Rob Breakenridge: UCP delegates embarrass themselves and undermine their leader

Jason Kenney speaks to the media at his first convention as leader of the United Conservative Party in Red Deer, Alta., Sunday, May 6, 2018.
Jason Kenney speaks to the media at his first convention as leader of the United Conservative Party in Red Deer, Alta., Sunday, May 6, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

There are clearly many decent, compassionate and intelligent people in the United Conservative Party (UCP). Unfortunately, there are a sufficient number of party members lacking in all three areas that it allowed the party to embarrass itself at its own showcase event.

Despite pleas from some party stalwarts, delegates at the UCP’s founding policy convention voted 57 per cent in favour of a policy resolution that would make parental notification mandatory for “enrolment in extracurricular activities/clubs” having to do with religion or sexuality. That would obviously include gay-straight alliances (GSAs), which was clearly the intent of the resolution.

Nevermind what a self-inflicted political wound this is – the NDP will no doubt seek to exploit this at every opportunity – this is an incredibly callous approach toward LGBTQ teens that deserves to be called out and condemned.

READ MORE: Alberta conservatives clash with leaders on gay-straight alliances at UCP policy meeting


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As UCP MLA and caucus whip Ric McIver told delegates, “This is about outing gay kids. They need to be safe. We cannot out kids that are in a club [designed] to protect themselves.”

I think, or at least I hope, that UCP Leader Jason Kenney is among those who possess decency, compassion and intelligence. At best though, it betrays some cynicism on his part that he would court and pander to these very same elements that would push such draconian policy.

Kenney made it clear that he has the final say on party policy.

“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,” he declared.

Kenney, however, had also previously signed onto a “grassroots guarantee,” which stipulated that the membership would have the final say on policy, so his guarantees might not be as bankable as they should be. On this particular issue though, I suspect he’s savvy enough to realize the disastrous path that this resolution would set for the party.

Which just underscores how damaging the resolution was in the first place: not only does it confirm the worst stereotypes of conservatives when it comes to LGBTQ issues, but it embarrasses and undermines the leader on several levels.

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Yes, issues around the economy and the budget are top-of-mind concerns for Albertans, and the UCP adopted several policies on those fronts that will likely have broad appeal. But if the GSA issue isn’t an important one, why go out of your way to make it seem like one?

The whole point of a policy convention is to decide policy and leave no doubt as to what it is you stand for as a party. Convention delegates knew full well what they were doing, and it’s absurd to simply ask everyone to ignore this particular resolution. If you’d prefer people not talk about awful policy resolutions, then don’t vote for them in the first place.