Riders from the Gay Rodeo welcome Edmontonians to the New West yesterday! Scenes from Edmonton’s Pride Parade below: Alberta Premier Dave Hancock, left, and Edmonton City Councillor Scott McKeen, right, with a parade participant; Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson on his bicycle with his kids; a couple of parade participants trying to sell underwear; NDP Edmonton MP Linda Duncan with B.C. MP Randall Garrison; dancers; angels; sailors; and parade royalty.

When chartered banks and dog-rescue societies have floats in a local Pride Parade, you’ve got to know that more than just the parade has gone mainstream.

Fact is, real Albertans don’t care a fig about a person’s sexuality, gender identity or how they dress.

They prove it every year by turning out in massive numbers – as they did yesterday in Edmonton, despite the threat and eventual reality of a hard rain – to take in annual Pride parades, have a great time and even wear enough beads and flowers to feel “gay for a day.” The prevailing sentiment of just about everyone there: Who cares?

But when it’s not 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 LBGTIQ community at events like yesterday’s parade in Edmonton, this creates discomfort for certain politicians of a more conservative persuasion.

We saw this last year when then-premier Alison Redford left the impression she would take part in the parade, but only turned up at a festival event at the end of the line afterward. Her flunkies got snippy with anyone who pointed it out.

This, it is said here, is a particular problem for office holders with a conservative political preference, because while they may be personally free of homophobia and like sentiments, their base is more likely to contain sizeable and vocal groups of social conservatives who do feel that way compared with more liberal political parties. And TV cameras, of course, are bound to line the parade route.

So the political calculation for them, it is said here, has become: now that Pride’s gone mainstream, is just turning up in the crowd (and possibly not a very crowded part of the crowd) enough? Or do you need to be in the parade for your support to mean anything?

This year’s Edmonton Pride Parade saw prominent representatives of the Progressive Conservative Government (including Premier Dave Hancock in a convertible, wearing a shocking pink polo shirt), the New Democrats and the Alberta Liberals (leader Raj Sherman rode in the back of his red pickup truck) all in the parade, the Libs and Knee-Dippers with large crowds of supporters.

Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith was in the crowd, but not the parade – and it’s said here that was a political miscalculation, but perhaps one the party was led to that by advice from outside their ranks. A factor may have been their lousy performance on a policy issue where the rubber really hit the road, on their recent lack of support in the Legislature for school gay-straight alliances.

Federal politicians? Well, Edmonton-Strathcona New Democrat MP Linda Duncan was there in an orange boa, accompanied by her party’s critic for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and transsexual issues, Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca MP Randall Garrison. But if any of Alberta’s other 25 MPs, every one of them a Conservative but for one Independent conservative, were there, I didn’t see them.

Edmonton isn’t Toronto, thank goodness, so there were municipal politicians aplenty, led by Mayor Don Iveson on a bicycle with his kids in tow.

As for the Pride performance of Tory leadership candidates? Not so good this year. Edmonton MLA Thomas Lukaszuk walked in the parade, but there was no sign of either Ric McIver or frontrunner Jim Prentice – the latter of whom was reported to be about as far away as one could be, in Taber in Alberta’s deep south.

We’ll have to see, though, if failure to appear at Pride goeth before a political fall.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

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  1. NOTE: Apologies to Thomas Lukaszuk, who, I am reliably informed by a member of his campaign team, walked in the parade. I have amended the story accordingly.

  2. Thank you for featuring our Cagelles – sailors. La cage Aux Folles (musical that inspired the movie The Birdcage) opens this Friday, June 13 and runs until June 29. Tickets at TixOn The Square.

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