Jason Kenney

Jason Kenney

On Oct. 28, former MP Jason Kenney won the United Conservative Party leadership. For more than a year, Kenney had been working hard to win the Progressive Conservative Party leadership, a unity referendum in both the Alberta PC and Wildrose parties, and finally the leadership of the new United Conservative Party of Alberta. In a three-person race, Kenney, who had a perfect pro-life and pro-family voting record as a federal Member of Parliament according to Campaign Life Coalition, won 61.2 per cent of the vote.

Kenney defeated former Wildrose leader Brian Jean and lawyer Doug Schweitzer. Jean had a pro-life voting record but when he ran for leader of Wildrose in 2015 he called social conservatives “political whack jobs” and described himself as “more of a libertarian,” because “it’s none of my business what people do behind closed doors in their personal life.” Schweitzer said the UCP should be fiscally conservative and socially liberal.

Jean finished with 31.5 per cent of the vote and Schweitzer had 7.3 per cent.

In a statement, Campaign Life Coalition, said it was “delighted” with Kenney’s victory. CLC vice president Jeff Gunnarson said, “We congratulate Jason on his win. He is principled and highly qualified.”

Kenney has not highlighted pro-life issues since moving to provincial politics, but he has championed parental rights in education. He defended homeschoolers when the NDP government went after them, and more recently said parents should not, as a matter of policy, be kept in the dark about their children joining gay-straight alliance clubs.

The NDP goverment has introduced Bill 24, “An Act to support Gay-Straight Alliances.” Education Minister Dave Eggen said Bill 24 forbids schools from telling parents their child has joined a “gay-straight alliance” regardless of the child’s age. The law, which passed 42-23 on Nov. 15, also forces independent religious schools to allow GSAs when any student requests one and mandates all schools to inform students of their legal right to join a GSA.

Eggen claims informing parents could endanger the lives of self-identified homosexual students. Kenney said that he trusts teachers to determine when parents should be informed about their kids’ activities at school. He also charged the NDP government with bringing forward Bill 24 to distract the public from their economic record.

During debate, Mark Smith, the UCP education critic, stressed the party supports GSAs but opposes keeping parents in the dark about their children. He also expressed concerns that Bill 24 could allow sex education to be taught in the peer groups without the legally required parental notification for sex-ed instruction in Alberta.

The Calgary-based Justice Center for Constitutional Freedoms has released an 11-page legal analysis that reiterates the UCP points about parental rights. They announced the JCCF will make a Charter challenge against the law representing a number of parents, independent schools, and other stakeholders. In their analysis, the legislation violates “parents’ and private schools’ fundamental freedoms of conscience and religion, thought, belief, opinion and expression, and association, guaranteed under section 2 of the Charter.” They expect to file their challenge in early 2018.

Kenney is running in the Dec. 14 by-election in Calgary-Lougheed.

The UCP has 27 of 87 seats in the Alberta legislature. A provincial election is set for May 31, 2019.