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Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford has drawn criticism from political analysts and supporters after he revoked the candidacy of Tanya Granic Allen just weeks ahead of the June 7 election.
Ford’s announcement came shortly after the Ontario Liberals held a news conference that zeroed in on a 2014 video in which they say Granic Allen “spewed hatred and homophobia” while discussing sexual education at a Croatian-Catholic Youth weekend in Norval, Ont.
The revelation left some questioning why he didn’t remove her sooner.
“If Liberal researchers can find these things online, there’s no reason why the provincial nominations committee who was tasked with screening candidates for these things couldn’t have found these things,” said Jamie Ellerton, a former Ontario PC candidate in the Parkdale-High Park riding. Ellerton was one of only three openly gay PC candidates during the 2014 provincial election.
The 10-second video, which was edited and posted on the Liberals’ website, shows Granic Allen saying that when she sees Croatia “trying to push radical sexualization on the young, or gay marriage, I almost vomit in disbelief.”
CBC News has not independently verified the video’s origins.
Ford declined an interview with CBC News on Sunday. Instead, spokesperson Melissa Lantsman said Ford’s statement, which described Granic Allen’s comments as “irresponsible,” would be the party’s only comment on the matter.
“We are a party comprised of people with diverse views that if expressed responsibly we would respect,” read the statement issued Saturday evening.
While some observers lauded the move, it left others questioning how Granic Allen became a candidate in the first place.
“Granic Allen’s discriminatory and bigoted statements should have kept her out of politics in the province of Ontario,” Chris Buckley, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, said in a statement.
“It is essential that we elect representatives who will support co-operation, collaboration and understanding among the people of Ontario and in our government.”
Ellerton, meanwhile, commended Ford for showing “decisive leadership” by removing Granic Allen, but blames the party for not catching the comments sooner.
“To have such vile comments specifically target a group of people with the terms that she used, there’s just no place for that in Ontario politics,” said Ellerton, noting her history of controversial comments made her a political liability for the PCs.
“She’s welcome to her own views, but when you look at when you’re a team, when you’re a member of a political party, everyone else having to defend such vile comments is very much a distraction.”
Granic Allen, 37, won the PC nomination for Mississauga Centre last month. Premier Kathleen Wynne appointed Bobbie Daid as the Liberals’ candidate in the riding shortly after, partly to counter what she says are Granic Allen’s discriminatory views.
Granic Allen, a former Tory leadership hopeful, gained notoriety during the race for her fierce criticism of Ontario’s recently revised sex ed cirriculum.
Previously a relatively unknown parental rights and anti-abortion advocate, Granic Allen was the kingmaker in the PC leadership race. Many of her supporters backed Ford on second and third ballots after she was eliminated from the contest.
Granic Allen was the only candidate to appear by Ford’s side as he addressed reporters following his victory.
Political analyst Michael Coren asserted she is a big reason why Ford secured enough votes to eke out his narrow win. Without Granic Allen, Ford may not successfuly courted the party’s social conservative members, he added.
“I get the strong feeling that Doug Ford was fairly happy with that, until people said to him — probably more experienced people — there’s a lot of baggage here and this could backfire,” said Coren, a broadcaster and commentator who was once identified as a “moral conservative.”
Ford also refused to heed calls from the Liberals and NDP to drop Granic Allen as a PC candidate.
This is not the first time the staunch social conservative has come under fire for past comments online.
Granic Allen’s inflammatory posts and tweets about Muslims and gay marriage, which date back to 2013 and 2014, surfaced last month.
Coren believes the timing of Granic Allen’s removal is significant.
This is an “intelligent and wise move,” he said, that will appeal to those voters who don’t see eye-to-eye with the socially conservative elements in the party but are looking for an alternative to Wynne.
“Just before the writ is dropped and the election begins, the conservatives have said, ‘we’re not as extreme as you thought we were,'” Coren said.
Some supporters of Granic Allen, however, characterized Ford’s move as “[declaring] war on social conservatives.”
“We’re ready to do battle,” said Jeff Gunnarson, vice-president of Campaign Life Coalition, a pro-life organization, in a statement.
Doug Ford knew about Tanya Granic Allen’s bigoted opinions when he accepted her support during the leadership race. He ignored it again when he nominated her. Cutting her lose now doesn’t free him or the PCs of hateful politics. It’s always about more that just one person. <a href=”https://t.co/gMR2MdBaLF”>https://t.co/gMR2MdBaLF</a>
Others, like Toronto Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam, questioned Ford’s credibility, asserting that Ford must be held accountable for supporting Granic Allen because he was previously aware of her “bigoted opinions.”
“Cutting her loose now doesn’t free him or the PCs of hateful politics. It’s always about more than just one person,” she wrote in a tweet.
The first televised leaders’ debate of the election race kicks off Monday night between Wynne, Ford and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.