Conservative MP fends off criticism in Calgary Centre candidate’s debate

Conservative MP Joan Crockatt faced jeers and hissing as she defended her decision to vote against the transgender rights bill C-279 at an all-candidates’ election debate earlier this week in Calgary Centre.

The incumbent found herself in rough waters Sept. 15 when questioned over her opposition to a bill that would write gender identity rights into the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code.

“This bill did not help us move forward on the issues as we hoped it would,” she said at the debate. “As a legislator, your job is to put forward sound legislation. This particular bill did not meet that test.”

An audience member at the election debate in the federal riding of Calgary-Centre shows his support for Conservative incumbent Joan Crockatt at the Inglewood Community Hall on Sept. 15. Crockatt debated several issues, including economic downturn, infrastructure, national security, environment and radicalized youth. Photo by Cameron PerrierCrockatt called the bill “a complex issue.” The remark ignited heated buzz from a standing room only audience at the Inglewood Community Hall.

She then asked Liberal candidate and former Alberta MLA Kent Hehr why federal leader Justin Trudeau did not vote on the bill. Hehr reminded Crockatt that Trudeau wasn’t in Parliament the day of the vote.

When pressed further by the Calgary Journal, Crockatt said she has long supported LGBT issues. Her son is on the board for Calgary Pride and since becoming an MP has participated in Day of Pink, a campaign to raise awareness on homophobia and LGBT bullying.

Following the debate, Hehr, who championed the Gay-Straight Alliance bill in the Alberta legislature, said Crockatt’s response was “weak at best,” and­ that “what should worry all voters is the way things transpired at Pride.”

Crockatt pulled out of this year’s pride parade after facing criticism over Calgary Pride approving her application to march in the parade. A Calgary Herald article published on Aug. 19 stated Crockatt told Calgary Pride she would oppose Bill C-279 after consultation with Egale Canada — a consultation Hehr said never happened.

“She stated unequivocally that an organization told her to vote against a bill. That is categorically false and she gave that answer to the Pride committee,” Hehr added.

Debate attendee Robert Walker was also disappointed with Crockatt’s response on the issue.

Calgary-Centre Conservative MP Joan Crockatt speaks during an election debate at the Inglewood Community Hall Sept. 15. Crockatt finds herself in the hot seat when the audience queries over a transgender rights bill she voted against. Photo by Cameron Perrier“She said it’s a complicated issue and it doesn’t seem like a complicated issue to me,” Walker said. “LGBT and transgender rights — they’re pretty simple, those people deserve the same human rights we all enjoy under the Constitution, and that’s important.

“She was the only candidate in the room who said it was complicated; everybody else said it’s pretty clear.”

NDP MP Randall Garrison’s private member bill was scheduled for a third reading in the Senate with amendments that would have exempted discrimination based on gender identity as a criminal offence in areas such as public washrooms, change rooms, prisons and shelters. The bill died when Parliament dissolved for the federal election.

cperrier@cjournal.ca