UCP draws huge crowds, huge controversy to its first policy convention

(Photo credit: @Alberta_UCP on Twitter)

With more than 2,500 party members in attendance, this weekend’s United Conservative Party founding convention was one of the biggest political events in Alberta’s recent memory. It was a big show of force for the official opposition party, which continues to dominate in the polls and fundraising.

Ric McIver

Ric McIver

The convention should have been a victory lap for Jason Kenney after forcing the merger of the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties and winning the new party’s leadership. Instead, the big story of the convention is how it was derailed by a membership base weirdly obsessed with Gay-Straight Alliances.

Fifty-seven percent of convention delegates voted in favour of a policy that would out students who join Gay-Straight Alliances. Supporters of the policy claimed it was about parental rights, but that did not stop three MLAs from going to mic to plead with UCP members to end the madness.

“This is about outing gay kids,” said Calgary-Hays UCP MLA Ric McIver as he pleaded with party members not to pass the policy. “Don’t be called the Lake of Fire party, I’m begging you. This will really severely hurt our chances at winning. Don’t do that to yourself.”

“When we’re talking about freedoms, that means all people’s freedoms. That means making sure that children have safe spaces in schools,” urged Chestermere-Rockyview UCP MLA Leela Aheer.

But the pleas from the MLAs were not enough to change the minds of members, including a well organized contingent of social conservatives, at the convention.

The debate over this motion came only days after Edmonton’s Pride Festival Society rejected the UCP’s application to march in this year’s pride parade. A similar application was rejected by Calgary’s Pride festival in August 2017.

Even though it was Kenney’s comments about Gay-Straight Alliances that reignited this issue back in March 2017, he now says he won’t implement the policy if he becomes premier.

It could, and probably will, be argued that Kenney’s denouncement of this policy contradicted his “Grassroots Guarantee” that the party membership will determine the party’s policies. Kenney used the “guarantee” as a way of circumventing any substantive policy debates during the 2017 UCP leadership contest.

It is not clear what other member-endorsed policies Kenney will choose to ignore if and when he becomes Alberta’s next premier.

UCP members also adopted policies to eliminate the carbon tax, reintroduce a flat tax, increase privatization in health care and education, and require parental consent for invasive medical procedures on a minor (this motion was cheered by anti-abortion groups).

All things considered, it is hard to imagine that Rachel Notley‘s New Democrats could have hoped for a better outcome this weekend.

One Big Conservative Family

An underreported story of this weekend’s convention is the very close relationship between the UCP and the Conservative Party of Canada.

The presence of a federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer as a keynote speaker would have been unheard of at any provincial party convention in recent years. Scheer was joined at the convention by a number of Conservative MPs, and former leader Rona Ambrose, who spoke at the convention on a panel about women in politics.

The relationship between the federal and provincial conservative parties has always been complex, but it has been exceptionally complicated over the past three decades. The rise of the Reform Party and collapse of the federal PC Party in the early 1990s meant there was no formal alliance between the dominant federal and provincial conservative parties in Alberta for many years.

Almost as soon as the Conservative Party of Canada was formed in 2003, the Alberta Alliance, and later the Wildrose Alliance and Wildrose Party split the provincial conservative movement, leaving federal Conservative MPs divided in their loyalties for the PC and Wildrose parties.

While most of the focus has been on the Wildrose-PC merger, Kenney’s “unity” extends to the federal party as well.

9 thoughts on “UCP draws huge crowds, huge controversy to its first policy convention

  1. Ernie

    Kudos to the 57% of members for standing up against gay-straight alliances. This is representative of the public at whole and not the special interest who are pushing this agenda.

    Reply
    1. Chris

      The 57% vote is representative of the delegates at the policy convention. The 57% may or may not be representative of the party as a whole. It most certainly is not representative of the public in general. And in the end it doesn’t matter in the eyes of Jason Kennedy who, apparently, “holds the pen.”

      Reply
  2. kootzie

    Alabama-North…
    C.R.A.P, C.R.A.W.P., U.C.P., C.P.C.
    same reactionary shit, different hyper-judgemental piles

    Reply
  3. kootzie

    Dunno if this was raised at the CONivance CONvention…

    Kenney pledged to setup a “war-room” to lead the attack against the “green-left”
    it will start with financial / legislative / legal / bureaucratic attacks and eventually
    get personal

    To invoke that kind of statist-violence in the context in which the “green-left” has
    had very little harmful effect on the resource extraction rackets or on people’s
    capacity to accumulate toys is ominous

    Reply
  4. stillmad@Horner

    Hands off my pension Jason !!!!!
    and by the way both LAPP & PSPP are currently 99% &101% funded, as long as the provincial finance minister don’t mess with them.
    Resolution R230 is out of line and way out of date, like most of the resolutions
    @ your convention

    Reply
  5. David

    The UCP seemed to be doing fairly well until they started talking about policy. Oh it is easier to be against things and be angry all the time at enemies real and imagined in the pursuit of power. It is harder to decide and articulate what one will actually do if one achieves power.

    Good bye grassroots guarantee, hello message control and discipline. The party was fun while it lasted. Isn’t it ironic Kenney will now try present himself now as a social moderate after so many years trying to appear to be and appeal to social conservatives?Amazing how positions shift due to overwhelming political ambition and the desire to gain power.

    Reply
  6. Keith McClary

    So, have they published a list of proposals with vote percentages? Their members will need this information for the next step in developing a formal policy statement. If it is supposed to be an open and transparent “grassroots” process.

    Reply
  7. Jerrymacgp

    So, when was Kenney lying? When he told his membership that only they would develop party policy, not him and some backroom types? Or when he told the media after the convention that he “holds the pen” and he alone would determine the platform? The two stories are completely irreconcilable and can’t both be true.

    Reply
  8. Carol Williams

    UCP is clearly exploiting hot button issues in identity politics because these are well worn routes to distract from more substantive concerns.
    He and the party recruit the most conservative constituents (under the guise of “grassroots”) of the province to vocalize this misogyny and as a means to refashion Trump extremism for Alberta. A fear of women in leadership, the revival of Kenney’s anti abortion activism (harmonized with Sheer and Harder), fear of sexuality beyond heteronormativity, are fuel for the UCP to accelerate social anxiety among religiously and socially conservative populations. Kenney and UCP are reconstituting the worse kind of political discourse.

    Reply

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