NDP Education Minister David Eggen’s warning yesterday he could defund 28 religious private schools if they won’t obey the law and implement diversity policies and UCP Leader Jason Kenney’s refusal to expel a high-profile social conservative party member who compared pride flags with Nazi swastikas seem like separate stories.
They are really one and the same.
Understanding this helps illustrate how radical social conservative activists, ideological dark money from corporate slush funds, extremist media outfits, and the fundamentalist religious school lobby work together with Mr. Kenney to embarrass the NDP Government and get the United Conservative Party elected in 2019.
At a news conference in Edmonton yesterday, Mr. Eggen told reporters he has worked with 94 private schools to get them to comply with the provincial law that supports gay-straight alliances in schools, but that 28 refuse to cooperate.
The legislation, originally passed by the Progressive Conservative government of premier Jim Prentice and amended by the NDP to ensure students who join GSAs are not outed to their parents, has always been strongly resisted by the operators of many Alberta religious private schools.
Significantly, Mr. Eggen told the media yesterday, he tried working with the 28 uncooperative schools to help them comply but “they stopped interacting with us for a while.”
It’s pretty obvious this is intentional. There has appeared since mid-2016 to be a strategy by certain religious schools to force the government to enforce the law, presumably in hopes the NDP can then be portrayed as an ideological bully to its electoral disadvantage.
If the schools continue to defy the law, Mr. Eggen warned, taking away their subsidy of 70-per-cent of public school funding is a possibly. Significantly, though, he’s leaving that off the table till after the provincial election expected next spring, which could well render the threat meaningless given Mr. Kenney’s well known sympathy for social conservative bugbears, support for private religious schools, and current success in the polls.
Meanwhile, it was last Saturday lawyer John Carpay, a prominent social conservative warrior, was caught on tape comparing LGBTQ Pride flags to the banners of Nazism and Stalinism at a conference in Calgary put on by the far-right Rebel Media video blog. The inevitable cell-phone video soon appeared, and Mr. Carpay was immersed in the Lake of Fire, a feature of Alberta’s political geography.
It didn’t help that, soon after, Albertans were reminded Mr. Kenney once offensively compared Mr. Carpay to civil rights movement hero Rosa Parks, and an old recording surfaced in which the Opposition leader bragged about his efforts to defund abortions and oppose civil rights protections for gays.
After that, there was no shortage of Albertans demanding Mr. Kenney expel Mr. Carpay – a friend, donor and longtime ally – from UCP membership. Premier Notley chimed in, tweeting a demand that Mr. Kenney clearly condemn Mr. Carpay’s views.
Mr. Carpay proffered a half-hearted apology. Mr. Kenney said his friend’s views don’t represent those of the UCP and tried to change the channel. Cornered, he reminded questioners Mr. Carpay had apologized. So far, the uproar refuses to die.
Despite his odious comparison, Mr. Carpay would be pretty hard for Mr. Kenney to dump. As blogger Dave Cournoyer pointed out yesterday, both are social conservative activists from Calgary who have run in the same circles for decades.
Mr. Carpay’s controversial remark was made while he described the efforts of the so-called Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which he founded and runs, to use the courts to halt enforcement of legislation like Alberta’s GSA law.
The JCCF, in turn, is bankrolled by deep-pocketed right-wing funds like the Aureau Foundation and the Donner Canadian Foundation, with Rebel Media providing publicity and fund-raising opportunities.
Of course, short of another recording appearing, we’ll probably never know exactly what Mr. Kenney has promised private religious school leaders behind closed doors, but it doesn’t seem very likely it involves ensuring GSAs thrive in schools.
Meanwhile, shortly after a speech to the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce yesterday, Mr. Kenney claimed it’s not up to him to kick extremist members out of the UCP. “It’s our board that deals with expulsions,” the beleaguered UCP leader insisted.
“Decisions regarding membership revocation are made by the board as a whole, of which Jason Kenney is a voting member and obviously an influential voice,” UCP President Erika Barootes supportively added in a message emailed to media.
Albertans may be puzzled by this change in Mr. Kenney’s tune. Not so long ago, he was the Decider when it came to expelling misbehaving members.
Indeed, just two weeks ago, Mr. Kenney said of former party call centre leader Adam Strashok, who had been exposed as a white supremacist and participant in a business selling racist memorabilia, that “I have since instructed party officials to cancel Mr. Strashok’s membership.” (Emphasis added,)
When it comes to disciplining members of Mr. Kenney’s party, by the sound of it, it’s a matter of different strokes for different blokes.
St. Albert Dippers prepare to face off for nomination
Both Edmonton-St. Albert MLA Mary Renaud and Spruce Grove-St. Albert MLA Trevor Horne published social media posts yesterday saying they will seek the NDP nomination for the redrawn St. Albert riding.
The new riding contains the bulk of Ms. Renaud’s old constituency; Mr. Horne’s riding was more dramatically redrawn, losing all the parts in St. Albert, a city of 70,000 northwest of Edmonton.
The nomination meeting is scheduled for Dec. 12. Members must have joined the party by Nov. 27 to vote.
Say hello to another right-wing party in Alberta
Maybe the Freedom Conservative Party wasn’t right wing enough. Think about that!
At any rate, a group of former Wildrose Party members, apparently uncomfortable with former Progressive Conservatives in the ranks of the United Conservative Party, has gathered enough signatures to register a new right-wing political party with Elections Alberta.
The Alberta Advantage Party vows that if it forms the government, every Albertan will receive a tax reduction. No exceptions. The risk of this happening, however, is minimal.