A Canadian pastor running for Alberta’s provincial legislative assembly took to the radio to do what all politicians do — boast about the qualities that make him the ideal candidate. But the personal trait this politician chose to highlight has done far more damage than good.
“I think as a Caucasian, I have an advantage,” Ron Leech told a Calgary radio station on Sunday. “When different community leaders such as a Sikh leader or a Muslim leader speaks, they really speak to their own people in many ways. As a Caucasian, I believe that I can speak to all the community.”
Leech, a candidate for the conservative Wildrose Party, is competing in one of the city’s most ethnically diverse electoral districts, Calgary-Greenway, running against incumbent Manmeet Bhullar of the Progressive Conservative Party.
“These were incredibly stereotypical, disrespectful and unfortunate comments made by Mr. Leech,” Bhullar told ABC News.
Albertans look beyond skin color and religion, the incumbent added, pointing to himself as evidence.
“You have a guy who looks like me running for a second term in Alberta,” Bhullar said, with a light laugh.
Bhullar, 32, was born and raised in Calgary and is of Sikh faith.
Members of Bhullar’s party, the Progressive Conservatives, have also come under fire recently for somewhat similar remarks.
Muhammad Rasheed, a PC candidate running in another multiethnic electoral district in Calgary, told a college reporter that his opponents would not do well in the upcoming election because “people like to see someone like them in the legislative assembly.”
As for the Wild Rose candidate, Leech issued an official apology to the media earlier this week. His office declined ABC News’ request for an interview, sending along a statement from the candidate instead. In it, Leech said his comments were “misconstrued.”
“What I intended to convey is that it is not a disadvantage for me, as a Caucasian, to serve in this multi-ethnic community,” read the statement. “I love and respect the richness of the diversity which exists in Calgary-Greenway.”
Beyond Leech, Bhullar also criticized Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith for not condemning the comments.
“I’m not concerned about them,” Smith said Wednesday, “I think every candidate puts forward their best argument for why they should be the person to represent the community.”
“Albertans look for candidates’ best arguments on health care, the education, the economy,” said Bhullar. “The best arguments are not what the color of one’s skin may be, or what religious denomination one may belong to.”