Of all the clownish, bizarre and cynical policies of the United Conservative Party, surely the most grotesque we have seen so far was Premier Danielle Smith’s social media launch on Wednesday of what is sure to become known as the War on Trans Kids.
What’s most grotesque about Premier Smith’s video policy announcement isn’t the attempt to ban an extremely rare medical treatment that the Smith government disapproves of on ideological grounds, if the MAGA phenomenon now embedded in the UCP can be dignified as ideology.
This was to be expected from the UCP of Take Back Alberta, Danielle Smith, the remnants of the Wildrose Party and the few ineffectual Progressive Conservatives who have stuck with this lot in the UCP cabinet, caucus and general membership.
Rather, it was the profound cynicism of Smith’s introduction to this policy of othering, isolating, banning and endangering a tiny minority of young people as if it were a gesture of kindness and support.
“My fellow Albertans,” she began the short video, “today I wish to address a very sensitive issue involving our children and gender identity. This is not always an easy conversation to have. I strongly believe that we as a society must support and reach out with kindness and inclusion to those who identify as transgender and work to eliminate the discrimination they often experience in their lives.
“As premier of this province, I want every Albertan that identifies as trans to know I care deeply about you, and I accept you as you are. As long as I lead this province, I will ensure that you are supported and that your rights are protected.”
Then she went on to outline a program that bans medical treatments for gender dysphoric young people under 15, confirms the right of parents to treat their children as property and would force teachers to out children who wish to use a name or pronoun they were not given at birth to their parents, regardless of risk.
Needless to say, this is hypocrisy of a particularly nauseating sort.
And of course it’s an easy conversation to have — the United Conservative base has been talking about virtually nothing else for weeks, and you have to know that Smith has been playing an enthusiastic role in those conversations.
“She is presenting the harshest, least inclusive policy regime for trans kids in Canada as a depoliticized compromise,” wrote University of Calgary political scientist Lisa Young in a thoughtful first take on this announcement.
“Unlike New Brunswick and Saskatchewan’s foray into this area,” Young said, “Alberta will go significantly further: Trans girls will not be permitted to compete as girls in sports. No surgery before age 18. No hormones before age 16.”
“Does the province even have jurisdiction over these matters?” she wondered. “Does it regulate amateur sport outside schools? Can it legislate access to an approved pharmaceutical based on age? And if it does have authority in these areas, is it prepared to use the notwithstanding clause?”
These are important questions. The answers are far from clear. One thing is certain, though: this development will spawn years of expensive litigation, for which we taxpayers will have to pay the freight in the cause of keeping the social conservative zealots of Take Back Alberta off the premier’s back.
Indeed, David Parker, TBA’s founder and UCP’s attack poodle, was singing Smith’s praises and threatening people he views as opponents.
“Teachers of Alberta,” he said in a tweet, “you no longer have permission to indoctrinate our children into your ideology. You are legally required to inform parents before teaching their children queer ideology. If you do not inform parents, we will know.”
This is the true voice of the UCP, of course, not the oleaginous fake concern of Smith’s video.
But one also needs to ask: What other legal medical procedures would Smith’s government like to outlaw or restrict if it could, and what group of people would be the target? I think we all know the answer to that one.
Part of the cynical intent of this announcement, obviously, is to try to draw the NDP Opposition into an overwrought reaction that UCP political strategists believe many Albertans will find off-putting. And if a few kids get hurt, I guess they think, so what? A news conference was scheduled to provide more details on the UCP policy.
Perhaps it will provide reporters with an opportunity to ask about whom Smith, who claimed on her free Saturday radio program that the UCP had “consulted very broadly about it,” actually talked to before this policy was cooked up.
Tucker Carlson? Jordan Peterson?
Judging from government statements over the past few days, her “consultations” involved neither teachers nor LGBTQ2S+ groups.
Does anyone in the UCP caucus have the spine to stand up against this?