Chris Selley: Patrick Brown, get a spine and learn real conservativism from Jason Kenney

Selley: Patrick Brown, grow a spine and learn real conservatism from Jason Kenney

Opinion

There is some consternation that Alberta’s newly United Conservative Party opposes Bill 24, the NDP government legislation that would bar schools from informing parents whether or not their children are participating in extracurricular gay-straight alliance (GSA) clubs. Certainly the party’s opposition might be unwise: the timing of the bill was an explicit attempt to flush out the intolerant elements in the reformed conservative coalition that so bedevilled the Wildrose Party. It was an obvious trap, as Jen Gerson argued here recently, and the UCP either fell into it or felt confident engaging the bill on its merits.

There is some consternation that Alberta’s newly United Conservative Party opposes Bill 24, the NDP government legislation that would bar schools from informing parents whether or not their children are participating in extracurricular gay-straight alliance (GSA) clubs. Certainly the party’s opposition might be unwise: the timing of the bill was an explicit attempt to flush out the intolerant elements in the reformed conservative coalition that so bedevilled the Wildrose Party. It was an obvious trap, as Jen Gerson argued here recently, and the UCP either fell into it or felt confident engaging the bill on its merits.

Of course there is a good case to be made for this proposed measure as a means of preventing kids from being outed to potentially abusive parents. But that doesn’t discredit any unease about the gag order within the UCP. Conservatives tend to trust parents more and government institutions less, and liberals vice versa. The Supreme Court has yet to declare a winner. You’re allowed to disagree. This legislation concerns a very specific circumstance — it would be tough to argue it’s the thin edge of any wedge — but if a conservative party can’t at least voice some qualms about parents’ right to know, then it’s not being true to its base.

The position the UCP eventually arrived at boils down to this: yes to GSAs; no to mandatory reporting to parents; certainly no to unwanted outings. But also: “We believe every child is unique, and that educators should be left with the discretion they currently have to engage parents when it is in the best interests of the child to do so.” It’s the sort of position an Ontario Liberal might have arrived at just a few years ago during the debate in this province over establishing GSAs, had the issue of notification come up. That most of us in the media now consider it totally anathema doesn’t mean voters do.

The position the UCP eventually arrived at boils down to this: yes to GSAs; no to mandatory reporting to parents; certainly no to unwanted outings. But also: “We believe every child is unique, and that educators should be left with the discretion they currently have to engage parents when it is in the best interests of the child to do so.” It’s the sort of position an Ontario Liberal might have arrived at just a few years ago during the debate in this province over establishing GSAs, had the issue of notification come up. That most of us in the media now consider it totally anathema doesn’t mean voters do.

This article continues at [National Post] By talking like a conservative, Jason Kenney goes where Patrick Brown fears to tread

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