First things first – I received a phone call from the Mark Dyrholm campaign today. I didn’t waste much time, I just politely told the caller I was firmly behind Danielle Smith. He said, “oh, so you’re supporting the libertarian then?” I simply said, “yes,” and left it at that.

At least they aren’t calling her a Liberal any more…

This is the thing about this campaign – it’s become more nasty than I was expecting. The sad thing it isn’t publicly nasty between the candidates – oh no – it’s getting nasty between the people involved in the two campaigns.

Over on the Dyrholm campaign is Craig Chandler — and yes, this is where I’m going with this post.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – Craig, I’m sure, honestly believes in what he is doing. He’s an unabashed social conservative; as is Mark Dyrholm. Neither should ever be embarassed or apologetic for their faith.

The issue I have, though, is how close Chandler an
d Dyrholm are together. It seems like a package deal. If the party elects Dyrholm, we get Chandler as well.

Dyrholm would make a good figurehead of the party. He’s clean-cut, well-spoken, intelligent, and engages a crowd well. However, knowing Chandler’s personality, there is little doubt in my mind who would be running the party from behind the scenes.

Chandler is, well, to be blunt, blunt. He’s a bulldozer. He says what he means, and means what he says. Sometimes, I think, to his detriment. Certainly his opinions and the way he expresses them turn people off.

Consider this news report from CFCN TV, when Chandler was running for the PC Nomination for the provincial riding of Calgary-Egmont:

Chandler went on to win the nomination in October of 2007, however Premier Ed Stelmach refused to sign his nomination papers.

I’ll leave it to you to decide whether Stelmach was right or wrong to make that decision, but listen to what Chandler said – “if you aren’t willing to adapt to our voting patterns, you can leave.”

Chandler has been involved with various political parties over the years – The Reform Party, The Alberta Social Credit Party, the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta, the Federal Progressive Conservative Party (he ran for the leadership, and withdrew prior to the first ballot), the Alberta Alliance, and now the Wildrose Alliance Party. Chandler’s eclectic history of political associations seems somewhat odd. One theory as to why Chandler would decide this would be that he’s simply trying to boost his own profile and influence and/or that of his business group, the Progressive Group for Independent Business, which, during his campaign speech for the federal PC leadership convention, he mentioned several times.

Mark Dyrholm is an active member of the PGIB; and it would seem that Chandler and Dyrholm go back quite a ways. In January of 2008, in the run up to the Wildrose Alliance executive election, Chandler arranged a slate of candidates affiliated with the PGIB. If you decide to take the time to read the whole thread that I’ve linked to there, you’ll see that the party brass did, in fact, know about this prior to the election meeting. It is certainly politically legitimate and fair game to arrange candidates as a slate, however one poster points out that the Wildrose Alliance is a merger between the Wildrose Party and the Alberta Alliance. Nowhere in the merger did the PGIB play a part, so why would the PGIB try with a slate of candidates to win a large number of positions on the executive? Why would Chandler run for one of those positions just a few days after re-joining the party?

Chandler has also created a Christian lobby group called Concerned Christians Canada, and, in early 2008, was required to write a letter of apology to Rob Wells for comments he made regarding homosexuality. On the subject of homosexuality, Chandler is entitled to his opinion, and is also entitled to express it. And he does. Repeatedly. This is again another example however, of how Chandler can bulldoze people. It’s not his message – it’s the way he packages it. It turns people off.

Interestingly, Concerned Christians Canada is also the same group which demanded the Calgary Zoo remove a statue of an Indian God. In their letter to the Zoo, Concerned Christians claimed that the Zoo “is not a place of religious indoctrination,” is “supposed to be a safe family environment free of religious icons and selective religious partiality”, and finally, the “display of foreign gods is offensive and does not reflect the views of the majority of Canadians.”

The Calgary Zoo refused to remove the statue, and that (rightly so) was the end of that. I do not know whether Chandler is still affiliated with Concerned Christians Canada (as his letter of apology states he is the “Outgoing CEO”) however I would assume that as the founder of the organization, he still has some affiliation with it. An organization that gets bent out of shape over a statue of an elephant is not one which represents the majority view of Alberta or Canada.

Lastly, there are rumours circulating around the Internet right now regarding the Dyrholm campaign purchasing memberships for people. If — and I can’t stress this enough — IF — this is true, then there are some serious concerns. If one purchases memberships in the names of other people, it is fraudulent and amounts to ballot-box stuffing.

With that said, let me be clear. This is RUMOUR. I have looked through a few blog entries and anonymous comments on blogs. The people making these comments may have an axe to grind against Chandler, but I, for one, have not seen anything which could come close to being considered concrete proof of the practise, so on the subject of purchasing memberships for other people, unless Craig Chandler confirms it (unlikely) or someone provides proof, I am personally prepared to give Craig the benefit of the doubt on this issue.

So to conclude:

A vote for Dyrholm is a vote for Chandler. Craig has a lot of political baggage which prevents him from running personally for leader, so he’ll put a figurehead out in front and run things from the back rooms. That figurehead is Mark Dyrholm, but the real power will be in Craig Chandler’s hands.

I have no problem with social conservatism or social conservatives themselves. I agree with a lot of Craig Chandler and Mark Dyrholm’s beliefs; however when push comes to shove, I’d rather side with an engaging, dynamic leader who does not make religion and social conservatism a plank in their election platform.

And that is why I am supporting Danielle Smith for Leader of the Wildrose Alliance.