Calgary

Grassroots guarantee? Kenney overrides UCP GSA resolution, plans to consult more Albertans on platform

Jason Kenney says a technical issue is to blame for the disappearance of his website that guarantees he will listen to the party's grassroots after party members passed a contentious resolution about gay-straight alliances in schools.

'Mandatory notification of participation in extracurricular clubs will not be part of that platform'

Jason Kenney says the leader of the party is the one responsible for producing a platform for all Albertans, despite the contentious resolutions passed by party delegates at the UCP policy convention in Red Deer on the weekend. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

The leader of Alberta's United Conservatives says a technical issue is to blame for the disappearance of his website that guarantees he will listen to the party's grassroots after party members passed a contentious resolution about gay-straight alliances in schools.

Jason Kenney says his personal site — www.grassrootsguarantee.ca — went down last week because he's changing vendors.

"That's an IT issue," he said Monday while in Ottawa.

When pressed on the grassroots promise he made last year while running for leader of the newly merged United Conservative Party, Kenney suggested it was more of a pledge to consult.

"I've always been clear that as leader I will consult broadly with Albertans outside of our party to develop a common-sense, mainstream platform to reignite our economy," he said.

"And mandatory notification of participation in extracurricular clubs will not be part of that platform."

Platform for everyone

At the party's first policy convention on the weekend, delegates voted 57 per cent in favour of having parents notified when their children are involved in a school class of a religious or sexual nature or join after-school social clubs, which would include gay-straight alliances.

The alliances are set up by students to help LGBTQ peers feel welcome in school and reduce the risk of self-harm and bullying. They have been a contentious issue in Alberta, where several religious schools have filed a court challenge against a law protecting the privacy of students in the groups.

After the vote in Red Deer, Alta., Kenney said he holds the pen and is responsible for producing a platform for everyone in the province. He said the resolution was poorly worded and, while he supports parent notification of religion and sex education classes, he does not support it for gay-straight alliances.

Party members also passed another motion requiring parental consent for children having invasive medical procedures. Critics say it would limit access to abortion.

'An approach of humility'

Kenney promised in August before he was elected Opposition leader that United Conservative members — not the leader — would drive party policy.

"We had leaders telling people what to think, rather than listening to them in humility," he said at the time.

"We must not repeat the mistake of that arrogance. We must have an approach of humility and servant leadership that empowers the grassroots members to decide the policy direction of this new party."

Premier Rachel Notley said Monday she is concerned and disappointed by the United Conservative vote.

"Sometimes people show you who they are. And when they take the time to show you who they are, you should believe them," she said in Calgary. "Mr. Kenney created the UCP. He brought together a number of very extreme sections, small groups of people in Alberta, to create a party.

"And anyone who suggests that's not his party, or thinks that he's not in the interests of the people that helped him create that party, or is not in the pockets of the people that helped him create that party, would be deeply naive."