Peace River MLA Dan Williams being sworn into office (Photo: Government of Alberta).

Does anyone recall when Cameron Wilson, political action director of the “Wilberforce Project,” previously known as Pro-Life Alberta, bragged that “if the UCP wins the upcoming election, then we will have the most pro-life Legislature in decades, and maybe ever”?

That was only in February this year, a century or two ago in political time, just before the April 16 election brought the United Conservative Party to power and installed, just as Mr. Wilson predicted, the largest contingent of MLAs determined to roll back women’s reproductive rights in Alberta history.

Wilberforce project Political Action Director Cameron Wilson (Photo: Wilberforce Project).

It’s possible a larger percentage of Alberta MLAs might have unthinkingly opposed such rights in the first half of the 20th Century, but that was a different era — or, at least, it was until Jason Kenney and his social conservative legion conned their way into power, ably assisted by the right-wing echo chamber of the mainstream media.

Albertans didn’t hear the muffled warnings of the former NDP government’s supporters. The NDP campaign itself passed over this important issue far too lightly for hard-to-understand reasons. Media was never much interested in that narrative.

For its part, Alberta journalists couldn’t be bothered trying to identify which of Premier Kenney’s candidates were affiliated with the deceptively titled Wilberforce group, named for 18th and 19th century anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce.

Mr. Wilson, slyly giving his report to his members, which remains on the group’s website, prudently kept mum on that point.

As for Mr. Kenney himself, an anti-abortion crusader throughout his adult life, he stuck to the talking point his government would never revisit the issue, although of course his MLAs could always introduce whatever private members’ bills they wished.

Beleaguered federal Conservative Leader and former Speaker Andrew Scheer (Photo: Flickr/Andrew Scheer).

Since then, the large contingent of so-called pro-lifers in the Alberta Legislature has been very, very quiet.

Obviously, they were waiting for last month’s federal election to be over, and for Andrew Scheer, their man in Ottawa where the real damage to reproductive rights could be done, to become prime minister.

Fortunately for Canada, that didn’t happen. Liberal Justin Trudeau remains the PM. Federal laws protecting reproductive rights are likely safe for the time being. Mr. Scheer, still the Opposition leader, faces attacks by ambitious party rivals.

Mr. Scheer, like Mr. Kenney a longtime anti-reproductive-rights campaigner, tried during the campaign to hide behind the same private-member’s-bill dodge. However, more federal voters must have cottoned onto the reality, illuminated by the Harper Government’s drive to pass anti-union legislation, that not all private members bills are created equal.

Alert readers will recall how Bill C-377 started life in December 2011 as a private member’s bill. In reality, the legislation to tie up unions in reporting red tape was a government bill from the get-go in all but legal status. As Speaker, Mr. Scheer made sure in 2013 it survived into the second session of the 41st Parliament. Stephen Harper’s government saw to it that it was passed in December 2012. The Liberals repealed it in June 2017.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

With last month’s federal vote out of the way, the time seems to have come for the UCP’s large anti-reproductive-rights caucus to get the Alberta government, as Mr. Wilson put it back in February, “on track to enacting pro-life policy.”

Yesterday, we learned the still-uncounted UCP anti-abortion caucus is about to make its first move with the introduction of a private member’s bill to reopen the debate about physicians’ rights to assert religious “conscience rights” if they don’t want to refer patients to doctors who will provide abortions, contraception or medically assisted death.

The bill will be introduced today Peace River MLA Dan Williams, who was noted participating in the May 9 March for Life in Edmonton at which Catholic high school students from throughout the province were bused to the Legislature on the taxpayers’ dime.

According to a Star Edmonton report yesterday, Mr. Williams stoutly denies the NDP’s accusation the bill is a back-door manoeuvre to undermine rights to abortion and contraception. The possessor of what must be the least informative official biography in the UCP Caucus insisted he’s just trying “to protect the Charter rights that individuals have and access to all these services will continue afterwards as before — no changes.”

Since the rights in question are already enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and have been upheld by the courts, it strains credulity to believe the Legislature is being asked to waste its time on such a matter unless some other agenda is in play.

In this case, since this ploy is a well-understood part of the pro-life playbook, it is certain the bill is an attempt to do just what the NDP says: find a way to limit access to abortion services and contraception, and open the Overton window for more of the same.

This is just the first move. It’s unlikely to be the last. Welcome to Gilead North.

Join the Conversation


  1. If only there was another party to vote for that didn’t want to steal guns from sport shooters. But I guess it’s easier than actually doing something to reduce gun violence.

  2. David, here is a long post from another jurisdiction. Could it be a preview of how the Canadian Courts might treat UCP “laws”?

    ” The case involves challenges to a rule recently promulgated by HHS entitled “Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care; Delegations of Authority.” The rule purports to interpret and provide for the implementation of more than 30 statutory provisions that recognize the right of an individual or entity to abstain from participation in medical procedures, programs, services, or research activities on account of a religious or moral objection. Judge Engelmayer vacated the rule in its entirety.”

  3. The Thumpers in the UCP were more than willing to immorally vote in Kenny knowing full well he committed fraud, lied and cheated. UCP candidates were complicit and hid like frightened children not appearing anywhere they would be challenged. Now they are trying to force their twisted form of morality upon women. But what can you expect from people who get their morals from the “Goat Herders Guide To The Universe?”
    1 Timothy 2 11:15
    11 A woman[a] should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man;[b] she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women[c] will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

  4. Nay. Just the most anti public sector union, which means all sorts of reasons will be conjured to discredit the UCP. The only relevant measures of success will be how close the budget is to balance and how Alberta’s economy is growing relative to the rest of the world. Social policy died sometime around the mid 90’s. Government has more or less lost the ability to influence social attitudes as it can’t control information flow. Groups trying to push certain agendas will try to frame them in social policy terms in order to elicit emotions. The binary truth is that Alberta overfunds its public service relative to other provinces. Fixing that deficiency is an absolute requirement much like any attempt to paint the UCP’s alleged or even actual social conservatism as relevant is an absolute distraction.

    1. Well, this government’s running a deficit of 2 billion dollars more a year than the previous government and oil companies are moving out of the province apace–even as this government is seemingly taking active measures to prevent economic diversification. Add to that regressive socon measures. Not bad for six months’ work. Oh, and the premier’s leadership campaign is being criminally investigated by the cops. How’s that?

  5. Wow! Will the good news ever end? Or is that, never end? After leading Albertans around by the nose with the promise of petro jobs to poison the world and a Nirvana of low taxes for the wealthy paid for by cuts to the poor’s social services, now comes social change from the UCP religious nutbars back to a time when men were men and women knew their place. Yee-haw! They’re so far to the right of the Pope, he’ll meet them coming around from the reverse direction and assume they’re commies out to get him. What’s next? A pogrom against First Nations?

    Why in hell should the rest of Canada have anything to do with Preston’s boys? I cannot think of one solid reason.

    1. Pogrom against first nations? Almost certainly against the ones who cannot be bought off. Can anyone remember the Justin Trudeau Cabinet Minister who suggested troops could be sent in to make sure the cargo-cult pipeline is completed through first nations land?

  6. We shouldn’t be shocked at this given that we all knew how socially conservative he is. I find it interesting that some of the more libertarian members are not making any mention of this. I know of someone who is one of my sister-in-law’s friends who state up and down that Kenney is not as extreme as we know him to be. This person is a big time supporter of the oil and gas industry and will back him no matter what. I just off a thread on Facebook concerning whether Kenney’s austerity plan is necessary and she believes it is contrary to the evidence that I and David C believe otherwise. By the way, there will be a rally at the University of Calgary protesting these proposed cuts on November 21, 2019 from 12:00 to 1:00 pm. These are sponsored by AUPE but they are open to anyone concerned. There are other rallies that take place throughout the province for others who can’t take part in this one. We have to get out of our comfort zone here.

  7. My earlier comment appears to have been lost. Here’s how the Guardian presents Alberta on race relations. They take no back seat to Quebec it seems. The place seems to be on a path to white supremacist hell and right wing ordering about of anyone but the wealthy and oilfield workers.

    Of course, Canada as a whole is pretty bad on the racist front, but at least “carding” of black people by police for just walking down the street is now illegal in Nova Scotia as of last week. I met a black surgeon doing post grad in London UK during my time spent there in the early 1970s. Amazingly enough, I next met him in a magazine store in Halifax! He’d emigrated. The finest gentleman imaginable, but he was continually carded in Halifax. You’d think the louts in thr HPD would learn, but apparently not. Now they can be sued for being idiotic racists. Speaking of which, three Halifax police officers are awaiting trial for three separate cases of criminality, theft and threats, and the woman officer appears to be really nasty specimen.

    As for the injustice reported in Alberta by the Guardian, we once again have to listen to police lying that the arrestee was shouting, blah, blah, blah, but the recording shows that’s not true. I really feel the average police person is a closet Con, and so does my pal the retired Mountie, who regards city cops as amateurs with a gun, and thus dangerous.

  8. I can foresee that this crazy is just getting started.

    Using the budgetary wand to restrict (eliminate) abortion services in the public health care system is certainly doable. And taking it another step further, applying from administrative crazy to make the installation of private abortion clinics near impossible will drive many women to seek out pregnancy termination services outside of Alberta will surely cause many to take notice of the path Kenney and his pro-life gang are leading the province. Waiting until this extends into family planning and sex-ed instruction and one will see the full-force of what’s waiting.

    Even Rebel Media has taken the line of what’s so bad about Gilead into their socon-influenced “journalism”.

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