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Alberta Tory leadership hopeful apologizes for taking part in March for Jesus

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CALGARY - Alberta Tory leadership hopeful Ric McIver has apologized for his participation in a parade held by a group with anti-gay sentiments, but he doesn't plan to pull out of the race to be the province's next premier.

The member of the legislature from Calgary was criticized by his own party for taking part in last weekend's March for Jesus organized by the Street Church, which on its website condemns gay people as the minions of Satan.

McIver says he became involved with the group when he was a city alderman and the Street Church would hold barbecues for the homeless.

"The basis of the relationship was a friendly ... hello as people were being fed in front of city hall," he said Thursday at a media availability. "That led to accepting an invitation to attend the March for Jesus."

McIver said he blames himself for not doing his homework.

"I didn't check the website. I'm angry. Anybody who's angry, I agree with them. Nasty, mean-spirited stuff on this website. There's no excuse for."

He said he doesn’t believe in or support the Street Church anymore and his relationship with it is over. He wants the group to remove his name and photos from its website.

He’s asking for forgiveness from the public and admits he made “a big mistake."

McIver plans to continue his leadership run against former federal cabinet minister Jim Prentice and fellow Alberta legislature member Thomas Lukaszuk.

He said his situation is different than the one a Wildrose party candidate faced during the 2012 election campaign. Allan Hunsperger warned gays to abandon their homosexuality or face eternity suffering in hell's "lake of fire.''

Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith refused to cut Hunsperger loose and some analysts suggest it was a turning point for the party, which had been polling strongly, but failed to win the election. The party has since reiterated that it believes in equality for all.

"There were negative things said before the last election and there were officials that did not argue with those comments," McIver said. "This is much different because I'm saying the opposite. I'm saying those comments are ugly. They're abhorrent. I don't support any of them."

In Edmonton, Premier Dave Hancock said while politicians can be overwhelmed by the people they meet and the people they get their picture taken with, "you do have to some work to ensure that you're not engaging in events that could be associated with beliefs that are not your beliefs."

Jim McCormick, Progressive Conservative party president, said earlier this week that closed-mindedness or intolerance have no place in the party and its members are expected to follow its statement of principles.

McIver had originally responded on his Facebook page, where he said he was at the parade to celebrate his Roman Catholic faith and had attended the march for the last four years.

He said he also attends events with Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus and Jews and deplores discrimination against all groups and individuals.

— With files from CHQR

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