Ric McIver needs to explain his longstanding connections to the ‘Progressive Group for Independent Business’ and its beliefs

Posted on June 05, 2014, 12:39 am
11 mins

Found on the Internet, apropos of nothing in particular, Ric McIver and friend. Below: Craig B. Chandler of the Progressive Group for Independent Business.

Up to now, Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Ric McIver has quite successfully flown under the radar about his ideological beliefs.

Indeed, very little has been written about what makes Mr. McIver tick – and almost nothing at all about what he believes, and therefore what he would do in office.

His official biography is uninformative, as is his Wikipedia entry. Neither provides any hint about his economic or philosophical views beyond his party affiliation – and since the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta remains a pretty big tent, even if it’s driven by its right wing, that could be pretty much anything.

His campaign website used to say nothing because he wasn’t officially a candidate. Now that he is, about all it says is “website development is under way. We will have lots of news and information to add to the website in the coming days and weeks, so please check back here often.” It’s said that for a few days now. In the meantime, it says, they’d love to have you sign up for email. Oh, and there’s a slogan: “Common sense. New thinking.”

There are only few tantalizing hints out there about there about Mr. McIver’s ideological beliefs.

It’s said here this suits Mr. McIver, 55, because he’s much farther to the right than most Albertans would be comfortable with. Yes, he’s got a vague reputation as a hard-nosed conservative, no Red Tory, but that’s just code for “businesslike” in most circles in Alberta nowadays.

Ditto for his reputation when he was a Calgary alderman as the “Dr. No” of city council, in other words, the guy who could be depended upon to argue against expensive projects other councillors enthusiastically supported. Municipal politicians who have worked with him as infrastructure minister describe him as no-nonsense and decisive, but no visionary.

There seem to be only two news stories that contain basic biographical information like where he was born (Woodstock, Ontario), what he studied after high school (he didn’t go to university but attended the traditional School of Hard Knocks) and where he worked and what he worked at before entering politics (as a meat cutter and salesman for Schneider’s Meats, Armstrong Cheese, Scott National and Fleetwood Sausage, and eventually himself).

The first appeared in Calgary’s FFWD arts magazine a few days before the 2010 civic election in which he ran for mayor, was widely seen as the front-runner and lost to the much more liberal Naheed Nenshi. It was after that that Mr. McIver turned his sights on provincial politics, running for Alison Redford’s PC Party in the 2012 general election in the Calgary riding of Calgary-Hays. The second, a worshipful hagiography, appeared in the Calgary Sun last week.

But you can’t start Googling Mr. McIver without coming across traces of his loony-right connections, in particular with Craig B. Chandler’s so-called Progressive Group for Independent Business.

He also, interestingly, received substantial donations during his run for mayor of Calgary from developer Cal Wenzel and Mr. Wenzel’s company, Shane Homes, as well as a contribution from another member of the developer’s family. It has been plausibly suggested that Mr. McIver’s loss to Mayor Nenshi played a role in Mr. Wenzel’s decision to donate $100,000 to the Manning Centre to train and assist candidates more likely to “roll our way,” and to persuade 10 more developers to make similar donations.

But it is Mr. McIver’s connection with Mr. Chandler and the PGIB that is troubling.

Mr. Chandler, the founder and current executive-director of the PGIB, is so far to the right that the Wildrose Party recently told him to get lost. That likely had more to do with Mr. Chandler’s views on gay rights (he’s vociferously against them) and the party’s sensitivities about that issue than where he places himself in the economic spectrum.

In 2007, he won the Progressive Conservative nomination in Calgary Egmont, but that was overturned by the party’s executive, with Premier Ed Stelmach explaining Mr. Chandler’s candidacy was “not in the best interests of the party.” As far as I know, Mr. Chandler is still seeking the PC nomination in the Calgary Shaw riding for the upcoming election.

Notwithstanding Mr. McIver’s stealthy flight on this issue, there seem to be just too many references to his connections with the PGIB to have all been flushed down the Memory Hole.

So what’s the deal? On its website, the PGIB lists getting Mr. McIver elected as an alderman “in a PGIB managed campaign” as one of its big successes – Mr. Nenshi once sniffed that Mr. McIver was the only person the PGIB ever got elected.

On the same page, PGIB bragged that it was the “first group in Canada to put right-to-work in the forefront in politics.” It is unknown what Mr. McIver’s views about this kind of crude anti-union legislation might be, beyond his connection with the PGIB. Presumably, that is because he has never said.

He was also given an award by the PGIB for his work on Calgary City Council, although the group’s website does not say when.

Mr. McIver also appears to have worked for the PGIB for a spell, and was its “municipal chairman” before he was elected alderman. He was a member of the PGIB’s executive before 2001. (It’s not clear from the news story that mentions this if these were the same position, or different jobs.) He told FFWD in 2009 that he’d “separated” from the group, whatever that means. (The PGIB’s website, however, still quotes him saying, “I am a proud member of the PGIB.”)

What did he do there? Asked the same question by FFWD in 2009, Mr. McIver responded: “You know what? It’s so long ago I just don’t remember.”

That answer may have been acceptable in 2009, when he was just thinking about running for mayor of Calgary. It’s not good enough in 2014 when he’s running for the top political job in the province of Alberta.

He needs to go back and check his files to see what he was doing if he can’t recall.

The problem is, PGIB is not just a fairly radical organization based on the right-wing economic positions it takes, it is also inevitably strongly tied to its founder’s extreme social conservative views, which would place it far out on the right-wing fringe anywhere in North America, especially on the topic of LGBTIQ rights.

Among the policies currently listed on the PGIB’s website now are the following:

  • Elimination of government-funded multiculturalism
  • Elimination of Human Rights Commissions and Tribunals 
  • Elimination of “forced bilingualism”
  • Elimination of employment equity laws and programs 
  • Requirement for a referendum before taxes can be raised
  • “Workfare” programs to replace social assistance
  • Adopting anti-union “right-to-work” legislation
  • Privatization of the Workers Compensation Board
  • Limitations on First Nations’ sovereignty
  • No improvements in Canada Pension Plan
  • Wide-open U.S.-style firearms ownership
  • Opposition to the Kyoto Accord
  • Privatization of city utilities
  • Elimination of regional boards

The items emphasized in italics are known to be used frequently as code for opposition to LGBTIQ rights.

As a result of his connection with this organization, whether or not he is still a member, Mr. McIver has a number of questions he needs to answer forthrightly and clearly. Among them:

  • What did he do when he worked for the PGIB?
  • Is he still a member of the PGIB?
  • Does he support the PGIB’s policies? If not all, which ones?
  • In particular, because of his history with the PGIB and Mr. Chandler, where does he stand on LGBTIQ rights?
  • Does he support right-to-work legislation?
  • Would he privatize the Workers Compensation Board?

We await Mr. McIver’s answers, if any, with great interest.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

9 Comments to: Ric McIver needs to explain his longstanding connections to the ‘Progressive Group for Independent Business’ and its beliefs

  1. CuJoYYC

    June 5th, 2014

    Just posted this article on McIver’s FB page. Somehow I doubt we’ll see a reply.

  2. Athabascan

    June 5th, 2014

    Mciver’s simplistic yet extreme right-wing corporatist perspective comes as no surprise to the residents of Calgary, who nicknamed him “doctor no,”

  3. liberalABgal

    June 5th, 2014

    Solicitor General Jonathan Denis introduced Chandler in the Alberta legislature. He was a member of PGIB. He is a director of an anti-union “right to work” group. The PC caucus is filled with these hateful, phobic men.

  4. M&M

    June 5th, 2014

    Prentice received the PGIB president’s endorsement in the 2003 federal PC leadership race.

    • June 5th, 2014

      M&M is correct, and I will mention the details in an upcoming post. However, despite thanking Mr. Chandler nicely for throwing his support his way – for whatever it was worth, since Mr. Chandler didn’t really have much support – there wasn’t much Mr. Prentice could have done under the circumstances to keep Mr. Chandler from endorsing him. Unlike Mr. McIver, Mr. Prentice appears to have no history of working for the organization, holding office in it or taking money from it.

  5. Expat Albertan

    June 5th, 2014

    So what exactly is PGIB – or, more specifically, who is it? Is it a real organization or is it, like the National Citizens Coalition, just a couple of guys in an office?

    “Whatever happened to the Popular Front of Judea, Reg?”
    “He’s over there”

  6. June 7th, 2014

    TO: David Climenhaga
    FROM: Joseph Zwiek – Campaign Chair – Committee To Elect Craig Chandler

    RE: June 5, 2104 Blog ” Ric McIver needs to explain his longstanding connections to the ‘Progressive Group for Independent Business’ and its beliefs see http://albertadiary.ca/2014/06/ric-mciver-needs-to-explain-his-longstanding-connections-to-the-progressive-group-for-independent-business-and-its-beliefs.html

    Dear Sir,

    I am writing you in the capacity as Campaign Chair of the Committee To Elect Craig Chandler.

    The reason for this letter is to clarify and provide actual facts to your opinion piece.

    I will not be addressing all your comments just those applicable to my candidate.

    You Wrote: “Mr. Chandler, the founder and current executive-director of the PGIB, is so far to the right that the Wildrose Party recently told him to get lost”.

    Our Response: You may not be aware that Mr. Chandler was a founding member of the Wildrose Party. In Fact, Mr. Chandler still holds the record for signing up more members to the party than any other individual. Craig signed up more than 4,000 people to the party and wrote several policies. He was also the Campaign Manager for Dr. Mark Dyrholm who placed second to Danielle Smith. Craig left the party several years ago on his on volition. Mr. Chandler, being a long term thinker, ensured on his exit that he garnered a formal letter from the party making clear in no uncertain terms that he was not kicked out of the party etc… I will not get into all the other details as that is for Craig to reveal if he chooses to do so.

    Yes Danielle Smith did post a Tweet April 10, 2014 directed to Mr. Chandler saying: “Your views & how you express them are wrong for Wildrose and Alberta. I would never let you be a candidate for the WRP”. This makes perfect sense considering Mr. Chandler left the party, has gone back to the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta (PCAA) and is running a very effective campaign in Calgary Shaw for the nomination in that area to eventually oppose the sitting WRP MLA. Danielle Smith is very aware that Mr. Chandler’s ground war is second to none. The WRP is scared and attacking Craig Chandler is a very good strategy for a party fearing a loss of a seat.

    You Wrote: “That likely had more to do with Mr. Chandler’s views on gay rights (he’s vociferously against them) and the party’s sensitivities about that issue than where he places himself in the economic spectrum”.

    Our Response: We can only assume that you are referring to the letter Craig Chandler never wrote?

    In relation to the Alberta Human Rights Commission complaint filed by Darren Lund, it was made clear to the party that Craig did not write the letter and the ruling from the Alberta Human Rights Commission placed responsibility with Rev. Stephen Boissoin and Concerned Christians Canada Inc (CCC), not Craig Chandler. Craig was the CEO of the CCC at the time the letter was printed, but left the organization and sold 100% of his shares in the organization. There is no basis in legal precedence to link Craig to this decision.

    Further, Mr. Chandler like Dave Rutherford, CBC and others merely read the letter on his radio show. Mr. Chandler worked to resolve any complaints by the gay community and showed this through his swift action by settling complaints such as the one that arose with the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC). This decision illustrated that the media and such as yourself do not fully understand the process of a settlement in the mediation stage of the Commission.

    In the mediation stage, the complainant and the respondents have an opportunity to sit down face to face and come to a mutual understanding. Craig, representing the Freedom Radio Network (FRN) and the Concerned Christians Canada Inc (CCC), sat down and came to some agreements. The CHRC merely enforces what is agreed to by the participants. Agreements at this stage are made on the condition that no guilt or innocence is assigned to anyone and this is one of the process’s most paramount principles.

    Although, Craig represented the CCC and the FRN in these negotiations and agreements, the reason this complaint arose is not because of comments that originated with Craig. Craig merely wrote the apology as a former and current executive of the organizations. He was not the author of these comments. The CHRC complaint by Rob Wells almost entirely related to the letter written by Rev. Stephen Boissoin entitled “Homosexual Agenda Wicked” which was printed in the Red Deer Advocate. Stephen Boissoin was also a guest on the FRN, discussed this letter and the letter was posted on the FRN website. This letter made the national news across Canada and inasmuch as the FRN is a news talk radio program, it was important to have the letter posted as reference material.

    Nowhere in the settlement can you find any comments attributed to Craig that are anti-gay. In fact gay guests have participated on two shows with no adverse publicity. You can not find one thing taken in its full context in the complaint where anti-gay statements are attributed to Craig.

    Craig also particpated in a documentary that was shown on CBC News world over 28 times entitled “God Only Knows Same Sex Marriage” see http://www.telefilm.ca/en/catalogues/production/god-only-knows-same-sex-marriage In this documentary Craig and the gay community discussed the Same Sex Marriage issue as this was applicable at this time.

    One of the comments made by those in the gay community in Vancouver when Craig stayed at the home of Dylan and Vinny was “If all Christians were like you, we would not have any issues”. In this documentary Craig and the gay couple he grew to know came to an agreement on the marriage debate and it was about freedom. On talk shows and newspapers Craig and his hosts agreed that freedom was needed. If one church wanted to marry gays they should be allowed to and if another wanted to refuse they should also be allowed.

    It is unfortunate that you have painted Mr. Chandler as anti-gay when he has proven very clearly and publicly he is not.

    You Wrote: “Mr. Nenshi once sniffed that Mr. McIver was the only person the PGIB ever got elected”.

    Our Response: Well, this is not accurate at all. In fact, under Craig Chandler’s guidance with the PGIB, many people have gotten elected in Ontario and Alberta at all three levels of government. Since you have focused on City Hall in Calgary, this is where my response will be.

    Yes, PGIB did help Ric McIver get elected at City Hall, but, the PGIB has helped to get many others elected to City Hall such as Councillor Peter Demong, Councillor Joe Magliocca and Councillor Shane Keating. You might want to look at who is endorsing Craig Chandler at http://craigchandler.ca/endorsements.html Craig Chandler has made a difference in Calgary and that is why the following Councillors endorse Craig Chandler: Councillor Peter Demong, Councillor Shane Keating, Councillor Joe Magliocca, Councillor Sean Chu, Councillor Ray Jones and Councillor Andre Chabot. The PGIB has also helped many at the provincial level as well such as former MLA Art Johnston, MLA Ric Fraser, MLA Jonathan Denis, MLA Ric McIver and MLA David Rodney. I could also go on about federal Members of Parliament as well, but, that was not your focus.

    You Wrote: “The problem is, PGIB is not just a fairly radical organization based on the right-wing economic positions it takes, it is also inevitably strongly tied to its founder’s extreme social conservative views, which would place it far out on the right-wing fringe anywhere in North America, especially on the topic of LGBTIQ right”.

    Our Response: The PGIB is not a social conservative organization in any way shape or form. There is no evidence to this drive by commentary at all.

    You are clearly confusing Mr. Chandler’s previous service with the CCC with his leadership of the PGIB. The PGIB has a slogan of Less Government, Lower Taxea and Political Accountability and now where on the PGIB website does it discuss anything outside of that. We understand as an activist your objective is to try to radicalize anyone who has a different opinion against you, but, that is not an excuse for misrepresentation. Disappointed.

    You Wrote: “Among the policies currently listed on the PGIB’s website now are the following:” (Our responses to each are in brackets).

    Elimination of government-funded multiculturalism (Yes PGIB does support and embrace Canada’s Multicultural heritage and traditions. Also, PGIB does believe that all of us can celebrate our proud cultural heritage without government funds).
    Elimination of Human Rights Commissions and Tribunals (PGIB believes in that all Canadians should be treated equally regardless of race, language, culture, gender, sexual orientation and not treated specially because of any of these characteristics).
    Elimination of “forced bilingualism” (Yes, this is a PGIB policy and needs to be re-worded. In 1992 when it was devised it referred to hiring quotas in Ontario specifically related to hiring practices of French first applicants. PGIB does believe learning a second language will help our nation flourish and should be encouraged).
    Elimination of employment equity laws and programs (PGIB believes in hiring based on merit and qualification).
    Requirement for a referendum before taxes can be raised (PGIB has supported what is called a Taxpayer Protection Act that would force a vote at election time for taxes to be increased above inflation).
    “Workfare” programs to replace social assistance (This wording can’t be found on the PGIB website).
    Adopting anti-union “right-to-work” legislation (This is interpration as PGIB is not anti-union, but, pro-worker see http://nrtwc.org/).
    Privatization of the Workers Compensation Board (PGIB wants to create debate on this issue, but, also supports allowing competition to the WCB. PGIB would push to allow competition to the Workers Compensation Board (WCB). Businesses will be required to provide this type of insurance, but will be able to choose from the WCB and private insurance companies.
    Limitations on First Nations’ sovereignty (This wording can’t be found on the PGIB website).
    No improvements in Canada Pension Plan (Can’t find this wording anywhere. In fact PGIB supports Craig Chandler’s policy of creating our own Alberta Pension Plan (APP) offering the same benefits at lower cost while giving Alberta control over the investment fund. Pensions are a provincial responsibility under Section 94A of the Constitution Act of 1867 and the legislation setting up the Canada Pension Plan permits a province to run its own plan, as Quebec has done from the beginning. If Quebec can do it, why not Alberta?).
    Wide-open U.S.-style firearms ownership (Can’t find this wording at all and the PGIB would never support U.S. style firearms ownership).
    Opposition to the Kyoto Accord (Yes and current Prime Minster Stephen Harper opposed it and kept a campaign promise to Western Canada).
    Privatization of city utilities (Government should be the faciliator of services, not the provider of these types of services. Just take a look at the increasing prices from Enmax).
    Elimination of regional boards (This was very specific to our membership base in Ontario. Alberta has no regions like Halton Region, York etc.. In Alberta we would like to see a return to local boards such as Calgary Health etc…).

    Mr. Climenhaga, you seem to have a partisan axe to grind. You did not call the PGIB office for clarification and you did not call Craig Chandler for further information. It is clear the purpose for your piece was to attack and that is disappointing.

    It would be refreshing to see Albertans discuss all the issues on their merits. Debate is needed. It is time to think like Craig Chandler. We need to start Putting Albertans First.

    If you would like more information on Craig Chandler please see http://www.craigchandler.ca

    Joseph Zwiek
    Campaign Events & Fundraising Chair
    Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta (PCAA)
    Committee To Elect Craig Chandler
    Phone: 403-726-2371
    What Has Been Said About Craig Chandler’s Leadership Of PGIB

    “It pleases me to know that, since becoming aware of the PGIB, in the fall of 2010, a Canadian organization exists to champion an in-depth analysis of the issues that businesses face with respect to appropriate versus inappropriate taxes”.
    Alderman Shane Keating, Ward 12, Calgary, Alberta

    “What I like most about the PGIB is that they don’t just fight for big businesses, they also represent the little guys – the independent business owner”.
    Alderman Peter Demong, Ward 14, Calgary, Alberta

    “If you want cocktails join the group downtown. If you want something done, join the PGIB”.
    Stephen Harper (Prime Minister of Canada)

    “The PGIB has good core issues, including a Municipal Taxpayers Protection Act to prevent taxes without a referendum…term limits for Mayor and Alderman, a program for divestiture of non-core functions and accountability with the adoption of recorded debates and Council votes”.
    Danielle Smith (Leader of the Wildrose Party)

    “The Progressive Group for Independent Business effectively supports the businesses they serve”.
    Ralph Klein (Former Premier of Alberta)

    “PGIB offers real, unique solutions that will work. From a Municipal Taxpayer Protection Act to open accountable government PGIB has the answer”.
    Randy Thorsteinson (Former Social Credit Party Leader)

    “I encourage you to join the PGIB if you have not already and demand a restructuring of the public sector to both cut costs and improve services. It is time to go forward with a common-sense plan to unleash the power of the marketplace”.
    Mike Harris (Former Premier of Ontario)

    “…the Calgary-based Progressive Group for Independent Business, a group known as the brains behind Ontario Premier Mike Harris’s Common-Sense Revolution”.
    The Globe & Mail

  7. Athabascan

    June 8th, 2014

    Thank you Joseph.

    I guess you’ve proven the more one writes the more correct one must be.
    Unfortunately, no amount of bafflegab can save Mr. Chandler from himself. He is and remains who he is no matter what anyone writes.


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