By Jeff Pelletier
Special to The Telegram
Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie says candidate Michael Normore was asked not to run under the party banner after a series of old social media posts expressing anti-abortion and anti-gay views surfaced in recent days.
The posts, which became public this week, date back to 2016 and have since been deleted. They condemn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 decision to legalize same-sex marriage and include links to LifeSite, an anti-abortion website.
Crosbie said he spoke to Normore and asked him to step aside from running as the PC candidate in Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair in eastern Labrador. Normore apparently refused, and Crosbie said he would not be allowed to serve in the PC caucus, if elected.
“I’ve taken decisive action and we’ve dealt with the issue,” Crosbie said during a Friday news conference outside his campaign headquarters in St. John’s.
Crosbie said he doesn’t share Normore’s views on LGBTQ+ rights and abortion rights, but he would not denounce them.
“They’re opinions that a majority of the people in the PC party don’t share, they’re opinions that a majority of the people in our society don’t share, but I’m not about to denounce his personal opinions,” he said.
Some candidates are criticizing Crosbie for the way he handled the situation.
Nicole Kieley, the Liberal candidate in Mount Pearl North, has worked with organizations that work to prevent violence toward women. She says candidates who maintain these views are dangerous to “vulnerable” communities.
“To have somebody who’s looking to lead within a district with that view is just not acceptable,” Kieley said. “I think this needs to be looked at with all parties and candidates. We just can’t be tolerating opinions that are discriminatory and harmful.”
NDP Leader Alison Coffin released a statement on behalf of the party, condemning the PCs for allowing Normore to run and reaffirming her party’s pro-choice and pro-LGBTQ+ stance.
“This is in complete violation of our basic human rights covered by the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Code,” Coffin stated. “It is disturbing that he passed the vetting process of the PCs under the watch of their leader Ches Crosbie.”
Asked about how the PCs handle candidate vetting with regards to personal social views, Crosbie called out Liberal Jerry Dean for his past anti-LGBT positions.
While he was the mayor of Botwood, Dean publicly opposed same-sex marriage.
Friday afternoon, Dean issued a statement, suggesting his positions on abortion and marriage equality have changed.
"I am pro-choice, I support same-sex marriage, and I affirmed these values through the vetting process involved with my becoming a candidate for the Liberal party,” Dean said in a written statement. “I support Liberal party principles, which include openness, inclusiveness and diversity."
Premier Dwight Ball said Dean’s views have evolved over the past few years, and a few weeks ago Dean signed a candidate vetting contract, committing to supporting marriage equality and abortion rights.
“Society has evolved and Jerry Dean has evolved as well,” Ball said. “Jerry Dean signed the candidate’s contract that we put in place just a few weeks ago. He’s ran twice for us under a similar process right now.”
Newfoundland and Labrador Alliance Leader Graydon Pelley also issued a statement.
“The NL Alliance supports a woman's right to choose and supports marriage equality,” Pelley stated. “Women's rights and LGBTQ2+ rights are human rights.”
Hedley Ryland of L’Anse-au-Loup is a PC party member and part of Normore’s campaign team.
He defended Normore’s right to hold those personal opinions, but added that he understands the party’s decision to remove Normore given the sensitivity of the matter.
Ryland said he will continue to support and work with Normore.
“Mike is going to carry on now as an independent, and hopefully he will be successful in this district,” he said.
Ryland condemned what he called the “dirty politics” of those who discovered Normore’s comments made on Facebook in 2015.
“It’s a sign of desperation,” he said. “Two sides can do it, but we feel there’s no need of that. We feel it’s just belittling to whom it may concern.”
Josh Nolan, a gay man who lives in Red Bay with his partner, says they plan to get married someday, and Normore’s comments about same-sex marriage left him feeling angry.
“This is 2019, we’re supposed to be moving forward and not backwards,” he said.
Nolan says while most people are welcoming and open-minded about his sexuality, he and his boyfriend still face a certain degree of discrimination living in smalltown Newfoundland and Labrador.
When a person running for political office expresses these views, it adds to a feeling of being unwelcome, he said.
Nolan said Crosbie handled the situation well.
Later Friday afternoon, Normore issued a statement saying he and the PCs would be “parting ways after this election,” but also reaffirming some of his personal positions.
“As a Christian I may have some beliefs that others may not agree with,” Normore said in the statement. “These beliefs which I communicated are personal in nature. It is not, nor has it ever been, my intention to force these beliefs on anyone else, or use them to influence legislation in any way.”
As an independent, Normore’s sole opponent will be incumbent Liberal MHA Lisa Dempster.
With files from David Maher and Stephen Roberts