A scene from the 2016 Edmonton Pride Parade (Photo: David J. Climenhaga)

While thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, were taking part in Pride events throughout Edmonton today, Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party held a private, conservatives-only “Pride Breakfast” a few blocks from the route of the parade along fashionable Whyte Avenue on the city’s south side.

This reflects the unique problem Mr. Kenney and the UCP have with Pride. Mr. Kenney is a social conservative. His party’s social conservative activist base includes many religious fundamentalists of the “Lake of Fire” persuasion. Mr. Kenney may be one himself. At the same time, the political reality of 21st-century Canada is that many voters will no longer tolerate anti-gay bigotry.

Indeed, it was the infamous Lake of Fire reference by Pastor Allan Hunsperger, a social conservative Wildrose candidate in the 2012 Alberta general election, that is often credited with saving Alison Redford’s Progressive Conservative bacon that year, when the media at least wanted us all to believe the Wildrosers would win.

Mr. Kenney dares not attend the Pride Parade, which has become one of the preeminent political events of the year in Edmonton. And he dares not be missing in action.

What to do?

The solution his strategic brain trust came up with was the private Pride breakfast before the parade, close enough for those Conservatives so inclined to wander over and watch the event begin. This was the modern-day political equivalent of King Solomon’s sage advice to those two rival mothers to saw the disputed baby in half … an Old Testament metaphor that will be familiar to many members of the UCP base.

I don’t know if there was a sign on the door of the McKernan Community Hall six blocks west of the parade start saying “Sarcastic Lake of Fire T-shirts Not Allowed!” Probably anyone who turned up would have known better than to wear such a garment. But surely such a sign would have been appropriate!

Likewise, it is not known by this writer if participants were forced to show their membership card or secret dogwhistle decoder device to get through the door.

It did mean, by the way, that the UCP was competing for donations with the official Pride pancake breakfast, which means lots of money was being redirected to a right-wing political party from services for homeless young people.

I’m sure Mr. Kenney was relieved when the Edmonton Pride Festival Society declined the UCP’s application to send a conservative delegation to the parade on the official grounds the party was so vague about just what its policies affecting the LGBTQ+ community may be. (Doubtless, the virulent homophobia harboured in some of the darker corners of the party was an unspoken factor.)

This was disappointing for political commentators, who would have enjoyed the ensuing ruckus. All the other major party leaders — Premier Rachel Notley, Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel and Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan are walking in the parade.

“We will be hosting a breakfast that morning for members of the United Conservative Party who want to celebrate Pride,” Mr. Kenney told reporters in carefully parsed remarks to journalists at the Alberta Legislature Monday. (Emphasis added.)

“My mom told me not to show up at a party I’m not invited to,” he glibly quipped, “quip” being the journalistic term of art to describe a flip, disingenuous riposte. Well, no one said Mr. Kenney wasn’t clever!

The society’s decision gave Mr. Kenney the excuse to blow off having to turn up at Pride as a bolder social conservative leader would have done — I give you, Doug Ford, the premier elect of Canada’s largest province and public face and natural leader of Canada’s  21st-century conservative movement, eclipsing more cautious Canadian conservatives just as President Donald Trump has eclipsed their American peers.

Photo: David J. Climenhaga

Like this article? Please chip in to keep stories like these coming.

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...