Craig B. Chandler (born 1970) is a Canadian businessman, pundit, and political and religious activist. He is a co-founder and executive director of the Progressive Group for Independent Business. He was a candidate at the 2003 Progressive Conservative leadership convention and has also been a candidate for Member of Parliament in Ontario and Member of the Legislative Assembly in Alberta.
Early political experience
As an undergraduate at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario in the late 1980s, Chandler joined the Reform Party of Canada, where he was active as an organizer and fund-raiser. In the 1993 federal election, Chandler ran as a Reform Party candidate in the riding of Hamilton Mountain, finishing in a distant second place with 10,297 votes, behind Liberal incumbent Beth Phinney, who received 27,218.
Chandler moved to Alberta in 1995. He ran in the 1997 provincial election as a candidate for the Social Credit Party of Alberta in the riding of Calgary West, finishing with 1,100 votes, or 7.5% of the electorate. He later rejoined the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, and endorsed United Alternative candidate Brian Pallister in the party's 1998 Progressive Conservative leadership convention.
Progressive Conservative leadership campaign
In 2003, Chandler joined the Progressive Conservative Party and became a candidate for the party's leadership, running on a platform of creating a coalition between the PC and Alliance party caucuses. He withdrew prior to voting and endorsed Calgary lawyer Jim Prentice, who also supported cooperation between the parties.
James Muldoon, a fundraiser for front runner Peter MacKay, described Chandler as "the true black face of neoconservatism. He could live to be 100 and he'll never know the meaning of, I am my brother's keeper." Chandler's statements were called "bitter and resentful" by MacKay, whom Chandler criticized for supporting of the passage of Criminal Code of Canada amendment Bill C-250 that added homosexuals to the list of groups protected by hate crimes legislation. Chandler suggested that the amendment would lead to the banning of the Bible and other religious texts in schools and public libraries. Chandler complimented Tory MP Elsie Wayne on what he described as her "honest statements" about homosexuals, suggesting that no one has to apologize for having an opinion, even if it is not politically correct. This section of his twenty minute speech was booed by many delegates.
Chandler also called for a formal union of the PC and CA parties, advocating an electoral coalition between the two parties that would eventually lead to a merger. Chandler proposed that:
- Currently elected PC and CA MPs would run uncontested for their nominations and stand as sole right-of-centre candidates in their respective ridings in the next election;
- Liberal Party, New Democratic Party or Bloc Québécois ridings where the PCs ran closest to first-place in the 2000 election would have a PC candidate running as the sole right-of-centre choice in the next election and vice versa for ridings where CA candidates came closest to first-place.
- After the next election, the elected parliamentary caucuses of both parties would work towards a full-fledged merger.
At the end of his speech Chandler was complimentary of the leadership qualities of his competitors David Orchard and Scott Brison, before endorsing and pledging support to Calgary lawyer Jim Prentice's leadership bid to the astonishment of many delegates in attendance.
Chandler has claimed that he was asked to run for the leadership of the PC Party by Stephen Harper, at that time leader of the Canadian Alliance and Leader of the Official Opposition.
With the exception of statements in one debate on CPAC where he openly apologized to the citizens of the United States for the Government of Canada's unwillingness to participate in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, his candidacy was largely ignored by the media until the last days of the campaign. Chandler admitted in the Globe and Mail and the National Post (May 29, 2003) that he had never tried to seriously contest the leadership of the PC Party, but had instead served as a voice for the Progressive Group for Independent Business and their United Alternative efforts. PGIB donated $250,000 to Chandler's bid.
After the Tory leadership race, Chandler quickly receded from the public eye. He resurfaced briefly during the 2004 federal election, and during the March 2005 Conservative Party of Canada policy convention in Montreal. Both times he criticized Tory leader Stephen Harper's ambiguous position on freedom of speech for evangelical Christians, same-sex marriage, and civil union rights for common-law couples. Chandler also suggested that he resented Harper's attempts to "shut-up" socially conservative MPs.
In 1997, Chandler established a religious lobby group Concerned Christians Canada Inc. to rally support for Evangelical candidates, MPs and causes. Chandler's present connections to this group are unknown.
In February 2005, Chandler suggested on CBC Newsworld that he would be campaigning for the Conservative Party nomination in the next election in the riding of Calgary North Centre, then represented by Conservative MP Jim Prentice. This choice of riding was believed to be motivated by Prentice's continuing votes supporting same-sex marriage in Canada and, presumably, Chandler's opposition to this legislation. A contest for the nomination was precluded when the March CPC Policy Convention in Montreal voted in favour of allowing sitting Tory MPs to gain their nominations uncontested in minority government scenarios, where elections are less predictable.
Chandler wrote a controversial pre-Tory convention article for the March 15, 2005 issue of the Globe and Mail newspaper in which he criticized pro same-sex marriage MP Belinda Stronach, then a Conservative, as "a well-known liberal who has successfully infiltrated the new Conservative Party of Canada." He reiterated his statements on Stronach in a 2005 cover article on Belinda Stronach in Maclean's Magazine.
Stronach later crossed the floor to the Liberal Party of Canada. In an interview on the program CBC News: The Hour with host George Stroumboulopoulos, Chandler suggested that Stronach's discomfort with the new Tory party's policies was a sign that the new Conservatives would not be "just another liberal party," and that her defection was "a victory for family values supporters".
Alberta provincial politics
Chandler, who is from Ontario, caused controversy in August 2007 for comments stating, "You came to here to enjoy our economy, our natural beauty and more. This is our home and if you wish to live here, you must adapt to our rules and our voting patterns or leave. Conservatism is our culture. Do not destroy what we have created." This statement was strongly criticized by some, including the Premier of Alberta, Ed Stelmach.
In the fall of 2007, Chandler sought the Progressive Conservative nomination of Calgary-Egmont for the up-coming Alberta provincial election. Soon after winning the contest, however, Premier Stelmach and the Alberta Conservative Party's executive reviewed Chandler's candidacy. One concern was Chandler's association with a conservative Christian organization (the Concerned Christian Coalition), a group vocally opposed to homosexuality and gay rights. Chandler had been CEO of the organization when a letter was published in the Red Deer Advocate in 2002 by a member of that organization (Stephen Boissoin). In that letter ("Homosexual Agenda Wicked") Boisson suggested that homosexuals were as immoral as pedophiles, drug dealers and pimps, and that gay activists were "perverse, morally deprived individuals who are spreading their psychological disease". After numerous complaints the matter was referred to the Alberta Human Rights Commission (AHRC). During the Commission's hearing in July 2007 Boissoin testified that Chandler was aware of the letter and supported him. On November 30, 2007, the AHRC ruled that the letter broke provincial human rights law and exposed gays to hatred and contempt. In the 81-page decision, Lori Andreachuk of the AHRC wrote "In my view, it is clear that the letter expresses hatred or contempt for a group of persons on the basis of their sexual preference".  Prior to the decision and as part of a settlement with the CHRC (not AHRC since websites are under Federal jurisdiction), Chandler agreed to remove the letter from websites he controlled and further agreed to "cease and desist" from posting messages on the internet stating that homosexuals conspire against society, are sick, diseased or mentally ill, and want to have sex with children. As part of the settlement with the AHRC, Chandler was required to post a formal apology on his website  as well as the terms of the settlement. In December 2009, the ruling was overturned in Lund v. Boissoin on free speech grounds.
On December 1, 2007, during a closed meeting of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party's forty member executive, chaired by Premier Stelmach, Chandler spent two hours outlining why his nomination for the provincial riding of Calgary-Egmont should be endorsed. The executive voted not to endorse Chandler's candidacy, with Premier Stelmach subsequently stating that having Chandler stand in the riding was "not in the best interests of the party". "I have always been a strong believer in human rights" said the premier. Chandler responded the same day by quitting the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party, stating "I'm not going to belong to a party that doesn't want me."
In the 2008 Alberta election held on March 3, Chandler ran as an independent candidate in the Calgary-Egmont riding against Jonathan Denis, his replacement as the Tory candidate, and Liberal Cathie Williams. Chandler was widely expected to run as a candidate for the new Wildrose Alliance Party of Alberta but was defeated in his attempt to win election to the new party's board of directors. In the provincial election Chandler finished in third place with 2008 votes (16.2%), well behind Cathie Williams, the Liberal Party candidate, with 3289 votes (26.5%). The Progressive Conservative candidate (Jonathan Denis) won with 43.6% of the vote (5415 votes). " Chandler has spent an estimated $150,000 in his candidacy for a seat in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta  but the final campaign return indicated he had only spent $13,045.
Chandler claims to have managed 48 campaigns, presumably nominations, leadership races, and provincial and federal elections.
In November 2004 during the 2004 Alberta election, Craig Chandler managed the campaign of David Crutcher, an Alberta Alliance Party candidate in Calgary-Egmont. Crutcher was not elected, winning 1,657 votes, or 14% of the total. Notably, David Crutcher received more votes than any other Alliance candidate in an urban riding. In 2005, David Crutcher ran for the leadership of the Alberta Alliance and Chandler managed his leadership campaign. Crutcher placed third out of four candidates. Chandler also managed the successful campaign of MLA Art Johnston. He was also the campaign manager for Calgary Ward 14 winning alderman Peter Demong, and briefly served as his constituency assistant. Most recently, Chandler also managed the losing, third place race of Jon Lord for the Conservative Party nomination in Calgary Centre.
In the media
Chandler was involved in a documentary film titled, God Only Knows: Same Sex Marriage, which aired on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation television's The Lens (February 2006) program. In the documentary, Chandler and Dylan Crozier, a gay pastor from Vancouver, each spent a week walking in the other person's shoes.
Chandler is the host of a Calgary radio show called Freedom Radio Network (the "FRN" on CHRB-AM Calgary). In August 2006 a complaint was received by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council about Chandler's radio program, alleging, among other things, that the program made repeated abusive comments likely to expose persons or groups to hatred and contempt on the basis of sexual orientation, that it broadcast false and misleading news, and that the program was used to retaliate and threaten retaliation for making a human rights complaint. In January 2007, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council reached a decision in the complaint. The Panel concluded that a broadcast on July 29, 2006 was in violation of Clause 6 ("Full, Fair and Proper Presentation") and Clause 7 ("Controversial Public Issues") of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Code of Ethics, but not Clause 2 ("Human Rights"). The Panel's decision, which CHRB-AM was required to announce on-air and in writing, was as follows:
- "The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has found that CHRB-AM breached provisions of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Code of Ethics in its broadcast of an episode of Freedom Radio on July 29, 2006. Because of the cumulative effect of a series of incorrect, distorted or exaggerated comments about a private individual, the CBSC has found that CHRB breached Clause 6 of the CAB Code of Ethics, which requires the full, fair and proper presentation of opinion, editorial or other comment. Because of the one-sided commitment of nearly an entire episode of the program against that private figure and boasting that it would disregard any court decisions rendered in his favour, the CBSC has found that CHRB breached Clause 7 of the CAB Code of Ethics, which requires the fair treatment of all subjects of a controversial nature."
- Papp, Leslie (1994-04-15). "Reform party split hits Queen's Park". The Toronto Star. p. A10.
- "Official 1997 Alberta general election results". Elections Alberta. Archived from the original on 2007-01-10. Retrieved 2007-01-28.
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- "Controversy has followed Christian lobbyist for Harper," Guelph Mercury, March 4, 2002
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- George, Lianne, "Belinda billions", Maclean's Magazine, April 13, 2005
- "Alberta newcomers told to accept conservatism or leave", Globe and Mail, August 30, 2007
- Bell, Rick, Controversial Tory candidate Craig Chandler's political career is on life support, waiting for Stelmach to decide whether to pull the plug", Calgary Sun, November 23, 2007
- "Pastor, Christian coalition violated human rights law, Alberta panel rules", CBC News, November 30, 2007
- Walton, Dawn "Panel denounces ex-pastor's anti-gay comments", Globe and Mail, December 1, 2007
- "Pastor, Christian coalition violated human rights law, Alberta panel rules", CBC News, November 30, 2007
- Walton, Dawn, "Panel denounces ex-pastor's anti-gay comments", The Globe and Mail, December 1, 2007
- Bell, Rick, "Tories boot Chandler", Calgary Sun, December 2, 2007
- "Alberta Tories oust candidate linked to anti-gay controversy", The Globe and Mail, December 1, 2007
- Bell, Rick, "Tories boot Chandler", The Calgary Sun, December 2, 2007
- Bell, Rick, "Controversial Tory candidate Craig Chandler's political career is on life support, waiting for Stelmach to decide whether to pull the plug", The Calgary Sun, November 23, 2007
- Macdonald, Jim, "Alberta Tories oust candidate linked to anti-gay controversy", Canadian Press, December 1, 2007
- Walton, Dawn and O'Neill, Katherine, "Ridings to watch", Globe and Mail, February 4, 2008
- McCoy, Heath, "New party to field full slate", Calgary Herald, February 6, 2008
- 2008 General Election Statements of Official Results|
- Candidate Campaign Period Return: Craig Chandler|
- Freedom Radio Network
- Olsen, Tom, "No small job ahead for new party leader", Calgary Herald, November 20, 2005
- GOD ONLY KNOWS: SAME SEX MARRIAGE, The Lens, February 7, 2006, accessed January 29, 2008