Advertisement 1

Chatham-area Liberal candidate yanked after anti-gay slurs surface online

The latest in a string of apparent vetting failures, this one over anti-gay slurs posted on Facebook about a decade ago, has cost the Liberals their candidate in a Chatham-area riding just hours before the nomination deadline in a wide-open race.

Article content

The latest in a string of apparent vetting failures, this one over anti-gay slurs posted on Facebook about a decade ago, has cost the Liberals their original candidate in a Chatham-area riding just hours before the nomination deadline in a wide-open race.

Advertisement 2

Story continues below

Article content

The Ontario Liberals dropped Alec Mazurek, their Chatham-Kent—Leamington candidate, after the NDP unearthed comments he made on Facebook using an anti-gay slur when he was a teenager.

A party spokeswoman confirmed Mazurek was officially removed as a candidate on Thursday, just hours before the nomination deadline for the June 2 election.

Mazurek’s last-minute ouster as candidate will harm Liberal chances in a riding that was up for grabs, experts say.

Rick Nicholls had been the riding’s three-term Tory MPP until he was turfed from Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative caucus last summer for failing to provide proof of vaccination.

With Nicholls seeking re-election under the banner of the new Ontario Party, none of the Big Three political parties has a veteran running.

The last-minute scrambling for a candidate “no doubt” damaged Liberal chances in the riding, especially given the potential vote split between the Tories and the two other right-leaning parties in the running, said Myer Siemiatycki, a professor emeritus of politics at Toronto Metropolitan University, the former Ryerson University.

“Every riding is going to matter in this election,” Siemiatycki said. “At this point, the polls are suggesting Mr. Ford is heading towards a slim majority government. Times can change over the next three weeks.”

Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca, trying to lead his party back from the wilderness of the 2018 election, when it was reduced to seven seats after 15 years in office, said it’s important for leaders to take decisive action in such situations. When the election was called last week, the Liberals were still trying to find candidates in 14 of Ontario’s 124 ridings. 

Advertisement 3

Story continues below

Article content

Andrea Lawlor, an associate professor of politics at  King’s University College in London, said it’s becoming “less and less unusual” to see a candidate step down for such reasons.

“A lot of the parties struggle to shore up resources in finding quality candidates,” she said. “Of course, we’re also looking at an environment where there’s a lot more information available on people and their history on account of social media profiles.”

Siemiatycki noted these vetting stumbles aren’t unique to the Liberal Party of Ontario.

“This occurs notwithstanding reasonable efforts by the parties to make sure that the people who would be running for them have no skeletons in their closet,” he said. “The problem is some of those closets are pretty deep.”

Siemiatycki said it ultimately comes down to the integrity and honesty of candidates, adding their past can come back to haunt them.

In a statement issued via the Chatham-Kent—Leamington Provincial Liberal Association, Mazurek apologized for his comments, which included anti-gay and misogynistic language, but stressed he’s no longer the same person.

“This morning, screengrabs of some comments I made surfaced. In those grabs, I was seen using derogatory slurs that were homophobic and misogynistic,” Mazurek said.

“I wanted to first address the comments themselves. They were unacceptable then and unacceptable now, and are not reflective of the values that I hold and champion today. All Ontarians deserve to have a safe community around them, and comments like those make it more difficult to earn that trust. I apologize unequivocally for any harms that they have caused and I will continue to learn from previous mistakes.”

Advertisement 4

Story continues below

Article content

Mazurek said he made the comments “close to a decade ago,” when he was a 15-year-old commenting on photos posted by friends.

“To put it into context, I was just starting high school. This is not an excuse to minimize the reason that this is an issue, but I would also like to make clear that we’re holding a child to the same standards as the adult writing this statement today,” said Mazurek.

“Over the past five years, I have continued to grow into leadership roles both at school and outside, by acknowledging systemic issues that have hurt our communities and giving time to promoting early outreach initiatives for at-risk youth, promoting tenets of allyship, and championing a party with whom I share those same values. That won’t change moving forward.”

Mazurek’s social media accounts are no longer active.

Mazurek added he will “continue to reflect on these developments” and thanked those who supported him.

“I wish the party and the candidates the best moving forward, and I hope I can earn back the community’s trust,” he said.

According to the Elections Ontario website later Thursday, Audrey Festeryga will run for the Liberals in Chatham-Kent—Leamington. She finished third for the federal Liberals in the riding of Essex in the 2021 general election.

The news about Mazurek comes a day after the party dropped a candidate for Parry Sound-Muskoka after media reports described a book he self-published that details scientifically baseless views on homosexuality.

– With Canadian Press files

Latest National Stories

Advertisement 1

Story continues below

News Near Tillsonburg

This Week in Flyers