When the clock hit 1 p.m. Friday afternoon, Laurie Throness was still the candidate for the Chilliwack-Kent riding and at least 38 people were disappointed.
An open letter signed by those people was sent to BC Liberal Party leader Andrew Wilkinson earlier this week, urging him to remove Throness from the ballot due to perceived homophobic and transphobic views.
But during a campaign stop in Hope Friday night, Wilkinson defended the decision to keep Throness as the candidate.
“We are a party that is committed completely to being absolutely free of discrimination, and making sure all British Columbians are free of discrimination over age, income, country of origin, race, gender and sexual orientation.
“All of our candidates, including our Chilliwack candidates, are obliged to agree that there cannot be any discrimination in this province, period.”
The people who advocated removing Throness, including the president of the Chilliwack Metis Association, Louis De Jaeger, and Chilliwack School Trustee Willow Reichelt, suggested Throness showed discrimination when he expressed support for conversion therapy, the controversial practice of trying to alter sexual orientation through psychological, physical or spiritual intervention.
“Laurie Throness has publicly defended conversion therapy, which causes harm and trauma to LGBTQ+ children and youth,” the open letter noted. “Conversion therapy is a dangerous practice with no basis in science, and it costs lives. It is our view that there should be no space for views like this in a major political party seeking to govern.”
Responding to that, Wilkinson reiterated his position.
“We have ongoing discussions with all of our candidates about the principles of our party,” he said. “He (Throness) subscribes to our principles or he wouldn’t be on the ballot.”
Wilkinson declined to comment on what would happen in the future if Throness expressed controversial views.
“We don’t engage in speculation,” he said. “We engage in trying to get British Columbians back to work.”
Throness isn’t the only controversial candidate in the area.
Wilkinson’s party also took heat in the Chilliwack riding, where John Martin was put forth as the candidate over the strenuous objections of rival Diane Janzen.
Janzen jumped to the BC Conservative Party and is now going against Martin.
“It appears that there are some tender feelings around the town about these things,” Wilkinson acknowledged. “I stay out of that and tell our candidates to stick to our knitting. This is about opportunity and economic recovery from the pandemic, and these issues that arise between candidates shouldn’t be the public’s focus. It should be about making B.C. better.”
Wilkinson also took the opportunity to take a swipe at BC NDP leader John Horgan, casting him as the villain in the Martin/Janzen controversy.
“Being caught in an ambush election by John Horgan to protect his own job is what drove us to do over 50 very short-term nominations by appointment,” he said. “There was no alternative.”
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