With a provincial election looming, Albertans are eagerly waiting to see who the next premier will be, and politicians are hitting the campaign trail to rally the vote in their favour. One such politician is Jason Kenney, leader of the United Conservative Party, who recently took to Dewey’s at the University of Alberta campus for a meet and greet with local students.
The night began simply enough, with a relatively packed room waiting for Kenney’s arrival. The gathered crowd mingled amongst themselves, chatting politics and what, exactly, it was that brought them out. It was a mixed bag. Many of them are supporters, others conservatives unsure of Kenney, while others were strong opponents of the UCP.
Connor Clark, one of the members of the audience, was there to see if his political views matched with Kenney’s.
“The UCP, I’m not really sure. I’m more on the PC side rather than the Wild Rose side,” Clark says. “I’m certainly not liberal and therefore I’m very much against the NDP. The Liberal Party has had some okay things in the past, however, recently I very much divorced from them mostly because I’m Christian. That’s the biggest reason I have to go UCP, because I feel like they actually represent me better in that regard.”
Nicholas Kalynchuck sat at the door taking tickets, wearing a rainbow T-shirt. He is the self-proclaimed “resident gay person” of the conservative party. Though Kenney has had problems with the queer community in the past, Kalynchuck believes that these problems have been amended. He also states that he is more than a one-issue voter.
On the other end of the spectrum is Rebecca Houle, the president of Feminists at MacEwan, who came to make her message known to Kenney.
“I’m here to heckle Jason Kenney,” she says. “He doesn’t support LGBTQ, he doesn’t support working to improve the situation with climate change. I think the NDP has done an awesome job with our climate change leadership plan and I don’t want that to be taken away.”
A little more than an hour into the event, Houle and other opponents of the UCP began to chant “Hey, hey, ho, ho, UCP has got to go,” while holding protest signs. The rest of the crowd responded with “Let’s build pipelines!” in a stadium-like cheer.
During this time, Caitlyn Donadt attempted to record the situation, but was hassled by an unruly Kenney supporter.
“We decided to do the protest, and I was holding up my sign and chanting and she came up to a few of us and basically came up right to my face and looked me straight in the eye, like an inch away from mine, asking me these weird questions like ‘Do you have a father? Do you have grandparents?’” Donadt says. “She literally put her lips against my camera.”
Houle and her compatriots then marched out of the room on their own accord, and shortly after, peace officers arrived. When asked why, the officers respond with “It’s none of your concern.”
A few minutes later, Kenney made his exit. Many of the people there were expecting a speech of some kind, but not once did he address the crowd as a whole. When asked about his thoughts on the protest, one of his staff members cut in, saying that Kenney had somewhere to be and doesn’t have time to answer before leading him off. The president of the University of Alberta Conservative Association says they will send out an official statement in the morning.
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