UCP MLAs allowed free votes on Alberta gay-straight alliance bill
NDP government has introduced bill blocking schools from telling parents a child has joined a GSA
MLAs from the United Conservative Party will be allowed to vote freely on social issues like the NDP's new bill to prevent schools from outing students who join gay-straight alliances.
Under Bill 24, teachers and principals at publicly funded Alberta schools would not be allowed to tell parents if a child joined a GSA. It's expected to be debated for the first time on Tuesday.
Jason Nixon, leader of the UCP caucus in the legislature, said free votes were part of the tradition of the Wildrose and he expects that to continue under the new party.
"Certainly our members are invited to vote the way they feel their constituents want them to vote," Nixon told reporters Monday.
When asked if that included the GSA bill, Nixon replied, "Absolutely."
Gay-straight alliances are after-school clubs where LGBTQ and straight students can talk, eat pizza and hang out together.
They are seen as a way for students who are struggling with their sexuality to get peer support, especially for those who are not ready or don't feel safe talking to their parents.
However, the issue has become a flashpoint for parents who feel they should be informed of everything their children are doing in schools.
'Political wedge issue'
On Monday, Nixon said the UCP hadn't yet formed a position on the bill, as MLAs had to talk to some stakeholders first.
"We will be ready to debate this bill tomorrow in the legislature and we'll have a position by then," he said.
Earlier this year, UCP Leader Jason Kenney said parents have a right to know if their child joins a GSA, unless the parents are known to be abusive.
On Thursday, he accused the NDP as using GSAs as a "partisan political wedge issue" and that the UCP position will be based on what is in children's best interests.
"We trust highly trained educators to use their professional judgement to make decisions in the best interests of children, particularly given that this policy applies to children as young as five years of age," Kenney said in a written statement.