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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Alberta Progressive Conservative MLAs Show Up for the First Time at Pride Parade

Thanks Daveberta for the pictures of politicians participating in the Edmonton Pride Parade. The very first time Progressive Conservative MLAs showed up. I know it is not good enough for many in the GLBT community for an MLA to show up at a Pride Parade but still vote for or not show up for the vote on Bill 44 - unless of course they actually believe it is good and appropriate law. It is encouraging to me, as a member of the Progressive Conservative Party who is opposed to Bill 44 opting out provisions, to see some of the PC Caucus "coming out" at least in this symbolic way.

I sense there is some continuing disquiet and perhaps dissension in the PC ranks over the ill-advised and socially harmful effects of extending and expanding parental rights. There has been no sound public policy reason given by the Stelmach government for passing a law to change a policy that has been in the School Act and working well for over 20 years. The only reasons given relate to some internal party politics to appease social conservatives in the PC Caucus.

The government's efforts to try and sell this kind of discrimination as protecting parental rights is misleading at best. Parental rights to opt out their kids from religious and human sexuality instruction within the school curriculum has been protected in Alberta for decades. It was not broke and did not need any socially destructive and retrograde fixing as Bill 44 has done.

So, here is a tip of my hat to my MLA Heather Klimchuk, and to Edmonton MLAs, Fred Horn and Doug Elniski. I say thanks for making this personal political statement by showing up at the Edmonton Pride Parade. I know it is too little too late for some, and they may be right but I think the political impact of Bill 44 is far from over. These PC MLAs, who showed up as the first Conservative MLAs to participate in the Edmonton Pride Parade, will help keep the concern over Bill 44 alive in the public and media mind. It will continue to fester in the minds of many Albertans. It has the potential to divide the PC Party itself on some fundamental principles of human rights and mutual respect. Ideally the Pride Parade attendance of Klimchuk, Horn and Elniski will continue to feed the public conversation about what kind of society Alberta is and what we aspire to become. I hope Albertans continue to consider if Bill 44 get us closer to or farther away from those societal goals and our greater aspirations.

Will the presence of the PC Pride Parade Trio make a difference within the PC Caucus and the PC Party? Perhaps, but only if progressive members in the PC Party continue the conversation at the constituency level and at the forthcoming AGM in November. Will they personally continue to press the other MLAs in Caucus and the Premier's office to repeal the Bill 44 opting out provisions, or at the very least not Proclaim them?

If progressives merely grumble under their breath and fail to take a stand, there are other questions that will have to be asked. Do the progressives still feel they still have a place in the PC Party post-Bill 44? Have they already moved on and left the PC Party? Or are they merely being compliant in this political exercise that is Bill 44 that normalizes and perpetuates a certain kind of discrimination in Alberta.

Nothing in the opting out provisions of Bill 44 serve the greater good. They sure do embolden reactionary social conservatives who are gearing up to press their social conservative political agenda with the new legal tools they can use against teachers and trustees. Those new legal tools at there thanks to Bill 44 which has created them.

The continuing political debate about the wisdom and necessity of Bill 44 now moves from the floor of the Legislature into the public sphere and into rank and file of the PC Party. The power structure in the Party wants to keep the Bill 44 controversy quiet and hope that it will "go away" by relying on the short memory of the Alberta voter to forget about it. Complacency and compliance amongst progressives in the PC Party, who chose to be quiet about their concerns over Bill 44, is what will allow a bad law to endure and be swept under the public policy carpet. That is no way to govern a province. We will soon know if there is any progressive character left in the PC Party - or not.