Friday, February 02, 2024

Danielle Smith spurns small government approach when it aids her social conservatism

Ah, that Danielle Smith! She's at it again, eh? Never one to sidestep a bit of controversy, she has now waded into the quagmire that is the debate over transgender medical and education issues.

It had to happen. After Tory governments in New Brunswick and Sasketchewan dared to go there, Ms. Smith was never going to throw up the opportunity to shore up her right-wing voting base. With that lugubrious hang-dog expression that she has perfected for the more serious issues, there she was lecturing us about how all she wants to do is to protect "confused adolescents" from themselves.

Specifically, she has introduced a plan to roll back access to medical treatment for transgender youth, banning them from taking puberty blockers and hormone therapy for gender-affirmation purposes, and banning gender-affirming "top and bottom surgeries" (the rather weird label used these days for breast and genital operations). 

Just for good measure, she threw in a prohibition on teachers using a student's preferred pronouns without parental permission, and a requirement of parental permission for a student's participation in discussions on gender identity, sexual orientation and sexuality in general. Plus, she intends to make sure that women and girls will not have to compete against transgender athletes.

So, this is a pretty comprehensive package of measures, although the actual mechanics of implementation and penalties are not yet clear. True to Alberta's (and Ms. Smith's) reputation, it goes way further than either New Brunswick's or Saskatchewan's forays into the area. Amd all this in spite of the fact that the numbers of individuals affected in Alberta is negligible (if you were gay or transgender, would you choose to live in Alberta?) It's the principal, right?

The opposition NDP, the federal Liberals, the mayors of Calgary and Edmonton, and a whole host of trans activists and organizations and various medical and education experts (including the Canadian Pediatric Society), have all expressed their opposition and outrage at this government overreach, and the plan's passage will not be smooth. There will doubtless be legal challenges. 

But Ms. Smith's right wing base are lapping it up. This kind of "parental rights" talk - the positive-sounding phrase "parental rights" is always used by these people, in the same way as anti-abortionists called themselves "pro-life" - plays very nicely with them. The usually fully-engaged Pierre Poilievre and his federal Conservatives are deliberately keeping quiet on the issue (meaning that they are fully in favour of Smith's radical policies, but don't want to talk about them in public in case it reflects badly on them). In fact, Poilievre has specifically directly his troops to keep quiet. (Poilievre has since come out in open support of Smith's controversial gender politics.)

So much for small government and a concern for personal rights and liberties. It seems that only applies in certain situations.

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