Last week’s inaugural UCP convention in Red Deer attracted 2,600 attendees, making it the largest political convention in Alberta’s history.
This is certainly a positive. There’s nothing wrong with thousands of people gathering to get involved in the political process.
Yet some of the resolutions passed should trouble Albertans of all political orientations.
Most infamously by now is resolution 30, which requires parents to be notified if their children are learning about sex or religion, whether in the classroom or extracurricularly.
To his credit, Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter, who is running in the newly-created Taber-Warner riding in 2019, said the resolution was poorly worded.
However, he said the motion merely reiterates the stipulation in the provincial School Act, which mandates that parents be notified when their kids are learning sexual or religious material inside the classroom.
Resolution 30 clearly has its eyes set on gay-straight alliances, hence its emphasis on activities outside the formal classroom.
This motion passed with 56 per cent support, which is a substantial majority of UCP delegates.
An even more contentious resolution, which requires parents be notified before “all invasive medical procedures” performed on their children, clearly has teenage abortion in its crosshairs.
It was passed with a whopping 74 per cent support.
Party leader Jason Kenney says the motion was intended for vaccinations, which isn’t exactly reassuring.
In the aftermath of the convention, Kenney re-assured Albertans that the UCP won’t “get into any contentious social issues in our platform.”
Trouble is Kenney ran for the UCP leadership on his “Grassroots Guarantee,” which assured party members that his lack of concrete policy proposals was a result of his efforts to craft policy from the bottom up.
With a clear majority of the party delegates in favour of these two contentious, socially conservative positions, Kenney now has himself in a bind.
Either he must break his vow not to legislate on divisive social issues, or he must renege on his grassroots guarantee.
One doesn’t need to be a diehard Dipper to see the problem here.
UCP caucus whip Ric McIver was “begging” his party colleagues at the convention to vote down resolution 30 in particular.
“This will really severely hurt our chances of winning,” he said.
Although I think the likelihood that the UCP will form government in 2019 is high, the divisions within the party on display at the convention will only help the NDP.
As UCP house leader Jason Nixon said, “stop taking the NDP bait.”