The Marieval Residential School

This weekend Ms Soapbox was going to write a breezy little blog saying she was taking the summer off. She was going to wish everyone a safe and pleasant summer and ask them to check back here on September 5, 2021, to resume the battle of trying to stay ahead of the Kenney government’s ill-conceived policies.

Then it happened again. 751 unmarked graves containing the remains of Indigenous children and adults, were discovered on the site of the Marieval Residential School at Cowessess.

These will be added to the 215 unmarked graves discovered at the site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School and thousands more yet to be discovered.

We should have been prepared for the sheer horror of these discoveries, but we were not.   

Marieval Residential School

We ignored and downplayed the stories of the survivors, we refused to acknowledge this part of our history as an act of genocide, and we’ve been complicit with the governments and churches responsible.

We continue to have divisive arguments about statues when we should be joining forces to compel governments and churches to provide the access and funding necessary to locate all the graves so missing and murdered children can be identified and properly honoured.

We need to support Indigenous communities and take meaningful action to eliminate systemic racism, discrimination and injustice. We need to demand the federal and provincial governments act more quickly in implementing the 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report, including a papal apology here on Canadian soil.

Yes, I’ll be taking the summer off from the Soapbox. But there is much to do, and we need to do it together.

So be safe. Take care of yourselves. And I’ll see you in the fall.

Posted in Crime and Justice, Culture, Politics and Government | Tagged , , | 83 Comments

Kenney and the Autocrat’s Handbook

The Alberta Legislature ended the 2021 Spring Session on a particularly disturbing note.

Members of the Opposition asked Jason Kenney to apologize for his role in pushing the niqab ban, a policy that contributed to growing Islamophobia, while he was a federal cabinet minister.

Instead of an apology, Kenney stood up and flatly denied he’d ever supported the niqab ban.

We’ve all seen the news clips and Hansard transcripts where Kenney banned the niqab at Canadian citizenship ceremonies. Over the years he’s said the niqab “reflects a certain view about women that we don’t accept in Canada.” It was “a medieval tribal custom” and he “was proud to make that decision” because he believed “people taking the public Oath of Citizenship should do so . . .with their faces uncovered.”

The denial

This week Kenney added that it is “entirely reasonable that when people are making a public oath in a court, when they’re testifying, when they are providing identification, when they’re boarding an airplane, they should do so with their identity available and their faces uncovered.”

None of Kenney’s examples of “reasonableness” are relevant. Citizenship ceremonies do not take place in court. They are held at CIC offices, schools and community halls. The oath or affirmation is not giving testimony in court and the certificate of citizenship is not an identity or travel document.

He could have apologized like his former MP colleagues Tim Uppal and Michelle Rempel Garner, instead he chose to lie. Why?  

Characteristics of an autocrat

The answer lies in historian Timothy Synder’s analysis of autocrats.*

Autocrats lie. Even in the face of concrete evidence to the contrary. Putin lied about the invasion of Ukraine and Trump lied about winning the 2020 election.     

And Kenney lies. He said the coronavirus was the flu, then denied he’d said it. He violated the restriction against outdoor patio dining, then denied it, then admitted it.

Autocrats like to win. For them winning isn’t about getting the most votes, it’s about getting away with whatever it takes to get into power.

The UCP leadership race that resulted in Kenney becoming the leader of the UCP was fraught with shady practices. The Election Commissioner imposed thousands of dollars in fines for illegal donations but was not able to finish his investigation because Kenney fired him after he came to office. (The RCMP investigation into voter fraud and identity theft is still ongoing).  

Autocrats have a disdain for democracy.

Kenney displayed his disrespect for the democratic process very early in his tenure by distributing earplugs to his fellow MLAs so they wouldn’t have to listen to the Opposition MLAs who (let’s remember) are charged with the responsibility of holding the government to account and voicing the concerns of their constituents.  

He shut down debate 29 times in two years, contrast this to the NDP who shut down debate 5 times over four years.

When covid struck he declared with Churchillian bravado that his government would stay open no matter what, then suspended the Legislature for two weeks at the height of the covid crisis to avoid questions about spiking covid numbers and to hide from a brewing caucus revolt.

He enacted public health restrictions then adopted a “do as I say, not as I do” approach allowing his  MLAs and staff to travel over Christmas and treating his cabinet ministers and staff to an outdoor patio dining experience on the 11th floor of the Sky Palace.  

He passed legislation to curtail Albertans’ right to protest but was slow to act when evangelical clergymen held illegal church services and anti-maskers took to the streets to illegally gather in protest of his public health restrictions.   

He announced important policies on Twitter and Facebook to avoid tough questions from the media. And at traditional press conferences he sneered at reporters when they asked legitimate questions or sought clarification about inconsistent or contradictory policies.   

These examples of autocratic behavior are disturbing, but none are as destructive as Kenney’s focus on past grievances.

Timothy Snyder explains that instead of creating possibilities for the future, autocrats place their country (or in our case our province) at the centre of a cyclical story of victimhood where they dwell on the wrongs done to them by others (the federal Liberals).   

The autocrat promises to redress these ills. So per the autocrat’s handbook Kenney promised to “stand up for Alberta” against shadowy foreign funded special interests and get a “fair deal” from Canada.

He dragged Albertans into a whirlpool of studies, panels and inquiries including the never-ending and oh so secret Anti-Alberta Energy Public Inquiry, the utterly useless Energy War Room, and the divisive Fair Deal Panel.

Kenney convinced Albertans they were virtuous “people of destiny” who suffered injustice at the hands of the Feds. Instead of developing a clear understanding of the present reality and creating policies to give us control over our own future we’re stuck nursing our grievances and wallowing in self-pity.    

Snyder points out that a society obsessed with victimhood runs on inflamed emotions. Consequently, tribalism and polarization increase.

A premier who not only refuses to apologize for actions that fuel Islamophobia and flat out denies what he’s done when all we have to do is google “Kenney niqab ban” to confirm he’s lying only makes things worse.    

But it doesn’t matter to Kenney because all he cares about is staying in power.

As Timothy Snyder said, for an autocrat winning is everything.

*The Road to Unfreedom

Posted in Crime and Justice, Law, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , | 66 Comments

Fighting Racism in Kenney’s Alberta

Sometimes it pays to sit through a 53 minute 42 second Kenney press conference because something unexpected will happen at the very end. In this case it happened at the 46:24 mark.

Last week in the wake of the horrific attack on the Afzaal family in London, premier Kenney and justice minister Madu held a press conference at the Al-Rashid Mosque to announce three anti-racism measures. These were:

  • The appointment of a community liaison to connect with minority groups to provide the government “with a range of perspectives and expertise on how [it] can tackle hate-motivated crimes and incidents,”
  • The creation of a Hate Crimes Coordination Unit to work with law enforcement to improve crime mitigation efforts and facilitate training, intelligence gathering and investigation.
  • The implementation of a security infrastructure program to provide funding for security training and facility upgrades for groups that are targets of hate crimes.

The premier characterized these initiatives as “concrete actions” to keep Albertans safe.

Leaving aside the fact that there’s nothing new here (in 2019 Notley’s government created a special unit to fight hate crimes and provided millions to train grassroots groups fighting racism and the feds have provided funding for security infrastructure since 2007) none of these measures address the real problem: how to prevent racism from arising in the first place.

Press conference at Al-Rashid Mosque

Relationships?

Nevertheless, some reporters asked Kenney for his thoughts on how to attack the root cause of hatred in Alberta.    

Kenney said he’d reflected on this question in the 15 years he’d been the federal minister for multiculturalism and immigration. He concluded “the single most powerful weapon against hatred is simply relationships.”  We can have all sorts of government programs but “hatred comes from the heart. The most effective way of changing someone’s heart from hatred to respect to love is through relationships…”   

This is a jarring statement from the man who as a federal cabinet minister promoted the barbaric cultural practices hot line and banned Muslim women from wearing face coverings at citizenship ceremonies.

Later a reporter asked the question again, this time it was directed to Aumer Assaf, spokesperson for the Canadian Islamic Centre.

Kenney responded (under the mistaken impression the question was meant for him) saying people don’t need government programs or government funding to get rid of racism. “It’s got to come organically, naturally from the community.” Government can set the tone but the informal outreach has to come from the community which is why he asked his MLAs to check in with Muslims in their constituencies.   

When the reporter clarified the question was intended for Mr Assaf, Mr Assaf said while he agreed that relationships are very important, “I will challenge the notion that it’s organic.”

Mr Assaf described being a schoolboy and learning that Canada was a mosaic where everyone was equal under the law. He characterized Canada as an exceptional country which has its blemishes but is moving towards goodness, and said the way to move towards goodness is by “trusting one another” and by getting “a really good education at a very young age.”

Education

Which brings us back to the idea of concrete action.  

Last week the Kenney government released the recommendations of the anti-hate crime advisory council (another initiative started by the Notley government).

The advisory council calls for the decolonialization of education and the development of a curriculum with a focus on anti-Indigenous racism, systemic racism, and other forms of discrimination which disrespects the human rights of BIPOC Canadians.

If Kenney truly wants to take concrete action he should scrap the UCP curriculum review and re-examine the curriculum bearing in mind the advisory council’s recommendations and Mr Assaf’s observation that racism can be rooted out by a really good education at a very young age.    

Or Mr Kenney can spin around and around in the vain hope that by some miracle hatred will turn to respect and even love while religious minorities apply for funding to turn their places of worship into fortresses to protect themselves against those who reject their right to exist.

Posted in Crime and Justice, Culture, Education, Law, Politics and Government, Terrorism | Tagged , , , | 18 Comments

Jason Kenney’s Thoughts on Residential Schools

The only reason I’m going to mention the Sky Palace scandal in the same post as the deaths of 215 Indigenous children at a former residential school in Kamloops BC is because the Sky Palace scandal pulled our focus away from Jason Kenney’s utterly inappropriate response to the history of Canada’s residential school policy.

The Goal

Sky Palace Scandal

Let’s get the Sky Palace scandal out of the way first.

Last week Kenney and three of his cabinet ministers enjoyed a lovely dinner with some unidentified guests on the outdoor patio of the Federal Public Building. Dinner was a sit-down affair, complete with white tablecloths, San Pellegrino, wine and Jamison’s whiskey.

It was also a blatant violation of Alberta’s covid restrictions.

Dr Deena Hinshaw said it was a mistake, and that we should acknowledge our mistakes and move on to model the way forward. In essence, she gave Kenney an out—own your mistake and model better behavior in the future—he chose not to take it.

Instead he doubled down alleging:

  • His dinner was “expressly permitted” under the outdoor gathering exemption. Tell that to Dr Hinshaw.     
  • The NDP would want Kenney to move the business meeting inside where there’s a higher risk of viral spread. No, they’d want Kenney to hold the meeting in accordance with the rules.     
  • The NDP is grousing because they want a hard lock-down. Not true and irrelevant.
  • The NDP is hypocritical because they often socialized on the patio. Irrelevant, Covid-19 wasn’t ravaging the world between 2015—2019.   
  • Kenney et al paid for their own food and drink; besides Jamison’s is a budget whiskey. Who cares, still a violation of the rules.  
  • It was take-out not catered. Still a violation.   
  • Next week we could go to Stage 2 and have 20 people at outdoor gathering. That’s nice, this week that many people can’t eat on an outdoor patio.  

This inane exchange took up airtime that should have been devoted to Kenney’s response to the discovery of the graves of 215 Indigenous children.

Residential schools

Kenney said the residential school policy was morally evil, wicked, and unjust.

And that’s where his condemnation ended. God forbid he say a bad word against John A Macdonald or the Catholic Church.

An intrepid reporter asked if he supported the Calgary School Board’s decision to rename Langevin school. Hector-Louis Langevin was John A Macdonald’s public works minister and together with Bishop Grandin helped implement Macdonald’s residential school policy.

Kenney said recognizing the evil of residential schools does not require us to remove central figures of Canadian history. That would be “cancel culture.”

He buttressed his cancel culture argument with a round of “whataboutism.”

What about Sir Wilfred Laurier who increased the “head tax” to restrict immigration from China, and Mackenzie King who prevented Jews from entering Canada in the holocaust, and Pierre Trudeau who imposed martial law in Quebec, and Tommy Douglas and members of the Famous Five who supported eugenics. We’d have to erase them too, right?

No, We’re not talking about erasing people.  

We’re talking about rejecting the idea that people who used the power of the state or the church to forcibly take Indigenous children from their parents and assimilate them into Euro-Canadian culture should be honoured by putting them up on a pedestal and plastering their names on public buildings and infrastructure.  

Yes, we must have a conversation about how to treat historical figures who did reprehensible things or held reprehensible beliefs, but today we’re talking about the 215 Indigenous children buried in unmarked graves at a former residential school in Kamloops and the politicians and clergymen who made it possible.

It’s not enough for Kenney to say he personally believes the residential school system “was unspeakably wicked and unjust” and a “great moral evil.”

Kenney is a political leader. As such he should be among the first to condemn the actions of those who created and implemented the residential school policies of the past and those who allow systemic racism to flourish in Canada today.  

Anything less would be (to use Kenney’s words) a great moral evil.

Posted in Crime and Justice, Culture, Education, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 60 Comments

Alberta’s Reopening Plan: “The Best Alberta Summer Ever”

“Today we are truly near the end of this thing. We’re finally getting back to normal, and I think it means the best Alberta summer ever.” – Premier Jason Kenney  

Last week Premier Kenney, Dr Deena Hinshaw, and Health Minister Shandro (collectively KHS) unveiled Open for Summer, Alberta’s reopening plan.

Stage 1 starts two weeks after 50% of Albertans aged 12 and over have had their first dose and hospitalizations are below 800, Stage 2 starts two weeks after 60% of Albertans have had their first dose and hospitalizations are below 500, and Stage 3 kicks off two weeks after 70% of Albertans have had their first dose. There is no hospitalization metric for Stage 3.

Restrictions will be lifted as we pass through Stage 1 and 2, culminating with no restrictions (other than some protective measures) when we hit Stage 3.

This should be good news, right? So why do we feel uneasy?

As a public service to her readers Ms Soapbox sat through the three KHS press conferences (again) to try and understand why she’s hanging back from “the best Alberta summer ever.”

The experience was excruciating.

Here’s why.

Who is the strictest in the land?

KHS say Alberta’s plan is more restrictive than the BC and Sask plans, but health writer Andre Picard disagrees. In an interview on The Current, Picard said with the exception of Ontario and Manitoba which are more cautious, the provincial plans are similar. They all aim to be fairly open by July.

Portraying Alberta’s plan as being more restrictive and therefore more cautious than our neighbours is misleading.  

What is the plan based on?

KHS say Alberta’s plan is informed by the experience in other jurisdictions like the UK, Israel, and some US states.

Really?  

The reopening plans of both Israel and the UK are more restrictive. Israel requires citizens to present “green badges” to gain admission to cultural events, restaurants, and health clubs and the UK’s is 4 months long.

The US jurisdictions Kenney relies on had significantly higher covid rates hence higher ‘natural immunity’ (more on that below) and no delays between the first and second doses.

Shandro said the plan is based on what we’ve seen in other jurisdictions around the world “but make no mistake, this is a plan that is tailor made for us.” Ah, that explains why BC cancelled the PNE and Ontario cancelled the CNE, but the Calgary Stampede and the premier’s pancake breakfast are still a go.

KHS’s assertion that Alberta’s plan is based on those of other jurisdictions is not credible.   

Variants and the one dose vs two doses approach

KHS say Alberta could fully reopen on June 28 if we meet the 70% first dose vaccination threshold. They did not mention that variants have become dominant and, depending on the variant and the vaccine, a single dose may provide significantly less protection than two doses.

When pressed on this point they said:

  • The 70% benchmark was chosen because it’s simple and won’t confuse the population. Please! It’s the restrictions, not the benchmarks, that are confusing.
  • The 70% benchmark is supported by “deep analysis” on natural immunity, monitoring spread and getting second doses. Isn’t this work KHS should be doing as a matter of course? Why is it offered as a justification for not including a second dose benchmark? And about natural immunity. Kenney originally said Alberta’s natural immunity was 12%. Last week he said it was 14%. There is no evidence to support why the number is so high if it’s based on how many Albertans have recovered from covid, let alone how long this immunity lasts and how effective it is against the variants.

Albertans aren’t stupid. Please show your work.    

Only anti-vaxxers criticize

The NDP Opposition questioned the pace of the reopening plan. Healthcare professionals like former CHOM Dr Talbot questioned both the pace and the one dose strategy.  

Kenney dismissed these concerns with the glib comment that those who challenge the government’s plan are anti-vaxxers determined to undermine public trust in vaccines to impair Albertans’ fundamental freedoms with indefinite lockdowns.

This is ridiculous.

A responsible government unveiling its reopening plan would set politics aside. It would not muddy the waters with half-baked analogies to other jurisdictions, and it would anticipate and respond to concerns about variants which could lead us into a fourth wave.

Is that too much to ask?

Posted in Alberta Health Care, General Health Care, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , , | 72 Comments

Happy Victoria Day

It’s Victoria Day tomorrow.

Ms Soapbox is taking a break this weekend to celebrate the occasion with her family.  

So far I’ve visited with those in our bubble, ordered in from a local restaurant, played Rummikub, cribbage and a weird Hungarian card game that no one knows the rules to, walked the dog and hung around in my garden in the rain (see below).

I’m very lucky to be able to do this.

I hope your Victoria Day is just as peaceful.

Happy Victoria Day.

Tell me, what did you do to celebrate?

Crabapple blossoms from my garden
Posted in Celebrations, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 46 Comments

Alberta’s Um, Uh, You Know, Reopening Plan

Alberta is a train slowly emerging from a tunnel, we see the light, the vaccines are coming and most of us will be vaccinated soon. Unfortunately, Alberta is a runaway train and Jason Kenney is the engine driver (also known as the loco pilot in some jurisdictions).

Alberta’s loco pilot is singularly unqualified for the job because he can’t lead.

Leadership requires vision and courage. Good leaders set benchmarks and meet or exceed them. Bad leaders fail and it’s someone else’s fault.   

Kenney’s management of the covid crisis is the most important test of his leadership to date. He failed. Alberta has the highest covid rate per capita in North America.  

When asked to explain his dismal performance Kenney said Alberta’s rates are sky high because Albertans are “behaviorally different” and Alberta has “a compliance problem.”

It’s not me, it’s you.

What Kenney failed to explain was how his conservative peers, Scott Moe, Brian Pallister, and Doug Ford (Doug Ford for God’s sake!) were able to persuade, plead, and cajole their residents into protecting their health and healthcare systems, while Kenney could not.    

Next up, natural immunity

As if that weren’t bad enough, now we have a new concern: It appears Kenney’s reopening plan will be as much of a dog’s breakfast as his plan to reduce the spread of covid in the province.   

On April 12 Kenney said vaccines are our path to recovery and freedom. He outlined a reopening plan based on vaccination rate plus “immunity from natural infection” – when half the population has immunity we’ll be able to gather together more, when two-thirds have immunity we’ll start getting back to normal, eg the Stampede and sporting events will be permitted, and when three-quarters are immune we’ll be fully back to normal.

He said about 12% of Albertans have natural immunity.* Where did he get this number? And why does he believe all Albertans who’ve had covid are naturally immune? Chris Mody, head of Microbiology, Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the University of Calgary says while “natural immunity” is likely to provide some protection, it may be relatively short lived.     

Leaving aside concerns about the validity of the “natural immunity” argument, and the fact that we have not yet achieved two-thirds immunity and Kenney gave the Stampede and another rodeo the green light to proceed anyway.

Let’s pause for a moment to compare Kenney’s nebulous reopening plan with the specificity of Saskatchewan’s 3-Step reopening plan.

Saskatchewan says it will move to Step 1 three weeks after 70% of people aged 40 and up have received their first shot. It will move to Step 2 three weeks after 70% of the people aged 30 and up have received their first shot, and to Step 3 three weeks after people aged 18 and up have received their first shot. Some experts are concerned Saskatchewan is moving too fast, but at least the idea of natural immunity doesn’t enter into the equation.  

Um, wait, uh…

On May 11 Kenney revisited his re-opening plan.   

A reporter asked whether Alberta would consider a plan similar to Saskatchewan’s plan. Kenney said the emergency management committee of cabinet tasked the Dept of Health with “beginning to develop a reopening plan” that would track Alberta’s vaccination rate and that the Dept of Health “is at the early stages of developing ah, uh, um, proposals for consideration by cabinet uh, but um, at this point, uh, you know, we’ve, our focus, our immediate focus is just getting through the next couple of weeks.”**

Um, what?

Kenney rolled out a full-blown plan on April 12 and a month later he said the Dept of Health was beginning to develop a reopening plan for cabinet’s consideration?  

Which brings us back to the runaway train.

A couple of days after Kenney’s um, uh, ah, press conference UCP MLA Todd Loewen wrote a scathing letter demanding Kenney’s resignation. Following a 7 hour caucus meeting Loewen and another UCP MLA, Drew Barnes, were expelled from caucus.  

But the turmoil continues.

And while it’s tempting to indulge in schadenfreude as the UCP rips itself apart, we must not forget we’re stuck on a runaway train watching the loco pilot and his crew duke it out for control of the locomotive.  

*Globe & Mail May 6, 2021 A10

**Verbatim quote

Posted in Alberta Health Care, General Health Care, Politics and Government, Science | Tagged , , , , , , | 99 Comments

Happy Mother’s Day

I’m afraid I’ve lost it.

This was going to be a cheery little non-political post wishing all the moms out there a Happy Mother’s Day…but it went sideways when I saw Jason Kenney’s Mother’s Day news release and YouTube clip.

The YouTube clip got me steamed up when Kenney said moms have had to step up even more this year and he hoped it (this day, presumably) “is a great opportunity to slow down.”

Slow down?

All of you moms who are doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, teachers, school staff, essential workers, moms working from home so you can keep an eye on the kids, grandmas watching the kids so their moms can work, moms who would jump at the offer of $10/day childcare, moms who run small businesses and have been left in a lurch by Kenney’s yes-no-yes restrictions, moms who are caring for loved ones with a high risk of infection from the yahoos Kenney has excused for so long they won’t listen when he wants them to act responsibly, moms who are struggling to convince family members to get vaccinated when Kenney’s MLAs tell them to do their own research, all of you moms listen up: Jason Kenney thinks today would be a “great opportunity to slow down.”

Slow down and do what? Put on your fuzzy slippers and watch soap operas on TV?

Then came the news release where Kenney offered sympathy to mothers and grandmothers in residential care who may be facing Mother’s Day without their families and to Albertans who have lost their mothers to covid or another cause.

That finished me because so much of this heartache could have been avoided.

We’re going to talk about that about another day.

Today, I would like to wish every mom a heartfelt Happy Mother’s Day and let them know that I and many others will fight tooth and nail to ensure your next Mother’s Day will not be as grueling and scary as the last two.

You are in my heart.

Posted in Alberta Health Care, Celebrations, Politics and Government | Tagged , , | 60 Comments

It Must Be Nice, Alberta

It must be nice to live in a bubble where Covid-19 is a hoax created by those who want to infringe your Charter right to swill beer in a pub and Covid vaccines are a plot perpetrated by multi-billionaires who want to track your movements from your house to the mall and back.

Where wearing masks is a sign of stupidity and social distancing is just silly.

It must be nice to have a premier who indulges your fantasies by saying Covid-19 is just the flu, it only kills old people, people with comorbidities, the weak, and you’re strong, you’re special, you’re safe, right?

After a while your premier admits the pandemic may be more serious, but don’t worry, he’ll wait until the absolute last minute to impose tepid public health restrictions and undercuts them repeatedly by defending cabinet ministers and caucus members who urge you to “do your own research” (He says they’re just exercising their democratic freedom to disagree with a public health policy).

Depending on his mood, he’ll praise you for allowing him to infringe your civil liberties (you poor dear) or huff and puff about people flouting the rules that he’s in no hurry to enforce.  

It must be nice to live in a bubble where the premier talks about fictitious kids’ birthday parties with “100% attack rates” (?) and alleges there’s no “direct linear relationship” between the restrictions and viral spread. If there’s no direct relationship between the restrictions and viral spread then there’s no reason for you to respect them, right?

Don’t look now, but your comfy bubble is closing in on you.

Alberta has twice the number of active cases per 100,000 as Ontario, its testing is so backlogged that labs are no longer testing for variants of concern, and AHS released a triage plan that will direct care to the patients with the greatest likelihood of survival.

Dr. Noel Gibney say the existing public health restrictions (the ones you can’t tolerate) are “absolutely not” enough and warns that unless there is a strict lockdown the triage protocol could be activated by May 22.

So go ahead, defy the public health restrictions, hang out with your chums on the beer patio, attend the anti-lockdown rodeo near Bowden with 2000 of your like-minded friends.

Because you’re special, you’re a person of destiny, nothing bad will ever happen to you.

Must be nice to live in a bubble where you’re fed up with Covid-19 and the rest of us have to suffer the consequences of your irresponsible and immoral behavior.

You live in Kenney’s Alberta.

Must be nice.

Posted in Alberta Health Care, Crime and Justice, Culture, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , | 141 Comments

Kenney vs Freeland: National Child Care

“…this is going to be the most powerful step change in the Canadian economy since we did the NAFTA deal. It will really drive our economic productivity, our growth.” – Chrystia Freeland describing the Feds $10/day child care plan.*

You’d think Jason Kenney, the premier who says the economy is the central organizing pillar of his government, would be delighted with Chrystia Freeland’s announcement that the Feds will spend $30 billion over 5 years and an additional $8.3 billion/year thereafter to boost economic productivity by implementing a national child care program.  

But no.

Kenney doesn’t like it because…

When Rachel Notley asked Kenney to do “whatever it takes to get that $800 million a year from Ottawa for our kids” he said meh.

Okay, he didn’t actually say meh, what he said was if the federal plan is “a cookie-cutter approach, nine-to-five, government-run, union-operated, largely urban care that excludes shift workers, largely excludes rural people, excludes informal forms of child care, [it] would not meet the needs of most Albertans.”**

There are two problems with Kenney’s glib dismissal of the Fed’s program.  

Chrystia Freeland

First, Kenney has no idea what’s in the program so his cookie-cutter criticism is premature and possibly incorrect (it is however, a nice red flag to wave in the face of his supporters).  

Second, Kenney has no idea what Albertans want. This is borne out by the fact that two days after Freeland’s announcement Kenney struck yet another committee, the Supporting Alberta Working Parents Advisory Group, to look at the “latest research, data and economic analysis to consider…initiatives to ensure parents, particularly women, take part in Alberta’s economic recovery.”  I guess he forgot about working women when he put together his $10 billion economic recovery plan last June.

But the Fed’s plan isn’t “flexible”…    

Kenney’s cabinet dutifully echoes his concerns about the Fed’s program. The minister of Child Services and the Finance minister both argue a child care program must be “flexible”.

Laila Goodridge, a UCP backbencher, called upon Nate Glubish, Service Minister, to explain what is meant by the term “flexible.”

Again with no knowledge about the details of the Fed’s program, Glubish said Albertans need “flexibility” because 60% of Alberta’s child care programs are offered by private child care operators.***  

How is this relevant?

Assuming the Fed’s program only applies to not-for-profit child care programs, the fact that 60% of Alberta’s child care programs are privately run does not prohibit Kenney from taking advantage of the Fed’s program for the 40% that are not. And yes, the owners of private child care centres may not be happy that the not-for-profit centres are offering child care at $10/day but hey, it’s all about choice, right?

Goodridge pressed on, she said it was a given that any child care program rolled out in the province must accommodate all families and asked Glubish what the Kenney government was doing to accommodate families requiring overnight and 24-hour care.  

Glubish accepted the premise of the question and said the government had just wrapped up an expression of interest that will add 1500 child care spaces across the province. He didn’t say what they would cost or whether they were overnight or 24-hour spaces.

[As an aside: If it’s a “given” that child care programs must accommodate all families, then surely it’s a given that healthcare programs must accommodate all families, including those who can’t afford to pay for private MRIs or cataract surgery, and education programs must accommodate all families, including those with children with special needs].  

What we know

While there is a lot we don’t know about the Fed’s child care program we know this.  

The Feds intend to negotiate with the provinces and territories to split subsidies 50-50 to reduce average child care fees to $10/day within 5 years. They’re targeting a 50% reduction in fees by the end of 2022.

The Conference Board says every $1 spend on expanding early childhood education results in $6 in economic benefit.

Kenney is all about growing the economy and Freeland has a strong bias for not-for-profit child care programs because “really little people…can’t speak up for themselves.”

Kenney asked the Working Parents Advisory Group to provide advice on how to “leverage federal funds to suit the unique needs of Alberta parents and child care operators.”

Freeland asked Canadians to “talk to people in your town, in your city, in your province…and say that you agree with me that this is the time to really do this in Canada.”  

What we have here folks is Freeland, the woman who successfully took on Trump over NAFTA, telling Kenney she’s ready to address his argument for a made-in-Alberta child care program funded by Ottawa’s dollars.

Let the economic recovery games begin!  

*All Freeland quotes from CBC The Current April 20, 2021

**Hansard, Apr 20, 2021, p 4668

***Hansard, Apr 21, 2021, p 4734   

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