What an interesting week for Alberta politics (let’s be real, every week in Alberta politics is interesting.) And an awful week for the United Conservative Party.
First the excitement started when unsurprisingly the UCP was declined the ability to participate in the Edmonton Pride Parade. To anyone with an iota of knowledge about LGBTQ2 issues, the rejection of the UCP from Edmonton Pride was not a surprise.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE AND DISPERSAL
Re: United Conservative Party Application to March in the Edmonton Pride Festival Parade pic.twitter.com/mCgi5wUfqn
— Edmonton Pride (@YEGPride) May 3, 2018
After the UCP was barred from participating officially at Calgary Pride last year, there was much discussion about what the response would be. Several MLAs including Brian Jean, Panda Prasad, Nathan Cooper, Rick Fraser (who has since joined the Alberta Party) and leadership hopeful Doug Schweitzer were spotted in the crowd or beer gardens working the crowd. This was a good start – though party leader Jason Kenney was curiously absent again from the event – having claimed a previous scheduling conflict (which is so funny since pride is pretty much known to always take place on the September long weekend in Calgary, but I digress).
When Bill 24 – an Act to Support Gay-Straight Alliances was introduced in the Legislature, curious observers and advocates watched to see if in fact UCP MLAs would be allowed a free vote and if any would support the bill. Unsurprisingly the only MLA that had hinted at any potential support for the Bill, Leela Aheer, was conspicuously absent when final voting was conducted.
When the UCP Founding convention policy proposals were released last week there were also several resolutions presented that would be seen as attacks on GSAs and the transgender community.
Rest assured we were told, these were just proposals and they wouldn’t be voted on, they were just included as a matter of principle.
But, sure enough, on Sunday as the plenary sessions were held and policy voted on, R030 – The United Conservative Party believes that the Government of Alberta should reinstate parental opt-in consent for any subjects of a religious or sexual nature, including enrollment in extracurricular activities/clubs or distribution of any instructional materials/resources related to these topics – was passed by 57% of participants voting in this session, in spite of impassioned pleas from MLAs Ric McIver, Leela Aheer, and Jason Nixon.
“This is about outing gay kids,” said MLA Ric McIver, “they need to be safe, we cannot out kids, don’t let us be called the lake of fire party, I’m begging you,” he continued in speaking against this motion, referencing the blog post by disgraced former Wildrose candidate Alan Hunsperger that torpedoed UCP parent party Wildrose in the 2012 general election.
This was just one of several greatest hits to come out of the UCP AGM. Others included a speaker getting up and indicating that Indigenous people “just take and take and take” and how she was “sick of it”.
— MichelleBellefontaine (@MBellefontaine) May 6, 2018
And, former Wildrose interim leader and floor-crosser Heather Forsyth who declared that barriers to women in politics were just “socialist crap,” that feminism was the “f-word,” and that it was “patronizing” that Rachel Notley and Justin Trudeau’s cabinets are gender balanced.
This occurred as former interim Conservative Party of Canada leader Rona Ambrose delivered a speech in which she announced a new initiative with Laureen Harper to mentor women who want to run in next year’s election to help them overcome these barriers. (Talk about an issue of consistency in messaging).
Following the plenary session, of course the media and the moderate middle were quick to point out how the far right socially conservative motion had passed despite the repeated assertions that the UCP was a modern and inclusive party.
Leader Kenney was quick to refute MLA McIver’s point that the motion was about outing gay kids. Even quicker, was the removal of his grassroots guarantee website and gimmicky commitment.
In a post AGM scrum, he declared “Guess what, I’m the leader. I get to interpret the resolution and its relevance to party policy,” to the CBC and “Let me be absolutely stone-cold clear: a United Conservative government will not be changing law or policy to require notification of parents when kids join GSAs. We will not do that. You can take that to the bank,” to CTV.
Note how I added emphasis to require. This is where Kenney is politically smart, he won’t require notification, but he stops short of saying he won’t allow it. There is a difference, and it means a lot to those seeking support through a GSA.
After this weekend there are some things that seem abundantly clear. The social conservatives are firmly in control of the United Conservative Party. Jason Kenney has no integrity when it comes to respecting the grassroots direction of the Party and he will take a top down approach to policy when it suits him. There is abundant intolerance for women, indigenous people, and LGBTQ2 within the UCP. And Alberta politics is not going to be any less exciting through the next 12 months as we go into campaign 2019.