If failure to appear at Pride goeth before a fall, what will Jason Kenney do?

Posted on June 04, 2017, 1:26 am
9 mins

PHOTOS: Progressive Conservative Leader Jason Kenney, back in 2010 when he was a Calgary MP, taking part in the Calgary Stampede Parade. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons.) Will he show up for the Edmonton Pride Parade next Saturday as well? Below: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, flanked by Education Minister David Eggen and Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous; and former PC premier Dave Hancock, with former Edmonton city councilor Michael Phair and Ward 6 City Councillor Scott McKeen.

Edmonton’s Pride Parade will be held next Saturday, and it has been become an article of faith among Albertan politicians of most ideological stripes for several years now that failure to appear at Pride goeth before a fall.

So what will Jason Kenney do? (WWJKD?)

Alberta’s just not the place it was back in 1998 when religious fundamentalists and other outraged homophobes were burning up the phone lines to Ralph Klein’s office demanding that the Progressive Conservative premier use the Constitution’s Notwithstanding Clause to override a court decision that gay rights are human rights.

At the time, Mr. Klein’s political aides were deeply worried – frightened, even – by the ferocity of the reaction. Mr. Klein himself – who even his opponents have to admit paid attention to what mattered to those voters he called “severely normal Albertans” – read the political tealeaves more accurately and decided to do the right thing. “I will accept the ruling,” Mr. Klein stated. “I think it’s morally wrong to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.”

A great howl arouse from the social conservative right. “Political analysts are predicting a revolt by about one-third of Klein’s 62-member caucus,” prophesied LifeSite News, the resolutely illiberal social-conservative website that got its start in the pre-Internet 1970s campaigning against women’s reproductive rights.

Of course, nothing of the sort happened. So even 1998 in Alberta wasn’t quite the year we now imagine it to have been. (Nowadays – plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose – the same website is campaigning against gay-straight alliances in Alberta schools.)

In 2017, real Albertans – Martha and Henry, as Mr. Klein would have described them – don’t give a fig about their neighbours’ sexuality, gender identity, how they dress, or for that matter what bathroom they use, as long as they wash their hands before they leave.

For several years now, huge throngs have turned out whenever there’s a Pride Parade in Alberta, especially in the big cities. They have a great time and wear enough beads and flowers to feel “gay for a day.” The prevailing sentiment of just about everyone there is … Who cares?

You have to know that when chartered banks, national retail chains and dog-rescue societies have floats in a local Pride Parade, more than just the parade has gone mainstream!

Even if the gay community were not politically active and attuned to what politicians say and do, this would make these events important political occasions. That’s why it’s no longer just the “usual suspects” from the labour movement, the orange-to-red side of the political spectrum and liberal religious congregations who show up to lend their support to the LBGTQ community at these events.

While you may not have to have to look very hard to find Premier Rachel Notley and lots of her New Democrats at Alberta’s Pride events, nowadays many conservative politicians – who like anyone in politics need to be mindful of the feelings of their base, even if they courageously decide to lead by ignoring it – have been showing up too.

Then-premier Dave Hancock was there in Edmonton three years ago, as was former deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk, at the time a candidate for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party.

Others – like both Alison Redford when she was premier and Danielle Smith when she was leader of the Opposition Wildrose Party – tried to have it both ways, showing up at the celebration at the end of the parade route, but not actually marching through the streets where the crowds could see them. They may regret that now.

Which brings us back to the question of WWJKD?

Mr. Kenney won the leadership of the PC Party in part by appealing to the province’s social conservatives. He is perceived by many Albertans as homophobic for his statements about gay-straight alliances in schools, in particular his advocacy of the idea that parents should be informed if their child joined a GSA.

He and his supporters say this is about “parental rights,” and that they are just as concerned about protecting LGBTQ children as were the PCs in premier Jim Prentice’s government who brought the province’s GSA legislation forward in 2015 as a government bill in response to pressure from the then-opposition parties in the Legislature.

Things got hot enough in Alberta about this for Mr. Kenney, it would seem, that he skedaddled to British Columbia for several days, where he was spotted encouraging reluctant federal conservatives to go out and vote for B.C. Premier Christy Clark’s Liberals. (We all know how that turned out.)

Like all elected politicians and party leaders, Mr. Kenney has been invited to take part in next Saturday’s parade by the Edmonton Pride Festival Society, a spokesperson told me.

So will he come?

On the plus side from his perspective, it would support his claims that his arguments about GSAs are about parents’ rights, and not against any group. It would demonstrate – as surely he wants to – that his PCs and the United Conservative Party he hopes to create are welcoming, big-tent parties, as he keeps insisting.

And it would show courage. If the downside is that some participants might boo him, I suspect a lot more people, like me, would applaud him for having the fortitude to show up and make a statement.

The same question could be asked of Wildrose Opposition Leader Brian Jean, although he personally has less to explain than Mr. Kenney, despite tolerating some pretty outrageous attitudes by some of the MLAs in his caucus. It would certainly tell a story if one of the two conservative party leaders showed up, and the other one didn’t.

We know that Mr. Kenney doesn’t have a problem appearing in parades – he’s been in the Calgary Stampede Parade, more than once. So it’s not like he’s afraid of crowds or open spaces. This year’s Stampede Parade is scheduled to take place on Friday, July 7.

And speaking of Pride and the fall, there’s also a Pride Parade in Calgary on Sept. 3. Last year, Mr. Kenney skipped that event, excusing himself by saying his schedule was full.

So, WWJKD?

10 Comments to: If failure to appear at Pride goeth before a fall, what will Jason Kenney do?

  1. June 4th, 2017

    I don’t think you give enough credit to the manoeuvring of the late Premier Klein, who in the face of the Vreind decision deftly handled the screaming of caucus members and constituents by drawing a line at marriage: as soon as gay marriage was allowed, that would be an appropriate time for the notwithstanding clause. Jobs and apartments? Who could oppose that? By kicking the can to a law that wasn’t even being contested at the time, he avoided the whole argument and kept everyone signing from the same songbook for a few more years – time enough for him to leave.

    Reply
  2. June 4th, 2017

    Seems to me that our world has more than it’s share of hate, racism, intolerance, faith based/incited discrimination and disrespect.

    We are long overdue for some old fashioned live let live. The folks in this sector of our society are voters, taxpayers, and citizens. They are us.

    Why on earth should any politician purposely boycott their parade or make excuses for not attending?

    I am not part of this community however I respect their right to live in peace in be part of our community. It would be a boring old world if we were all the same and shared the same beliefs.

    Reply
    • Betty

      June 5th, 2017

      Well said.

      Reply
  3. Dan

    June 5th, 2017

    Great article, if for nothing else but the nuances that cut the loaf without ever using a knife. What would Fildebrandt do?

    Reply
  4. Mike

    June 5th, 2017

    “In 2017, real Albertans – Martha and Henry, as Mr. Klein would have described them – don’t give a fig about their neighbours’ sexuality, gender identity, how they dress, or for that matter what bathroom they use, as long as they wash their hands before they leave.”

    Since that is the case, does it matter if JK attends? In my opinion, the coverage of the Pride Parades are more of a “who’ll show-up from the government” thing now, “Oh look at me”!!! And if a government official doesn’t show-up they get up blasted by the media and whoever else because they’re a “homophobe” or “old-fashioned” . This is getting ridiculous.

    If JK does not show-up cause he doesn’t feel like attending good for him. If this is something he doesn’t support, he has that right. It goes back to the quote above: let’s just leave each other alone. If someone doesn’t believe in the Pride movement, then leave it at that. We can all have our beliefs and can support (or not support) what we want in this great country/province.

    Reply
  5. June 5th, 2017

    It has become all to commonplace for political candidates on the right to do LGBTQ photo ops but not walk the walk. It is politicking in the worst way. Imaging if you can a KKK politician exposing hate but attending an Martin Luther King rally for a photo op?

    Many politicians are true sociopaths and simply cannot help themselves from wanting admiration from all. There should not be any waffling on supporting LGBTQ rights either your in or your out.

    Being on the wrong side of this should cost politicians there careers as anti-gay sentiment is hateful and harmful.

    Reply
  6. David

    June 5th, 2017

    Those that are eagerly hoping Kenney will throw on the best frock from his closet and come out grandly to the Edmonton Pride Parade on this coming Saturday will be probably be disappointed.

    This does not seem the style of the career former federal politician. I am still surprised he decided to take on the role of Alberta PC leader, but I suppose it was the only job available with the potential for advancement. I doubt the Federal Conservatives wanted a leader from the same city or province as their last one and if they wanted Harper with a smile – well Kenney is too dour for that.

    I am sure he will again find some pressing engagement to go to, conveniently far enough away from Edmonton that day. However, now with the BC election over, he can’t go there and try help them out although I suspect they didn’t really want his help before and would have preferred if he had stayed in Alberta.

    Kenney seems to be keeping a very low profile these days – not engaging much with Alberta voters, except the select few who are perhaps blessed with his presence. I suspect he is doing what he does best, organizing in the background. Perhaps he is right now reserving school buses of bible school students to turn out and support him the next time he needs this.

    In reality Alberta doesn’t have much of an idea what Kenney is up to now and he seems to prefer the backrooms to being out in public at events like the Pride Parade. I suppose we can start to play the game where is Kenney (last spotted somewhere between Whitelock and Westcourt), instead of where in the world is Carmen Sandiego.

    Reply
  7. June 6th, 2017

    I guess I view a Premier or a perhaps a Premier in waiting as a Premier of all the the people in the Province. Not just the voteres that he identifies with.

    Politics is paramount. Think back to how Joe Clark wrestled his Calgary Centre seat away from the Reform Party. How…by spending time courting the Gay community and having the smarts to attend their events and their parade. He did this for the two year prior to re-entering politics. It worked.

    No different that Ralph Klein spouting off about not allowing gay marriages in Alberta less than two weeks after the his Cabinet and then the caucus had rec’d a presentation from a leading constitutional lawyer stating that it was a violation of the Charter to prevent gay marriage. Yet, 10 days later on the campaign trail he and his party members knew that gay marriages would be legal in Canada within the next 18 months. Klein simply did not want to carry the political can on the issue.

    Politics is a hard game. Made much more difficult these days by the internet and speed of communication. Not like the old days. It is no longer possible for Jean and Kenney to say one thing to the voters in Three Hills and the complete opposite to the voters in Edmonton, Calgary,or where ever. The media will catch their inconsistencies.

    Reply
    • Val Jobson

      June 6th, 2017

      I lived in Calgary Centre then & I was put off by the Reform guy’s newsletters which expressed a visceral hatred of environmentalists. I would normally have voted for a lefty but Joe Clark was left enough and had the best chance of ousting the Reform guy. It was also nice to vote for a winning candidate for a change.

      Reply

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