Ric McIver’s long-term political aspirations could be in jeopardy, warn political analysts, as tensions continue to simmer over his participation in a weekend Calgary march organized by a preacher with anti-gay views.
“It’s one of those things where’s he’s kind of trapped,” said Mount Royal University’s David Taras on the outlook for McIver, one of three vying for the Tory leadership job. “If he continues to discuss it and it gets worse, he sinks deeper . . . if he says nothing, of course, it’s just deafening and you fall into a trap of your own silence.”
Taras said, however, if he were in the aspiring ex-cabinet’s minsters shoes, “I would call a news conference and I think there are apologies that are needed.”
On Sunday, McIver posted a photo to Twitter commenting on the flags at the annual March for Jesus. He’s taken part in the event the past four years.
But the march’s organizer, notorious Calgary Street Church preacher Artur Pawlowski, has blamed 2013′s historic flooding partially on the “perversions of homosexuality,” and an online posting advertising the march claimed last year the city’s streets “were flooded with people of wrong sexual preferences.”
McIver did post a statement to Facebook Monday in which he said “Albertans have the right to live their lives as they choose,” but inquiries for an interview put in for a second time Tuesday were not returned.
Lori Williams, a fellow Mount Royal political scientist, said McIver likely entered the Tory race with “longer-term ambitions,” noting he would be a long-shot to top perceived frontrunner Jim Prentice.
But she said criticism of his ties to Street Church could cause permanent damage.
“If it doesn’t go away then, I think, he’s going to have to very explicitly denounce the comments by Pawlowski and some of his preaching and (the remarks) on that website,” she said.
But Craig Chandler, a political activist and three-time participant in the March for Jesus, said he’s not sure many of those partaking in the event even know who Pawlowski is or his views on homosexuality.
He said the event is generally advertised on community church bulletin boards, but conceded it may be time for the Calgary Christian community to delve a little deeper into who’s steering the annual march.
“This isn’t about Street Church, this isn’t about Art,” he said.
Stephen Wright, president of Pride Calgary, said he believes even if McIver attempts to remedy the situation, it may be “too little too late.”
“He should have researched what he was going to . . . I think it’s damaged is credibility as a candidate,” Wright said, noting the organization has no record of the long-time municipal and provincial politician partaking in their annual Pride Parade.
Many critics of McIver’s allegiance to Pawlowski were quick to dub it “Lake of Fire 2.0,” a reference to what’s now viewed largely as a campaign gaffe by Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith when she opted against condemning remarks from one of the party’s candidates in 2012. Many believe that move cost her that year’s election.
Speaking to Newstalk 770′s Kingkade & Kelly show Tuesday, Smith called the Street Church group “extreme,” noting they once verbally attacked her for visiting a Hindu temple.
“They have absolute intolerance for everyone . . . Albertans want their political leaders to stand up and be strong in the face of intolerance,” Smith said. “We are a very tolerant society, a very tolerant party, but you can’t be tolerant of this kind of ridiculous statement and this kind of intolerance.”
The PC Party has also issued a statement vouching for inclusive values, but stopped short of taking a shot at McIver.