CALGARY — A leader in Calgary's LGBTQ community says politicians from Alberta's new conservative party are welcome to watch next weekend's Pride parade, but must do more than voice support to formally participate.
The interim board of the United Conservative Party passed a resolution this week affirming support for LGBTQ rights and promising to promote and embrace the community in the party.
"It's a great first step to see them put something like that out there," Calgary Pride president Jason Kingsley said following the official raising of the Pride flag outside the government's office in downtown Calgary on Friday.
"However, we still look forward to continuing the conversation over the next year to see how that's going to be reflected in their platform and their policy going forward."
Christine Way, director of issues management for the United Conservatives, said party members, including interim leader Nathan Cooper, plan to attend the Sept. 3 parade as spectators.
"While we are disappointed to not be participating this year, we respect the organizing committee's decision," she said.
Leadership contender Jason Kenney, a former federal cabinet minister, was criticized this week after a spokeswoman initially said he could not attend the parade because he had not been invited. A spokesperson later said his day was booked with several multicultural events.
Kingsley said the only politician to get a formal invitation to the parade is the premier. He said Kenney is welcome to watch the parade along with an LGBTQ liaison.
He added that no matter the political stripe, he'd prefer elected officials stay home if they don't back up their participation with policies that support the LGBTQ community.
"It's not a marketing mechanism," he said.
"It's not OK to come and say that they support — and march and garner public opinion in that manner — and then not support policy and legislation when it matters."
LGBTQ advocates have offered to set up a meeting between Kenney and students who belong to gay-straight alliances at school. The clubs are meant to foster understanding, help gay kids feel less isolated and reduce bullying and harassment.
A spokesperson declined to comment on whether Kenney will accept the offer.
Alberta Culture Minister Ricardo Miranda, who is openly gay, said the silence is telling.
"It's rather interesting to see somebody who wants to be the leader in this province who is not taking the time to understand the issue, who is not actually taking the time to sit down with the community and hear what the community has to say," he said at the flag-raising.
The United Conservative Party was formed last month when the Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose Opposition agreed to merge.
Kenney said shortly after winning the PC leadership last spring that parents should be notified if their children join a gay-straight alliance as long as it doesn't put a child in harm's way. He has not offered suggestions on how teachers could determine ahead of time how parents would react.
The PCs under then-premier Jim Prentice passed a bill in 2015 mandating gay-straight alliances if students wished to set them up. There had been public outcry over earlier legislation that allowed schools to only allow alliances off school grounds.
Ace Peace, a transgender Grade 12 student, said political leaders should acknowledge how important the alliances are to teens like him.
He told the flag-raising ceremony that he looked forward to going to alliance meetings every Wednesday until eventually every day felt like one at his school.
"I don't even think to mention when there's another trans kid in my class now. Queer kids are everywhere just being themselves and that's awesome."
Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said the parade was this weekend