Political scientist Duane Bratt says Bill 207 shows the UCP is more like the Wildrose Party than the old Progressive Conservatives (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Here are two important statistics about the United Conservative Party’s Bill 207, the Conscience Rights (Health Care Providers) Protection Act, which was introduced in the Alberta Legislature yesterday …

Just a minute, you say, Bill 207 is a private member’s bill, brought forward by Peace River UCP MLA Dan Williams, not a government bill! How dare you suggest otherwise?

But your blogger argues the UCP is actually more like the Social Credit Party led by William Aberhart from 1935 until his death in 1943 (Photo: Public Domain).

The answer, as is so often the case in politics, is in the numbers:

Number of UCP members in the House when Bill 207 received first reading: 36.

Number of UCP members who voted in favour of Bill 207: 36.

The conclusion one is tempted to draw from this, naturally, is that this is a private member’s bill in name only. For all practical purposes, it appears to be a government bill and, as such, a reflection of the Kenney Government’s true social conservative agenda.

In addition, it strongly suggests the number of UCP MLAs not committed to undermining women’s reproductive rights — which as was argued in this space yesterday is the purpose of this bill — is zero. Or, at least, it was yesterday.

PC premier Alison Redford found the Wildrose “conscience rights” argument, which is exactly the same as in the UCP bill, “frightening.” (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

There is an argument to be made, of course, that this is not necessarily the case. First reading in Parliamentary tradition is merely the formal introduction of a bill. The hard debate — and the hard work — takes place at second and third reading.

And once upon a time, Parliamentarians who opposed a bill would sometimes vote for it on first reading, although that’s a convention rapidly evanescing. Yesterday, all 15 members of the NDP in the House voted Nay to what really should be called the Conscience Rights (Dogwhistlers) Protection Act.

So we shall see, but don’t hold your breath that UCP members who know perfectly well what the true purpose of this legislation is — to wedge open the door to more restrictions on reproductive rights — will not be cowed into silence by their party’s substantial “pro-life” caucus, of which, as is well known, Premier Jason Kenney is a charter member.

One apparent impact of the bill will be to give Alberta’s many Roman-Catholic-Church-owned but publicly funded hospitals the option of opting out of medical services of which they disapprove on theological grounds. “No action lies, nor may be commenced nor maintained, against a health care provider or religious health care organization in respect of a decision that they, or their employees, made to not provide a health care service to an individual that is based on their conscientious beliefs,” says section 7.

Danielle Smith pushed the “conscience rights” idea when she was still leader of the Wildrose Party (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Mount Royal University political science professor Duane Bratt argued on social media yesterday that Bill 207 suggests “the UCP resembles the old Wildrose Party more than the old Progressive Conservatives,” pointing to a 2012 news story in which Wildrose leader Danielle Smith put forward a policy essentially identical to Mr. Williams’ bill.

True enough, but it’s important to remember that not only is the UCP as led by Mr. Kenney quite unlike the old PCs, but it is not exactly a clone of the Wildrose Party either.

Both parties were on the receiving end of what has been described many times in this space as a double reverse hostile takeover — in which Mr. Kenney first took over the PC Party, vulnerable while still reeling from its loss in 2015 to the NDP, and then used PCs as a platform to take over the Wildrose Party where, with a little help from a Kamikaze Campaign, he made swift work of Wildrose leader Brian Jean.

Bill 207 sponsor Dan Williams, whose bill could have been based on the Wildrose policy (Photo: Facebook).

What has resulted is Mr. Kenney’s own creation, quite different from both, not least in the personality cult around its leader and its lack of commitment to democratic values.

If you’re looking for a governing party from Alberta history that’s much more like the UCP than either the PCs or the Wildrose, it would be the Social Credit Party led by William “Bible Bill” Aberhart, powered by crackpot economic notions, conspiracy theories, and religious fundamentalism.

That said, PC premier Alison Redford, who won the 2012 election despite Postmedia’s effort shown clearly in the story highlighted by Dr. Bratt to push the Wildrosers to victory, was certainly right when she called the Wildrose policy frightening.

The Wildrose Party’s last leader, Brian Jean, victim of the successful Kamikaze Campaign to elect Jason Kenney as UCP leader (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

I believe in a province where we have to treat individuals with dignity and respect,” she said in 2012. “We have to live in a community where we respect diversity and we understand that everyone feels safe and included.”

The same thing could be said today. Everybody understands the purpose of Bill 207 is the opposite, notwithstanding its disingenuous claim its goal is “to ensure regulatory bodies respect the rights of health care providers under section 2(a) of the Charter…”

If the UCP wants to create certainty it is committed to the Charter, how about it makes a firm promise never to use Section 33, the Notwithstanding Clause, to overcome a court ruling that its legislation violates the fundamental rights of a group of citizens?

We all know why a party led by Mr. Kenney will never do that.

Join the Conversation


  1. The UCP is certainly not like the PC’s who had some more socially conservative leaders and some more socially progressive, but who generally mostly cautiously stuck with the status quo on social issues. It is also not like the Wildrose Party, which had a strong social conservative base, but was constrained by leaders less enthusiastic for political or personal reasons. Lastly, it is not even like the Federal Conservatives at least not under Harper, who wasn’t that interested in social conservatives except for gaining or losing votes. Perhaps it is more like Scheer’s Conservative Party which also talked about allowing private members to vote as they pleased on social issues, as opposed to Harper who tried to keep a lid on it.

    Social Conservatives have always been mobilized and organized, but until lately somewhat frustrated, from their 90’s audacious attempt to infultrate the Federal Liberals to Harper mostly keeping them under wraps. I can only imagine how thrilled the Wilberforce gang was after the arrival of Kenney when they boasted about their success in getting so many pro life UCP candidates. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kenney himself gave them the lists for the nomination meetings. I suppose now we have a plausible answer to the question not answered at the time – who and how many? Probably somewhere around 36.

    As for Mr. Kenney’s passing resemblance to Aberhart, I fully agree with that. However, Aberhart did not serve as Premier that long. Just when Albertans seemed to have enough of him and were ready to turf him, he was called by a higher power to another place. I doubt history will repeat itself exactly, but I suppose Ottawa also counts as another place, at least in Kenney’s mind.

  2. I wonder if passed would this bill allow those with religious beliefs that don’t align with the UCP to be considered? There are some fast growing religions out there that I think the UCP would object to.

  3. If kenney and his troop of nutbar social regressives start pulling off manoeuvres like this so far as to make it law, it will provide a huge reason and justification why the rest of the country will abandon Alberta to its caterwauling and whining on the tarsands issue. I cannot imagine that women will allow the erosion of their rights, except for those captured by religion to believe otherwise. And kenney’s aspirations for leading the federal Cons will be in danger. Nasty little close-minded provincial politicians with an agenda have never done particularly well countrywide – the federal Conservatives just had that seven hour meeting to let Scheer know he needs to buck up his ideas to reflect modern thinking and to clearly state it out loud with no mumbling and shifty looks desperately trying to find a door to escape the scene. I don’t suppose many Alberta or Sask federal Cons think Scheer was a disaster, but those two provinces comprise only about 15% of the country’s population. The remainder of the country’s Cons know full well that religious fundamentalism and stamping on women’s rights in this day and age is a path to political oblivion, as is climate change denial.

    I keep forgetting, however, that a lot of the country has Catholic schools and hospitals. Here in NS, there are no public schools run by the people some of whose employees have been convicted of all sorts of pederasty, and all religious schools of any kind are privately run. There is one public hospital in Antigonish run by the Catholic church, and they’ve run into problems trying to apply their religious convictions from pre-Reformation days to the question of abortion. It’s probably no surprise that the local area’s diocese has been essentially ruined and all the churches sold off to pay a $15.5 million judgement against the proven past illegal behaviour of priests vis-a-vis the local population. The sisters who run Martha’s Regional Hospital in the Antigonish area have been excused from providing Medical-Assistance in Dying within its walls, but the NS government has a nearby building where the service IS provided. I wonder why one religious institution that essentially seems like a business to me (and for the past 1500 years for that matter) has such power in the rest of the country as to the running of schools and hospitals. We’re not as secular as we’re led to believe, apparently.

  4. So all 36 UCP members present voted in favour of the pseudo-private member’s bill. One wonders about the 27 members not present. I am guessing Leela Aheer was not in attendance. Ms. Aheer is secure enough in her position that she can risk going against Jason Kenney, but you do have to wonder about some of the rookies in the caucus.

    It will be interesting to see how the vote goes in second reading, and how many UCP MLAs don’t show up. It isn’t hard to imagine Jason Kenney telling his caucus not to show up if they are not prepared to vote in favour, since it appears there are enough MLAs in the UCP caucus who personally favour the bill.

    1. The 27 missing MLA’s were Kenney’s Cabinet and inner circle. This was deliberate, so they can distance themselves from the Bill and disavow any responsibility.

  5. Dale Perret Further to this Bill, now comes the real story from this UCP proposed bill. As reported in today’s article A7 of Calgary Herald, his bill would “amend the Alberta Human Rights Act to include “conscientious beliefs” as a basis for protection from discrimination or refusal of employment”. This is a FAR CRY from his statement that it is just a re-affirmation of the Ontario High Court ruling of a lower court ruling. He is now making it possible for a doctor to refuse treating or referring anyone asking for services DESPITE that the College of Physicians and Surgeons “directs that doctors who do not wish to provide these services to offer patients timely access to a member or a service that can”. This opens a whole can of worms and that can is the UCP party and their zealous religious beliefs that they wish to force on others. How about if you don’t like being a doctor under the rules then quit. You don’t get to be paid by the taxpayers of Alberta under your terms and conditions. This goes farther in how this reflects on individual rights. What if a doctor doesn’t believe in vaccinations, blood transfusions… and the list goes on and on!! Spread the word…… DON”T LET THIS BILL PASS.

  6. Didn’t take Jason Kenney and the UCP long to revert back to their roots flying Jason Air on the taxpayers dime and wanting to impose their extreme religious right views into legislation. This was never a Party based on ethics and morals for all but only for their own extreme views and greed.

  7. If I have my sensors tuned to the right frequency, we should all be trying to find media that will underwrite the not cheap work of tracking and reporting the plans of the robber morons that are deploying in defense of some astro-turf global assault on the value of work. In Quebec we have the battle line drawn by Nazis in the ever abundant sand of cultural grievance. Back home? You guys have definitely set the way back machine to stun! I’m afraid I must ask our host here to come out of retirement! This is a five alarm fire and the arsonists are there in front of us! https://youtu.be/FL_y6gtxLvQ

    1. Now I have to tell you something about music. “The Three Chords”. Well? They’re the 4 and 5 and the 1. That’s a cadence that us humans who know love hear love in!

  8. I don’t know if you know my dad. But if he were still alive? He’d be triggered by this! Oh his Kinsmen field house story is like a painting on my wall! I thought we’d passed and gone into the future. How wrong can one be, when so many can’t think? https://youtu.be/KeKGPhcSPHk

  9. Wikipedia.org: “On October 16, 1916 Margaret Sanger opened a family planning and birth control clinic at 46 Amboy Street in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, the first of its kind in the United States. Nine days after the clinic opened, Sanger was arrested. Sanger’s bail was set at $500 and she went home. Sanger continued seeing some women in the clinic until the police came a second time. This time, Sanger and her sister, Ethel Byrne, were arrested for breaking a New York state law that prohibited distribution of contraceptives.” Both women were convicted and served jail time.

    Had Jason and his UCP boys been around in 1916 they could have joined the fun. Too bad they missed it all by being born 100 years too late.

  10. One can only hope that the scant UCP caucus turnout for First Reading was a sign that allowing Mr Williams to present the bill was just a sop to the so-con contingent, and that the bill will fail at 2nd or 3rd Reading. But I fear this hope is all too faint.
    A bill like this is dangerous in its conception: it essentially allows any professional, whether a public employee or private contractor, to willy-nilly deny lawful, Constitutionally-protected services to a member of the public, for reasons of “personal conscience” … whatever that means. Its effect could be to render the Charter of Rights & Freedoms essentially meaningless, and certainly toothless.
    Let’s look, for illustration, south of the border; not just south, but Deep South. Imagine a County marriage registrar in, say Alabama or Mississippi, refusing to register a marriage between two people of different races. They could, under a provision like this, assert “conscience rights” by claiming that their faith prohibits inter-racial marriage. In fact, if memory serves, this has happened down there. What recourse under the US Constitution would that couple have, if the State gives a free pass to that public servant to arbitrarily toss out the Equal Protection clause at will?
    Bringing the matter back to Canada, the same issue applies. What meaning would a court ruling — that individuals have rights under the Charter to marriage equality, non-discrimination, security of the person, or autonomy in choosing the manner of their own departure from this Earth — have, if an agent of the State can simply ignore those rights by having their own made paramount?
    So much for the rule of law.

  11. Well, yes. Treat individuals with “dignity and respect”…

    Provided they are male, white, Christian… and card-carry UCP members.

    Everyone was surprised at the misogynistic bile and venom that greeted Premier Notley’s tenure. I saw it as par for the course: this is what much of Alberta really says about women.

    As Kenney did with Canada’s citizenship guides when he was federal Immigration minister – when he removed any mention of same-sex marriage from the guide – we will see a micro-managed rewrite of every single piece of documentation that concerns family-planning and sex-ed that exorcises the words abortion, contraceptives, and same-sex anything from all guides.

    Of course, the march to Gilead would not be complete without gun rights. If Alberta wants its own provincial police force, we all know that they will pick and chose their enforcement of federal gun regulations. AR-15s for all.

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