A Gay School Alliance's march in Calgary
What is at stake for 2SLGBTQIA+ Albertans in the upcoming provincial election? Credit: Denin Lawley / Unsplash Credit: Denin Lawley / Unsplash

Danielle Smith and her United Conservative Party have been nothing short of a disaster for 2SLGBTQ+ Albertans.

The UCP is the same party that in 2019 rolled back privacy protections for 2SLGBTQ+ members of Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA) in schools. The same party whose members overwhelmingly supported a resolution, at the most recent annual general meeting in October 2022, “uphold[ing] the rights of parents and caregivers so as not to require them to affirm or socially condition a child in a gender identity that is incongruent with the child’s birth sex.” And the same party whose candidate in Lacombe-Ponoka, Jennifer Johnson, in September compared the inclusion of transgender students in Alberta schools to mixing feces into baked goods.

Smith is, of course, the same leader who a decade ago stood by while a member of her party (then the Wildrose Party) told 2SLGBTQ+ people they “will suffer the rest of eternity in the lake of fire.” The same leader who refused to apologize for Lethbridge-West UCP candidate Tory Tanner’s transphobic fearmongering, back in March 2023, about teachers helping students to change their genders without parents’ knowledge or consent.

Clearly, an alternative is needed. 

To help 2SLGBTQ+ voters and our allies make an informed decision about how to vote on May 29, I reached out to Alberta’s four major political parties—the UCP, the New Democratic Party, the Alberta Party, and the Alberta Green Party—with two questions: 

  • What’s at stake for 2SLGBTQ+ Albertans in this month’s election? And,
  • What will their party do to improve conditions for members of the community, if elected?

Unsurprisingly, the UCP didn’t get back to me. The others did. Here’s what they had to say.

The New Democratic Party

I heard from Janis Irwin, the Alberta NDP’s candidate for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood and the party’s 2SLGBTQ+ issues critic. Here’s what she had to say:

“We know that Danielle Smith and the UCP are not interested in supporting and protecting the rights of 2SLGBTQ+ Albertans. And it’s clear there’s a lot at stake in this election for Alberta’s 2SLGBTQ+ community. 

“The UCP government began their term in 2019 by stripping away the school protections for 2SLGBTQ+ students. In March of this year, a UCP candidate made dangerous and baseless claims that teachers in Lethbridge were exposing students to pornography and gender reassignment without parental knowledge.

“And just today [May 15, 2023] we have learned that Jennifer Johnson, the UCP candidate in Lacombe-Ponoka, [Jennifer Johnson] is spreading dangerous conspiracy theories that have no basis in reality [specifically, that transgender students are equivalent to feces].

“These vetted UCP candidates have hurt the 2SLGBTQ+ community with harmful, baseless allegations against them and Alberta’s teachers. 

“Danielle Smith and her team are extreme, unpredictable, and focused on the wrong things, which include the most recent indefensible behaviour of perpetuating harmful lies that hurt the 2SLGBTQ+ community and all Albertans.

“It will take time and effort to undo the harm that the UCP has caused in this province to Alberta’s diverse queer and trans communities. But we’re committed to tangible steps to improve the lives of 2SLGBTQ+ Albertans. 

“For example, we will expand provincial coverage for trans health care, make it easier to find a 2SLGBTQ+ friendly doctor, and we will facilitate the development of an inclusive and thoughtful curriculum. 

“We are also committed to passing the Anti-Racism Act, a bill that will provide a framework for collecting race-based data as a foundation for improving all aspects of how all governments interact with racialized and marginalized communities.

“And an Alberta NDP government will restore the right of Alberta youth to form and join GSAs …, and to do so with their privacy protected under the law.

“Most importantly, we will listen to 2SLGBTQ+ Albertans. And they will see themselves reflected in the Legislature with multiple 2SLGBTQ+ candidates running in ridings across Alberta. 

“And I can guarantee this: Alberta’s NDP will never stop working to improve the lives of 2SLGBTQ+ Albertans.”

The Alberta Party

I heard from Barry Morishita, Leader of the Alberta Party. Here’s what he had to say:

“In every election, at every level, candidates should be disclosing how they intend to protect human rights, educate the public, and deal directly with gender based discrimination. We need to elect MLAs in Alberta who will stand up and protect targeted communities. 

“The Alberta Party will enhance the budgets at the Alberta Human Rights Commission. We will directly collaborate with advocates and experts in this specific area to determine how to improve legislation and [Government of Alberta] operations. Every ministry needs to be able to have access to this perspective in order to make inclusive decisions. 

“This will all take a lot of work and thoughtful consideration but the Alberta Party is committed to removing barriers both systemic and societal.”

The Alberta Green Party

I heard from Jonathan Parks, Alberta Green Party candidate in Calgary-Buffalo and the party’s 2SLGBTQ+ issues critic. Here’s what he had to say:

“On this International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia [May 17, 2023], it is essential to raise awareness of the concerning rise in hatred directed at the 2SLGBTQA+ community in Alberta. Over the past four years, we have witnessed an increase in hostility, particularly towards the trans community and drag queens. The infiltration of Take Back Alberta into the UCP, along with recent homophobic and transphobic remarks from their candidates, highlights the emergence of similar behaviours and attitudes seen elsewhere. 

“Groups in the United States tracking such legislation have documented numerous bills affecting the rights of 2SLGBTQ individuals. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has identified 474 bills on its tracking website, while the Trans Legislation Tracker has tallied 541. These bills encompass a wide range of restrictions, including gender-affirming care for minors, bathroom use, identification, drag performances, and education. While some of these bills have been signed into law, court challenges have prevented others from taking effect. 

“Although there has been increased media attention on trans issues and drag queen story time from right-wing sources, these groups have faced what appears to be limited success in finding support from the UCP. This lack of support in Alberta’s legislature sets Alberta apart from its southern neighbour. 

“However, it is crucial to recognize that Alberta is not a gender-inclusive utopia, and the strength of our laws relies on those who create and enforce them. If the political landscape shifts, as it may in the coming weeks, Alberta’s trans population could potentially face regressive policies akin to those witnessed in neighbouring jurisdictions. It is imperative that we remain vigilant, advocate for inclusive policies, and stand united against discrimination and hate towards the 2SLGBTQ+ community. 

“It is important to note that the UCP has been alarmingly slow to call out the aggressive harassment by extremist groups against drag queens and the trans community in Calgary and various places around the province over the past year. It’s easy to assume that if re-elected again they will remain lacking on instituting protections for the 2SLGBTQ+ community. 

“The Green Party of Alberta under the leadership of Jordan Wilkie is committed to advancing the rights and improving conditions for the 2SLGBTQ+ community in Alberta. If elected, the party will prioritize the following actions: 

Support Gender-Affirming Healthcare: The Green Party recognizes the importance of gender-affirming healthcare for transgender and non-binary individuals. They will work to improve access to gender-affirming treatments, including hormone therapy and gender-affirming surgeries, and ensure these services are covered by public healthcare plans. With Alberta’s conscience rights bill still in effect there are many in our Public Healthcare System who refuse to offer care on the basis of their personal faith. This is also experienced in Alberta’s second Healthcare system Covenant Health. The [Green Party of Alberta] would ensure that no patient who seeks medical care experiences discrimination based on their gender identity and orientation. 

Enhance LGBTQ+ Education and Awareness: The Green Party will ensure 2SLGBTQAI+ inclusive education and awareness in our K-12 curriculum, facilitating understanding, respect, and acceptance. Students should be able to find themselves in the curriculum materials, while their fellow classmates learn allyship and how to treat each other with dignity and respect. 

Foster Safe and Inclusive Spaces: The Green Party will reinstitute GSA student group protection and identity privacies that were rolled back by the UCP. 

Strengthen Mental Health Support: The Green Party recognizes the unique mental health challenges faced by the 2SLGBTQ+ community. We will fully fund mental health services specifically tailored to address the needs of LGBTQ+ individuals, including access to culturally sensitive counselling and support programs. 

Increase Funding for LGBTQ+ Organizations: The Green Party will allocate increased funding to LGBTQ+ organisations that provide essential support services, community outreach, and advocacy. This funding will help strengthen the capacity of these organisations to address the specific needs of the 2SLGBTQ+ community. 

Collaborate with LGBTQ+ Advocacy Groups: The Green Party will actively engage and collaborate with LGBTQ+ advocacy groups to ensure their voices are heard and their perspectives are considered when developing policies and legislation. They will work together to advance the rights and well-being of the 2SLGBTQ+ community. 

“Our party is also committed to affordable housing, 1.5% rent caps, and [Universal Basic Income] which are critical components especially for the 2SLGBTQAI+ community since a large portion of the population often experience extreme poverty and family abandonment. 

“These initiatives reflect the Green Party of Alberta’s commitment to creating a more inclusive and equitable society for the 2SLGBTQAI+ community. They aim to address discrimination, improve healthcare access, foster safe spaces, promote education and awareness, and support mental health and well-being.”

What’s the bottom line?

While the Alberta Party is narrowly focused on human rights protections—important, but hardly sufficient to address the range of challenges faced by 2SLGBTQ+ Albertans—both the NDP and the Green Party have the bigger picture in mind. They support expanded health care coverage for queer Albertans, especially those of us who fall under the transgender umbrella—coverage that is desperately needed. As well, both parties are committed to restoring privacy protections for student members of GSAs. And both have pledged here to listen to and collaborate with members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community itself.

From a policy perspective, I don’t think 2SLGBTQ+ Albertans and our allies can go wrong by voting for either the NDP or the Green Party. But given the very real risk of vote splitting in this election, voters should be careful, from a strategic perspective, about voting Green. 

If anyone is going to defeat Danielle Smith and the UCP, it is the NDP. I would love to see some Green Party MLAs in the next legislative assembly. But I would love to see a majority government committed to 2SLGBTQ+ rights even more. That’s why, come May 29, the NDP has my vote.

Charlotte Dalwood

Charlotte Dalwood (she/they) is a Student-At-Law at Prison & Police Law in Calgary, AB; and a Master of Laws student at Osgoode Hall Law School of York University. Find Charlotte online at www.charlottedalwood.com.