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Controversial Wildrose leaflet had similarities to B.C. Liberals' Chinese-language ads smearing NDP

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Joseph McCarthy

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The Wildrose Party Chinese-language leaflet accusing Alberta's New Democratic Government of advancing communist ideology is not the first time conservative political parties have targeted Chinese-speaking voters in Western Canada with election literature that makes false and misleading claims.

The controversial Wildrose brochure was handed out in the campaign leading up to today's by-election in the Calgary-Foothills riding, which has a significant Chinese-speaking population.

In the 2013 B.C. provincial general election, ads and leaflets published in Chinese by a group supporting the governing Liberal Party (which despite its name is a conservative coalition) falsely accused the NDP of planning to make it possible for children to buy marijuana at school and block the sale of natural gas to China.

The B.C. smear ads, wrote former NDP Richmond-Centre candidate Gabriel Yui in an opinion piece published in 2013 in the Georgia Straight alternative newspaper, "were only directed to the Chinese-speaking community. I've not seen it in mainstream English or the South Asian media."

Yui noted that the Liberals directly used similar tactics in the 2009 B.C. provincial election.

"The smear tactic has become the Liberal Party's quick-win election strategy," Yui wrote, predicting that "if our society tolerates these kinds of untruthful and fraudulent practices, this deplorable trend will spread from government to the rest of our society."

Meanwhile, Wildrose Leader Brian Jean appeared on a Calgary talk radio program yesterday and not only failed to repudiate the claims in the leaflet, but echoed the lame excuse made earlier by a spokesperson for the campaign of Wildrose candidate Prasad Panda, that since the Communist Party of China claims to be socialist, it's OK to call the social democratic New Democrats communists. In fairness, that's my summary of the Wildrose argument, which you can read for yourself in the Herald. The party does not seem to have committed its position to writing.

NDP Calgary-Foothills candidate Bob Hawkesworth termed the Wildrose leaflet offensive and said it showed "a serious lack of respect" for the riding's Chinese-speaking voters "if they think that the Chinese community can be manipulated in this way."

Given Jean's response, it seems fair to conclude that encouraging red-baiting and witch-hunts in the style of the notorious Republican U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy in the early 1950s -- which the Wikipedia defines as demagogic, reckless and unsubstantiated accusations -- is acceptable for Wildrose candidates under Jean's leadership.

Former Ralph-Klein-era cabinet minister and 2011 PC leadership candidate Gary Mar has been campaigning for Conservative candidate Blair Houston in the riding.

Meanwhile, Alberta Chief Electoral Officer Glen Resler said yesterday that turnout to advance polls in the by-election -- required after the precipitous election-night resignation of former Progressive Conservative premier Jim Prentice on May 5 -- has been heavy.

An unofficial total of 4,146 voters voted in four days of advance polls, August 26-29. By comparison, Resler said in a news release, Calgary-Foothills electors cast 2,968 ballots in advance polls in the October 2014 provincial by-election and 4,062 advance votes during the 2015 provincial general election.

Unofficial results from the by-election will be posted on Elections Alberta's website starting at 8 p.m. tonight.

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

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