Jason Kenney defends Catholic educators for wanting to teach Catholic values

United Conservative Party leadership candidate Jason Kenney says Premier Rachel Notley has no right telling Catholic educators how to teach Catholic values.

'The whole point of the Catholic education system is to be Catholic,' says UCP leadership candidate

Jason Kenney meets Edmonton supporters for the last time before party members begin voting for their first leader on Thursday. (CBC)

United Conservative Party (UCP) leadership candidate Jason Kenney says Premier Rachel Notley has no right telling Catholic educators how to teach Catholic values. 

"It's not for me or the premier to dictate to the Catholic education system how it teaches Catholic values," Kenney told reporters following a leadership rally in southwest Edmonton Tuesday night.

Kenney was responding to questions about a proposed Catholic school board sexual education curriculum that both Education Minister David Eggen and Premier Rachel Notley have strongly rejected.

"The whole point of the Catholic education system is to be Catholic," said Kenney, who attended a Catholic boarding school in Wilcox, Sask.

"Of course there should be a basic common curriculum in the school system," he said.

Catholic, independent and charter schools will have different approaches to developing their curriculum, Kenney said, but pointed out that's what makes them special.

Parental choice

"That's what we celebrate in a diverse society, particularly in one that believes in parental choice," he added.

Catholic school superintendents are asking the province to approve an alternative sex education curriculum for their schools.

In documents submitted to the province by the Council of Catholic School Superintendents of Alberta, the council said the government's teaching plan clashes with faith-based instruction by including, among other topics, homosexual relationships and gender identities different from one's biological sex.

The document stated that, according to the Catholic faith, same-sex sexual relations are "not part of God's natural order." Gender and gender identity are always linked to one's sex at birth, it said.

Premier Rachel Notley is calling for compassionate belt-tightening ahead of her government's spring budget. (CBC)

Notley was unequivocal in her resolve that a curriculum that promotes those ideas will not be taught in Alberta schools.

"Nowhere do the rights of religious freedom extend to that person's right to somehow attack or hurt others — and that's what's happening here," Notley said Tuesday.

"We will not use public dollars to have sexual health programs that deny science, that deny evidence, and that deny human rights," she said.

"They can continue to work on [the proposal] all they want, but we ultimately approve the curriculum that goes into schools, and this kind of curriculum will not happen."

Retaliation against B.C.

Kenney also chastised Premier Rachel Notley for not protesting more loudly when the Energy East pipeline project was abruptly cancelled earlier this month, and for not lobbying the new NDP government in British Columbia to back off in their opposition to the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline that would carry Alberta oil to Burnaby, B.C.

Kenney said if he becomes premier, he will issue an ultimatum to the B.C. government if they stand in the way of the pipeline.

"The British Columbia government must understand their economic interest will be affected in kind," said Kenney, who went on to outline a "whole range" of possible retaliatory measures.

Kenney suggested re-evaluating at the hydro electricity Alberta buys from B.C., and natural gas that Kenney said B.C. ships through Alberta at no cost.

Kenney's remarks came at the conclusion of his final leadership rally in Edmonton, before UCP members begin voting for their new leader on Thursday morning.

Brian Jean, who is also running to be the new UCP leader, held a media event earlier in the day in front of Premier Notley's constituency office in Edmonton.

The third candidate in the race is Calgary lawyer Doug Schweitzer.