Alberta's United Conservatives are less than three days old, yet the new party is already going off the rails.
On Tuesday, former Wildrose finance critic Derek Fildebrandt committed his very first gaffe under the new party's banner after he accused University of Alberta Assistant Professor Kristopher Wells, Faculty Director with the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services, of using "LGTBQ people" as "pawns."
Fildebrandt also told Wells – who has received over 60 awards for his research and community service and founded several public education initiatives on LGBTQ issues – that he is doing "more harm than good for the LGTBQ community."
The United Conservative MLA's Twitter tirade was in response to criticism aimed at the United Conservative Party's interim leader Nathan Cooper – Cooper previously worked as a spokesman for a controversial social conservative group that opposes a so-called "homosexual agenda."
Resulting in reactions like these:
The party that wants to force schools to inform parents if their kids join a GSA is now teaching us about LGTBQ politics. pic.twitter.com/IinkrIPL1p— Mike Morrison (@mikesbloggity) July 25, 2017
Thank you Derek Fildebrandt for putting all of us LGTBQ people in our place. No more advocacy on our own behalf until he tells us it's okay! https://t.co/zFEM18L4gm— Richard Einarson (@richardeinarson) July 25, 2017
During a press conference Monday, Cooper acknowledged his past work with Canada Family Action, a group that has a long history campaigning against LGBTQ rights, but suggested his views on homosexuality have evolved:
"I think there were lots of things I didn't understand then, that I know now."
However, when a reporter asked if he could list one "example of something you have learned over that time," Cooper stuttered for several seconds before offering this reply:
"I think the changing opinions of culturally generally, I think that, I guess I get back to, I don't know if there's a specific point that I would point back to."
Wells told PressProgress that despite Fildebrandt's accusations, he views the controversy through the lens of "human rights," noting that "the Wildrose party has historically had many challenges articulating its position and policies on LGBTQ and human rights issues."
"The election of this new interim leader does little to alleviate these concerns and raises important questions about the new United Conservative Party's position on LGBTQ issues, women's rights, and human rights."
As PressProgress first reported this week, Cooper hosted a radio show during his time at Canada Family Action, exploring "many issues facing the Canadian family," including interviews with "some of Canada's most influential social conservative thinkers."
One of Cooper's guests included a controversial author who authored a book that warns of a "homosexual agenda" whose "goal" is to "replace Judeo-Christian sexual morality" and unleash "destructive" forces on "Western Civilization." The same author had previously advised the Ugandan government on legislation proposing the death penalty for homosexual acts.
Canada Family Action has a well-documented history promoting unscientific gay conversion therapies and denounced films depicting gay characters, notably claiming the film Brokeback Mountain was filmed in Alberta to punish the province for it's "conservative values" and "support of heterosexual marriage."
Fildebrandt previously made headlines last year when the rookie MLA tweeted that he doesn't care about "social issues," explaining that he finds the topic "stale."