Gloves come off during last night’s leaders debate
United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney was targeted in Thursday night’s leaders debate over his party’s position on gay-straight alliances and allegations his team “cheated” to win the UCP leadership race in 2017.
According to CBC News, Kenney – whose right-leaning party is currently ahead in the polls – focused most of his attacks on Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley, the current premier, particularly over her economic record and her “alliance” with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Notley has framed her campaign around the question of who is the best and most trustworthy person to be premier.
She relished the opportunity to attack Kenney, who has faced controversy throughout the campaign about candidates revealed to have controversial views and questions about Kenney’s role in the Jeff Callaway “kamikaze” UCP leadership campaign to discredit fellow candidate Brian Jean.
“It is becoming clearer and clearer that people on Mr. Kenney’s leadership team, at the very least, cheated for him to win the leadership,” Notley said during the debate.
“So the real question is this: If Mr. Kenney would cheat his own party members to have a chance at running to be premier, what will he do to the people of this province to keep the job?”
Kenney accused Notley of making a “drive-by smear.”
“Whenever she does this, it’s because she’s incapable of defending her failed economic record, the jobs crisis, her alliance with Justin Trudeau, her carbon tax,” he said. “Whenever you hear that fear and smear, that’s what’s really going on.”
As for the allegations of cheating, Kenney said results of the UCP leadership vote were confirmed by an independent firm. He challenged Notley to reveal the names of the two NDP MLAs who were investigated for sexual misconduct.
“I’m really sorry that you believe that people talking about your record is somehow negative campaigning,” Notley responded. “The leadership campaign of what you were a part is under RCMP investigation.”
Kenney was also forced to defend his party’s position on gay-straight alliances.
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Read the entire CBC article here.
Last week, he revealed a UCP government would roll back a bill passed by the NDP prohibiting parental notification if a child joins a GSA.
LGBTQ advocates, parents and teachers have condemned the move, saying it could out children to their parents before they are ready to disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel said it was a shame to see vulnerable children become a “political football.”
“This is so sad in our province that we’re debating this over and over and over again,” Mandel said.
He told Kenney the homophobic views expressed by UCP candidate Mark Smith six years ago that came to light this week were “terrible.”
“It seems time and time again people within your party are coming up with those things and they have to be disqualified,” he said.
Kenney said the UCP supports GSAs and that notification of parents would happen in rare occasions where it was deemed critical for the child’s well-being.
Kenney’s campaign has focused on jobs, the economy and pipelines. He criticized Notley for complacency on pipelines and getting the government into billions of dollars of debt, a number projected to hit $96 billion by 2023.
“The only way to avoid digging into a $100-billion debt hole that risks our future and our public services, without reducing spending on key public services, is to grow the economy,” Kenney said. “That is what this debate and this election is all about — getting people back to work.”