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Tensions run high at UCP town hall

Posted on February 15, 2024 by Ryan Dahlman

By Brendan Miller
Southern Alberta Newspapers

Premier Smith faced backlash from local residents during a UCP town hall in Medicine Hat as she spoke about her new transgender policy and the Alberta Pension Plan.

Smith joined Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Justin Wright at the public library to hear from citizens before the legislative assembly reconvenes at the end of February.

The Feb. 2 session was moderated by chief librarian Ken Feser, who asked Smith and Wright several priorly submitted questions.

Out of 64 questions, 18 asked Smith to clarify her position on her government’s new transgender policy, which she announced Jan. 31.

Smith told attendees she has a minor child in her life who is currently undergoing transitioning, but defended the government’s coming policy.

“We are going to follow the practice that we’re now seeing emerge in Europe, where there will be no formal treatment until that person is of an age where they are able to accept the consequences, the irreversible changes that will be made to their bodies,” says Smith.

A few members of the audience left as Smith was justifying the controversial policy.

Wright also defended the policy but was interrupted by a man from the audience named Ashley Large who got up from his seat and yelled at the premier as he exited the theatre.

“You’re taking away their lives because of this issue, go to one of those funerals and watch those parents bury their kids. This is pathetic!”

Large was emotional as he told reporters how he has been to two funerals for transgender children and has watched as parents have had to bury them.

“What’s happening right now is wrong. It’s wrong. Because they’re sitting there telling me that parents have a choice, except they’re legislating my choices away from me,” Large told reporters.

“We have a trans child and friends of hers are potentially going to die because they weren’t going to have access to life-saving, gender-affirming care,” said Kim Large, Ashley’s wife.

The discussion around the Alberta Pension Plan also stirred up fire.

Smith reiterated her government’s claim that under the current CPP, Albertans should be entitled to 53 per cent of its assets, and said Albertans overpay into the national pension plan.

“This gives you an indication of how much we overpaid on this program and how much our seniors are going to continue to overpay year after year,” says Smith.

Smith and Wright also discussed funding for HALO air ambulance, needs for more affordable housing and child care. Smith also addressed expected water shortages coming to the region this spring and forecasted some areas in the province may have to abide by water restrictions.

The town hall filled the capacity of the library’s 150-seat theatre, and more than 150 others were turned away due to a lack of space.

Recordings of the town hall were not allowed and all questions had to be submitted a day prior.

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