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Alberta Premier Danielle Smith speaks to party faithful at the United Conservative Party annual general meeting in Calgary on Nov. 4.Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith says she will consider legislation requiring parental consent before teachers can use a preferred name or pronouns of a student under 16 at school, a contentious proposal embraced by the United Conservative Party’s membership.

Ms. Smith, speaking to reporters after her speech Saturday at the UCP’s annual meeting in Calgary, did not commit to new legislation, but said the government caucus would discuss the policy if her party’s grassroots favoured the idea. UCP members at the AGM overwhelmingly supported a resolution that said the government should implement such policy.

“We have to make sure that we’re respecting the rights of parents but also making sure kids feel protected and supported,” the Premier told reporters. “We can find the right balance.”

The UCP’s AGM resolution follows the recent introduction of parental rights legislation in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, drawing significant scrutiny. Critics argue policies that require schools to seek parental consent before using a student’s preferred gender identity undermine LGBTQ rights and put kids, who may not have supportive parents or be ready to reveal such information to their guardians, at risk.

Ms. Smith addressed parental rights in her AGM speech, drawing extended cheers from the energized crowd. By the time she spoke on Saturday afternoon, 3,792 delegates had registered for the annual meeting of party members, turning what is normally an event for political insiders and policy wonks into a massive exercise in grassroots engagement.

Organizers called it the largest political meeting in Alberta’s history, surpassing the crowd of 2,500 who attended the UCP’s founding convention in 2018. Members from constituencies outside Calgary and Edmonton dominated the floor, in part thanks to the organizing efforts of Take Back Alberta (TBA), the network of social conservatives who make up the party’s right flank.

“I want every parent listening today to hear me loud and clear: Parents are the primary caregivers and educators of their children,” Ms. Smith said in her speech. “We cannot have a successful province or a successful society without strong and nurturing families.

“And regardless of how often the extreme left undermines the role of parents, I want you to know that parental rights and choice in your child’s education is and will continue to be a fundamental core principle of this party and this government.”

Roughly 2,000 UCP members were on the AGM floor when delegates voted on the parental consent resolution. One member, Michelle Bataluk, implored fellow UCP members to support it, arguing children do not have the capacity to make informed and rational decisions.

“Parents are being pushed aside by the dangerous indoctrination of the left, which caters to the loud minority in this province and country,” she told the crowd when the party opened the floor to discussion. “Children and teens should be educated in school, not brainwashed by woke activists who do not have their best interest in mind.”

Another member, Blaine Bodiak, urged UCP members to reject the resolution.

“This policy at face value has the right intent – we need to enhance parental involvement. But it cannot come at the cost of vulnerable kids,” she said.

The resolution passed with overwhelming support, and only a handful of people raised red placards – signalling opposition – when members voted. The UCP is not obligated to introduce legislation reflecting resolutions endorsed at its AGM.

Ms. Smith, who came to power after her predecessor was pushed out when UCP members deemed him insufficiently responsive to their demands, told reporters she hopes Alberta can “keep the temperature down and not politicize” LGBTQ rights.

Saskatchewan’s parental rights bill prompted the government to invoke the notwithstanding clause to override protections offered in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

At the UCP AGM, members elected nine people to the party’s provincial board. Multiple successful candidates championed parental rights in their campaign literature or during speeches.

Rob Smith won the four-person race to become the party’s president. He is the president of the party’s Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills constituency association and was involved in the fight to turf Ms. Smith’s predecessor, Jason Kenney, as UCP leader.

He campaigned on the party being more responsive to the membership’s desires.

“Our party needs to be entirely about what our members want, what our constituency associations want, and that comes up to the provincial board and that makes the policy and the decisions and the direction gets set,” he said at a TBA meeting in September in Lethbridge.

David Parker, the leader of TBA, said on the eve of the UCP’s AGM that he planned to vote for Mr. Smith for president. He made the declaration during a TBA Zoom meeting, with about 450 people tuned in for guidance on who to vote for at the AGM.

The UCP’s board consists of 18 voting members, including the party’s leader. People aligned with TBA’s values now control the majority of the board’s seats.

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