UCP Leader Danielle Smith says time to ‘depoliticize’ LGBTQ issues during debate

UCP Leader Danielle Smith says time to ‘depoliticize’ LGBTQ issues during debate

MEDICINE HAT, Alta. –

United Conservative Leader Danielle Smith said it’s time to depoliticize LGBTQ rights on the same day her party came under fire for a candidate’s comments on transgender children.

She faced off Wednesday night in a candidates debate against the NDP’s Gwendoline Dirk and Alberta Party Leader Barry Morishita, both of whom are running against her in the southeastern constituency of Brooks-Medicine Hat.

It was her second debate as a candidate this week in the lead up to Thursday night’s leadership debate in Edmonton.

Voters go to the polls on May 29.

Earlier in the day, the UCP candidate for Lacombe-Ponoka apologized for comparing transgender children in schools to having feces in food.

“If elected as an MLA, I will seek advice and counsel on how to best communicate my views and discuss these issues meaningfully moving forward,” Jennifer Johnson said in a statement after an audio recording of the remarks surfaced.

Candidates at the debate in Medicine Hat were asked by an audience member how they would ensure the protection of LGBTQ children and adults.

Dirk, who was a teacher, said: “Every single human being is valuable and deserves to be protected – period” to applause from the crowd.

Smith then added that she doesn’t like the way the issues have been polarized.

“There’s a lot of young kids who are struggling with their identity and their sexuality who need the adults to be supportive of them as they work their way through that journey,” she told the crowd of about 250 people, a few of whom groaned when the question was asked.

“We have to depoliticize these issues. These issues are very personal family issues and every family has a loved one that they support, every single one of us have family members who are struggling with gender identity or coming to terms with their sexuality and we need to give 100 per cent support to them and we need to depoliticize this.”

Morishita said he couldn’t agree more.

“Now we have to be leaders, we have to be leaders in how we conduct ourselves,” he said. “We have to be leaders in our governments … that we reflect those views that every life does matter, that there are people in there who need to be supportive.”

Other topics during the two-hour debate included the corporate tax rate, small business support, health care and education.

Smith and Dirk stuck closely to their parties’ talking points as they went back and forth on each issue, while Morishita tried to present himself as an alternative to the UCP or the NDP.

“I think they are making a great argument for why you need to elect the Alberta Party,” he said to laughter from the crowd. “Lurching back and forth from one policy to another creates a lot of uncertainty.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 17, 2023.

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