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Alison Redford opens Edmonton Pride Festival -- But goes AWOL from parade

Edmonton Pride Festival, Churchill Square

Edmonton's Pride Parade yesterday can only be described as a massive success, proof of the assertion real Albertans don’t care a fig about a person's sexuality, gender identity or even how they dress.

Surely there were 20,000 people in the streets for the parade, including, God bless them, Albertans in hijabs and Hutterite bonnets. Rain was promised by the weatherperson but the warm sun beamed down, approval from on high of which the Wildrose Party's fierce believers in divine revelation might want to take note.

As was said in this space last June, "in Canada the prevailing attitude -- even among large numbers people who only a few years ago would have been steeped in homophobia -- seems more and more to be, 'Aw, who cares?'" On Saturday, the high-spirited and supportive crowd in Edmonton proved it, and indeed added a chorus of good for you!

Something was missing from the parade, though: Alison Redford.

Maybe it's churlish to mention this. After all, Redford did make history by making the event, in the carefully parsed passive phrase of the Edmonton Journal, "the first to be attended by an Alberta premier."

Accompanied by her polka-dot-clad deputy premier, Thomas Lukaszuk, Progressive Conservative Premier Redford briefly addressed the official opening of the Edmonton Pride Festival after the parade had ended, telling the huge throng in Churchill Square, "Let's just celebrate who we are, what we do, and where we live." The friendly crowd responded by chanting her name.

Moreover, organizers of the Pride Festival were gracious, praising the premier's participation as "record-breaking news" -- as indeed it was.

Still, just a couple of days ago, the media was awash in promises the premier would be in the parade and, as the participants made their way along the route, there was nary a sign of Redford -- or of any elected Progressive Conservative for that matter.

Maybe this is a mere wrinkle in the great scheme of things -- but it's irritating on a couple of counts. For one thing, a few swift words of welcome is not quite the same thing as a symbolic appearance all along the parade route -- which was lined with thousands of Albertans primed to cheer the premier for turning up.

Is it breaking a promise when you've gotten barrels of ink for saying the day before you'd be in the parade? Readers can decide for themselves.

For another, the behaviour of the media itself, which decided to cover the story by ignoring the change in plans -- which surely a lot of readers and viewers must have wondered about.

The Edmonton Journal's report stating the premier would be in the parade disappeared down the Memory Hole, replaced with some conveniently revised history. However, as of last night, some of the previous stories still lingered, presumably awaiting the Journal's editorial cleanup crew in Hamilton.

Oh well, likely they just didn't want to spoil the history-making scoop of the premier's brief words of welcome. But one can't shake the feeling the premier's political advisors vetoed her actual participation in the parade at the last minute, not for security reasons as some have suggested, but for fear of the unintended photo opportunities that might result.

Not surprisingly, Danielle Smith -- leader of the far-right Wildrose Party which after the last provincial election campaign will be forever known as the Lake of Fire Party -- was nowhere to be found. To "mend fences," as the ever-supportive National Post put it, she'll "show up at a smaller information session on Tuesday."

That way, presumably, the Opposition leader can tell her more virulent supporters one thing and the rest of us another.

As for Alberta's other parties, the Alberta Liberals, New Democrats and the Alberta Party all had representatives in the parade, along with Edmonton public school trustees and Edmonton city councillors. (As well as the Beagle Paws Rescue Organization, it must be noted.)

Alberta Liberal Leader Raj Sherman was there, riding in the back of his pickup truck and wearing a red and blue feather boa. So was Edmonton-Centre Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman and three of the NDP's four MLAs, Rachel Notley, David Eggen and Deron Bilous.

The Alberta Party has no MLAs, but had plenty of representatives in the parade.

On the other hand, Redford's PCs have plenty of MLAs, but apparently none who could find the time for the parade.

However, Redford's role in the opening was a start.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary, with a few more photos.

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