Peace River MLA and Bill 207 sponsor Dan Williams, top left, with friends from publicly funded, Roman-Catholic-Church-run Covenant Health, including CEO Patrick Dumelie and Board Chair Ed Stelmach, a former PC premier (Photo: Facebook).

Bill 207, which if it was honestly titled would have been called an Act to Restrict Reproductive and Other Rights in Alberta, does not seem to be playing particularly well, even in Ponoka.

Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party stirred up a hornet’s nest with this sneaky bill — disingenuously entitled the Conscience Rights (Health Care Providers) Protection Act. As a result, party propagandists were forced to play defence last week, sticking to the preposterous story the bill is really just a way to back up the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

MacEwan University Professor Kris Wells (Photo: Facebook).

On social media, even normally enthusiastic UCP apologists seemed chary of putting too positive a spin on Peace River MLA Dan Williams’ private member’s bill, which received first reading in the Alberta Legislature Thursday with the votes of every single UCP member in the House, all 36 of them.

Not only was social media full of harsh criticism of the bill, widely seen as a de facto government bill principally intended to throttle women’s reproductive rights, even Postmedia columnists inclined to cheerlead for the UCP were wary.

It might seem innocuous at first, but this bill is a significant backdoor effort to limit patient access to abortion,” wrote Calgary Herald political columnist Don Braid. Of course, Bill 207 never seemed innocuous to anyone who has paid even passing attention to the tactics used by anti-choice activists here and in the United States.

Former Alberta Party leader Greg Clark (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Mr. Braid also complained that nowhere does the bill require reluctant medical practitioners to refer patients to someone who will perform services they refuse to provide. That too, of course, is part of the idea.

In commentary typical of what appears to be the majority view in the LGBTQ community, MacEwan University professor Kris Wells called Bill 207 “a blatant attack on human rights in Alberta” and argued “conscience rights are nothing more than a code word for legalized discrimination and will take Alberta back to the 1950s.”

Dr. Wells, Canada Research Chair for the public understanding of sexual and gender minority youth, asked in a thread that covers many of the key points expressed by opponents of Bill 207 on social media: “What’s next? Denial of housing, employment, and service based on race? gender? sexual orientation?”

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

The answer Mr. Wells is seeking, as everyone understands, is yes, all of those things.

The negative reaction gave rise to the theory in some progressive circles that Bill 207 really is a private member’s bill, not a government bill in drag. It’s just a morsel of red meat to toss to the UCP social conservative base, so goes this argument, and will be defeated when the other 27 members of the party slink back into the House and add their votes to the Opposition’s.

Well, we’ll see about that. If the reaction is strong enough, one supposes, that could happen. But it’s said here this issue is likely just too close to Mr. Kenney’s heart and that of the party’s large anti-choice caucus to let the bill be tossed in the trashcan of legislative history. State control of women’s bodies has been the man’s life’s work.

What’s more, the bill has the paw prints of real lawyers on it. As former Alberta deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk tweeted yesterday: “It’s a Bill drafted by the Premier’s Office and handed over to a Private Member to introduce it. Anyone who ever read Private Members’ Bills and Government Bills could tell the difference.”

So if you’re opposed to Bill 207, don’t count on the common sense or common decency of the UCP Caucus to ensure the right thing gets done.

Last week in review: Dispatches from Jason Kenney’s War on Everything and Everyone

As we prepare for another week of bizarre Trump-style pronouncements that are a key part of the Kenney chaos strategy, let’s cast our eyes back to last week for a review of what was going on before the premier’s call in Red Deer to start building a neoliberal Valhalla in Alberta.

Bill 207 wasn’t the only thing stirring up Albertans last week as the implications of Premier Kenney’s War on Everything and Everyone Except the Fossil Fuel Industry continued apace. Consider:

  • The government chose Thursday to award former Alberta Party leader Greg Clark a plush job running Alberta’s electricity balancing pool. In September, it installed Stephen Mandel, the Alberta Party’s last leader and a former Progressive Conservative health minister, on the Alberta Health Services Board. Some opponents of the government couldn’t help wondering if the supposedly progressive pair were being thanked for a job well done splitting the progressive vote last spring.
  • Lots of Alberta seniors and those approaching retirement age started nervously fidgeting when Premier Kenney began musing about pulling Alberta out of the Canada Pension Plan and setting up a local version run by the same clowns who pissed away the province’s resource billions over the past half century. The move may just have been motivated by spite at Andrew Scheer’s election loss, as some speculated, although shoring up profits of the declining fossil fuel industry with Alberta pensioners’ savings would be entirely in character for the UCP. Having made it official in Red Deer Saturday, count on the jitters to grow.
  • Albertans also learned last week their supposedly broke province spent almost $17,000 to charter an aircraft to fly Conservative premiers Scott Moe of Saskatchewan, Blaine Higgs of New Brunswick and Bob McLeod of the N.W.T., plus their wives, from the Calgary Stampede last July to the national premiers’ bean fest in Saskatoon. Alberta used to have its own airliner for this sort of thing until soon after former premier Alison Redford was stripped of her political pilot’s licence. A reversion to norm, it would appear, is now in the provincial flight plan.
  • On Friday, buried in Orders in Council, came news the Government has appointed Janice Harrington to joint positions as health advocate and mental health advocate until 2021. Her qualifications? None that are relevant to the job. Ms. Harrington is the former executive director of both the Progressive Conservative and United Conservative parties, though, both times under Mr. Kenney’s guiding hand. Her duties will include making excuses for the failures of privatization, no doubt.  Whatever her duties are, she’ll be paid up to $165,000 a year to do them. Regardless, it’s nice to know Alberta’s Old Boys Club is no longer restricted to boys. Who says we aren’t making progress here in Wild Rose Country?

Join the Conversation


  1. Watching the UCP tie themselves into knots over their so-con agenda, which is not really a so-con agenda …because…you know … it’s all about defending Charter freedoms… only proves the lengths Kenney will go to to keep the fast river of distractions coming. While all this is a far cry from the avalanche of crazy that roars out of the Trump administration, it’s the same tactic: introduce a poorly defined and very open-ended piece of legislation, before pointing in the other direction and say, “Ottawa hates Alberta”. Other premiers did it with a degree of grace, unlike to Kenney, who looks like a drunk driver in a demolition derby.

    This is where Kenney has to be careful. He wants to be PM, desperately. With Scheer bleeding out from all the knives shoved into his back, Kenney has to be very careful to not come off sounding like one of your garden variety UCP kook-burgers. I mean winning in the GTA is hard enough for a CON right now. But if Kenney doesn’t go hardcore so-con, he risks insulting the base that put him in the premier’s office.

    Oh, the trials of Jason. I’m sure Job had it just as bad.

  2. The hits just keep on coming, eh? A fortress of regression now being firmly planted in the Canadian West, led by a man who seems to know no bounds when it comes to ordering people about. Women’s rights? Trash ’em, they’re nobodies! Union rights? Trash ’em, they’re prop up leeches on society. Pore li’l rich people? Give ’em more money from the poor and middle class taxation money so the wealthy can pay less income tax. Canada Pension Plan? Not investing enough in steam cleaning tar sands, so let the citizens pay by taking their money from the CPP and starting an Alberta Drainhole for the Petroleum Industry, the noblest industry on God’s Green earth. Semi-decent policing by the RCMP? Throw’em out and start a provincial force beholden to Kenney complete with a Spook Division to spy on traitorous Albertans who vote other than UCP. Public education? Not good enough at indocrinating kids in the Alberta Way, so fund private “charter” schools instead, where fundamentals of Conservatism can be drilled into brains at a young age by impoverished teachers with no union. Kick out the Feds income tax collection system and install Jason’s Own so he can bathe in filthy lucre, keep it all to himself and tell Quebec to take a long walk off a short pier.

    In fact, dismantle Alberta entirely and turn it into Saudi Arabia West but “led” by that new Grand Duke Jason 1 who will soon announce the formation of the Grand Duchy of Oilberta.

    As the Queen used to say: “And Good Luck to you all!”

  3. It is good to see such opposition to restricting a woman’s right to make healthcare choices. Are we safe to assume these voices will be just as loud when governments mandate vaccinations? This will be an interesting test to see how truly committed these people are to not allowing state control of individuals bodies.
    We can safely assume, I think, Kenney owes big pharma something and an obvious payoff to them would be forcing their product on the public. Every time Mandel is mentioned it is hard to forget his anti-choice views.

    1. Mr Jim: OK, I was not expecting anti-vaxxer rhetoric to come into this discussion. Let me say, that as a Registered Nurse with over 33 years of practice in Alberta, my professional opinion is that there should be mandatory childhood immunization in Canada, including right here in Alberta, prior to school entry for those immunizations that can be given at that age. It’s about public health and protection of those who are unable to be immunized for legitimate, evidence-based medical reasons — which applies to very few individuals. So-called “Big Pharma” has had its ethical issues, which need to be better addressed by regulators in both Canada & the US, but that does not invalidate the strength of evidence that vaccines save lives, full stop.

      Warmest Regards.

  4. No matter how much lipstick you put on it…it’s still a pig.

    Faced with tarnished and discredited parties, Alberta conservatives predictably merged forces in an attempt to rebrand the parties and distract voters from the truth — though little changed with regard to their election platform, their values, their acts of political subterfuge or their patented displays of conservative cronyism.

    This new iteration of conservatives is equally as bad as the last batch Albertans kicked to the curb in 2015. A return to arrogance, entitlement and privilege — that’s essentially what the Alberta right-wing echo chamber voted for in 2019. Sad.

  5. “So if you’re opposed to Bill 207, don’t count on the common sense or common decency of the UCP Caucus to ensure the right thing gets done.” This is too funny, a prime example of incongruity of humor theory! 🙂

  6. I’m disappointed that Mr. Kenney did not include my premier Doug Ford on his charter flight sojourn to the national premiers’ conference. After all, Doug and Jason are ideological soul buddies when it comes to tax breaks for the rich and clamping down on social services for the common folk.
    A possible reason? Perhaps the inflight buffet would have been incapable of satisfying the hunger pangs of everyone on board, including our esteemed premier.

  7. After Peter Lougheed won the provincial election in 1971 and the old Social Credit Party lost all their seats in 1982 they started changing their party name to fool voters trying to hide their extreme right wing views. They even fooled B.C. voters by taking over the liberal party and won the B.C. election there. Now the old Social Credit party fooled Alberta voters by taking over the P.C. Party and forming UCP under Jason Kenney. You only need to look at who Kenney appointed to the new waste of money committee none other than Preston Manning with old Social Credit extreme right wing views.

  8. Over the course of several decades, the IMF (NOT the Impossible Missions Force of movie fantasy!) has been at the forefront, along with the World Bank apparatchiks, of implementing neoliberal austerity for nations around the world – starting with Chile in 1973. Now, it seems, the IMF bunch has changed its tune and foresworn austerity measures as not been ‘effective’ (who would have thunk that over the last 45 years!!). But in Alberta, the news of such retreat has not yet surfaced in the halls of politicians in power, nor of their equally CAPP-captive media sycophants.

  9. We have to hope that Bill 207 is just a sop to the so-cons … for if it passes & is proclaimed into law, it will gut Charter rights for many Albertans & trigger potentially years of costly litigation.

    If an agent of the State can arbitrarily deny citizens public services based on their own personal beliefs, the protections of the Charter are rendered toothless. Marriage Commissioners could refuse to officiate weddings for mixed-race or mixed-faith couples, just as they could for same-gender couples — and we’d suddenly find ourselves living in Alabama or Mississippi, not Alberta, Canada. Health care professionals could refuse to provide reproductive health care or medical assistance in dying, in defiance of Supreme Court jurisprudence, without legal recourse for the individual seeking the care.

    Legislation like this deserves to be torpedoed in Second Reading, for it is downright dangerous to all our civil rights.

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