CALGARY, Alberta, April 11, 2012 ( – As her party dominates polls in the lead-up to Alberta’s April 23 election, the leader of the upstart right-wing party Wildrose has insisted she is ‘pro-choice’ and has no intention to ‘legislate morality.’

After criticizing Wildrose leader Danielle Smith last week over her previous support of conscience rights for doctors and marriage commissioners, the reigning Progressive Conservatives attacked a Wildrose proposal to institute a mechanism for citizen referendums, calling it a backdoor plan to repeal the ‘rights’ of women and homosexuals.

But Smith made her own views clear at an all-candidates debate in her riding of Highwood on Tuesday.

“When our members elected me they knew they were electing a candidate that was pro-choice and pro-gay marriage,” she said, according to the Canadian Press.

“The only way we’re going to be able to become a mainstream, big-tent conservative party capable of forming government is to focus on the issues that matter to Albertans,” she continued. “If I am elected premier, a Wildrose government will not be legislating in areas of morality.”

On Tuesday the PC Party’s campaign manager Susan Elliott told the Calgary Sun that women would be targeted through citizen-initiated referendums.

“Women understand who the target is,” she said. “You’re not the target. I’m the target. Ethnic minorities are targets. Gays and lesbians are targets. We’re the targets of those kinds of things.”

And Liberal Leader Raj Sherman declared: “This is Alberta, not Alabama.”

“There is no place in this province and this country for this hard right-wing Tea Party thinking,” said Sherman.

Brian Mason, the NDP Leader, claimed the debate over abortion funding was settled by the Supreme Court. “We have an obligation to provide all medically necessary services based on the Supreme Court decision in Canada, and that is what we support,” he said.

The controversy arose after a senior Wildrose staffer told a Calgary blogger that the referendums could be a mechanism for pro-life citizens to take action against abortion.

Asked the party’s view on abortion, chief administrative officer Jeffery Trynchy wrote, “The legalities of abortion fall under federal jurisdiction. We respect that Albertans view social issues differently, which is why Wildrose would immediately introduce legislation allowing citizens to put issues like abortion to a citizen initiated referendum.”

Smith herself expressed opposition to public funding for abortions in a 2000 column for the Calgary Herald, and she has not ruled out the possibility that citizens could put the issue to a vote through the referendum mechanism.

But she insists her government would not bring forward a bill to defund abortion and suggested that any potential referendum on abortion would never make it to a vote.

Under the Wildrose proposal, referendum questions would have to be vetted by a federal judge to ensure they are within the province’s jurisdiction and conform to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“I’ve spoken with a legal scholar in the past couple of days, and he indicated it would likely be offside with section 7 of the Charter,” she said. Section 7 upholds the right to “life, liberty and the security of the person.”

“This is the reason why it has to go to a judge. Because we can’t be having public referenda on things that can’t be instituted.”

Wildrose has been performing well in polls as Albertans show increasing dissatisfaction with the PCs after their 41-year reign. Last week, Wildrose looked like it was headed to a majority, though a poll this week put them only slightly ahead.

The new right-wing party has taken strong stances in support of parental freedom in education and against the controversial human rights commissions that have been used to target Christians and other conservative-leaning citizens.

Last week, Premier Alison Redford, who heads the PC Party, claimed she was “frightened” by Wildrose’s apparent support for conscience rights and argued that doctors should be forced to commit abortions and prescribe contraception even if it goes against their beliefs.


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