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Conservative candidate denies 'strong links' to religious groups


Even without a federal election to fight, West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country Conservative candidate John Weston has found himself in the national spotlight - what he calls the target of "graffiti journalism" by a national newspaper columnist.

Weston, who was picked last month as the party's candidate to replace retiring MP John Reynolds, was the focus of two columns by Globe and Mail national political columnist Jeffrey Simpson last month.

In his May 18 column, Simpson identified Weston as one of four recently-nominated Conservative candidates in the Lower Mainland as having "strong links to religious groups such as Focus on the Family." Specifically, it stated that Weston formed a "Christian law firm" with weekly office devotionals.

The news came as a surprise to Weston when he read Simpson's column, leading to a complaint from Weston and a followup column May 27 where Simpson apologized for the description.

But after apologizing, Simpson restated that Weston's "public religiosity illustrates a trend that is popping up elsewhere in Canada - candidates from, or associated with, Christian faith movements or churches are winning more Conservative nominations than ever."

In a phone interview Thursday (June 2), Weston denied that he intends to bring his faith into public life and castigated Simpson for his comments.

"He basically repeated news, he didn't report news, and he got it wrong," Weston said. "He basically tried to drag my private faith into the public arena.

"What Simpson did is what Cindy Silver, who won the nomination in the riding next to mine, calls 'graffiti journalism'. You spray someone with a label, accurate or not, and move on to something else."

Weston's biographical information on his website states he is a member of the North Shore Alliance Church and previously was a member of First Baptist Church.

"I'll never apologize for going to church. In fact, 83 per cent of Canadians are adherents to one faith or another and many Liberal party members are devout Christians," said Weston. "I believe that a journalist's pen can be as powerful as it can be irresponsible. By painting politicians with an overly broad brush, it's the writer, not the politician, who invites the charge of bigotry. People of faith don't all think, walk and talk the same way."

But Weston said his faith is a private matter and that he has no problem representing all people in the riding.

"I pursued and won the nomination for my riding not to promote my religious faith, but to serve my constituents," he said.

As well, Weston's firm, Access Law Group, does not market itself as a Christian law firm, Weston stated. "Some of the people here are also Christian, but we don't make any attempt to impose our faith on other people. In fact, there's people here of other faiths, so you'd never find on our website."

Weston said so far the newfound notoriety hasn't been negative. "Happily people have been drawing out from me what I really stand for - fighting corruption in Ottawa, improving relationships with the U.S., bringing equality to aboriginals and other Canadians and improving fiscal management," he said. "The values I bring into the public arena are freedom, integrity, equality and compassion, and those values are what Canadians are going to judge me on when they go to vote."

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