Yesterday the Official Opposition managed to goad the Stelmach government into holding a free vote on bill 44, giving the Legislature a rare chance to actually defeat a bad bill.
Bill 44, for those who haven't heard, finally writes in protection for gays and lesbians into Alberta's human rights code. That's the good part of the bill. Unfortunately, Culture and Community Spirit Minister Lindsay Blackett added a parental opt-out clause that enshrines the right of parents to pull their children from classes that touch on human sexuality and matters of religion.
On the surface this doesn't sound like such a bad thing, but parents already have those abilities under the School Act. Enshrining these abilities as human rights, with all the protections that implies, could expose teachers to lawsuits from offended parents, and this threat could significantly chill classroom discussion on a wide range of topics: evolution, history, comparative religion, perhaps even educational attempts to curtail bullying, which you'd think should be universally approved - but how can you really teach people not to bully without touching on some of the triggers for bullying, such as the victims being members of a minority religion or sexual orientation?
In short, I believe this bill is very bad for education in Alberta and harms our long term prosperity and our growth as a society. The Alberta Teachers Association, the Centre for Inquiry, the United Church and a host of other groups from within and outside Alberta have condemned the bill, and it is in fact international news, with the vast majority of the coverage being negative. This is doing terrible things to Alberta's reputation, at a time when the Alberta government is spending millions on rebranding our image!
I encourage everyone to google Bill 44 for the extensive news coverage of the story, and if you're as worried about this bill as I am, then give your MLA a call and ask them to vote no on 44 when the free vote comes up. That could happen as early as late afternoon today. If nothing else, the free vote will allow Albertans to see which MLAs are truly Red Tories and which are buckling under the pressure from the party's right wing.
Visit this site to find out the name of your MLA and their contact information: http://www.assembly.ab.ca/net/index.aspx?p=mla_home