PHOTOS: Progressive Conservative Leader Jason Kenney. Why does this man look so puzzled? Below: Entertainer k.d. lang; the late Ralph Klein, premier of Alberta when Jason Kenney left for Ottawa; Edmonton Journal columnist Paula Simons; and Nolan Crouse, until yesterday the only candidate to lead the Alberta Liberal Party.

When Jason Kenney stepped onto the national stage in 1997 at the tender age of 29, Alberta was the sort of place that could become infuriated at a Conservative premier for refusing to invoke the Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ Notwithstanding Clause to keep sexual orientation from being read into provincial rights-protection legislation by the courts.

Ralph Klein was the premier and people who worked in his office say privately they never encountered a more enraged or hateful reaction than from the callers who phoned to tell him where to go for refusing to use the Constitution’s “opting out clause” to keep an Edmonton Christian college instructor fired for his sexual orientation from asserting his rights.

Now that Mr. Kenney has returned to Alberta with hopes of unseating an NDP Government in what used to be known as Canada’s most conservative province, it’s possible he just hadn’t noticed how much the times were a-changin’ here during the 20 years he spent as a resident of Ottawa.

After all, I imagine Mr. Kenney spent a lot of his time with like-minded social conservatives who continued to see the world in much the same way as they always had while so many of the rest of us were changing our minds about many things. Still, the fact we elected an NDP government in 2015 really should have been a hint!

That may be the most charitable explanation for Mr. Kenney’s bizarre blunder Tuesday, when, freshly elected as “unite the right” leader of the Progressive Conservative Party in a campaign marred by the abusive behaviour of his social conservative supporters, he told the Calgary Herald’s editorial board that schools should notify parents if their children decide to join a gay-straight alliance.

“Clearly, Kenney learned nothing from watching former premier Jim Prentice fumble the Bill 10 debate,” observed Edmonton Journal columnist Paula Simons, referring to the hot water Alberta’s last PC premier got into when his government reluctantly brought forward legislation in 2015 to require schools to permit students to form GSAs if the young people themselves saw a need. She asked: “Why on earth does he want to re-litigate this issue now?”

Why on earth indeed!

Not every Albertan would agree with Education Minister David Eggan’s assessment that “Jason Kenney has shown, once you scratch the paint off a little bit, you find the extremist that he actually is.” But a heck of a lot more do than would have in 1997.

“The comments made by Jason Kenney today effectively would destroy the good work that has been done,” Mr. Eggen said in a Facebook post. “Students have the right to form a GSA. They do not need permission from a principal or superintendent. An entire school community isn’t notified when students set up a chess club or a sports team and students wishing to have a GSA don’t need to be outed in this way.

“With the comments Jason Kenney has made, he is effectively outing himself… as an extremist.”

Nor would every Albertan be comfortable with the rhetorical hand grenade hurled at Mr. Kenney yesterday morning by renowned entertainer k.d. lang. The media certainly appeared by its lack of coverage to be scared of the story. But many more Albertans are now likely to be comfortable with what Ms. lang had to say than would have been in 1997, especially since the target is a politician advocating a sly way of undermining the GSA law with a potential for grave collateral damage among the young people the legislation was designed to protect.

What’s wrong with telling parents their kids might want to join a GSA? “We know that many families are not supportive of their LGBTQ children,” says Dr. Kristopher Wells of the University of Alberta’s Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services. “Research shows between 20-40 per cent of all homeless youth are LGBTQ youth. Parental rejection is the Number One cause of youth homelessness.”

It’s 2017, and most Albertans get this now. Even a lot of conservative MLAs were sounding pretty uncomfortable yesterday with Mr. Kenney’s bloviations to the like-thinkers at the Calgary Herald.

Indeed, Mr. Kenney himself may be slowly, ever so slowly, starting to get it. Yesterday he or someone on his political staff published a statement on his Facebook account gingerly backing away from his remarks to the Herald.

“The law should neither force schools to release information to parents, nor should it create an adversarial relationship between parents and their children,” he said, notwithstanding his previous comments to sympathetic audiences.

The times? They are a-changin!

On again off again Crouse campaign is off again

Oh, for pity’s sake! Nolan Crouse has pulled out of the race to lead Alberta’s Liberal Party. The deadline is tomorrow. He was the only candidate for the job.

The St. Albert mayor announced a month ago he would be running to lead the Liberals shortly after surprising residents of the bedroom suburb northwest of Edmonton with an unexpected Facebook announcement saying he wouldn’t be seeking a fourth term as mayor.

Not so long before that, he’d insisted to media he wasn’t going to run for the Alberta Liberals, despite rumours he was interested.

With nominations about to close, Mr. Crouse sent out an email yesterday saying that “with varied emotions … I have decided that I will not be letting my name remain standing for the ALP Leader role and that effective immediately all activities in this regard will cease.

“As such,” he went on, “I am requesting of Elections Alberta and the Alberta Liberal … Party to have my name removed as a candidate.

“While many may wonder the reason(s) for this decision, the reasons will be kept private and I will provide ‘no comment’ as to these varied questions and associated speculation,” he stated.

Mr. Crouse thanked his supporters. Umm … That’s all.

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  1. Let’s not forget Mr Kenney’s sordid attempts to keep George Galloway from speaking in Canada. Mr. Galloway is a former member of the U.K. parliament. He was a vocal anti-war activist. Jason Kenney led an attempt by the cons to keep Mr. Galloway out of Canada on the grounds he was a security threat. Real Reason: Mr Kenney never saw a war he didn’t like. Mr Kenney was part of a war mongering government. Mr Galloway went to court and eventually prevailed.

  2. What happens if a political party throws a leadership race, and nobody joins? Is this about the complete political irrelevance of the Alberta Liberal Party? It will be interesting to see if they have any candidates for that thankless job come EOB tomorrow.

    1. albeit sad, still a good point.
      more competition in this field in any case is positive for province.
      after all, leaving aside homosexual concerns, seems Alberta haven’t changed as much, as article claim.

  3. Yes, Alberta has changed. I remember when the country and western station out of Red Deer banned K.D. Lang’s music – not because she was gay, but because she was a vegetarian! Or at least that is the excuse they offered at the time.

    1. The times have changed and I wonder whether now being a vegetarian might be a greater sin in the eyes of many in rural Alberta than being gay. While I don’t see quite so many Eat Alberta Beef bumper stickers as I used to, but I haven’t seen many about GSA’s either.

      I agree Kenney has hit the wrong note here and it might very well be because the province as it exists now is different than the one he imagined all those years he was ensconced in Ottawa. It has indeed changed quite a bit. Part of that change may have happened because we already had a GSA debate several years ago while Kenney was in Ottawa so they already exist (or are provided for) in many school and most Albertans notice the sky hasn’t fallen.

      If they are looked at as another school club and not as some big deal then it makes sense that students should choose if, when and how to talk to their parents about it when asked about how their day in school was. If their parents don’t like chess and they are in the chess club, I am sure the student would not talk about it at home either.

      Kenney’s comments seem a round about way of restricting GSA’s and discouraging students from joining them. Perhaps there is still a narrow base of support for that, but I don’t think that is a good idea and yes he is out of step with the times by 10 to 15 years.

    2. I had relatives in the cattle industry who had been K.D. Lang fans, but were very angry about the “Meat stinks” ad she did. I don’t recall them mentioning anything about her sexual orientation and I don’t know if they weren’t aware or if they knew about it and didn’t care.

      1. Back in the late 80’s pretty much everybody in rural Alberta knew KD was gay, after all she was from a rural town and it’s a small world. Except for a few old Socreds who were not comfortable with that gay stuff, nobody gave a hoot one way or the other, but the ‘meat stinks’ really hurt.

  4. That’s a very mild comment on kd lang’s tweet. Perhaps if progressives truly want to be taken seriously when arguing for equality for all they should take their allies to task for offensive and inappropriate behaviour.

    1. Kd Lang asked Kenney if he was gay. He refused to answer. How is this offensive, considering his opinion on outing young LGBTQs?

    2. What part of it was inappropriate?

      On one level she is asking him a question that he proposed be answered on behalf of children by their teachers. To directly ask him seems incredibly appropriate in comparison.

      On another level Kenny is clearly demonstrating the gay bashing that all too often leads up to the gay basher being discovered to be gay. Given the numerous instances of public homophobic closeted gays, I find this to be appropriate as well.

      On the final level, as a gay man I have never found this question inappropriate…

    3. Dear Bob T,

      You would do well to remember that it wasn’t KD Lang who proposed to “out” children against their will. It was in fact Kenney. If you want to take anyone to task for offensive and inappropriate behaviour, it should be Kenney.

  5. Alberta is no beachhead, more like a backwater. Actually, the rural rumblings of “shooting first” have a hero in Jason (mask or no mask). The dark side was not transformed, it just re-trenched to the backwoods. There is trouble brewing.

  6. Speaking of “rhetorical hand grenades” and certain politicians being “out of the closet”, did you hear the one about the ALP convention?

    So many supporters turned out they had to rent an extra closet. LOL!

    On a more serious note, if you or somebody you know is thinking about throwing their own personal hand grenade for whatever reason, they would be well advised to watch this:

  7. I think you have nailed the big problem with Kenney as a candidate he is simply a social conservative, nothing fiscally conservative about him or his record. This kind of thing may play with a, hopefully small, minority of Albertans but it’s the economy stupid. He hasn’t provided any solutions for the economy just blame the NDP.

    1. That is exactly my issue. Zero solutions, zero alternatives. It is just a replay of those dirty socialists are ruining our province. That may do it for social conservatives but not for me. I want specifics, not vague promises.

      I don’t plan to vote for a ‘pig in a poke’ so to speak.

  8. Alberta, the most conservative province in Canada? Certainly that needs qualification, and certainly anyone who has visited rural Quebec or central BC—or almost any rural outback in any province or federal Territory—might take exception to the superlative.

    Note that Nova Scotia is the only eastern province (i.e., east of the Manitoba-Ontario border where no province physically touches a federal Territory) to have elected a majority NDP government; I suppose the PQ was Quebec’s socialist equivalent. Ontario’s Bob Rae’s NDP minority was led by a closet Liberal.

    Does Alberta qualify as the most conservative province because it is the last western province to elect an NDP majority? Considering the Yukon Territory has also elected a socialist majority government, one could plausibly say Alberta is at the centre of Canadian socialism, which is almost entirely a Western political phenomenon.

    One aspect remains clear: wherever conservative enclaves exist in Canada, it’s always rural. The map of federal Conservative party ridings is illustrative: it outlines the farming areas of BC, the prairies, southern Ontario, parts of the St Laurence Valley, and maritimes. That alone makes Alberta the most conservative, owing to the vastness of its arable. But I think more important, Alberta can claim to be a right-wing “redoubt” on both geophysical and demographic grounds: as a redoubt, a military term for “refuge,” “an outwork or fieldwork” which, a place where headwaters flow to three different oceans (that is, half of every raindrop that lands on the continental divide), Alberta definitely qualifies; the region’s fabled remoteness has already attracted American “redoubters” to Montana and Idaho, and countless religious anarchists, Metis rebels, East European refugees, remittance-men and other assorted fugitives to the Tibet of North America.

    Yeah, I guess Alberta qualifies as most conservative, even as it recovers from decades of conservatism (which, lets face it, was about as Liberal as conservatism can get under St Peter and Alison Red-diaper-baby) now with its new—the newest—socialist government in Canada.

    Now, if only BC would wake up—in a month—and replace its own far-right government with another NDP government (we’ve already had a few); after all, BC’s the most conservative province west of the Rockies, not including the Coast.

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