By James Wood and Chris Varcoe, Calgary Herald June 19, 2014
After days of growing criticism, Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Ric McIver apologized Thursday for participating in the March for Jesus, saying he was unaware of “ugly, negative, nasty, untrue” anti-gay comments posted by the event’s organizer.
But McIver’s explanation was met with skepticism by critics who noted the long-standing relationship between the former Calgary alderman and the march planner, a local street preacher.
Speaking to reporters for the first time since the controversy erupted, McIver vowed to stay in the Tory leadership race, adding he wants to make it “very clear that I always have believed, and still do, in diversity and equality for all Albertans — gay, straight, every race, creed.”
“When you make a mistake, you have to admit it. Here I am, admitting it, and I apologize,” he said.
“I didn’t check the website, with all of this, you know, ugly … nasty mean-spirited stuff on this website that there is no excuse for, and I apologize for drawing attention to it.”
On Sunday, the Calgary-Hays MLA cut the ribbon to start the annual march organized by Calgary street minister Artur Pawlowski, who wrote in a blog that last year’s flood in southern Alberta was caused, in part, by God’s unhappiness over homosexuality.
“He is weeping for the perversions of homosexuality,” Pawlowski wrote.
McIver’s participation in the march drew fire from several corners and he issued a statement Monday saying he deplores discrimination.
However, the former Alberta transportation and infrastructure minister faced more calls — including one from Premier Dave Hancock — to further explain his position.
McIver has spoken out previously in support of Pawlowski and the Calgary Street Church, defending the minister in a video posted on the group’s website.
But he insisted Thursday the anti-gay attitudes were news to him.
McIver said he’s had a friendly relationship for years with Pawlowski, having watched the Street Church feed the poor and homeless in front of Calgary city hall. He was invited to join the March for Jesus, something he’s done for four consecutive years.
“I am a Roman Catholic and a Christian, proud to be that, so there it is. I went and showed up. It is an expression of my faith. What I did not do — and what I regret and what I apologize for — is I didn’t do my homework,” McIver said.
“The Christian faith is love your neighbour like you love yourself. What is on that website is ugly.”
The first-term MLA, who said he has accepted an invitation to attend a gay rodeo in the coming weeks, told reporters he will no longer be associated with the march.
Pawlowski did not return calls to the Herald this week and is currently out of the country, according to the Street Church.
Liberal MLA Kent Hehr said he didn’t buy McIver’s apology and said he would be “flabbergasted” if he hadn’t known Pawlowski’s views.
“Clearly Mr. McIver knew what he was doing when he marched in the parade. He understood what votes he was trying to get and he understood what that group represented,” said the Calgary-Buffalo MLA.