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Friday, June 05, 2009

Will the PC Party Pursue the Repeal of Bill 44 Opting-Out Provisions?


It is a dreary rainy Friday afternoon in Edmonton but a ray of public policy sunshine is coming through. Yesterday there was the start of a move within the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta to repeal the opting-out portions of what was Bill 44. It is now the Alberta Human Rights Act since Third Reading early Tuesday morning and it received Royal Assent on June 4th. It is not law until it is Proclaimed but that can happen at any Cabinet Meeting.

The political fallout of the Progressive Conservative government passing this ill-conceived poorly drafted and socially destructive law has not gone unnoticed, including by some other progressives in the Progressive Conservative Party - at least at the local constituency level. The Whitemud Constituency Executive are taking a recommendation to the Board in mid June seeking approval that they present a Resolution to the PC Party AGM in November to deal with the offensive provisions of Bill 44, now the Alberta Human Rights Act.

I understand the Resolution will be intended to deal with the parental opting out provisions of the Human Right Act that focus on education and teaching issues religion, human sexuality and sexual orientation. This Bill was a solution looking for a problem. The School Act had opting out provisions that worked well for 20 years. These options did not need to be expanded and extended into the Human Rights complaint and litigation process against teachers and school trustees. But the Stelmach government in its "wisdom" has done just that...and without any consultation or even advanced notice to anyone involved. Breathtakingly bad governance in a modern and mature representative democracy.

I was at the Edmonton Glenora PC Constituency meeting last night and they decided to do a Policy Resolution to the November AGM as well. I suggested a repeal of the opting out provisions. What will happen in Glenora is three proposed resolutions will be presented to the Board and the one receiving the most votes will go forward for consideration at the AGM. That will be an interesting exercise in local level political party democracy. I will keep you posted.

These Resolutions from the Progressive Conservative Party membership are not binding on the government. They are merely advice and input just like any other special interest group. Sometimes the advice is the result of a collective wisdom. Sometimes it is just pooled Ignorance. One thing for sure the Bill 44 fiasco has legs and it is not going away!

I ran into a former Party President at lunch who has been asked to supervise the PC Party Leadership Confidence vote at the November AGM too. This vote is a Party constitutional provision and happens after every election. It was how the PC Party dumped Premier Klein when he hung on too long after the 2004 election.

Bill 44 is far from over. The political fallout is just beginning to be felt. The Letters to the Editor in the newspapers and the editorial commentary is still coming in. The legal fallout will have to wait for the Human Rights Act to be Proclaimed and who knows when that will happen. Time for citizens, and especially political party members, to take back their political power and to once again participate in the public policy culture of their society.

Opting out of citizenship due to cynicism and skepticism is creating a "silent majority" in the minds of certain politicians. They are hiding behind this veneer of presumed public will and support for Bill 44 by presuming silence entitles them to legalize ignorance and intolerance around religion, human sexuality and sexual orientation.

The world is run by those who show up - not by those who opt out.