Alberta’s United Conservative Party leader continues to back a candidate who some believe equated homosexuality with pedophilia.

An audio clip of Mark Smith speaking at a church sermon in 2013 was posted to Twitter on Tuesday by the Edmonton-based account, Gaywire. The comment was made before Smith was elected.

“You don’t have to watch any TV for any length of time today where you don't see on the TV programs them trying to tell you that homosexuality and homosexual love is good love,” Smith said in the audio recording.

“Heck, there are even people out there—I could take you to places on the website, I'm sure, where you could find out that there’s, uh, where pedophilia is love.”

The UCP candidate for Drayton Valley-Devon issued an apology on Tuesday, but declined to share his views on homosexuality in an interview with CTV Edmonton.

“I did not say that love between same-sex couples was not love, I merely remarked on media commentary. That said, I regret how my commentary was framed at the time,” he wrote in the apology posted to Twitter.

“Of course I do not believe that homosexuality is akin to pedophilia. I unequivocally apologize if anyone was offended or hurt. Obviously that would never be my intention.”

United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney said he found the comments “offensive,” but was satisfied with the apology.

“In the 16 months that I’ve been leader of the party, I’ve not seen him say or conduct himself in a way that demonstrates disrespect for other people,” he said.

Kenney’s opponents, NDP Leader Rachel Notley and Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel, criticized his response.

Shannon Humphrey, the chair for Central Alberta Pride, called it a “brush it under the carpet” approach.

"What we really need to consider is what that action says to the community as a whole," Humphrey said.

Both Smith and Kenney have reasoned the comments were made before Smith became an elected official.

But that explanation holds no weight for Edmonton councillor Michael Walters, a former student of Smith’s, who grew up in Drayton Valley.

“I don’t think those attitudes change on a dime for folks," said Walters, who is "unsettled" by how Kenney has handled the controversy.

"We can't say to the world, 'we're open for business,' and then say to the world, 'but our leaders are homophobic.'"

--- With files from CTV Edmonton’s Dan Grummett