Notley tells nomination meeting gay-straight bill convinced her to stay as NDP leader

EDMONTON — Alberta's Opposition leader told her Edmonton constituency nomination meeting on Saturday there was a time right after her party was defeated in 2019 that she mused about stepping aside.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley's one-term government had come to an end in the election that gave the United Conservatives a majority government, and Notley says she considered whether new blood was needed.

But she says what tipped the balance in her decision to stay was when the UCP introduced legislation in 2019, which later passed, erasing measures brought in by the NDP to strengthen protections for gay-straight alliances in schools.

Notley said at the time the bill was introduced that while it included provisions for the alliances, it diluted the rules to allow schools to delay setting up GSAs and gave them the opportunity to inform parents if their children join one.

The UCP government said it did not support automatic parental notification, but that the NDP’s legislation was too blunt an instrument and school staff should be able to use their judgement in certain cases.

Notley told Saturday's nomination meeting that only minutes after the UCP passed Bill 8, which she called "Bill Hate," its members posed for photos to mark the end of the session by splashing in the reflecting pool on the legislature grounds.

"This is how your UCP government celebrated the decision to end protections against bullying for children who just needed to feel safe," Notley said, comparing a photo of the UCP members to the opening credits of the TV show "Friends."

Gay-straight alliances are clubs meant to prevent bullying and foster acceptance of LGBTQ kids in schools.

Notley also told the meeting the UCP "dragged Alberta backwards" by "refusing climate action" and funding "useless war rooms," a reference to an arm's-length agency instituted to counter environmental groups.

She said the election loss in 2019 was tough, but that Albertans were telling the party they "had some work to do."

Notley was premier of Alberta from 2015 to 2019. She has represented Edmonton-Strathcona in the legislature since 2008.

The next provincial election is scheduled for May 29.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 11, 2023.

The Canadian Press