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UCP associate minister lashes out over criticism at Pride flag raising

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Alberta's associate minister of natural gas and electricity, Dale Nally, at a press conference on May 6, 2020. Image: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr

My goodness, it's rough being a government minister in Alberta!

Sometimes people will even criticize you!

I mean, seriously, the nerve! This never used to happen to the old Progressive Conservatives back in the day when they occupied all but one or two of the seats in the provincial legislature.

Consider the plight of Dale Nally, United Conservative Party MLA for Morinville-St. Albert and associate minister of natural gas and electricity in Premier Jason Kenney's cabinet.

The thin-skinned Nally turned up at St. Albert City Hall on Monday in the company of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women Minister Leela Aheer for a ceremony at which a rainbow flag was raised to acknowledge that June is Pride month.

Aheer is often criticized for saying the right things about human rights but being part of a government that doesn't exactly do the right thing. She is used to this and appears to deal with it with aplomb.

Nally, whose cabinet duties such as they are involve helping push through polices the fossil fuel industry wants, is apparently not so used to the idea that being criticized now and then comes with the job of being a minister of the Crown, albeit only an associate one.

So he was shocked, just shocked, when the Edmonton-area bedroom suburb's other MLA, Marie Renaud, the NDP's community and social services critic, said a few words that acknowledged an undeniable truth and were therefore critical of the government in her brief remarks, which at 112 words were 166 words shorter than Abraham Lincoln's famously concise Gettysburg Address!

"It is one thing to raise the flag, and it is quite another to have done the work to deserve to raise the flag," she said. "And, sadly, currently, right now, our provincial government is really the only one in Canada that has rolled back LGBTQ rights for students. And so, I'm glad the minister is here today, but for all of us to make a commitment actually to do the hard work, and to make the investments that make us, sort of, to be eligible to be there today, to raise the flag and to say, proudly, that we are doing everything that we can to promote inclusion. So, thank you very much."

Nally, it turns out, was not only shocked by Renaud's remarks, he was appalled. Safely back in his office -- or maybe in the car on the way back -- he dashed off a letter to St. Albert Mayor Cathy Heron expressing his outrage.

"MLA Renaud's partisan attack was extremely inappropriate, divisive, and unprofessional," he huffed to the mayor. "A community celebration should focus on working together instead of scoring cheap political points for social media."

For those of you unconvinced that speaking up for human rights is a mere cheap political point, Nally continued, tellingly, to warn Mayor Heron that "it also makes it more difficult for me to convince other ministers to attend St. Albert celebrations when the mood is less than welcoming."

"I kindly ask," he concluded, "that you attempt to impress upon all elected officials the need for decorum at community events."

There you go, Mayor Heron, you're on notice -- any more backchat from anyone in St. Albert, and you'll never see another UCP minister around here again. Then you'll be sorry!

That would be a change from the days when Doug Horner, one of those old almost-opposition-free PCs and a holder of various important cabinet posts, practically used to camp out at City Hall.

Wait, that's not all. Nally was so upset that he even tabled the letter in the legislature, perhaps in the hope Mr. Speaker would rap Renaud's knuckles.

Well good luck with that. I expect Nathan Cooper knows better than to try.

This isn't the first time something like this has happened to Renaud. As an advocate for disabled Albertans and the director of a St. Albert charity before she was an MLA, she was warned on more than one occasion by senior civil servants and an MLA to zip her lip. It didn't work then, either.

Well, never let it be said that snowflakery, as conservatives like to suggest, is the exclusive prerogative of progressive politicians.

I expect some of Nally's constituents will make this clear to their sensitive MLA in the columns of our local community newspaper. And to whom will he report them? Will he ask to speak to the manager?

Courtney Howard, president of Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, to seek federal Green leadership

Speaking of politicians who are bound to annoy Premier Jason Kenney and the UCP by speaking self-evident truths, I see that Yellowknife emergency room physician Courtney Howard, president of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, intends to seek the leadership of the Green Party of Canada.

Howard not only has the temerity to argue that global climate change is a public health issue, in 2015 she led a successful campaign to get the Canadian Medical Association to divest its fossil-fuel holdings.

As a result, in 2016 the CMA announced it had completed divestment of its own organizational fund from fossil fuels and set up a fossil-fuel-free investment fund that physicians are also encouraged to use for their own savings.

She has described climate change as "an urgent new frontier for humanitarianism."

Perhaps as the minister of natural gas, Nally should write another stiff letter to the CMA.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions at The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on his blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Image: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr

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