Kenney’s Insulin Pump Debacle

On May 2, the Kenney government announced it would avail diabetic Albertans of newer, more technologically advanced insulin pumps. Then 10 days later it announced it was “pausing” this decision to allow for more consultation.

The decision and its reversal happened so quickly it was like a snippet of time-lapse photography; it allowed us to see the Kenney government’s machinations as it tried to push diabetic Albertans out of the free Insulin Pump Therapy Program (IPTP) run by Alberta Health Services in order to save $9 million/year (that’s less than one-third the annual cost of the War Room).    

The two Jasons–Kenney and Copping

The life and death of an ill-conceived policy decision*  

May 2: The whiz-bang announcement

Health Minister Copping announced that diabetic Albertans would have access to newer, more technologically advanced insulin pumps through their government-sponsored health benefit plans. Yippee!

Then the fine print:

The IPTP which provides diabetic Albertans with free insulin pumps and other supplies would be cancelled on August 1. Albertans needing insulin pumps/supplies will have to go through employer-sponsored or private plans, or “transfer” to Alberta Blue Cross. Depending on the plan, they’ll pay extra premiums and/or co-payments. But there’s a bright side, low-income Albertan will continue to receive pumps at no cost from…well…somewhere.   

May 3 onwards: The public outcry

Diabetic Albertans, their families and friends, and the NDP Opposition pointed out that many companies’ health benefit plans don’t cover insulin pumps. (NOTE: Companies typically renegotiate their health benefit plans in the fall. Plan changes go into effect on Jan 1 the following year. That leaves a 4-month gap in coverage).   

Alberta Blue Cross is an insurance plan. Albertans who used to receive free insulin pumps/supplies would now be required to pay premiums, deductions and copays. If they miss too many premiums their insurance would be cancelled. (Note: the Blue Cross website says coverage starts on the first of the month four months after the application is made unless exceptions are made so, someone who applied for coverage on May 3 may have to wait Sept 1 for coverage).

The premiums, deductions, and copays are not trivial. One Albertan said the elimination of IPTP would cost her around $400 in co-pays each quarter, plus an additional $1,500 to $2,250 to replace her insulin pump when the time comes.

The Opposition demands an explanation and an apology:

 NDP health critic Dave Shepherd challenged Kenney to show his work to assure Albertans his expectation that they’d be just fine was well founded and to admit his mistake and apologize.

The cocky refusal

Kenney spouted a string of meaningless statistics—eg. Alberta Blue Cross nongroup coverage is only $63/month (this is an additional $756/year for Albertans who are getting their insulin pumps for free)—and assured the Opposition that the government had done consultation (he didn’t say with whom).   

Later, Education Minister LaGrange said the government had been consulting and communicating with diabetic Albertans for years and numerous Albertans wrote in to ask for more options and more equity in benefits with non-pump users (whatever the heck that means).

Enter Diabetes Canada

Diabetes Canada was quoted in Copping’s press release as supporting the government’s efforts. Eight days later it published an open letter to the government retracting its support. It had been flooded by calls and emails from concerned Albertans and now opposed the government’s plan to “impose cost-saving measures on the backs of those currently enrolled in the IPTP.”  

May 12, 2022: The face-saving retreat

Health Minister Copping announced the government was pausing its decision to cancel the IPTP so it could reach out to the 4000 people in the program to ensure no one was left behind. He would also set up town hall meetings for further consultation. Apparently, the only consultation the government undertook was with a clinical advisory committee.

He also apologised for the confusion.

Seems to me the only ones who were confused were Kenney and LaGrange who didn’t know how many consultation meetings had taken place and Copping who told the Legislature that the cost of the IPTP was $50 million when the press release pegged it at $20 million.

What just happened here?

So as we observed the life and death of the new insulin pump technology plan, we’ve learned that the Kenney government:

  • Will attack diabetic Albertans to eliminate a piece of Alberta’s public health care system and save itself a measly $9 million/year.
  • Will say its decision is founded on years of public consultation when this isn’t true.
  • Will pretend a free public health program is essentially the same as one that requires Albertans to pay premiums, deductions and copays.
  • Will draft a press release so confusing that those who support it publicly retract their support.

We also learned that a small group of Albertans can stop the government for dismantling our public healthcare system.

This is an invaluable lesson.

*Alberta Hansard, May 5, 2022 starting at p 1192, May 9, 2022 starting at p 1204, May 12, 2022 starting at p 1390

Posted in Alberta Health Care, General Health Care, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , | 29 Comments

More on Kenney’s Leadership Review (God, it never ends)

Have you noticed how corrupt and mediocre our government has become?

Yesterday we learned that Elections Alberta is investigating the bulk buying of UCP memberships—4,000 new memberships were purchased by six credit cards sometime before March 19—this was roughly two weeks before Bill 81, The Elections Statutes Amendment Act (2021) No 2, came into effect, so it appears this bulk buying was illegal.  

Corruption  

Justice Minister Madu (as he then was) touted Bill 81 as a way to remove big bucks, domestic and foreign, from Alberta politics and to close the Alberta Federation of Labour “loophole” which supposedly allowed the AFL to funnel piles of money to the NDP.

What Madu didn’t mention was the tiny little change on page 123 that allowed a person to buy memberships for others without their knowledge or consent.

This is significant because bulk buying of memberships was one of the many allegations of wrongdoing that landed Kenney’s 2017 leadership campaign in hot water. One individual told the Election Commissioner that they’d spent as much as $6000 buying 1200 UCP memberships on behalf of others so they could vote for Kenney as the leader of the UCP.  

Jason Kenney

Never mind, Bill 81 rectified the illegality problem with an amendment that allows someone to buy a party membership for someone else without their knowledge or consent. The impact of this change is twofold:

  • Those with deep pockets can stack nomination meetings in favour of the preferred candidate.
  • Those who have the means to do so can circumvent campaign financing rules. If you sell 400 memberships and not one of those 400 people show up at a nomination meeting, the money you’ve spent on their memberships is not returned, it stays in the party’s coffers.

Bill 81 was so flawed that the government filibustered its own caucus, then closed debate to avoid addressing amendments proposed by its own MLAs. In the end three UCP MLAs, two former UCP MLAS, and the NDP, opposed it.

Bill 81 was passed just before Christmas but didn’t go into effect until Mar 31. This was two weeks too late for the person(s) who bought 4000 UCP memberships in anticipation of Kenney’s upcoming leadership review, but just in time to kick off yet another investigation into Kenney’s leadership review irregularities.

Which leads us to the leadership review.

Mediocrity

It’s true that a pollical party can set its own rules, but the whack-a-mole circumstances surrounding Kenney’s leadership review leave a lot to be desired.

Last year Kenney repeatedly ignored calls from his own MLAs to hold an early leadership review. The United Conservative Party executive ignored a formal request by 22 UCP presidents to hold an early leadership review. Eventually the executive acquiesced but insisted on an in-person vote on April 9 in Red Deer. When 15,000 people registered for the event, the executive changed its mind. They decided to hold a province-wide mail-in ballot, this decision was made after the deadline for buying memberships had passed.

To say that the entire leadership review process was a gong show would be an understatement.

But one thing is crystal clear. Kenney will declare victory if he manages to scrape by with a bare majority because, as he says, that’s all it takes to win in a democracy.

True, but we’re not talking about a leadership race where there’s a winner and a bunch of losers, we’re talking about a performance review, where the party members get a chance to grade the performance of the party leader.  

Unlike past PC leaders who said they’d step down if they got less than 70% support, Kenney is adamant that the party should be satisfied with his leadership if he is rated at a hair above 50%.

Newsflash: 50% plus one is not a ringing endorsement. It’s a sign of mediocrity. If this were a score at an Alberta university it would be a very low D.*

What’s really interesting here is that Kenney has convinced UCP members that a low D is good enough and that a mediocre leader deserves to stay on even if almost half of people who voted think he’s unfit for the job.

The leadership review results will be released on May 18. If Kenney gets a tremendous approval rating many will question the integrity of the process given what happened in 2017, what is now permitted under Bill 81, and the flaws in the leadership review process itself.

If Kenney gets a low approval rating but still clings to power, Alberta will be stuck with a mediocre premier who is poorly equipped to grapple with the tumultuous times ahead.

Surely even Kenney’s supporters will figure out this is a lose/lose for Alberta.  

*Under the Alberta universities grading system Stelmach and Redford would have scored B+.

Posted in Politics and Government | Tagged , , , | 55 Comments

Let’s Talk About Insurance

While Jason Kenney is running all over the province trying to convince UCP members he’s there for them, the actions of his government in the House last week tell a different story.

But before we go there, let’s play a game. I’ll say a word and you say the first thing that pops into your head.

Ready?

Reinsurance

Nothing? You don’t even know what it means? You didn’t demand Kenney get you some when he got elected?  

Okay, let’s try another one.

Car Insurance

Whoa, steady on! You don’t like the fact your premiums have jumped 10, 20, 30% or that the insurance companies pulled in $385 million more in premiums than they paid out in 2020 or that they made over $1 billion in profit last year.

Right, hold that thought while we take a brief look at reinsurance. The thing no one heard about back in Kenney’s promise, promise days.

Reinsurance and Bill 16

The Kenney government says oil and gas companies and the industrial sector are having trouble accessing reinsurance. So last week they tabled Bill 16.

Big companies buy three levels of insurance: primary insurance which kicks in first, excess insurance which tops up primary insurance when primary isn’t enough and reinsurance when both the primary and the excess insurance limits are exhausted. BP’s Deepwater Horizon well leak is the kind of loss that would be large enough to trigger a reinsurance payout.

Travis Toews Finance Minister

Reinsurance is provided by a number of insurance companies who are collectively responsible for the coverage. There are about 50 such companies around the world and with the Big Five (companies like Lloyds of London and Swiss Re) taking the lion’s share of the market.  

The Kenney government says these companies are less inclined to offer reinsurance to oil and gas companies because of the risks posed by climate change. Supply is scarce, prices are high and rather than let Adam Smith’s invisible hand determine how this will shake out, the government proposed Bill 16.

Bill 16 will (1) give the province the power to license reinsurance companies, (2) make it easier for Alberta insurance companies to access unlicensed reinsurance companies, (3) change the tax rate on premiums and (4) allow companies that have captive insurance companies elsewhere (these are a form of self-insurance) bring their captives back to Alberta.

The government hopes that as a result of Bill 16 the excess capital circulating in the oil and gas sector will be pooled by oil and gas companies to create local reinsurance companies.

One thing is for certain, Bill 16 has given Alberta’s insurance industry a new shiny toy.  

Which brings us back to our little game: Q: car insurance, A: Grrrr.

Priorities

We don’t know whether oil and gas companies that are enjoying windfall profits and benefiting from a 8% corporate tax rate will, as the government puts it, pool some of this capital to form their own reinsurance companies. We don’t know whether Alberta insurance companies will go hog-wild trying to be one of the global players in the reinsurance marketplace.

However we do know that the government went to considerable time and effort to create legislation that will give them the tools they need to seize this opportunity if they so desire.

The only stakeholder (to use the government’s vernacular) that the government did not take into consideration when it comes to insurance was ordinary Albertans.

Notwithstanding a deluge of emails from Albertans complaining about the increase in their car insurance premiums, the Kenney government did nothing to lighten the insurance burden for Albertans who are struggling with car insurance premiums that jumped by as much as 30%.

The NDP raised this issue in the House, pointing out that only 10% of the auto insurance companies requesting rate changes had asked for a rate reduction. The NDP asked how many more increases it would take before the Kenney government finally changed course.

Mr Toews ignored the question about the harm the UCP’s elimination of the cap has done to Albertans, stating that the NDP’s 5% rate cap would have led to the collapse of the auto insurance sector, allowing the NDP to nationalize it.

This echoed Jason Kenney’s comment that the NDP wanted to implement a “Soviet-style insurance system.” When NDP MLA Shannon Phillips told Kenney the conservative governments in Saskatchewan and Manitoba had public insurance systems, Kenney responded with some nonsense about Justin Trudeau’s (non-existent) truck tax.

Leaving aside the partisan rhetoric, actions speak louder than words. This week the UCP government demonstrated it will take care of big corporations and the insurance companies. The rest of us are on our own.  

Perhaps we need better lobbyists. Does anybody have Nick Koolsbergen’s number handy?

Posted in Climate Change, Disasters, Energy & Natural Resources, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , | 34 Comments

Happy Easter

The Soapbox family is not terribly religious but we do love our traditions. Last night we gathered to colour eggs. Mr Soapbox bought a couple of egg colouring kits, we filled six mugs with warm water and vinegar and plopped in the colour tablets that wouldn’t dissolve completely no matter how much we mashed them with a spoon. Nevertheless, we managed to create a dozen lovely eggs including these beauties.

This year Ramadan, Passover and Easter overlap. All over the world families and friends are celebrating a special time in their own unique way.

To all of you, everywhere, we wish you joy.  

The Soapbox family  

Posted in Celebrations | Tagged , , | 24 Comments

Dr Yiu is fired, Jason Kenney is “Under Review”

Two people were fired this week.

Dr Yiu was fired without cause on Apr 4. Jason Kenney is being ‘fired’ in slow motion, his dismissal will be confirmed on May 18, 2022 when the mail-in ballots are counted, or a year later on May 29, 2023 when the results of the next provincial election are in.   

Let’s start with the bewildering dismissal of Dr Yiu.

Of with her head

Dr Verna Yiu was the CEO of Alberta Health Services. It’s a large, complex organization employing more than 108,000 direct employees (including about 10,000 doctors) and offering services at 900 plus facilities across the province.

By all accounts she was a good leader.

In 2020-21 AHS was recognized for the fourth consecutive year as one of Canada’s top 100 employers, Canada’s top employers for young people, and Alberta’s top employers. It was also recognized for the third consecutive year as one of Canada’s best diversity employers.

Dr Verna Yiu

Dr Yiu led AHS through the horrors of the pandemic, speaking out in press conferences to—oh, how should we put this, to “clarify” something Jason Kenney and his officials had just said—and ensure the public was fully aware of the devastating impact government policy was having on AHS and its ability to deliver healthcare to Albertans during the Covid-19 crisis.

The pandemic is not yet over but Dr Yiu has been fired because, in the words of Health Minister Copping, “It’s time to move forward with an ambitious agenda to improve and modernize the health system, and renewed leadership at [AHS] will support delivering those changes.”

The need for renewed, supportive leadership was so important that Copping repeated it at the end of his press release, leaving Albertans with the impression that Dr Yiu would not have supported what the Kenney government has in store and Kenney was prepared to pay $573,841 in severance to get her out of the way.  

Now contrast Dr Yiu’s leadership with that of Jason Kenney.

Finally, a leadership review  

Kenney has been UCP leader since 2017. Over the last 5 years UCP supporters have been asking themselves: who is the real Jason Kenney, the servant-leader who toured the province in a blue pickup truck or the Ottawa-top-down politician?  

Their consternation came to a head last fall when they forced the party into an early leadership review.

And with good reason.

Under Kenney’s leadership party membership plummeted. In 2018 it was 200,000 (or 160,000 depending on who you believe), today it’s around 57,000.  

In 2020 the UCP and the NDP were neck and neck in political donations of around $5 million each. Last year the NDP outpaced the UCP, raising $6.2 million while the UCP dropped to $3.8 million.  

Kenney’s approval ratings slipped from 61% in May 2019 to 30% in Mar 2022. Notley now sits 10 points ahead at 40%

His party is still under investigation by the RCMP over allegations of fraud in the last leadership race.  

A number of his cabinet ministers have been disgraced. Devin Dreeshen and Tracey Allard were demoted. Tyler Shandro and Kaycee Madu are still in cabinet.

His caucus is in turmoil and his MLAs have been signing letters demanding his resignation for over a year.  

Only I can save you

Kenney puts this dissension down to complaints about his handling of covid. He says he’s not perfect, he’s not God Almighty and everyone makes mistakes.

But this level of insurrection is more than mere frustration over Kenney’s covid policies. Even Doug Ford who’s been severely criticized for mishandling the pandemic and the Ottawa occupation has an approval rating 13 points higher than Kenney’s.

Kenney is fighting for his political life. But instead of addressing his supporters’ complaints about his policies and his top-down leadership style he’s asking them to believe that without him, they’re facing a dystopian future because only he can save the party from the lunatics who are trying to take over the asylum and those grumps like Brian Jean who want to split the party, perhaps destroying it forever, and only he can save Alberta from Rachel Notley and the dreaded socialists.

This is what historian Timothy Snyder describes as a self-deifying claim of an authoritarian who demands faith, not reason, from his supporters. For this reason alone Kenney deserves to be jettisoned.

Yiu vs Kenney

Yiu complied with her employment contract which required her to faithfully serve AHS, act in the best interests of AHS, perform her duties professionally, obey all applicable laws, standards and rules of conduct and refrain from publicly taking positions that conflict or are in opposition to AHS.  

Kenney, as party leader is obligated to promote the party, its policies and principles. When he won the last election he promised that help was on the way and hope was on the horizon. The UCP membership will decide whether he’s delivered on his promise.

Yiu was fired for doing her job. Kenney is still here, but not for long.

Posted in Alberta Health Care, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , | 37 Comments

Poisoning Democracy: Jason Nixon’s Outburst

“Unfortunately, our politicians are not only contaminating the minds of the public but poisoning our democracy at the same time.” Gary Mason, Globe & Mail columnist commenting on the two Conservative MPs who accused Prime Minister Trudeau of running a jackboot dictatorship.

A quick check of Hansard this week demonstrates that Gary Mason’s words are equally applicable to Alberta.  

Over the last three years we’ve become numb to Kenney’s disrespect for the business of government–one of his first acts upon becoming premier was to distribute earplugs to his MLAs to spare the poor dears the hardship of listening to the NDP debate a government bill–but last week the government’s lack of civility and decorum boiled over into something more worrisome.  

Into the gutter

The week started with Rachel Notley asking Kenney a question about the ongoing RCMP investigation into allegations of fraud in the 2017 UCP leadership race: Why didn’t the premier and his ministers who are under investigation step aside in accordance with “long-standing parliamentary tradition” to avoid the real or perceived opportunity to interfere with the judicial system?*  

Kenney could have responded by saying (1) her question was irrelevant because he and his ministers were not under investigation or (2) she was mistaken in her understanding of long-standing parliamentary tradition (assuming she was, which I doubt).

Instead he launched into a tirade about NDP “fear and smear” tactics, the “politics of personal destruction” and the use of “defamatory attack(s).” He concluded by asking “Why doesn’t [Notley] understand that every time she goes into the gutter, all she does is lower the tone of Alberta politics?”

The hypocrisy of that statement defies belief, but sure, let’s talk about the tone of Alberta politics.

The tone of Alberta politics

We’ll start with the exchange between Jason Nixon, Kenney’s environment minister (and government house leader), and Todd Loewen, a former UCP MLA who was booted out of caucus for disagreeing with the premier.

Earlier in the week Loewen criticized Kenney’s leadership. He said polls showed most Albertans want Kenney to resign. He said Kenney calling his opponents “bugs” and “lunatics” was disgraceful and closed by saying Kenney had failed to deliver on platform promises like the citizen’s initiative bill, recall legislation and the fair deal agenda.**

Jason Nixon

Nixon sprang to Kenney’s defence saying the “lunatics” comment was aimed at racists and people who do hateful things. He attacked Loewen’s character saying he was engaging in junior high politics and supported the Brian Jean-NDP alliance (?).  

A couple of days later, Loewen tabled several newspaper articles, videos and pages from Hansard to support his argument and rebut what he called “outright misinformation” on Nixon’s part.

Nixon exploded, saying “Mr. Speaker, the guy just called me a fucking liar in the middle of the damn Legislature.” A few minutes later he said, “What a joke. That’s why your career is over, Todd.***

The Speaker rebuked Nixon for using unparliamentary and wildly inappropriate language and for using Loewen’s name, not his proper title. He also scolded Loewen for using the word “misled” and made both MLAs apologize.   

Why we need to pay attention   

We could dismiss this brouhaha as the UCP having a meltdown, but we shouldn’t.

Why? Because Nixon also said something extremely disturbing to anyone who values democracy. He alleged Loewen had misused the tablings process and threatened to “bring a standing order package back here right after the break to make sure [Loewen] can’t use tablings like that no more.”

This is critically important because Standing Orders are permanent written rules under which the House regulates its proceedings. If the Speaker thought Loewen had misused the tablings process he would have said so, but he didn’t.   

That the Government House Leader would threaten to turn the tabling process on its head to silence an MLA critical of Jason Kenney and himself is undemocratic.    

What Albertans saw last week in the House is not normal parliamentary behavior. It’s the last gasp of a party struggling for survival and a leader who’s prepared to let his acolytes burn the place down to stay in power.

The historian Timothy Snyder said it’s a mistake to assume that those who came to power through democratic institutions cannot change or destroy those very institutions. Snyder also said it’s up to the people to protect democratic institutions because they can’t protect themselves.  

Those are our marching orders.

We need to call out the Kenney government’s undemocratic behavior and work as hard as we can to replace the UCP with the NDP in the next election.

It’s the least we can do to protect democracy in Alberta.  

*Hansard, Mar 29, 2022, p 475

**Hansard, Mar 28, 2022, p 427

***Hansard, Mar 31, p 593

Posted in Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , | 49 Comments

Kenney’s Leadership Review: The Bedlam Continues

“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold” – The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats

It’s been a long time coming, but it will be over eventually, not on Apr 9 and not necessarily on May 18, but eventually.

And no amount of maneuvering with mass membership drives or last-minute changes to the rules for the UCP leadership review will change that.

Regardless of how many UCP members vote yes affirming Jason Kenney as UCP leader, Kenney’s days are numbered and sooner or later the UCP will implode.

A long time coming

The fact Kenney finds himself here is no surprise.

From the day he announced he was running for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative party with the sole intention of merging it with the Wildrose Party we could see trouble brewing on the horizon. The UCP big tent may be big, but no tent is big enough for a membership this divergent in values and beliefs.

Soon after Kenney and the UCP formed government, the MLAs became restive. Kenney was a top-down kind of guy, the grassroots guarantee disappeared from the UCP website and those who dared push back were ignored, demoted to the backbenches or thrown out of the party altogether.

Everything is fine, just fine

Throughout it all Kenney managed to retain control of his caucus…and then along came the pandemic and Kenney’s on again, off again public health restrictions.

By April 2021 we were in the 3rd wave. 16 UCP MLAs had publicly rejected the public health restrictions. By May two of them, Todd Loewen and Drew Barnes, were kicked out of caucus for undermining Kenney’s leadership. The calls for Kenney’s resignation grew louder.

On July 1, 2021, Kenney lifted most of the restrictions and declared Alberta was open for summer. Then in the thick of the fourth wave, he disappeared on vacation, and our healthcare system all but collapsed.

In Sept 2021, shortly after he returned from vacation, he reimposed public health restrictions. Dissent within the party grew, but he blew it off saying he was focused on dealing with covid, not internal party politics.  

By mid Nov 2021, 22 UCP constituency associations asked that the leadership review, originally scheduled for the fall of 2022, be moved up and held virtually. The UCP board agreed to move up the review, scheduling a special in-person meeting on April 9, 2022 in Red Deer.  

Dissatisfaction with Kenney’s leadership continued to grow. You may notice a theme emerging here.

Over the winter and early spring something in the range of 200 meetings had been organized by MLAs and party members plotting to get rid of Kenney and the former leader of the WR, Brian Jean won a by-election on the promise he’d oust the party’s leader.   

Kenney remained unconcerned, saying there would always be a “small number of people with truly extreme views.” He was confident he’d prevail at the Apr 9 leadership review.

Then something happened. The anti-Kenney contingent had the wind at their back and the number of people buying party membership soared…

…and on Mar 23, 2022, four days after the deadline for buying a party membership had passed, the UCP party shifted the leadership review from an in-person vote to a mail-in ballot which will be open until May 11. The results be announced on May 18 (baring any unforeseen circumstances, of course).

A basket of deplorables by any other name…

In a recently leaked audio clip, Kenney described his leadership message in classic “us versus them” terms. This is his usual modus operandi although he typically deploys it against the socialists and the Liberal elites, not members of his own party. His assessment that there would always be a small number of people with extreme views morphed into a fear that fifth column of kooks, crazies, bigots, and extremists were laying siege to the UCP.

He’s signaled he’s a bit of a martyr. He doesn’t need this job; he could walk away and take up a position in the private sector where he wouldn’t have to work evenings and weekends—clearly he’s never worked in the private sector—but he’ll stay because he’s the only one who can save the UCP from those intend on stealing its soul. If he steps aside the party would be torn apart. Apparently, it hasn’t dawned on him that if he stays it will be torn apart anyway.   

A slow-motion train wreck

We don’t know how the leadership review will turn out.

We do know that if Kenney is affirmed as leader his opponents will continue to agitate for his removal or hive off and form a new party.

We also know that if Kenney is removed the UCP will call a leadership race, the candidates will turn themselves into pretzels pretending they didn’t really support Kenney in the first place, and the minute the new leader is announced he/she will switch into election mode to prepare for the fight of their lives trying to defeat Notley and her incredibly strong team.

Meanwhile the work of government will grind to a halt.

Ah, the joys of living in Kenney’s Alberta.

Posted in Politics and Government | Tagged , , , | 87 Comments

Short Break

Given world events it’s become a little more difficult to focus on those squawking about their freedoms being trampled and not getting a fair deal from Ottawa.

So Ms Soapbox is taking a short break. Talk to you in 2 weeks.

Take care, everyone.

Susan

Posted in Uncategorized | 22 Comments

Ukraine Under Attack

My parents fled Hungary in 1950. They met on the boat coming over to Canada and were married a couple of years later. I’m a first generation Canadian. Ever so grateful to have been born here.

I can’t write about what’s happening in Ukraine.

But I do know this, we looked the other way in 1956 when Budapest was invaded, and in 1968 when Prague was invaded, and in 1981 when Warsaw was invaded.

We can’t look away again.

Posted in Disasters, Politics, War | 53 Comments

A Traffic Ticket and a Phone Call

On Feb 25, 2022, Premier Kenney issued a misleading press release setting out his rationale for a Cabinet shuffle. Two cabinet ministers, who should have been (back) benched a long time ago, will swap ministries.  

Kaycee Madu will “step aside” from his role as Minister of Justice and Solicitor General to become Minister of Labour and Immigration, while Tyler Shandro (who is currently under investigation by the Law Society) will become Justice Minister and Solicitor General.

Kenney says the switch was triggered by the investigation by retired Justice Adele Kent into Madu’s phone call to Edmonton’s chief of police, Dale McFee, after Madu got a traffic ticket for distracted driving.   

Kaycee Madu and Jason Kenney

Right, let’s see what Justice Kent said.  

The ticket

On the morning of March 10, 2021, a police officer (his name isn’t disclosed so we’ll call him the Cop) observed Madu driving his truck in a school zone. Both of Madu’s hands were on the steering wheel. His left hand was at the 9 o’clock position and his right was on a cellphone at the 3 o’clock position. The screen was facing Madu who was facing right and looking down.  

The Cop pulled Madu over and told him he was being cited for a cellphone violation. Madu had three phones: his Legislator’s phone and his Minister’s phone were in his briefcase, his personal phone was in his left breast pocket. He denied using it.  

The Cop said Madu was “moderately argumentative” and repeated 3 or 4 times that he was the Minister of Justice. Madu says he only said this once, at the end of their conversation after the Cop had written up the ticket. Madu asked for the Cop’s badge number. The Cop gave it to him and told him it was also on the ticket.  

The Cop doesn’t follow politics and didn’t know who Madu was; he later confirmed that Madu was indeed the Justice Minister.  

Phone call to the Chief of Police

Madu called Chief McFee at 9:45 a.m. They spoke for 8 minutes. McFee was on vacation and scribbled notes on the back of an envelope.

McFee said there was some small talk, then Madu raised the ticket, talked about the Lethbridge police running unauthorized surveillance on NDP MLA Shannon Phillips and the possibility he’d been racially profiled. (When Justice Kent asked Madu whether he thought he’d been racially profiled. Madu said he couldn’t comment on the Cop’s demeanor).

McFee refused to discuss the ticket, saying Madu had two choices, pay or go to court. Both Madu and McFee said Madu didn’t ask McFee to do anything about the ticket.

Justice Kent asked Madu why he paid the ticket. He said it was better to pay it and forget about it and in hindsight he’d just pay the ticket and wait the appropriate time before calling the Chief “to discuss the ticket.”

Findings  

Justice Kent made the following findings:  

  • She accepted that as a Black man who was addressing relations between racialized people and the police, Madu could have questioned whether the traffic stop was motivated by race but said there was nothing to lead a reasonable person to conclude Madu had been racially profiled.  
  • When Madu identified himself as the minister of justice he was not attempting to intimidate the Cop in order to stop him from issuing a ticket.
  • There was no support for Madu’s explanation that he called Chief McFee because he was concerned about being illegally surveilled by the police.
  • She accepted that Madu’s reasons to call Chief McFee were in part motivated by the fact he was a Black man and dealing with issues of racism and took that into consideration.

…and here’s where it gets interesting

Based on these findings Justice Kent concluded:

  1. No, Madu did not interfere with the administration of justice because he did not ask the Chief to do something about the ticket.  
  2. Yes, Madu did attempt to interfere with the administration of justice. “There is a process that the Minister knows well to address questions of police conduct. It does not start with a phone call to the Chief of Police. The very fact that the purpose of the call was to obtain assurance that the police were acting properly rather than going through appropriate channels is an attempt to interfere with the administration of justice.”
  3. Yes, the phone call created a reasonable perception of an interference with the administration of justice.

Kenney cites findings #1 and #3 in support of the cabinet shuffle. He never acknowledges finding #2, likely because if he admits Madu attempted to interfere with the administration of justice he should be bounced to the back bench or better yet, right out the door.  And that would be a sorry end to the only UCP minister elected in Edmonton.   

As for the decision to appoint Tyler Shandro to replace Madu as Justice Minister and Solicitor General, Kenney is clearly ignoring Justice Kent’s description of the position.

She said as the “the chief law officer of the province,” that person would be responsible for superintending all matters relating to the administration of justice and must be “held to a higher standard when assessing conduct.”

Shandro is under investigation by the Law Society for numerous complaints about his conduct including the allegation that his conduct brings the reputation of the profession into disrepute. As Rachel Notley recently put it, Shandro is “not really equipped to function in cabinet.”  

If Kenney’s decision was truly based on Justice Kent’s report, he would not misrepresent Justice Kent’s findings, pretending it’s just a perception issue when Madu actually attempted to interfere with the administration of justice when he was responsible for the administration of justice.

Furthermore he would not turn a blind eye to the ongoing Law Society investigation into Shandro’s conduct.

But then again, we’re talking about Jason Kenney, the premier who is still under RCMP investigation in relation to claims his campaign used fraud, forgery and bribery to win the UCP leadership race in 2017.   

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