Alberta UCP leader Jason Kenney says he won’t legislate on abortion

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. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney says he will not legislate on abortion even though party members passed a resolution that advocates on both sides say could do just that.

“I’ve been clear that we won’t be bringing forward any legislative measures on abortion,” Kenney said at the legislature Tuesday.

At the party’s founding convention on the weekend, members voted 74 per cent in favour of a resolution that would require parents to be notified before any invasive medical procedure was performed on a minor.

READ MORE: Defunding abortion could be debated at Alberta United Conservative meeting 

The anti-abortion group Wilberforce Project spoke in favour of the motion and urged delegates to adopt it.

Kenney said the resolution was put forward by a delegate whose child was vaccinated without his knowledge.

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“The resolution spoke to a general concern about parents wanting to be involved in their children’s health, particularly for young children,” he said.

“Obviously we support the idea that children should receive vaccines that are necessary to protect their health, but parents should not be surprised when they learn their child has been given a shot.”

READ MORE: Rob Breakenridge: UCP delegates embarrass themselves and undermine their leader

Premier Rachel Notley and Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said the resolution was aimed at interfering in abortions.

Click to play video: 'Alberta MLAs walk out during debate over abortion safe zone bill'
Alberta MLAs walk out during debate over abortion safe zone bill

Notley said the resolution, along with the refusal of Kenney’s caucus to debate or vote on a bill that would create safe zones around abortion clinics, exhibits a disturbing pattern.

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READ MORE: Debate over abortion clinic safe zones in Alberta sees UCP members walk out

“You put those two things together, the fact of the matter is women in Alberta would not have anybody standing up for them in the UCP caucus,” Notley said.

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“I want all women to know in this province that we respect their bodily autonomy, that we respect their right to access legal services without having to get someone to sign a permission slip,” added Hoffman.

Kenney, a former federal Conservative cabinet minister, has said in the past what while he is against abortion, he won’t legislate on the issue.

The resolution was one of two contentious social policies adopted by party members at the convention.

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

Members also voted 57 per cent in favour of parents being told when their children are involved in any subject of a religious or sexual nature, including after-school social clubs such as gay-straight alliances.

Click to play video: 'LGBTory group encourages healthy discussion on gay-straight alliances'
LGBTory group encourages healthy discussion on gay-straight alliances

The issue sparked heated debate on the convention floor. Kenney said Sunday he interpreted the resolution differently and wouldn’t implement it the way members saw it.

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READ MORE: Kenney appears to contradict ‘grassroots guarantee’ by opposing party GSA resolution

Kenney has made it clear that while members can vote for policies, it’s his job to craft a platform that would work for four million Albertans should the United Conservatives win power.

“It’s not my intention to get into any contentious social issues in our platform,” said Kenney.

Gay-straight alliances are social clubs set up by students to help LGBTQ children feel welcome and to lessen any chance of bullying. Under Alberta law, students can get a gay-straight alliance if they ask for one and schools are forbidden from telling parents if their children are in one.

READ MORE: Eggen introduces legislation to ensure Alberta students who join GSAs aren’t outed

Advocates have suggested some parents would oppose their child’s participation and that, by notifying parents, children would not take the risk to sign up and the social groups would die.

Notley said she is concerned that Kenney, if he were premier, would either weaken the existing law or leave it on the books but not take action if it were ignored.

She said the former Progressive Conservative government did not push to enforce existing rules around gay-straight alliances.

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“Based on the much more extreme positions that were adopted by the UCP last weekend, we can expect very clearly that they wouldn’t enforce the rules that we put in place.”

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