Bozo eruptions: Will gaffes on social issues affect Alberta election results?

The economy will be top of mind for many Alberta voters

The economy, not social issues such as LGBTQ rights, will be top of mind for Susan Yuen when she votes for the United Conservative Party in Alberta’s election on Tuesday.

“The social issues, as important as they are, do take a back burner, because what good do the social issues have if people can’t survive and cannot feed their families?” she asked at a pro-oil rally in Calgary last week.

The accountant has seen 30 to 40 per cent of her colleagues at her oil and gas company get the chop.

“We have to prioritize what’s important and I think what’s important right now is the economy and getting it back on track.”

The right-of-centre UCP led by Jason Kenney has been dogged by revelations of racist and homophobic remarks by candidates in open nomination contests and during the campaign. Kenney’s own history fighting LGBTQ rights as a young man has been put in the spotlight. He pins it on social mores at the time and has said it’s something he regrets.

It’s a different economy and global political climate than in 2012, when several “bozo eruptions” saw the Wildrose Party blow its lead in the polls and lose the election to the Progressive Conservatives.

The phrase “lake of fire” — a reference to a Wildrose candidate’s blog post describing where unrepentant gays would spend eternity — has become shorthand in Alberta for politically damaging bigotry.

In 2012 the economy was booming.

“When people are thinking about economy and jobs, they’re not necessarily thinking about equity,” said University of Calgary political scientist Melanee Thomas.

Thomas said she’s bothered by the either/or framing around the economy and social issues in this election, because research shows that diversity tends to have big economic payoffs. For instance, it tends to attract and retain skilled workers of all orientations and backgrounds.

“These things are the same issue,” she said. “You do not get to separate them.”

This election is also happening against the backdrop of a general swell in far-right populism and the attendant anti-immigrant sentiment espoused by U.S. President Donald Trump and the amorphous yellow-vesters.

“People might be more numb to it,” said Lori Williams, a political scientist at Mount Royal University in Calgary. ”The nerve is not as sensitive as it would have been in previous times.”

Kenney has argued that the NDP has led a “fear-and-smear” campaign by harping on UCP gaffes, because the New Democrats can’t defend their economic record in government. The NDP has been trying to woo small-c conservative voters unable to stomach views emerging from the UCP camp.

Kenny has distanced himself from remarks that led two star Calgary candidates to resign early in the campaign.

The left-leaning Press Progress website published part of a private 2017 Facebook conversation in which Caylan Ford seemed to lament the replacement of white people in their “homelands.”

Eva Kiryakos said someone outside the party was trying to smear her by threatening to release online posts in which she called Muslim migrants in Europe “rapefugees” and took aim at transgender washrooms in schools. Kenney thanked Kiryakos for her “selfless” decision to step aside.

Other candidates have come under criticism, but remain in the race, including Mark Smith, who in a 2013 sermon mentioned pedophilia while suggesting homosexual relationships aren’t “good love.” Kenney condemned the remarks, but said he was confident Smith would live by the UCP’s tolerant ethos if re-elected.

Williams noted bozo eruptions didn’t rear their heads until late in the 2012 campaign. In addition to the “lake of fire” debacle, another candidate suggested he was better able to lead his constituents because he was white. Wildrose leader Danielle Smith also argued the science of human-caused climate change was unsettled.

“The impact was sudden and devastating in that particular case,” but this time, it’s been a prolonged “drip, drip, drip,” Williams said.

“It has had an impact. The question is will it have enough of an impact to make a difference one way or the other.”

She said she can’t understand why, on a strategic level, Kenney hasn’t been more strenuous in his condemnations.

“Certainly some people are questioning if there’s some sort of debt owed to those (social conservative) constituencies within the party or if Jason Kenney himself is more sympathetic to some of those views.”

Thomas suggested those who have espoused racist or white nationalist views seemed to have been dealt with more harshly than those who made homophobic comments.

“I don’t think this is a bozo thing,” she said. “I think this is understanding that social conservative voters put some conservative parties ahead.”

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Community mourns the deaths of two Maskwacis toddlers

Siblings found drowned on family’s property

Gas prices in Sylvan Lake higher than surrounding area

The gas in town is being sold with a retail margin of about four to seven cents a litre

Sylvan Lake Hockey Camp hits 45 year milestone

The long-running hockey camp sees kids come from all over the world every year

Customs and Classics revved into Sylvan Lake

The 13th annual show had 163 cars parked on the Meadowlands Golf Club driving range July 13

New support line available for Alberta farmers

AgSafe Alberta hotline there to help navigate new farm rules and regulations

Rents in most Canadian cities are unaffordable for lower-income earners: study

Roughly one-third of households, or 4.7 million, are renters

Scheer on Trump: It’s ‘offensive’ to question the family background of critics

Trump is being called a racist for saying that the four congresswomen should go back where they came from

Instagram expands Canadian pilot removing ‘like’ counts to more countries

Social media giant plans to roll out the test in Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Japan, Italy and Ireland

Natural gas producers demand government action in open letter to Kenney

The letter warns that the viability of the natural gas sector is in jeopardy

Remains of missing Edmonton woman discovered outside of North Battleford: RCMP

The 25-year-old Edmonton woman was reported missing on May 12

Companies to appear before panel today in public inquiry into B.C. gas prices

A three-member panel by B.C. Utilities Commission will listen to up to four days of oral hearings

Interviews with family of highway shooting victim heard in Calgary court

Horst Stewin’s relatives were set to testify by video from Germany this morning, but a court translator said she was unable to proceed

Lower gas prices slow annual inflation rate to Bank of Canada’s 2% bull’s-eye

Prices showed strength in other areas — led by a 17.3 per cent increase in the cost of fresh vegetables

RCMP investigating alleged ‘sexual misconduct’ by cyclist on BCIT campus

BCIT said they were reviewing video evidence of the incident

Most Read