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NDP calls for Jason Kenney to fire UCP candidate over recording of remarks

EDMONTON — Alberta’s NDP is calling on United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney to fire former education critic Mark Smith for offensive remarks — an accusation Smith disputes.

NDP candidate Sarah Hoffman says Kenney must cancel Smith’s candidacy in the April 16 provincial election.

“Mark Smith’s comments are offensive, homophobic and completely neglect women’s rights,” Hoffman said in a statement issued Tuesday.

“Jason Kenney must fire him immediately.”

Smith, a former high school teacher who is running for re-election in Drayton Valley-Devon, had served as the caucus education critic.

Earlier Tuesday, a snippet of audio surfaced on social media from a sermon he delivered in 2013 that was posted on the website of the Calvary Baptist Church in Drayton Valley.

On the recording, Smith is heard questioning how anyone who has an abortion could say it’s done out of love.

He also discusses how TV programs try to convince people that love among homosexuals is “good love.”

“Heck, there are even people out there, I could take you, I could take to you places on the website I’m sure, where you could find out that there’s, where pedophilia is love,” he said in the recording.

Smith issued a statement on social media later Tuesday.

In it, he said he doesn’t recall making the remarks, but said, “I did not say that love between same-sex couples was not love. I merely remarked on media commentary.

“That said, I regret how my commentary was framed at the time,” wrote Smith.

“Of course I do not believe that homosexuality is akin to pedophilia. I unequivocally apologize if anyone was offended or hurt. Obviously that would never be my intention.

“Our leader and party have been clear. It doesn’t matter who you love or how you worship. All are welcome in our party and I am fully supportive of that.”

The recording was posted Tuesday on Twitter by Gaywire, a show that airs on Edmonton radio station CJSR.

The UCP has already seen two of its Calgary candidates — Caylan Ford and Eva Kiryakos — resign over intolerant remarks on social media.

The issue of LGBTQ rights and protections for minorities have become an issue in the Alberta election, with critics of Kenney saying he cannot be trusted to enforce them. 

But Kenney, a Catholic, has promised that if he becomes premier he would not legislate on divisive social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage that have already been settled by courts and lawmakers.

However he has been criticized for promising to roll back some legislated protections for children who join gay-straight alliance clubs at schools.