In a speech to party members on Saturday, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith expressed her opposition to federal net-zero rules and called out her federal counterparts in Ottawa, but received the loudest approval of the day after signalling her support for “parental rights.”
“Regardless of how often the extreme left undermines the role of parents, I want you to know that parental rights and choice in your child’s education is and will continue to be a fundamental core principle of this party and this government,” Smith said.
This weekend’s annual general meeting in Calgary, one the United Conservative Party has referred to as the largest in Alberta’s history, drew a large contingent of members affiliated with Take Back Alberta, a social conservative group.
David Parker, the leader of that group, has made the subject of “parental rights” among his chief areas of interests. Over the past number of months, some parents and socially conservative groups have been protesting LGBTQ-inclusive education policies in the classroom and in extracurricular settings under that term.
Attendees at this weekend’s AGM passed a non-binding resolution that would require the written consent of parents whenever a student under 16 wants to change their name or pronouns at a school.
The Saskatchewan government recently passed a similar bill. Critics and researchers say the term “parental rights” isn’t accurate, because it doesn’t include the concerns of LGBTQ parents or parents of LGBTQ children.
While the premier didn’t make any policy commitments, it was a way for her to indicate to members that that she shared their concerns, said Lisa Young, a University of Calgary political science professor.
“I think that the reaction from the party members who were there really did signal how important this issue is to them,” Young said.
“So it will be interesting to see how this plays out in the policy debate, and in the days to come if there’s pressure on the government to act, as opposed to simply expressing sympathy.”
Attendees at the UCP are currently voting on a number of other policy resolutions. As of 4 p.m. MT, they had also approved resolutions banning race-based admissions in post-secondary institutions and a resolution that would prohibit the implementation of so-called “15-minute cities.”
They’ve also approved resolutions that would ban the use of electronic voting machines, voted to end provincial funding of supervised consumption sites and voted to oppose net-zero power rules in Canada by 2035. Still to come this afternoon is a vote on refusing transgender women in women’s correctional facilities.
Party members are voting on 30 policy resolutions in total. Policy resolutions are brought forward by party members, but are non-binding, and don’t always translate into legislation.
Smith references AHS decentralization
Smith, in her speech at the BMO Centre, also received a big response from the crowd after saying her government would have more to say “in the coming weeks” on health reforms that would “decentralize decision-making and resources from AHS down to our front lines.”
Young, the U of C political science professor, said there have been a number of people recruited into the party as members over the past year or two who were unhappy with the provincial government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically when it came to mandates.
“The policy stance that seems to be favoured by those groups is that there needs to be decentralization of Alberta Health Services,” Young said.
During her speech, Smith also touched on familiar topics such as her opposition to federal net-zero rules, receiving loud applause from the crowd when she referred to federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s “green czar.”
“They are still hell-bent on imposing these destructive leftist policies on the people of Alberta. You know what I say to them. Not so long as I am premier. Not a chance,” said Smith.