Wildorse Leader Brian Jean with reporters. But where's Jason?

When Alberta’s Wildrose Opposition MLAs sent out a summary yesterday touting their exploits over the past week, there was nary a word about gay-straight alliances.

This is really odd, because restricting or eliminating the rights of LGBTQ students to safely join GSAs in their schools have been pretty much the only thing their supporters and some of their MLAs have been able to talk about for more than two weeks now!

Ever since March 28, when would be united-right boss Jason Kenney, fresh from his victory in the Progressive Conservative Party’s leadership campaign, opined that teachers should be required to inform parents whose children join a GSA at school, the base that both political parties hope to appeal to hasn’t been able to leave the topic alone.

In other words, ensuring that GSAs don’t work and can’t work has been the No. 1 burning topic for Alberta’s right ever since! They’ve been at it like a dog with a bone. As blogger Dave Cournoyer put it in a post earlier this week, “Alberta’s conservatives are obsessed with gay-straight alliances.”

Some conservative MLAs, including Opposition Leader Brian Jean, can’t seem to leave it alone either, despite the undeniable fact it’s a really terrible issue for them with voters.

Kenney, who started it, obviously gets this. He’s made himself scarce ever since he put his foot in it — something you can only get away with if you’re not an MLA with an obligation to turn up at the Legislature when it’s in session.

Jean has been braver — or more foolish — depending on how you see things.

But maybe he has to be. Notwithstanding his past denial, the Wildrose Caucus clearly appears to be badly riven over the GSA issue — not to mention the question of whether Jean or Kenney should lead a united right-wing Frankenparty.

Earlier this week, several Wildrose MLAs wore “include parents” buttons given to them by a supporter whose Facebook posts on the topic compared contemporary public schools to residential schools used to force First Nations children to assimilate with Euro-Canadian culture and who also seemed to suggest there’s a United Nations plot to seize Canadian children from their parents.

At any rate, as Cournoyer pointed out on Tuesday, the Wildrose Leader first took issue with Kenney on April 3 by saying GSA members should not be outed. The next day he flip-flopped, and said maybe parents should be notified. By April 5, he was back to his original position.

Yesterday at the Legislative Building Jean was back at it, giving the impression he’s opening the door to repealing or amending the 2015 law that allows students to form GSAs if he and the Wildrosers manage to form a government.

Jean was responding to a reporter’s question about the apparent disagreement by one of his MLAs with his last known position on the issue — claiming that the MLA was just asking constituents for their opinions.

“I’m more than happy to hear all of those opinions because I think with the widest breadth of consultation with Albertans we’ll actually be able to get the law right,” he told the gathered reporters. “And I think this is a very important issue for many Albertans and I want to make sure we get the law right.”

Say what? When the changes that permitted GSAs were introduced by the late Jim Prentice’s PC government in 2015, they were supported by all Wildrose MLAs.

NDP Education Minister David Eggen has been trying to enforce the law, which the NDP also supported back in 2015, in the face of resistance by operators of religious schools and home schooling advocates who have been working with the conservative Opposition parties to embarrass the government.

Does Jean’s statement yesterday mean the Wildrose Caucus has a plan to repeal or amend the GSA provisions? It sure as heck sounds like it.

The NDP Legislative Caucus called Jean on this, demanding in a news release that “Brian Jean must state his position, not only on outing LGBTQ+ kids, but now also his position on Bill 10.” (Emphasis added.)

The circumstances suggest he’ll now have to do that, whether he likes it or not. Whatever he says, it’ll look like he’s changed his position.

Meanwhile, if anyone sees Kenney, please let a responsible grownup know. If he doesn’t show up soon, his face is going to have to start appearing on milk cartons!

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

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David J. Climenhaga

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 with the Globe...