This post contains opinion and analysis
TAYLOR – On April 20th, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) announced they will file a legal challenge against the Alberta government regarding the recently passed Bill 10. In all the news regarding the daily updates to COVID-19 measures and the recent shooting in Nova Scotia, it’s not surprising this is flying low on the public radar.
It also not surprising that a group is opposing the Alberta government and their actions – a number of partisan agencies taking issue with many of the decisions of the government, including the Alberta Medical Association (who is suing the government for alleged breach of charter rights).
This government has been quite adversarial with many agencies/professions – what’s one more?
The surprising part of all of this is it’s the JCCF who have expressed their intention to challenge the UCP government. The JCCF is a right-wing legal advocacy group who has some rather unique active and concluded cases. The JCCF is also part of the Atlas Network, a global agency focused on individual liberties and limited government, whose Canadian counterparts include the Fraser Institute, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, and the Manning Centre.
JCCF President John Carpay has some notoriety of his own here in Alberta.
Back in 2017, Carpay announced JCCF would launch a constitutional challenge if the then NDP-led Alberta government passed Bill 24. Bill 24 added additional rights to students, including privacy, to join Gay-Straight Alliances without schools notifying their parents.
While the initial application and subsequent appeal, in April 2019, were dismissed by the Alberta courts, the UCP-led government repealed Bill 24 in September 2019. Also, Carpay got an extra dose of notoriety when he compared the Pride flag to that of symbolism of Nazi Germany.
So why does this imply something is rotten within the ranks of the UCP?
As identified back in 2018 by Graham Thompson, Carpay “isn’t some rank-and-file member of the UCP, [he’s a] friend and ally of [now Premier Jason] Kenney”. Further “Carpay has deep ties to the religious right-wing”. This is the same religious right-wing that funded the challenge to Bill 24 by the JCCF, supported the UCP in the election, and applauded the repeal of Bill 24. It’s strange that, suddenly, a notable supporter for the UCP is now taking legal action against them.
In a year when the UCP runs a $2.3 million-dollar deficit, having a major ally with ties to the social conservative movement is not ideal. While the Alberta taxpayer will cover the legal costs defending Bill 10 against the JCCF, the potential loss of donations from social conservatives could be crippling – especially for a party trying to pay off millions in debt.
However, this lawsuit may also be backlash from the social conservative movement against the UCP.
Those who put a considerable amount of time and energy getting politicians who share their ideological principles elected, results are expected.
One could argue a victory was delivered with the repeal of Bill 24, but why stop there?
Bill 207, which sought to grant additional conscience rights for medical professionals, would give medical staff the right to withhold services, or even referrals, on grounds of morality. The Bill never made it past committee to second reading and eventually failed on the order paper with the end of the first session of the legislature.
Political pundits noted that Bill 207 was “red meat” to feed to the social conservative base – but maybe they weren’t looking to be placated with gestures that didn’t go anywhere – maybe they were looking for a return on the investment they made in the UCP.
Maybe they want to see real action on social issues – and change.
The legal decision on whether JCCF has a legitimate case against the Alberta government will be left to the courts of Alberta. The decision on whether social conservatives are punishing the UCP will be left to time and the courts of public opinion
Mark Taylor is a former petroleum engineer and political organizer. He doesn’t have a legal background, but he does question the motivations of social conservatives.
Connect on Twitter at @abmarktaylor
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