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Without a platform, Kenney’s social conservatism defines him

November 24, 2017 —

A provincial byelection was called for the Calgary-Lougheed riding Nov. 16. Much like the rest of the city, the riding has a history of electing conservative candidates. This time around, that candidate is United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney, who is campaigning without a policy platform. Kenney believes his policies should be crafted in a grassroots fashion by the party’s members once he is elected.

Without a firm platform to evaluate, Kenney can only be judged based on the policies he campaigned on and presided over at the federal level in Canada. Most Canadians will recall the “niqab ban” dominating the 2015 federal election and the pivotal role it played in turning the election towards a Liberal victory. Kenney was the immigration minister who proposed it and strongly advocated to force women to remove face coverings during immigration ceremonies. As a federal conservative, he campaigned on policies that infringed upon individuals’ rights, demonstrating a lack of principle and understanding of what issues impact Canadians. Luckily, every other party campaigned against this and Canadians rejected it at the polls.

But that’s not all. Kenney was also in the crew of Conservatives who advocated to create an RCMP “tip line” for worried Canadians to report “barbaric cultural practices” like honour killings or sexual slavery. Canadians can already report crimes of that nature to the police. The tip line was more of a hotline for racist neighbours to display xenophobia when exposed to new cultures. In Alberta, one policy Kenney has been vocally opposed to is Bill 24, which protects minors who join gay-straight alliances at their schools from being outed to their parents. Kenney argues that withholding choices children make at school from their parents and guardians is a breach of parental rights. Even though school officials have a responsibility to ensure students are not endangered by abusive parents, Kenney believes parents have a right to know if their child joins a GSA, which could out closeted minors. In families that do not accept their children for who they are, the consequences of this could be grave. Schools need to provide protection to these vulnerable students. Bill 24 allows that.

Kenney’s actions often pander to the small section of his conservative parties’ supporters who identify as socially conservative. This has proven unsuccessful for him in the past, so seeing him raise issues like these again in Alberta is infuriating. Albertans respect each other and don’t care what clubs high-school students choose to join. They want strong governance that allows all citizens to live as they choose. Kenney has not put forward any policies that show Albertans how he will achieve this if ever elected provincially. He has not done anything to deserve the citizens of Calgary-Lougheed’s votes.

Either way, Kenney likely can’t rely on students voting in the riding. Leaked documents from the Manning Centre, a Calgary right-wing think tank, say that only 16 per cent of millennials identify with Canada’s conservative parties. Additionally, they revealed that many millennials see traditional social conservative positions “such as [on] abortion, gay marriage [and] immigration” as deal-breakers. That’s Kenney’s brand of conservatism.

Assuming people will vote for a candidate because they know their name and personality is arrogant. Albertans have shown the days of its electorate consistently voting in conservative governments are gone. Kenney needs to prove he has policies beyond treating at-risk populations like second-class citizens if he wants to represent our province.

Gauntlet editorial board

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