A day after being dropped by the Conservative Party over past offensive remarks towards the LGBTQ2 community, a B.C. candidate is continuing to campaign — and her team says she’s not going anywhere.
The party said Friday that Heather Leung will no longer represent the riding of Burnaby North-Seymour, hours after video resurfaced of her suggesting “homosexual people … recruit more and more people into their camp.”
The 2011 video taken by Burnaby local newspaper Burnaby Now during protests over an LGBTQ2-friendly school board policy goes on to show Leung decrying anti-bullying initiatives for promoting “homosexual, transexual, all kinds of homosexual acts” to students.
On Saturday, Leung’s campaign manager Travis Trost — still surrounded by Conservative signage at the campaign office — said her ouster has not changed their plans.
“Elections Canada has informed me the ballots are printed, Heather’s name is on the ballot, and Conservative is going to be attached to her name,” he said.
“I realize this is a weird situation given all that’s happened within the last day or two. But she’s on the ballot, she doesn’t come off, and we’re going to campaign and do our best for our present voters and possible future constituents in Burnaby North-Seymour.”
While Leung’s name will still appear on the ballot as the Conservative candidate, the party said she will not receive any support from the Conservatives. If she wins the election, she will not be part of the Conservative caucus.
The deadline to name candidates for all parties was Monday, meaning the Conservatives will be unable to put forward a new candidate to replace Leung.
Leung was not available for an interview Saturday, with Trost saying she was attending events in the Chinese community. She has avoided the media throughout most of the campaign.
Trost said part of the campaign’s strategy moving forward will be to boost Leung’s media availability and presence in the riding.
“We’ve had some problems, frankly, with national headquarters constraining our media availability,” he said. “At this point, we just want to make sure people can know what Heather is about, and we’re going to try and be as accessible as possible.”
Global News has reached out to the Conservative Party for comment.
Trost did not say whether Leung regrets her past comments, opting instead to let her speak for herself. He promised Leung would be made available in the coming weeks.
At an all-party debate held shortly after the Conservatives dropped Leung Friday, the chair meant for her sat empty on the stage as the other candidates spoke to voters.
Following the debate, some of the candidates were quick to praise the Conservative Party’s decision, while others said they needed more time to think about their response.
NDP candidate Svend Robinson, who is gay, said Leung’s comments referring to LGBTQ2 people as living “perverted lifestyles” and her support of conversion therapy “does not reflect the values of this community.”
“I don’t think Andrew Scheer had any choice,” he said. “If he’s serious about respecting all Canadians, he needed to dump her and he did. It’s a good day for this community.”
Robinson said he’s heard from longtime Conservative voters who were “appalled” that Leung had been allowed to run, and that those voters were now throwing their support behind him.
Green candidate Amita Kuttner, who identifies as non-binary, said they took the comments personally and was happy to see Leung dropped.
“Her comments were basically supporting my erasure as an individual,” they said. “I’m happy they’ve suspended her as a candidate because it means the Conservatives as well think those views don’t belong in discourse.”
Liberal candidate Terry Beech said he was focused on the debate and had only heard the news Leung had been dropped shortly before the event.
“I think it’s good for our community that this happened,” he said. “I’m not going to pontificate on what the politics of the Conservative decision is. I’m going to go home and think about it.”
People’s Party of Canada candidate Rocky Dong also wouldn’t give his thoughts on Leung’s ouster, saying he needed to think about his response and refer to his party’s position on the issue.
“Every party is supposed to have a candidate to represent their voice, that’s my position,” he finally offered.
Two other candidates for the riding, Libertarian Lewis Dahlby and Independent Robert Taylor, did not attend the debate and have not issued statements on the issue.
Leaving an event in Newcastle, Ont., on Saturday, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said he still had confidence in his campaign’s vetting process as he walked briskly towards his tour bus.
“We ask our candidates to be open and forthcoming,” he said. “And when we become aware of things that are inappropriate, we take appropriate action.”
Scheer said Friday his party “stands for inclusiveness and the rights of all Canadians, including LGBTQ Canadians, and will always do so.”
Trost said he understands why Leung’s comments were raised in light of the campaign, but said he’s hopeful people will reach out to Leung directly for her views.