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NDP wants Liberal sacked for 1996 email; candidate says he's 'more tolerant' now

B.C. New Democrats are demanding a B.C. Liberals candidate for the May 12 provincial election step down over comments he apparently made about homosexuals more than a decade ago.

The NDP released a 1996 email they say Marc Dalton, the Liberal candidate in Mission-Maple Ridge, sent to a colleague in which Dalton wrote he did not support a homosexual lifestyle. Written in the midst of a raging debate over same-sex marriage and education, the email compares homosexuality to other issues of morality.

The email, which was released by the NDP and attributed to Dalton, states:

I am not against homosexuals as people, but I do not support their lifestyle choices. I believe homosexuality is a moral issue. Most of us agree on many morals: respect, honesty, kindness. There are also many behaviours and acts that most of us would not condone: rape, robbery, assault, drunken driving, pedophilia, incest and so on.

There are other moral issues that large segments of our society do not see eye to eye: gambling, abortion, adultery, pornography. I believe that homosexuality fits in this category.

The email also says there are "many, many people who hold homosexuality to be an improper and high-risk behaviour," and clearly opposes violence against "these people."

(This report was updated at 8:30 p.m. Friday to add:)

When reached late Friday, Dalton apologized for the email but did not offer his resignation and insisted that he's a different man than he was when it was written.

"I would say that I've become much more tolerant, much more open," he said in an interview. "It's not something I would write now. There's been a lot of change since then.''

Dalton said he recognizes and applauds the significant contributions of the gay community and wouldn't want to cause offence to them or anyone else.

"It was never my intention to pass judgment on any individual and I have always been respectful of every individual's right to privacy and self-expression," Dalton said.

He said it's not his intention as an elected official to impose his personal values in any event, or "to revisit an issue that has been historically divisive and that our communities have endeavoured to move beyond."

It was enough for Liberals Leader Gordon Campbell, who did not ask Dalton to step down.

"First of all, I can understand why this would be hurtful to people. I'm sure that he's as sorry as everyone else is," Campbell told reporters. "He's issued an unequivocal apology.... I accept the apology."

Dalton is a French immersion teacher who represented the federal Conservatives in the 2006 federal election but was not allowed to run for the Tories last year, despite winning the local nomination process. The party did not give a reason for refusing Dalton's candidacy.

Spencer Herbert, the incumbent MLA and NDP candidate in Vancouver-West End, considered the heart of the city's gay community, said Campbell should denounce the comments and fire Dalton as a candidate.

“Either Mr. Dalton chose not to disclose these comments or they are acceptable to Mr. Campbell,” Herbert said in a release distributed by the NDP. “If Mr. Dalton hid his homophobia he should be asked to resign. If Mr. Campbell approved the candidacy knowing of these statements he should do the right thing, denounce these comments and fire this candidate.”

Last weekend, the NDP candidate in Vancouver-False Creek stepped down over embarrassing photos posted on his Facebook site. NDP Leader Carole James said Ray Lam showed a "lack of judgment" for posting the racy photos, and he stepped down so the issue wouldn't overshadow the campaign.

Last fall's federal election saw candidates from across the political spectrum felled by online gaffes and embarrassing situations from their past. Three federal New Democrats, two Tories and two Liberals stepped down during the race for everything from a decade-old skinny dip to online videos showing them smoking up.

Reported by The Canadian Press.

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