You can’t say you support LGBTQ people then vote against us
November 10, 2017 6:51 PM   Subscribe

Tegan and Sara are twin sisters and a singing duo from Calgary. They are openly gay, and have been strong advocates on LGBTQ issues. They have recently spoken out on the issue of Gay Straight Alliances in Alberta’s schools, an issue that is garnering a lot of attention, with conservatives warning of sex clubs operating without any parental input. K.D. Lang, who also hails from Alberta, has also been active recently on the issue of LGBTQ rights in Alberta. The voices of gay women are now a force to be reckoned with in the land of the Rocky Mountain cowboy.
posted by No Robots (29 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
(I just want to point out that the acronym for the United Conservative Party is "you see pee". Between that and the Conservative Reform Alliance Party, I'm thinking that someone in Alberta conservatism has a 9-year-old's sense of humor and a similarly developed understanding of sex and sexuality.)
posted by clawsoon at 7:20 PM on November 10 [11 favorites]

Ted Byfield is still alive?

Talk about a guy with Nowhere to Stand.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:31 PM on November 10

I love Tegan and Sara. I had Heartthrob and Love You to Death on constant repeat for weeks. I'm glad they're speaking up.
posted by Talez at 7:38 PM on November 10 [5 favorites]

k.d. lang doesn't have any capital letters in her name.
posted by hippybear at 7:49 PM on November 10 [17 favorites]

Between that and the Conservative Reform Alliance Party, I'm thinking that someone in Alberta conservatism has a 9-year-old's sense of humor and a similarly developed understanding of sex and sexuality.

Jason Kenney is the major bridge here, I'm thinking. He or his attendant cloud of twenty-year-old, spiky haired, lithesome aides de camp.
posted by bonehead at 8:11 PM on November 10 [4 favorites]

Man, with all the recent news I got really worried that somehow Tegan & Sara were about to be knocked off a pedestal.

This world of ours seems to have a real empathy deficit. More empathy, less cash
posted by drewbage1847 at 10:15 PM on November 10 [4 favorites]

A little background on this, although you'll find some of it in the links.

In 2015, the Progressive Conservative government in Alberta brought in Bill 10, which mandated that GSAs could be established in any school where it was requested by students. This might seem like an odd move for the PCs, but there was a definite social progressive wing in the party, and they were somewhat pushed into it by a private members bill on GSAs brought by Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman. However they got there, the bill was passed and it seems to have been working pretty well for the last two years.

Shortly afterwards, in the midst of a resource downturn and attendant massive hole in the provincial budget, the PCs called an early election. To everyone's surprise, they lost for the first time in 4 decades. Rachel Notley became the first NDP Premier of Alberta.

The collapse of the PCs has taken a few years to shake out. The conclusion reached by some was that they had lost because there were two big right-wing parties in Alberta: The PCs, and the even more conservative Wildrose Party (which sort-of split off from the PCs over a spat about collecting more resource royalties from oil companies, it's complicated). The math, some thought, was clear. If the right-of-center vote wasn't being split, then Albertans would quickly kick out the left-of-center NDP, and it would be sunshine and rainbows and fat political contributions again.

Enter Jason Kenney. A cabinet minister under the Stephen Harper, Kenney decided to leave federal politics after the CPC lost the government and come be a Premier instead. He is undeniably very good at fundraising and political organizing. Advocating for a merger between the PCs and the Wildrose, he steamrolled his way to the leadership of the PC party, finagled the merger, and just a few weeks ago was elected as leader of the newly formed United Conservative Party (the United part of the name is rapidly becoming as accurate as a Democratic People's Republic)

Now we come back to GSAs. Kenney tries not to say that sort of thing in public these days, but he's held some extremely socially conservative views in the past. He also has a lot of nasty people either directly supporting him or just generally pleased with his election. During his campaigning over the last year he appears to have said, in messaging to this sort of supporter, that under his government GSAs would require parents to be informed about students joining them. This wasn't a new idea. It had been thrown about by the social conservative side of the PC party when Bill 10 was being passed. You shouldn't have to think to hard about why this would be an enormous deterrent to student membership and how it's intended to strangle the clubs in fact if not explicitly in law. Because these people see the clubs as insidious gay indoctrination and therefore pure evil.

The NDP government has stayed respectfully quiet about the PCs, Wildrose and UCP during the leadership process, but as soon as Kenney was officially elected leader the gloves came off. Bill 24 amends the earlier legislation to explicitly prevent schools from disclosing student membership in GSAs (and I believe in all student clubs as a side-effect) to parents without the student's permission. It's both a necessary safeguard against a possible future Kenney government, which would have to be very sneaky to reverse it without a public outcry, and a direct wedge intended to split the social conservatives and progressives in the UCP party and caucus.

Surprisingly, Kenney seems to have decided to publicly pander to his base on this issue rather than keep up the pretense of being a good old fiscal-but-not-social conservative, and the UCP caucus has been saying increasingly risible things all week. They can't prevent the passage of the bill but they've been making a lot of noise about it, framing it as a violation of parents rights. The Kenney trolls on Twitter have been hitting the talking points very hard as well.

Interestingly, a surprising number of UCP MLAs managed to not be in the chamber when the votes were held during the second reading of the bill. Some might read that as not being willing to vote with the party (the vote was almost certainly whipped for the UCP despite earlier claims that it would not be) and technically abstaining by not being present.

Also interestingly, the leader of the Alberta party (also right-of-center, but very firmly socially progressive) stepped down this afternoon to make way for a leadership election. The sense is that any progressives left in the UCP have finally had the reality of the situation driven home this week, and the Alberta party is where they will flee to.

This has been so infuriating to watch. The UCP position is vile, just vile. These clubs, by all accounts, are unquestionably good, and trying to kill them would do real damage to vulnerable kids. I'm very very technically a UCP member, because I bought a PC membership Nov. 9, 2016 (guess what motivated that) to vote in the leadership that Kenney won. All PC and Wildrose members at the time of the merger were granted a membership in the new party, an extremely dubious gift.

I have absolutely no desire to interact with the party at any level, but I was very close to calling up to find out how I could have my membership officially cancelled this week. They are absolutely toxic. I'm just really angry about this whole thing.
posted by figurant at 10:56 PM on November 10 [30 favorites]

Oh god I am hoping against hope that this shit will be what boosts the Alberta NDP into actually winning a second term against these monsters. Please be good, Alberta.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:02 PM on November 10 [4 favorites]

Where would fundamentalist voters go if Kenney was outed as gay?
posted by clawsoon at 12:10 AM on November 11 [2 favorites]

A) Should that be the case, no one should do that. Full stop.
B) As far as anyone publicly knows, Jason Kenney is a virgin. He declared before 2000 that he would remain a virgin until marriage, and one might note, pointedly, that he has not married in the intervening period. Whatever his sexuality, he may never have practiced it. It's possible to regard that as weird, but at least some strains of fundamentalism are quite in favor of non-practicing homosexuality.
posted by figurant at 12:24 AM on November 11 [2 favorites]

figurant: A) Should that be the case, no one should do that. Full stop.

In the k.d. lang link, it's argued that the one time it's okay to out someone against their will is if they're pushing virulently anti-gay changes to the law. Presumably that's what prompted lang's very direct question.

B) As far as anyone publicly knows, Jason Kenney is a virgin. He declared before 2000 that he would remain a virgin until marriage, and one might note, pointedly, that he has not married in the intervening period. Whatever his sexuality, he may never have practiced it. It's possible to regard that as weird, but at least some strains of fundamentalism are quite in favor of non-practicing homosexuality.

Ah, good point.
posted by clawsoon at 6:32 AM on November 11 [1 favorite]

Oh god I am hoping against hope that this shit will be what boosts the Alberta NDP into actually winning a second term against these monsters. Please be good, Alberta.

We're about 18 months out from an election, I think (has to be before May 31, 2019) because I don't see the NDP calling one early. The revival of the fight over GSAs is utterly bizarre to me; the UCP are in a good position if they keep going after the government on the budget. That's all they have to do. The smart UCP play on this would be to allow a free vote of their members and move on; instead they keep digging in and creating what appear to be splits inside the party while continuing to play with what has been political dynamite for them ("the lake of fire" crap helped to cost the Wildrose the election against Redford).

The rumblings are that the NDP is preparing a more conservative budget for the next year, so they are going to try to run to the fiscally sound, socially liberal space while painting the UCP as fiscally and socially draconian, I think. What happens next with the Alberta Party will be interesting.
posted by nubs at 6:52 AM on November 11 [2 favorites]

A new CBC podcast on Alberta politics covers Bill 24 and includes clips from Notley and Kenney. Bonus material includes Notley's use of "mansplaining" and "hepeating." There is also discussion of a forthcoming book on the NDP election and government, Orange Chinook.
posted by No Robots at 7:02 AM on November 11

And indispensable for Alberta politics mavens is ableg.
posted by No Robots at 7:05 AM on November 11

The UCP position is vile, just vile.

Vile doesn't begin to describe this IMO.

Kenney is gay, but not public about it. Decidedly not public, indeed he has pushed back hard on any mention of his sexuality in the press, for all that it's a fairly open secret by now. In almost all situations, this is fine, indeed there have been several high profile politicians in the past few years who have made this particular set of choices about their privacy. They deserve and get no grief for it.

But: now Kenney is publicly calling for exactly that which he is so personally opposed, involuntary outing of those who have chosen not to come out.

This is about the single most evil act I've ever seen a politician do in Canada. It's up there with Harris killing people by neglect at Walkerton.
posted by bonehead at 8:53 AM on November 11 [11 favorites]

In this clip of a press scrum from the 2016 (federal) Conservative convention, you can actually see Kenney's soul sweating when he's asked a very straightforward question about opposition to same-sex marriage from the party's platform and whether his personal views on the issue had changed. Then he runs away.

Here's a 2014 profile from The Walrus:

At forty-six, Kenney remains what newspapers once called a confirmed bachelor, registering his mother, Lynne, who has shared his Calgary house, as his designated travel companion. Some of his closest friends organize the Fabulous Blue Tent soirees that celebrate Ottawa’s growing population of openly gay Conservatives, causing strategists to worry that Kenney’s solo candidacy might be a hard sell for the party’s family values crowd, with whom he once campaigned against same-sex marriage. As Postmedia’s Stephen Maher put it, “I suspect Kenney knows that if he wants Harper’s job, he needs a wife.”


Still, he was intrigued by an American political movement that had just made the cover of Time, a grassroots evangelical network called the Christian Coalition, founded by TV preacher Pat Robertson and run by Grover Norquist’s long-time ally, Ralph Reed. In 1995, a year after Reed was credited with helping the Republicans sweep the mid-term congressional elections, Kenney attended the coalition’s convention in Washington, DC. There, he huddled with Donald Spratt, a militant anti-abortionist repeatedly charged with violating BC’s “bubble zone” law (designed to keep pro-life demonstrators away from clinic doors), who was organizing a Canadian chapter. According to a 1996 report, Kenney joined the chapter’s advisory board, along with Ted Byfield and former BC premier Bill Vander Zalm, but the organization turned out to be short lived.

Another event that year sealed Kenney’s change of heart about politics: a papal encyclical entitled Evangelium Vitae, or the Gospel of Life. In a carefully reasoned meditation on issues ranging from abortion and contraception to assisted suicide, Pope John Paul II summoned all Roman Catholics to join in fostering “a culture of life,” devoting a paragraph to the role of politicians in that mission. Reading it, Kenney told usf Republicans, he “felt compelled to enter politics as a vocation”—a term usually applied to the priesthood. “I was called to politics, not qua [for the sake of] politics,” he said, “but…as a promotion of the message of the gospel of life.”

As Immigration Minister under Harper...

Kenney had zeroed in on a new band of bogeymen who wielded no such clout at the ballot box: the Hungarian refugees whose requests for asylum had soared from 285 in 2008 to a staggering 4,442 three years later. The spike coincided with the rise of Hungary’s extreme-right Jobbik party, whose paramilitary gangs have been linked to the beatings, firebombings, and murders of beleaguered Roma minority. Documented reports of persecution, though, left Kenney unmoved. With puzzling ferocity, he branded many refugees as “bogus,” and intent on abusing the generosity of Canada’s social safety net. That exercise in demonization was promptly amplified by his sidekick Levant, whose diatribe against “gypsies” on Sun TV prompted Gina Csanyi-Robah, then executive director of Toronto’s Roma Community Centre, to lodge a hate crimes complaint. She considered Levant’s rant a “hyper-extension of Kenney’s rhetoric,” part of a calculated strategy aimed at “de-legitimizing Roma refugees.”


Kenney put up six billboards in a Roma-populated region of Hungary, warning asylum seekers to stay home. More than half a century after 37,000 refugees had fled to Canada in the dark aftermath of the Hungarian Revolution, he seemed oblivious to both the poignancy and the paradox of giving the cold shoulder to a new generation. Indeed, he took to Twitter, boasting that his advertising spree had helped to reduce Roma refugee claims to a trickle. Even though the billboards cost $12,000, he tweeted, “Every unfounded asylum claim costs taxpayers an average of $29K. So if our ad campaign dissuades just 1 false claimant, it will have paid for itself.”

The man is, in a few words, a piece of shit.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 10:55 AM on November 11 [9 favorites]

"Sex clubs"? These assholes actually think these groups are cover stories so kids can have gay orgies at school?
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:58 AM on November 11 [1 favorite]

Yes they do. They can't imagine any other reason for LGBTQ people to get together.
posted by happyroach at 12:10 PM on November 11 [1 favorite]

The rhetoric has been absolutely shitty; perhaps the only relief we have is that Derek Fildebrandt is still out in the political wilderness and appears to be keeping his head down and mouth shut.

Only 8 of the 26 members of the UCP were present to vote against the bill moving to second reading, so I have to wonder what the hell is going on behind closed doors right now; Brian Jean has pretty much disappeared from public view (and I have no big issues with that, given what the man has been through - the death of a son and then the wildfire in his hometown, and then a grueling leadership fight) but it's not sending great messages about party unity in the wake of Kenney's win.
posted by nubs at 3:25 PM on November 11 [2 favorites]

Holy shit, mandolin conspiracy. I thought I disliked Kenney before; now I positively loathe him after reading your comment.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:32 PM on November 11

"Sex clubs"? These assholes actually think these groups are cover stories so kids can have gay orgies at school?

What a bizarre conclusion to come to! After all, most of these schools probably already have theater clubs.
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:42 AM on November 12 [6 favorites]

During the Harper administration, he was spearheading the unconstitutional ban on wearing a niqab during the citizenship swearing in ceremony. It came to a head, and the mayor of Calgary (whom is Muslim in case you're not into the local football) weighed in calling it dog whistle politics and "disgusting, dangerous stuff".

Kenny's response?

"it seems to me that the Mayor and people like him who are politicizing it.”

After a #peopleLikeNenshi hashtag trends and he is truthfully called out, he later backpedals to say that he meant people like "politically correct liberals" and not people like "brown people".

So yeah. Fuck that guy and the rebel media horse he rode in on.
posted by jonnay at 7:46 AM on November 13 [1 favorite]

The revival of the fight over GSAs is utterly bizarre to me; the UCP are in a good position if they keep going after the government on the budget.

As strong as Kenney's reputation for organizing and campaigning is, I am wondering if he's just not in the same league as Stephen Harper when it comes to strategy.

In many ways, Bill 24 is unnecessary, at least parts of it. The key plank, that schools cannot disclose to parents that a student is participating in a GSA, was already illegal under Part 2 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, and this (correct) interpretation was publicly confirmed by the Information and Privacy Commissioner. However, this isn't the first time we've had legislation as virtue signalling/clarification of existing law: the Children's First Act (under the former PCs) largely explicitly legislated interpretations of the existing privacy law, too. In all the instances, training and education to public body officials would make more sense than another layer of legislation. However, in an era where there are active campaigns propelling ludicrous interpretations of privacy law (I saw one circulating around that the Public Health Act would give schools a disclosure authority to out gay students to their parents, which is contortion level stretching, but apparently has some traction).

So, if you want to believe that Bill 24 is at least in part a trap for Jason Kenney, there's some rationale for that. However, I don't understand why he took the bait so readily. When the bill was first introduced UCP House Leader Jason Nixon said his party would probably have a free vote, because that's what the Wildrose Party always did. If this had been the case, it would have also been consistent with the so-called "grassroots guarantee" of Kenney's leadership campaign, were he promised that he would not set any party policy before a policy convention of the UCP (set to take place in December?? I think, soonish anyway). Kenney himself would be able to dodge the most toxic associations with homophobia, while still winking to his socially conservative base. Instead, he decided to impose party discipline and walk right into the debate that could alienate centrist conservatives completely. Now, we are seeing the spectacle of socially moderate (which is just a bizarre label when you think of it) UCP MLAs like Leela Aheer running out of the legislature just before a vote rather than vote against Bill 24. Like, Kenney just couldn't resist, could he? Maybe the master organizer has an Achille's heal after all?

And now that most of the centrist, former PC types seem to be scrambling to remake the already fairly economically right wing Alberta Party into their new home, we may be back to having two right wing parties, the lonely little club of Alberta Liberals, and a nominally left wing but increasingly centrist NDP competing for government.
posted by Kurichina at 8:45 AM on November 14 [1 favorite]

The funny part is that Jason Kenney spent years going to every "ethnic" event he could in order to gain support in immigrant communities for the federal Conservatives, and apparently succeeded in tipping a number of suburban ridings to the Conservatives. I have to wonder whether it was him who decided to blow up that approach or whether it was Harper.
posted by clawsoon at 1:03 PM on November 14

Bill 24 has passed, 42 to 23. All 22 UCP members present (out of 26) voted against, plus Derek Fildebrandt who is currently out of the UCP caucus for making an ass of himself.
posted by figurant at 11:00 AM on November 15

Glad it passed, though it never seemed in doubt.
posted by nubs at 11:15 AM on November 15

Rick Mercer had some thoughts on Jason Kenney in his rant this week.
posted by nubs at 1:10 PM on November 15 [1 favorite]

The conservative incubator Manning Centre has a Millennial Policy Playbook to Alberta Millennials.
posted by No Robots at 1:44 PM on November 15

This looks better:

The conservative incubator Manning Centre [warning: graphic]

That's not actually a cheap joke, by the way.

Let's not forget the eugenicist and fascist nature of the Manning family phenomenon.

R v. Muir:

The damage inflicted by the sterilization was aggravated by the associated and wrongful stigmatization of Ms. Muir as a moron, a high grade mental defective. This stigma has humiliated Ms. Muir every day of her life, in her relations with her family and friends and with her employers and has marked her since she was admitted to the Provincial Training School for Mental De-fectives on July 12, 1955, at the age of 10

This has nothing to do with Alberta exclusively, either, lest we get into a debate about provinces being shitty. Learn more about the Huronia settlement if you'd like to know what Ontario did in this regard - it's fucking horrendous and it was systematic and brutal, and as bad as anything that happened in Alberta under Manning Sr.

But the fact that Preston Manning sits around and smugly praises his father - who was little more than a wannabe Mengele - is pretty fucked up and a goddamn stain on this country as a whole.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:20 PM on November 15 [1 favorite]

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