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Conservatives boot B.C. candidate over video with homophobic comments

Last Updated Oct 4, 2019 at 11:20 pm EDT

Conservative Party of Canada candidate Heather Leung running in the Burnaby North–Seymour riding. NDP candidate Svend Robinson, running in the same riding, is calling on the Conservatives to boot Leung over homophobic comments she made in two videos that recently resurfaced. (Courtesy, Conservative Party of Canada)

The Conservative Party of Canada has booted Burnaby North–Seymour candidate Heather Leung over homophobic comments.

Two videos resurfaced this week with Leung making derogatory statements against LGBTQ people. In one, she stated an LGBTQ-inclusive plan for Burnaby schools aimed to “recruit” people to become homosexual, she claims LGBTQ people are “perverted” in a second video that promotes conversion therapy.

NDP candidate Svend Robinson called for Leung’s resignation Friday, calling her views hateful and unacceptable, saying the Conservatives needed to kick her out.

Friday night the Conservatives issued a statement saying she is no longer representing the party in the riding.

“Recent media reports have brought to light offensive comments made by Ms. Leung saying ‘homosexuals recruit’ children, and describing the sexual orientation of the LGBTQ community as ‘perverted’. There is no tolerance in the Conservative Party for those types of offensive comments,” reads a statement from the party.

Giving Leung the boot means the Conservatives will be one short of a full roster of 338 candidates. The deadline for registering candidates passed last Monday.

The news came at the end a difficult week for Leader Andrew Scheer.

Party organizers in Toronto had hoped to end the week with a show of force by holding one of the biggest rallies of the federal election campaign on Friday. But the hoped-for massive crowd didn’t materialize.

In an email earlier Friday to local candidates, a regional campaign manager was blunt about the need to fill a large barn at a reconstructed pioneer village in Northwest Toronto for a rally that evening.

“All campaigns are to pull your people off the doors, yes I actually said pull your people off the doors, and have them … come to this event,” wrote Georganne Burke, referring to shifting volunteers away from knocking on voters’ doors.

“Don’t bother to argue with me about this. I am not asking. I am telling,” she wrote, in an email whose authenticity was reluctantly confirmed by the party.

Friday’s event was not about candidates, the email continued, “as much as the crowd size. We want a minimum of 1,000 people.”

In the end, significantly fewer people showed. About 500 people cheered as Tory star Lisa Raitt, candidate for Milton and former cabinet minister, introduced Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.

Scheer’s team organized a type of rehearsal the night before, when a couple of hundred people gathered to hear the leader speak at a Chinese restaurant in Halifax.

The Conservatives’ current strategy is a marked departure from early in the campaign, when they organized few events of any significant size.

Despite the low turnout – considering what Burke’s email had called for – supporters were boisterous and roared when Scheer gave his classic campaign lines about cutting the carbon tax, and giving Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau the boot from office.

Several local candidates attended the rally, including Jasveen Rattan, candidate for York South-Weston.

She said she wasn’t aware of how many people the party wanted to attend the rally. “`I was told by my campaign manager where I had to be and what time I had to be here.”

Scheer has been on the defensive most of the week about his personal views on abortion, his previously unknown dual Canadian-American citizenship, and his performance in the first televised French leaders’ debate, which was widely panned by Quebec pundits.

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