives be forced to leave Redmonton? Or does Chandler's advice only hold true for provinces?

3. If it only holds true for provinces, should Conservatives who move to Ontario be forced to "adapt or leave"? Is that why Craig left Ontario in the 90s?

4. Do current Albertans need to leave too? 53% of Albertans voted against the PCs last election. In fairness, Craig has clarified his comments to say that he meant small "c" conservatism. Still, 42.2% of voters voted for the Liberals, NDP, or Greens last provincial election in Alberta. Should they "adapt or leave" or is it only newcomers who need to? And what of the 60% of Albertans who didn't vote last election? If they didn't feel strongly enough about the PCs to take 15 minutes to vote for them, should they "adapt or leave" too?

5. If "Conservatism is Alberta's culture and we don't want it destroyed", should the culture be protected? But...if conservatives believe culture shouldn't be protected (damn the CBC!) isn't that a contradiction? How should we protect Alberta's conservative culture? Subsidize the Western Standard? Build more statues of Peter Lougheed? As a big culture guy, I'm open to ideas.

6. Chandler says newcomers should adapt to Alberta's "voting patterns". But, if over half of Albertans didn't vote last time, isn't our "voting pattern" just not voting. So, should newcomers simply not vote, then? Or, if he means historical voting patterns, Alberta's historical voting pattern is to kick the incumbents out after 30 years or so...if that's the case, we're due for a government change.

7. Does Chandler feel we should do something to restrict entry into Alberta? Should people take a test in conservatism before they are allowed to move here? Or will defacing a Pierre Trudeau portrait be enough to grant them residency?

8. How does Chandler reconcile these two statements?

Media Release: "Some in our party have become complacent and think we have the natural right to govern because we are conservatives."

Website: "Craig Chandler is seeking the riding nomination for the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party. We all know that whoever wins the nomination will surely become your next MLA."

The obvious conclusion is that Craig Chandler is among the "some in our party" but I don't quite think that's what he's getting at...

9. On Chandler's website he talks about putting Alberta's democratic house in order. Is telling people how they should vote part of this?

10. On CTV, Chandler talks about the conservative philosophy of "not spending, and not going into debt". Given that the Tories increased spending by 17% in their spring budget and are intent on going into debt with a wide range of P3 projects, do they really represent Alberta's culture of conservatism? What does Craig think of the front page "Alberta to take on debt for deal?" headline he no doubt read in the Herald yesterday?

11. If Chandler explains the drop in Stelmach's Calgary support from 59% in January to 30% in August as being because of these foreigners moving to Alberta, wouldn't it mathematically stand to reason that Calgary's population has at least doubled in the last 9 months? If so, how come no one else has noticed?

12. Chandler discounts the poll because it was conducted by Cameron Strategies who poll for Dave Bronconnier. But didn't Cameron Strategies also poll for Lyle Oberg during the PC leadership race?

13. Was Chandler's September 19th press release intended to be satircal or was that just a delightfully enjoyable typo?

> Wednesday, September 19, 2007
> Record Membership Sales After Media Attacks

14. Why did Chandler edit his blog post and "than" lie in a Herald Op-ed about what he'd said originally on this blog?

15. Will Ed Stelmach support the will of a local riding association and sign Craig's nomination papers or will he oust his democratically nominated candidate?

As a constituent in Calgary Egmont, I'm a little torn about this one. Having Craig Chandler as my MLA is a scary thought but, at the same time, it puts a riding that was never going to elect a Liberal MLA before into play. The Alberta Liberals have nominated former Catholic school board trustee Cathie Williams in the riding - quite the catch. Cathie is an accomplished woman who is smart, politically astute, passionate about policy, and not Craig Chandler. These four qualities of hers should make Calgary Egmont a riding to watch during the upcoming provincial election.



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