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The Wildrose Party, a socially-conservative provincial party hoping to wrestle power away from Alberta’s current conservative government, is defending its election platform against some pretty serious criticism this month. The policy is pretty far to the right of the political spectrum, even by Alberta’s standards.
One contentious point in particular, though, involves the concept of “conscience rights:” The ability for citizens in the service industry to refuse public services to others based on whatever private religious beliefs they may hold. If made into policy, explicit situations include civil marriage commissioners legally refusing their services for gay couples, pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control, and other equally wacky concepts.
I’m not sure if Wildrose is aware that this kind of legislation swings both ways, allowing someone like me to refuse services to, oh… say, members of the Wildrose party. You know, for being total knobs.
More to the point, though, this policy would be illegal, as the federal Charter of Rights and freedoms forbids public service discrimination based on race, sex, age, religion, or sexual orientation. Frighteningly, though, the party could weasel this kind of bill into law through obscure constitutional loopholes like the Notwithstanding Clause, and they haven’t ruled this step out. I would certainly hope Albertans wouldn’t tolerate such extremes.
Danielle Smith—the leader of the Wildrose Party—steadfastly defended the policy, however, releasing a statement accusing all concerns surrounding the policy as “fear-mongering” by “liberal politicians.” If you ask me, it sounds like someone’s got their hubcaps in a twist over some pretty serious constitutional flaws in their policy. Here’s hoping Albertans don’t stand for this kind of nonsense on April 23rd.
- Conscience rights battle heats up [Calgary Herald]