LETHBRIDGE - UCP Leader Jason Kenney wasted no time taking on his NDP counterparts, as his party gathered in Lethbridge Friday, Sept. 14., for a two-day training, team building and community outreach event, in preparation for the 2019 provincial election.
Speaking to media outside of the Galt Museum, Kenney was asked what his thoughts were on the 61 mainly private schools in the province that have not yet set out a mandatory policy for creating, supporting and protecting Gay Straight Alliances or Queer Straight Alliances (GSA/QSA). All schools in the province were mandated to do so by June 2018, after "An Act to Create Gay/Straight Alliances," formerly Bill 24, came into effect in Dec. 2017.
Provincial education minister David Eggen has threatened to pull public funding dollars from those schools that do not comply, by the end of 2018.
Kenney told reporters that rather than acting like an education "czar," Eggen should act as a “servant leader.”
"Instead of seeking confrontation, he should instead seek cooperation...I think it's very unfortunate that we have a very ideological education minister who's always making threats and attacking people. I think it's much more productive to work with schools and parents to find practical solutions, rather than making threats."
He went on to say that rather than "picking fights with parents and schools," Eggen should be focused on better learning outcomes like declining math scores.
"Our focus will be on tried, true and tested learning methods that produce better learning outcomes to prepare young Albertans for future success, rather than constantly picking political fights."
On the subject of the Trans-Mountain Pipeline delays, Kenney said he was prepared to set up a "war room" to respond to what he called "lies and myths told about our ethical oil and gas industry."
"We would call on the Federal Government immediately to appeal the Federal Court of Appeal decision that we think was wrongly decided," he emphasized. "We would impose real sanctions on the New Democrats in Victoria for illegally seeking to block the export of Alberta energy. I would be prepared to actually use the 'turn off the taps' legislation if they don't do so. This is something we've been proposing for over a year. Instead, what we've got is a phony fight from the NDP. We'll bring a real fight to the government of British Columbia if they continue to attack our vital economic interests."
Environment Minister Shannon Phillips, who was in Lethbridge for the opening of the Senator Joyce Fairbairn Middle School, told reporters that Kenney could learn a lot of things while in Lethbridge, including how the new $25 dollar a day daycare was helping families.
"You know, childcare is something [Kenney] has said that he doesn't support, because he thinks that women should stay at home. So, you know there's a number of things that he could learn from staying here in Lethbridge, certainly in Lethbridge west, where families are looking for support."
"All I can say is the NDP is becoming like a parody of itself," Kenney responded, when asked about Phillips' comments. "It's turning into a laugh riot over there. Look, I know that Minister Phillips is afraid that she's going to lose her seat in a few months, and I understand that she's under a lot of pressure. But that doesn't justify making stuff up. That's completely ridiculous."
According to a story published by the Canadian Press, when the Federal Conservatives campaigned on the idea of income splitting in 2011, opponents accused them of wanting to use the tax system to keep women at home instead of in the paid workforce.
At the Manning Convention in 2014, Kenney, who was Federal Employment Minister at the time said, "When we talk about all of these labour issues, we need to recognize that according to the data, the single most important factor that leads to successful employment and economic opportunities for people is whether they come from a stable family."
When pressed by reporters to elaborate, he said there are "all kinds of different families that are stable."
Kenney also touched on the topic of the opioid crisis going on in Lethbridge. While he didn't mention the Supervised Consumption Site (SCS) by name, he alluded to harm reduction practices.
"We think more needs to be done to help people with addictions. Simply facilitating their often-deadly addictions is not a solution to this human tragedy. Stay tuned for our platform as we unveil details of it."
And he didn't mince words about issues that he believes police should concentrate on when it comes to tracking down and getting illicit drugs and dealers off the street.
"Law enforcement should not be shrugging its shoulders. They should be overturning the tables to track down the dealers who brought that into the local market. So, I don't accept a shrug of the shoulders. If I'm Premier, I will expect our police services to spare no effort at tracking down the dealers who are bringing that kind of poison here into Lethbridge, the Blood Reserve and elsewhere."
UCP members have so far met with about a dozen groups, from City Council, to the Chamber of Commerce, to the local Housing Authority and several social services.
A sold-out fundraiser will take place Friday night, while party members and volunteers will be door-knocking across the city on Saturday.
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