Gary Mar knows his porn.

As the march towards the coronation of Emperor Mar I, fifth in line of the Progressive Conservative Dynasty, continues to its almost certain conclusion, I still find myself wondering: why Gary?

Mar is unquestionably the favorite of the PC masses, but I can’t quite figure out why. Even former premier Don Getty, who has rarely been heard from, chimed in the other day, asking: “What’s he done?” If I read Getty’s comments correctly, he was referring to Mar’s term as wannabe ambassador to Washington. Getty’s complaint, a valid one, is that Alberta seems to be getting nothing but grief for the Keystone pipeline, which would have been Mar’s baby to shepherd through the legislative process. I don’t think you can blame Mar for the pipeline becoming such a hot button issue amongst environmentalists and some of those living along the pipeline route; the greens have been looking for something to complain about for a while, and now they’ve found it. But it does bring up the larger question of Mar’s record.

With his challengers taking some very mild shots at Mar (it appears everyone is being quite civil, as far as I can tell, probably anticipating a Mar victory and hoping for one of those juicy cabinet posts), Mar’s campaign manager said,  “Gary’s record speaks for itself”.

Well, that got me to thinking: what IS Gary Mar’s record? According to his website, he’s done all sorts of wonderful things, and I assume after being in government for such a long time, he was bound to get some things right. Mar was health minister, of course, which will give the Liberals and the NDP dozens of arrows for their critical quivers (like that one?). He notoriously made some pro-privatization comments during the campaign, which he quickly clarified (a.k.a. backed away from) which will no doubt haunt him when he becomes premier. So, of course, will the Kelly Charlebois scandal which derailed his career (scroll down a ways to find my blog about that sorry episode).

In an effort to find out more about Gary Mar’s record, I started poking around old newspaper stories about the Man Who Would Be Ralph. Turns out, there were thousands of stories, and I quickly got bored. If I were being paid to do this, well, I would have spend days researching. But those of us in the blogging community are the skanks of the writing world: we just give it away.

So I poked around for a while, and went back as far as when Mar was minister of Community Development, a catch-all portfolio that included everything from seniors funding to human rights to culture. This was during the Klein Kost Kutting Karavan days, when everything was under the knife, so he regularly caught hell raging grannies and the like. But I found a forgotten nugget from Mar’s past that might be worth brining up again. It involves Gary Mar, Guardian of Public Morality.

In 1994, Mar had decreed that the government will cut funding to any arts group offending “community standards.” Art galleries that displayed controversial material risked losing funding from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, Mar warned.

“It would be fair to say that funds for particular types of shows could not be supported by the AFA,” he told reporters. His warning was leveled at theatre groups as well. “To the extent that some plays offend the sensibilities of the community standards, there has been some suggestion that public funds should not be put forward to support such projects,” he said.

Mar wouldn’t say exactly what qualified as being offensive to community standards, but he did offer up this remarkable comment: “Pornography is a hard thing to define, but I know it when I see it.”

I tried to uncover if this issue ever went anywhere, but it seems to have faded. And, to be honest, I have no idea if community standards apply to grants for artists. But maybe somebody can ask Mar if he still feels that he knows porn when he sees it. And, for that matter, how often does he see it?

It’s probably too late in the day to introduce the question of government censorship/community values to the Tory debate, but hey, Mar stands on his record. Whatever that is.

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