A political scientist expects Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s message to the United Conservative Party’s annual general meeting Saturday will be lost in the noise of board elections and a number of contentious policy resolutions.
About 3,500 delegates were expected to attend the UCP’s first get-together since it won re-election in May.
Among the resolutions being debated is one requiring parental consent if a child under the age of 16 wishes to use a different name or pronoun at school, mirroring legislation recently passed in Saskatchewan that has drawn harsh criticism from LGBTQ advocates.
Another proposal aims to protect an individual’s right to refuse any medical procedure they disagree with, including therapy and vaccines, regardless of the “societal benefit.”
Other resolutions include banning race-based admissions in post-secondary institutions, ending provincial funding of supervised drug consumption sites and refusing transgender women in women’s correctional facilities.
“I think the eyes are going to (be) on what all that portends for party unity,” said Lori Williams, a political-science professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary.
Several of the resolutions seem to take “fringe-right positions,” Williams added.
“It’s certainly not the sort of thing that most Albertans are concerned about.”
The government is not bound to act on any policy resolutions that pass.
“If some of the (resolutions) pass, that’s going to take a lot of attention away from whatever (Premier) Danielle Smith and the moderate wing of the party want to focus on.”
Williams said Smith is in a tight spot because at annual general meetings, she has to be seen as listening to grassroots party members. She said that, along with contested board and presidency spots, will make it difficult for the premier to get her message across.
“She wants to point attention to signature policies, to how well the government has done, what they’re still doing and how they want to accomplish that. But that’s just not going to happen,” she said.
“Between the finance ministers’ stuff (on a proposal for Alberta to leave the Canada Pension Plan) and the controversial resolutions and board elections, it’s going to get lost in the noise in the background.”
The Take Back Alberta movement is seeking to add more of its members to the UCP board.
The group, a registered third-party advertiser in the last election, has been vocal in demanding change around various social issues.
“If we have even a few more Take Back Alberta representatives on the board, that could really spell trouble,” Williams said.
“I think unity is going to continue to be a challenge for the party.”