Thursday, July 23, 2009

Trouble Out West: PGIB Moves To Take Over Wild Rose Alliance?

Writing yesterday, I noted that the Separatist Western Business and Taxpayers Association (WBTA) had thrown its support behind Mark Dyrholm as leader of the Wild Rose Alliance. This prompted an email from Craig Chandler, Mark's Strategy/Coalition Outreach guy, pointing out that there were Western Separatists on all sides of the WRAP leadership race.

And I thought: Chandler, Crutcher, Dyrholm...where have I heard all these names together before? Turns out this gang go way back. For example, when the Wildrose & Alberta Alliance parties first merged, one of the slates for party executive of the new entity consisted of

Craig Chandler - VP Fundraising
Mark Dyrholm - VP Policy
David Crutcher - VP Membership
Harley Shouldice - Southern Regional Director
Don Leonardo - Southern Regional Director

When Crutcher ran for MLA under the banner of the Alberta Alliance, Chandler served as his campaign manager; when Chandler ran as an independent, Shouldice served as his campaign manager.

But the most important link between these gentlemen, and between the WTBA and Wild Rose Alliance, seems to be the The Progressive Group for Independent Business (PGIB). Here is a list of the folks on both the PGIB National Advisory Council and the Dyrholm campaign team:

Mark Dyrholm
Craig Chandler
Sid Helishauer
Harley Shouldice

And, as a bonus, it looks like WTBA policy guy Rob Allen is also A) a Member of PGIB, and B) on the Dyrholm team.

Interestingly enough, there's an Eastern connection here. The PGIB was born in Ontario during Chandler's university days. Its motto is "less government, lower taxes and political ccountability" , and it has at times taken credit for aspects of Mike Harris's Common Sense Revolution.

(Note: Mr. Chandler tells me I've got several things in this next bit wrong. For example, he is no longer associated with CCCI, and it was the CCCI that intended to launch a HR complaint on his behalf. I will leave the wording below as is, but go here for the correct account)

As for Chandler, who seems to be the driving force behind all of this (no matter what his official position in the various campaigns), one of the spin-off groups he founded is Concerned Christians Canada Inc. The infamous Stephen Boisson was once a member of this group (although I believe he was later disowned), and the letter that got Boisson in dutch with the AHRC was also published on the CCCI website, before Chandler settled with the commission and had it removed. He's also been in trouble with the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.

And perhaps most odd: although Chandler has complained vociferously about the HRC persecution of Christians, he himself filed an HRC complaint against the Stelmach Tories for...wait for it... their alleged bias against Christians. Although, to be fair, in his recent email to me Mr. Chandler says he has dropped this complaint on the grounds that it would be hypocritical for him to employ a government body that he does not approve of. Further, the CCCI is participating in Boisson's legal challenge against Alberta's hate speech laws.

Finally, the PGIP has been in the news recently, after Collingwood Ethanol, owned by Craig's father Bruce Chandler, got into trouble for its odoriferous emissions. The PGIP was called in to conduct what appears to have been a campaign of intimidation against anyone criticising the facility..a campaign that apparently backfired:

It's not that Craig Chandler and his buddy David Crutcher were loud and obnoxious: it's that they generally flooded the local airwaves with largely inflammatory and in some cases, grossly inaccurate statements.

However, held against the light of day, it was clear their comments were full more of bluster than fact. The first time I interviewed Crutcher, for instance, he claimed the mayor was "trying to get rid of all industry in Collingwood."When I challenged him on it, he backtracked and tried to put the focus on the mayor's perceived hate-on for the ethanol plant.

Outside of the glare of the media, these two, uh, 'gentlemen' persisted, through two phone messages and a letter to the community. A website,, still lingers on the Internet (sadly, however, without a peep about the apology.)

Anyway, once again, good luck Mr. Dyrholm. With such allies, you will probably need it.

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