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Acclaimed to party official's job, social conservative activist Craig Chandler is sure to embarrass sad sack Alberta PCs

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Craig Chandler

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Craig Chandler -- just about the closest thing to ballot box poison in Alberta -- has just presented Progressive Conservative interim Leader Ric McIver with an embarrassing political problem.

Chandler, who keeps turning up again like the proverbial bad penny, has recently been acclaimed as one of the PC Party's regional directors in Calgary.

This is bad news for McIver because, not to put too fine a point on it, Chandler's sincerely held but extreme social conservative views are bound to embarrass the party, especially if it has hopes of appealing to voters a little closer to the centre than those who support the Wildrose Opposition.

The PC leader is either going to have to put up with the discomfort of skidding a person whose opinions on quite a few topics aren't that far from his own and to whom he may owe a favour, or he's going to have to see his PCs suffer further electoral damage by having someone like Chandler and his Donald-Trump-like inability to shut up closely associated with the party.

By the sound of a party official's comment quoted in yesterday's various editions of Postmedia's Alberta Frankenpaper, they're leaning toward letting him stay.

Chandler's opinions, which are nowadays wildly out of sync with those of a significant majority of Albertans, are why both former PC premier Ed Stelmach and former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith told him he wasn't welcome in their parties.

Stelmach skidded Chandler as a candidate in the Calgary-Edgemont riding in 2008, apparently for his involvement in an anti-gay-rights epistle from a group he headed at the time called the Concerned Christian Coalition. Chandler says he didn't write the letter, which attracted the negative attention of the Alberta Human Rights Commission.

Smith tweeted at him to get lost in 2014 when he suggested he was just the guy to bridge the gap between the Wildrosers and the Tories. This was not long before Smith herself tried to do the same thing, so presumably the unite-the-right part of his message wasn't what prompted her to say, "Your views & how you express them are wrong for Wildrose and Alberta. I would never let you be a candidate for #wrp."

Chandler responded, by the way, by claiming he played a key role in establishing the Wildrose Party after he was kicked out of the Tories -- which actually may be true, although the embarrassed Wildrosers denied it at the time.

It's very doubtful Chandler's presence as a PC party official can or will be ignored by voters or politicians from other parties, not to mention at least one of his fellow PCs. It's hardly a good sign about the party's future that no one could be bothered to oppose his candidacy at the recent meeting of the party's board.

He is, after all, the fellow who famously advised Ontarians and other immigrants in 2007:

"[t]o 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."

Those newcomers ignored him in May 2015, as did many native-born Albertans, and just look at what happened!

Chandler has a long and well-established history of activities with various fringe political parties on the right, unsuccessful bids for political office, and controversy surrounding his vociferously expressed hostility to the idea of gay rights.

At least he is a true Westerner -- he comes from somewhere west of Toronto, that is, maybe Hamilton, the well-known steel town where he went to university -- and ran unsuccessfully for public office in Ontario before coming out West in 1995 and doing the same thing again.

He calls himself a religious activist and apparently believes Christians are the victims of persecution in modern-day Canada. He has done things like organize an event where like-minded conservatives could shoot guns at targets with Liberal Party logos on them, which presumably is pretty much what Jesus would have done in the same circumstances. He used to answer his telephone by barking "Happy Capitalism!"

Chandler's political campaigns for others don't seem to have enjoyed much more success than those he ran for himself.

He is one of the founders of a noisy fringe group in Calgary called the Progressive Group for Independent Business, which claims on its website to have played a key role in the election as Calgary city councillor of a fellow named, er … Ric McIver. This too may be an accurate interpretation of events. 

Back in 2010 the current PC leader was beaten in the race to be mayor of Calgary by a small-l liberal fellow named Naheed Nenshi, who later quipped that McIver was the only person Chandler ever managed to get elected.

Readers will forgive me, I hope, for cribbing most of the background material on Chandler for this report from posts I have published on the same topic in the past. I only did it so I could whip something up quickly before going to a unite-the-right meeting in Edmonton yesterday evening, about which I'll have more to say very soon. It's not plagiarism if you're plagiarizing yourself.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

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