The last two weeks have been particularly tiring for Mr Kenney, the leader of the UCP, he spent most of it running away.
Mr Kenney hightailed it out of the Legislature, not once but six times, to avoid debating Bill 9 which would create protective bubble zones around abortion clinics to protect women from abusive protesters. He kicked up a dust storm of excuses to explain why he’s not bound by a resolution passed by his party which would out kids who want to join gay-straight alliances at school.
Apparently social issues scare him witless.
Running away from the Legislature
It’s interesting to contrast Mr Kenney’s willingness to hide from the debate on Bill 9 bubble zones, with the determination of his caucus to stay to the bitter end on the debate on Bill 24.
The Notley government tabled Bill 24 in November 2017. The Bill made it clear that the right of parents to pull their kids out of class if the curriculum dealt primarily with religion or human sexuality, did not extend to voluntary clubs like gay-straight alliances. Consequently, schools were prohibited from notifying parents that their kids had joined a GSA.
The UCP did not support Bill 24. UCP MLA Angela Pitt prefaced her comments by saying, “the United Conservative caucus does not take any piece of proposed legislation lightly. We carefully review it, we ask questions, and we wonder if it can be improved. We also look at each piece of legislation with an eye to determining if it has forged the right balance for Albertans of differing views.”*
The UCP vigorously debated the Bill and voted against it. Even Mr Kenney, who was not yet sworn into office, participated in the debate by asking a colleague to read a lengthy statement into the record on his behalf.
But something changed between then and now.
This spring the Notley government tabled Bill 9, the bubble zone bill. Mr Kenney, now a sitting MLA and the Leader of the Official Opposition, marched his caucus out of the Legislature again and again to avoid having to vote on the bill.
Contrary to Ms Pitt’s earlier statement the bubble zone bill did not trigger the Opposition’s duty to review, question and if possible improve each piece of proposed legislation; nor did it engage the Opposition’s obligation, as described by UCP MLA Prab Gill, “to defend…over 4 million [Albertans who] are depending on the decisions that are made in this House.”**
Mr Kenney says he won’t debate legislation that’s a political ploy.
This is ludicrous. Citizens most need a strong opposition party when the government is proposing controversial legislation. It’s easy to nitpick issues we all agree upon (like pipelines to tidewater) it takes courage to debate issues that are contentious or controversial.
Running away from the UCP
Mr Kenney blamed his dereliction of duty as an elected representative and Leader of the Official Opposition on the NDP government playing wedge politics, but this does not explain why he rejected Resolution #30, his own party’s resolution to out kids to their parents before they’d be allowed to join a GSA.
Mr Kenney and his apologists made the following arguments:
- The resolution was poorly worded–and yet it was clear as a bell to the three UCP MLAs who argued it would forever tar the UCP as the Lake of Fire party if it passed. Surprise!
- It’s the result of parental backlash–this ignores the fact GSAs are clubs, not curriculum. Parents still have the right to pull their kids out of classes primarily focused on religion or human sexuality.
- The UCP members who voted for the resolution fell into an NDP trap–in other words 57% of the UCP delegates were too stupid or too stubborn to heed the warning of their own MLAs who said, “Stop! It’s a trap!”
- Half the delegates left before the vote came up, so Mr Kenney isn’t bound by the resolution–there is no evidence that half the delegates left before the vote, but if they did they should be ashamed of themselves for abandoning their party when it needed them the most.
- (This one is my personal favourite). Mr Kenney said the resolution is entirely consistent with his own position on the issue and in the next breath said he’d have voted against the resolution if given the chance. What? If the resolution is consistent with Mr Kenney’s position he would have voted for it not against it, right?
Nowhere left to run
Mr Kenney has shown Albertans he doesn’t respect the democratic process which requires the Leader of the Official Opposition to hold the government to account by debating and voting on proposed legislation, instead of dragging them into the hall where they can count the ceiling tiles.
He’s shown UCP party members that his Grassroots Guarantee isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. When he said, “the policies of the UCP must be developed democratically by its grassroots members, not imposed by the Leader” what he really meant was “Guess what–I’m the leader and I get to interpret the resolution and its relevance to party policy.”
As someone astutely noted on Twitter, the signature on his Grassroots Guarantee wasn’t “Jason Kenney” but “Just Kidding”.
So, let’s pause for a moment: If Mr Kenney is this arrogant when he needs our votes, what’s he going to be like if he actually gets them?
*Alberta Hansard, Nov 7, 2017, p 1798
**Alberta Hansard, May 9, 2018, p 882