A Shakespearean Analysis of Jason Kenney

How many books and articles have we read about the rise of Donald Trump in America, Doug Ford in Ontario and Jason Kenney in Alberta?

How many more historians, political scientists and armchair experts do we need to tell us how we got into this mess and how to get out of it?

Only one it turns out—his name is William Shakespeare.

Tyrant, Shakespeare on Politics by Stephen Greenblatt is a remarkable book about a remarkable playwright who tackled the rise of tyranny at a time when it was treasonous to refer to a ruler as a tyrant.

William Shakespeare 1564 to 1616 English poet and dramatist engraved by Samuel Cousins after a painting attributed to Joseph Taylor

The Bard

To be clear, Ms Soapbox is not suggesting Jason Kenney is Richard III writ small, only that Shakespeare’s insight into the rise of ruthless politicians in troubled times is still relevant today.

The black storm

The villain in Shakespeare’s plays is often a cunning nobleman determined to become king by doing away with his rivals.  This requires the nobleman to unleash what the Duke of York describes as a “black storm” to enflame the public, making it ripe for manipulation.

Alberta’s version of the “black storm” is a faux political crisis—we’re victims, we’re suckers, we’ve been used and abused by the other provinces and the federal government which is particularly devious by pretending to support pipelines while actually hating them and manipulating Harper’s equalization formula to rip us off (insert Alex Jones rant here).

Albertans are desperately trying to make decisions under what Greenblatt describes as “unbearable pressure…conditioned by emotional currents beyond their rational control.”

In other words, they’re being manipulated by a big fat lie.

Kenney ratchets up the “black storm” with a laundry list of Trudeau transgressions, everything from the border “crisis” to Trudeau’s apparel on his last trip to India, in an effort to cement his role as savior of the province.

Albertans are angry, some want to separate from Canada.  This is beyond ridiculous.  The last thing Kenney would do is let Alberta leave Canada and jeopardize his chances of becoming Canada’s next prime minister, but hey, Alberta separatism fuels Alberta rage, right?

Like the Duke of York, Kenney is happy to let others do the dirty work, some like John Carpay compare the Pride flag to a Nazi flag and launch lawsuits characterizing gay-straight alliances as “ideological sex clubs”.  Kenney issues mild rebukes and Carpay continues to hold his UCP membership.

The enablers

Greenblatt asks why people are drawn to leaders unfit to govern.  He examines why “evidence of mendacity, crudeness, or cruelty” isn’t a fatal disadvantage but a lure, attracting ardent followers.

Greenblatt calls these supporters “enablers”.

Some are dupes and victims, too small to play a significant role in politics.  In Alberta many of them are our neighbours who are so busy earning a living and raising their families they “don’t have time” for politics.

Others don’t believe the tyrant is as bad as he seems, trusting that at the end of the day things will revert to normal.  They believe there will be “enough adults in the room to ensure promises will be kept, alliances honored and core institutions respected”.  In Kenney’s case they’re blind to the fact that his trusted advisors are in a bunch of sycophants who march out of debates en masse rather than risk offending their leader and that Kenney is on record saying he, like Doug Ford, would invoke the “notwithstanding clause” to suspend Albertans’ Charter rights in the appropriate circumstances (leaving us to speculate what those circumstances might be).

Greenblatt says some supporters simply lose focus and provides the example of Richard III.  “They know he’s a pathological liar and he’s done this or that ghastly thing, but they have a strange penchant for forgetting, as if it were hard work to remember just how awful he is”.  Greenblatt’s reference to “ghastly things” reminds us of Kenney’s proud description of the role he played in defeating a proposition that would have granted same-sex couples hospital visitation rights at during the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco.  In 1992 AIDS became the number one killer of American men between the ages of 25 to 44.  Instead of excusing Kenney’s “ghastly” behavior by saying he’s evolved, Kenney’s supporters should have demanded he beg the LBGTQ community for forgiveness.

Some of Richard III’s supporters expected to get rich from his rise to power, convinced they could stay one step ahead of him along the way.  This is the only possible explanation for Kenney supporters who stand by him because he promises economic prosperity notwithstanding his shameful record on pro-choice and LGBTQ rights.  Apparently, the promise of tax cuts is sufficient to justify what Greenblatt calls taking a “moral vacation”.

Finally, there’s the hoi polloi who carry out a tyrant’s orders simply because they enjoy “the cruel game of making his targets suffer…”  The viciousness of Kenney’s supporters’ attacks on Sandra Jansen and Rachel Notley springs to mind.

What’s it going to be?

Shakespeare pulls no punches when he describes what happens when a tyrant ascends to the throne.

Everything descends into chaos.

The tyrant is wary and suspicious.  Fearing traitors and double-crossers he surrounds himself with “fat, sleek-headed” sycophants who are of no use to him.  He’s restless and prone to failure because he lacks the diplomacy and administrative skills to govern well.  His promise to unite the country goes up in smoke because the public, polarized by his rhetoric, sees no reason to cooperate to make things better.

But all is not lost.

Despite this bleak prognosis, Shakespeare believed in “the sheer unpredictability of collective life, its refusal to march lockstep to any one person’s order.  He thought “the best chance for the recovery of collective decency lay…in the political action of ordinary citizens.”

Which brings us back to where we started.

Albertans are not subjects of the realm but citizens free to vote on how our story will unfold.  We can choose a politician who inflames our fears or we can choose a politician who cares about all Albertans regardless of where they come from, who they worship and who they love.

Chaos or caring government.

I know what Shakespeare would advise.

Posted in Politics and Government, Rich and/or Famous | Tagged , , | 18 Comments

Has Jason Kenney Evolved?

The Up Series is an amazing documentary that follows the lives of 14 British children over five decades.  The children were interviewed every seven years starting in 1964 when they were seven years old. The next instalment, 63 Up, will be released in 2019.

The children came from the working class, middle class and privileged classes.  Michael Apted, the director, believed that who they were at seven would dictate who they’d become as adults.

For the most part he was right.  Wealthy seven year old boys who went to prestigious boarding schools and Oxbridge became successful lawyers, journalists and teachers.  Less affluent children who attended comprehensive schools and did not go to university became cab drivers, labourers and office workers.

The seven year old child of 1964 foreshadowed who and what they would become in later life.

KenneyRight, so what does this have to do with Jason Kenney?

Everything.

The child becomes the man

While we don’t know who Kenney was at seven, we do know who he was as a student at the Jesuit University of San Francisco and the president of the pro-life group where he made headlines for bitterly opposing his Jesuit professors who allowed pro-choice activists on campus.  He argued this destroyed “the mission and the purpose” of the university.  (A more hysterical version of his comments appeared in the student newspaper where he said if the school gave a platform to pro-choice groups in the name of free speech, it would have to do the same for pedophiles and the Church of Satan).

We know who Kenney was at 21 when he helped defeat a proposition that would have granted same-sex couples hospital visitation rights and bereavement rights in the middle of the San Francisco AIDS epidemic, ensuring that many AIDS sufferers who were shunned by medial staff and their own families would die alone.*

We know who Kenney was at 31 when he proudly referred to the proposition as one of the “battles” he fought in San Francisco which brought him “closer to the heart of the Church in the spiritual sense.”

People change…or not

Now hold on, his supporters say, people change, evolve, mature, something, mumble, mumble, something.

When asked about his role in promoting the San Francisco proposition Kenney said sure, there are things he’s said and done that he regrets, and this was one of them;  but it’s not clear whether he regrets the actions of the 21 year-old Kenney who led the effort to defeat the proposition or the 31 year-old Kenney (by then a federal MP) who referred to it with pride, or the 50 year old Kenney who is stuck with explaining it away today.

As evidence that he’s changed he referred to his time as a federal MP in 2003, 2004, and 2005 when he was 35, 36, and 37 and supported “domestic partner arrangements for dependent couples regardless of sexual orientation”.  It’s not clear what he’s talking about, because in 2002 Kenney is on record saying enshrining rights on the basis of sexual orientation “opened the door” for “polygamists” and “advocates of incest” and in 2003 he voted in favour of a motion declaring marriage to be between one man and one woman.

In any event, he firmly closed the door on any further discussion with comment, “That has been my long-standing public view.”

If that (whatever “that” is) is Kenney’s “long-standing public view”, what pray tell is Kenney’s “private” view?  Is his “private” view any different from his “public” view?  And how will his “private” view impact his actions as a public servant?

Private views vs public views

Research by Professor Robert Entman of Duke University shows that a politician’s “private political philosophy” will significantly impact how he votes.

This is certainly true in Kenney’s case.  His record as a federal MP is studded with examples of Kenney voting in alignment with the positions he took as a young man in San Francisco.

For example, he voted against same-sex marriage in 2005, he voted to reopen the debate on same-sex marriage in 2006 and he voted in favor of a motion to reopen the abortion debate in 2012.

The line between Kenney’s personal ideology and his public views became more blurred when he left federal politics and became the leader of the UCP.

He led his entire caucus in a walkout on the debate on legislation putting bubble zones around abortion clinics to keep protestors from harassing women requiring their services and he’s intent on undermining legislation compelling schools to allow the formation of GSAs by insisting schools notify parents if their kids join GSAs.

What are we to make of a man who says his “public” views have evolved when a review of his “public” record indicates that they have not?

Public Policy and the Notwithstanding Clause

Public policy is created after a period of lobbying, educating supporters (and opponents) and mobilizing allies on specific issues.  Public policy is supposed to be the result of thoughtful compromise; it is not a sermon from the Mount.

Jason Kenney made it clear he holds the pen.  He tells his MLAs and his supporters what they can do and not do.  Sometimes he lets the party act by revoking an embarrassing supporter’s membership, other times he does not.  He makes the rules.

His personal ideology on LGBTQ+ issues and women’s issues is cruel and out of step with modern society.

And now, thanks to the liberties Doug Ford has taken with constitutional norms, Kenney has a tool with which to turn his ideology into law.  Kenney said he’d use the notwithstanding clause (section 33 of the Charter) where appropriate.  One look at Kenney’s record makes it clear he thinks it would be appropriate to address LGBTQ+ rights and women’s issues.

The boy foreshadows the man.

If the UCP forms government in 2019, the shadow cast by this man will be long and terribly dark.

See Kyle Morrow for an excellent overview of Kenney’s anti-gay record  https://www.facebook.com/notes/kyle-morrow/jason-kenney-refuses-to-apologize-for-cold-callous-treatment-of-aids-patients/373052353504460/   

Posted in Crime and Justice, Culture, Education, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , , | 49 Comments

The Day the Market Broke

It finally happened.  Someone broke the free market and the NDP government has to fix it.

Weird, eh?

Albertans spent the last few weeks being whip-sawed between companies (Cenovus) who said the market was broken and companies (Imperial, Husky, Suncor) who said the market was just fine, thank you very much.

Cenovus wanted the government to mandate production cuts to increase oil prices.  Imperial et al wanted the government to stay out of the market because they’d invested in refineries and upgraders in Alberta and have a built-in hedge against low oil prices.  They can convert cheap oil into refined oil products.  The lower the price, the better their profit margins.

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Tonight, Notley announced a mandatory 8.7 per cent cut in production which will be adjusted as excess storage is drawn down.  This measure is expected to increase oil prices and add $1.1 billion in government revenue.

Conservatives who rail against governments meddling in the free market and picking “winners” and “losers” are delighted with Notley’s plan, notwithstanding the fact that by their definition she’s turned Cenovus into a “winner” and Imperial, Husky and Suncor into “losers”.  Progressives who are accustomed to being beaten up if the government so much as looks at the market sideways don’t know how to react.

Notley’s rationale

Why did Notley do it?

She set out her reasons as follows:

  1. Alberta companies can’t move their oil because government after government in Ottawa failed to build pipelines and the existing pipelines are full. Yes, past and present federal governments could have done a better job, but we shouldn’t let industry off the hook.  Had producers built upgraders and refineries in Alberta decades ago they’d be making money now just like Imperial, Husky, and Suncor.  Also, they’d have neutralized the concern that pipelines carrying bitumen aren’t as safe as conventional pipelines and at least one of Trans Mountain, Energy East or Northern Gateway may have been approved by now.  The industry shares responsibility with the federal government when it comes to “you broke it, you fix it”.    
  2. Record amounts of oil are being shipped by rail, but it’s not enough to reduce the glut in storage which is driving down prices. Alberta is getting around $10 a barrel; oil sold on the global market gets five times as much.  True, but this doesn’t address the fact that oil is a global commodity and the price of oil is influenced by everything from OPEC cutting production, burgeoning North American shale, uncertainty in US-Chinese trade relations, slowing global growth, changes in interest rates, and traders fiddling around in financial markets trying to anticipate what’s going to happen next.  
  3. The long term solution is building more pipelines, the short term solution is acquiring more locomotives and rail cars. Okay, but why is it the Alberta government’s (read: taxpayers) responsibility to pay for crude-by-rail?  Cenovus signed three-year rail car deals to ship 100,000 bbl/day to the US Gulf coast.  It’s already moving oil on CN from the Bruderheim Energy Terminal.  Other companies could have done the same.    
  4. We need an immediate solution, the government had two choices: (1) do nothing and let the free market sort itself out as Husky, Suncor and Imperial had urged, or (2) listen to Cenovus (and other advisors) and impose mandatory, industry-wide production cuts until the storage glut is reduced and prices rise.  What’s interesting about the second alternative is three weeks ago Cenovus was NOT demanding mandatory industry-wide production cuts, it was satisfied with voluntary cuts.  In its third-quarter update to investors it said it expected price differentials to ease in the coming months as North American refineries came back onstream after scheduled maintenance, oil-by-rail ramped up and Enbridge’s Line 3 Replacement project went into service.  One wonders what happened between then and now to cause Cenovus to dramatically change its tune? 

Given the lack of consensus in the industry, Notley reframed the issue. She said the government must do what’s best for the 4.3 million Albertans who own the resource.  It has an obligation to get the “most value possible” and this means the imposition of mandatory production cuts.   

To put all this into context, the Notley and Trudeau governments have offered what some would call “corporate welfare” to the tune of:

  • $4.5 billion (expected to rise to $12 billion) to buy Trans Mountain and expand it once the necessary approvals come through
  • $350 million in capital costs and $2.6 billion in operating costs over three years to buy locomotives and rail cars for crude-by-rail transportation

This is on top of federal changes to capital cost write-down rules which will give oil companies immediate relief and provincial incentives–$2.1 billion to the petrochemical upgrading sector and an additional $1 billion investment in the petrochemical feedstock infrastructure program—to fund diversification.

Never mind.  Ms Soapbox understands why Notley did it.  The role of government is to act in the best interests of its citizens, Notley went with a utilitarian solution choosing the alternative expected to produce the greatest good for the greatest number.  At this point we need to trust her judgment and support her decision.

But let’s not stop there.

Bailing out an industry should come with strings attached.

No more whining

Given that Alberta taxpayers are investing in infrastructure and propping up the market for industry players who were too short-sighted to invest in upgrading in Alberta, we are entitled to expect something in return, starting with no more whining.

Corporations must put real muscle into reclamation, particularly cleaning up abandoned and orphaned wells, they must enthusiastically support the government’s climate change plan and be willing to pay higher taxes and royalties so Albertans get their fair share when the good times roll.

Furthermore, all those executives who will be able to deliver value to their shareholders thanks to the Alberta government’s intervention, should be happy to pay slightly higher personal income taxes than the rest of us.  (The target compensation for Cenovus CEO, Alex Pourbaix, is $6.5 million, he can afford it).

One final point, the UCP and Alberta Party supported Notley’s decision.  It would be nice if they revisited their belief that the private sector is more efficient than the public sector because if the free market messed up energy markets this badly, heaven help us if we let them privatize education and healthcare.

If we’ve learned anything from this experience it’s this:  sometimes the invisible hand doesn’t have a clue.

Posted in Economy, Energy & Natural Resources, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , | 45 Comments

Albertans Aren’t Feeling the Love

Last week Ms Soapbox wrote an article for CBC in which she called out the hypocrisy of the energy industry and various conservatives who want the Alberta government to impose temporary industry-wide production cuts to prop up oil prices.

Isn’t government meddling in the free market a big no-no?   

Industry CEOs say the government has to impose production cuts because the market is broken and it’s unfair that integrated producers (companies with refineries) “…are making windfall profits on the back of Albertans, and Canadian taxpayers…” while unintegrated producers (those without refineries) are not.  Not surprisingly, CEOs of integrated producers vehemently disagree.

Apparently, Ralph Klein’s policy of ensuring government stayed out industry’s way and granting industry the tools for success (low taxes, low royalties and light regulation) worked like a charm…until last week when the market broke and everything went to hell in a hand basket.

The pleas for government production cuts escalated as the week went on.  Energy executives with ties to the Canadian Federation of Taxpayers and business leaders in unrelated industries stamped their tiny feet and wrote op-eds demanding the government act immediately.

We reached terminal velocity with Ted Morton’s comment about a speech by Rex Murphy which blasted the federal government and environmentalists for delaying pipelines.

Morton, a former cabinet minister in the Stelmach government and now with the Calgary School of Public Policy and the Manning Foundation complained, “We’re the Newfies of the West, right? We’ve never really been loved by Central Canada, neither Ontario nor Quebec, so there’s this lingering suspicion that Ottawa doesn’t work very well for us.”

We’ve never really been loved…?

A crazy little thing called love   

It’s unclear why Mr Morton thinks Canada owes Alberta this crazy little thing called love.

love-hearts-thumping-beating-on-white-background_vhrhxqtrg__f0000

The Canadian Constitution, unlike the American Declaration of Independence does not get into touchy-feely stuff.  Canadians do not have an unalienable right to “the pursuit of happiness”, instead they have to settle for peace, order, and good government.

But let’s assume for a moment we could wring a “love me, god dammit!” duty out of the Canadian Constitution;  it would be a challenge for Canada to love Alberta after Morton (together with Stephen Harper) urged Alberta to “firewall” itself from Ottawa by (1) getting rid of CPP and the RCMP in favour of a “made in Alberta” pension plan and police force;  and (2) reducing the funds transferred from Alberta to Ottawa.  Ironically, when Alberta MPs Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney went to Ottawa and had a chance to revise the equalization formula they took a pass.

Nor would it be easy for Canada to love Alberta after Morton slammed the Supreme Court of Canada (he calls it the Court Party) for being “too activist” in its interpretation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

It also doesn’t help that Jason Kenney swore he’d fight the Trudeau government on everything from carbon taxes to equalization payments, and blames the Trudeau government for delayed or cancelled pipelines when his own government fumbled most of these projects, and he’s prone to antagonistic outbursts (remember the Trudeau is an “empty trust-fund millionaire” comment?) which will certainly impede Kenney’s ability to represent Alberta to the federal government should he become premier one day.

Lastly, Albertans haven’t done much to endear themselves to Ottawa.  In 2005 they slapped “Let the Eastern Bastards Freeze in the Dark” bumper stickers on their four-by-fours and just last week they protested the prime minister’s visit to Calgary by donning lynch-Trudeau hoodies and waving placards proclaiming, “Your mom banged Mick Jagger…and Fidel Castro”.  (OK, they weren’t all boors, but many thought this was an appropriate form of protest and plastered the images all over social media).

If Canada doesn’t love us, maybe the other provinces will

Alberta hopes the other provinces will rally to its cause but it’s hard to play the victim card when Alberta is outperforming the lot of them and would do better still if it just bit the bullet and introduced a sales tax.

Also, the other provinces have their own issues.  BC is trying to hold its NDP/Green government together.  Saskatchewan has its own deficit problems.  Ontario is becoming increasingly alarmed by Doug Ford’s attacks on political norms and citizens’ rights.  Quebec is seeking equilibrium after the CAQ toppled the Liberals, and the Maritimes are just trying to keep their heads above water.

The last thing on their minds is sending love to Alberta.

It’s not about love

Successive Alberta governments supported the industry’s “rip it and ship it” business model.  Some industry leaders had the foresight and the financial resources to plan for the possibility that one day supply would outstrip demand and pipeline takeaway capacity would be limited.  They’re profiting for their wisdom while others are suffering from their short-sightedness and are now throwing themselves on the government’s mercy.

Unfortunately for them, it’s not the government’s job to save industry from itself.

And it’s not Canada’s job (or the other provinces’ job) to shower Alberta with love.

If we’re going to frame this discussion in terms of love, the question isn’t whether Canada loves Alberta, but whether Alberta loves its citizens enough to protect their rights and provide the social services they need to live productive and meaningful lives.

Posted in Economy, Energy & Natural Resources, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , , , | 43 Comments

Why Carpay’s Comment About the Rainbow Flag Matters

“History can familiarize, and it can warn.” – Timothy Snyder

On Friday Mr and Ms Soapbox attended Rachel Notley’s Octoberfest in November event.  In her speech, Premier Notley mentioned that Jason Kenney, the leader of the UCP, is still supporting John Carpay, who in a speech at a conference organized by The Rebel drew a link between a rainbow flag and flags emblazoned with a swastika or a hammer and sickle.

John Carpay is a lawyer and the president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms.  He takes on cases for pro-life activists, Christian academies, parents opposed to laws forbidding schools from outing kids who join gay-straight alliances and the like.

In his speech he said, “It doesn’t matter whether it’s a hammer and sickle for communism, or whether it’s the swastika for Nazi Germany, or whether it’s a rainbow flag, the underlying thing is a hostility towards individual freedoms.”

His remark caused a furor in the media and he issued a statement apologizing for unintentionally drawing a broad comparison between the rainbow flag and the flags representing communist and Nazi ideologies, frankly it’s difficult to see what other interpretation he had intended.

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John Carpay is a friend and supporter of Jason Kenney and the UCP.  Kenney called Carpay’s comments vile and offensive, but demurred from revoking Carpay’s UCP membership because such decisions were the responsibility of the UCP Board.  Kenney was not troubled by his lack of authority when he ordered the UCP to revoke the membership of a party member linked to anti-Semitic and white supremacist social media messages.   Perhaps Kenney’s power as leader is inversely related to the status of the UCP member making the offensive comment.

There’s a good reason why the NDP and other Albertans won’t let this go.

Lessons on tyranny

In his book On Tyranny Timothy Snyder says while we’re not wiser than the 20th century Europeans who witnessed democracies slide into fascism, Nazism, or communism, we have the advantage of being able to learn from their experience.

Snyder sets out 20 lessons we can learn from the past.  It’s shocking to see three of them in play in the context of the actions of conservative leaders in Alberta and Ontario.

Lesson #1 Defend institutions:  Institutions like the courts, the media, and unions, and a respect for norms and the rule of law are essential for a robust democracy because simply having a written constitution and a strongly worded bill of rights do not guarantee the protection of our rights and freedoms.

Ontario premier Doug Ford threw respect for norms and the rule of law out the window when he announced he’d use “the notwithstanding clause” to protect his decision to reduce the size of Toronto city council.

The notwithstanding clause is the nuclear option under the Charter.  It was meant to be deployed as a last resort when due process and political solutions have been exhausted.  It is not intended to settle a trivial matter like how many city councilors should work at City Hall.

If Ford can get away with using the notwithstanding clause on a meaningless matter like the size of city council then Kenney, who supported Ford’s position, will not hesitate to invoke the notwithstanding clause to “protect the fundamental freedoms” of people like John Carpay by stripping LBGTQ+ people of the rights and freedoms guaranteed to them under Alberta’s Human Rights Act and Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Lesson #2 Do not teach power what it can do:  Snyder says an authoritarian leader won’t pass laws compromising fundamental freedoms unless he knows the people will support him.  The people, hoping to curry favor, show the leader in advance of him passing any laws that they’re prepared to compromise certain values or principles as long as the negative consequences of the compromise fall on someone else.

Snyder calls this anticipatory obedience.  In the Carpay example it would play out like this:  Carpay says a government that protects LBGTQ+ rights is totalitarian, therefore that government must be replaced with one that doesn’t protect such rights.  Kenney says this is a vile comment but refuses to strip Carpay of his UCP membership.  Kenney’s supporters defend his decision to keep Carpay in the party, thereby demonstrating they agree with Carpay’s position, then they go one step further:  a Rebel Media correspondent warned Kenney that if he revokes Carpay’s membership he and 600 UCP members would dump their memberships.

This is an extreme example of anticipatory obedience because the base is telling Kenney if he doesn’t fall into line it will cost him votes and maybe even the election.

This also raises a troubling question:  who is running the party, Kenney or Rebel Media and the 600?

Lesson #3 Watch for dangerous symbols:  Snyder gives two examples:  Stalin’s propaganda portrayed prosperous farmers as pigs:  pigs have no rights, they’re slaughtered at abattoirs.  Trump called women slobs, pigs and dogs and said it was okay to sexually assault them:  they are lesser beings not worthy of protection.

It is extremely inflammatory to say the rainbow flag, like a Nazi flag or a Communist flag, symbolizes a hostility towards individual freedoms and to imply that a government that protects the rights of LBGTQ+ people is on a par with the totalitarian regimes of Nazi Germany and Communist Russia.

The greatest danger…?

Snyder says authoritarian leaders create an emergency or exceptional situation to entice citizens to give up their freedoms for the illusion of security or stability.

There is no threat or danger that would justify the curtailment of LBGTQ+ rights so Carpay had to go big and vague.  He said the biggest danger to Canada isn’t the Alberta government or the federal government or even social justice warriors; it was “self-censorship”.  Self-censorship?   

Carpay argued “the slogans” of diversity, equity, tolerance and inclusion have been abused to undermine free society and our fundamental freedoms.  He didn’t say who was doing the abusing or how our fundamental freedoms have been abused, all he did was confirm to his audience that their pain is real and it’s caused by a totalitarian government protecting a bunch of people waving a rainbow flag.

This is garbage, but Kenney’s decision to pander to his base by refusing to chuck Carpay out of the party, and his support of Doug Ford’s abuse of the notwithstanding clause indicates that life under a Kenney government will be very unpleasant for Albertans who value their fundamental freedoms and failed to stand up for them when they had the chance.

Posted in Culture, Law, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , | 24 Comments

Two Minutes on Novermber 11th

Today is the 100th anniversary of the end of hostilities in the Great War.

Canadians will mark this day as they have for the last century with two minutes* of silence.  We will remember the 61,000 men and women who died in uniform, most of whom are buried overseas in Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries, some so badly damaged they couldn’t be identified, their graves marked with headstones inscribed A Canadian Soldier of the Great War—Known unto God, others whose bodies were never found and who are remembered at monuments in Ypres and Vimy Ridge.

We also remember the 173,000 Canadians who were wounded and returned home to get on with their lives as best they could.

IMG_5836

Model of the National War Memorial on display at the Canadian War Museum 

The Armistice was signed between 5:10 and 5:20 in the morning.  It declared hostilities would cease on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

We will never know the names of all the soldiers who were killed or wounded in the intervening six hours, but we do know the name of the last Canadian soldier to fall.

George Lawrence Price, a Nova Scotia boy, was killed by a sniper’s bullet at 10:58 a.m. just two minutes before the Armistice went into effect.

Price was conscripted on October 15, 1917 and joined the 28th Battalion.  On November 11, 1918 the Battalion had moved into position next to a canal near a small town in Belgium.  At 9:00 a.m. the Battalion received word that hostilities would end at 11:00 a.m.  According to Art Goodworthy, a fellow soldier, Price and Goodworthy were worried the Battalion was exposed to enemy fire from the other side of the canal.  They decided to take a small patrol into town to search the houses and encountered German sniper fire.  Price was stuck by a bullet and died two minutes before 11:00 a.m.

Tim Cook, author and co-curator of Canada’s 100 Days exhibit at the Canadian War Museum, describes the Great War as “industrial-scale slaughter”.  We remember it in small stories of men and women who lost the chance to live and laugh, and perhaps, if they’d survived, change the arc of history.

IMG_5807

Nurses and soldiers enjoying a fine day — Photo on display at the Canadian War Museum 

It’s been one hundred years since they made the ultimate sacrifice.

We will never forget.

*Remembrance Day ceremonies vary, some are marked by one minute of silence, others by two.

Sources:  https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-the-long-shadow-of-war-100-years-later-the-first-world-war-continues/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remembrance_Day

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Lawrence_Price

Posted in War | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

Hello Ottawa!

Ms Soapbox is on her way to Ottawa.  There’s a good chance she’s in the air right now squashed into a tiny little seat trying to figure out why her WestJet onboard entertainment app isn’t working (luckily, she’s brought along her youngest daughter “Mini” who will fix the glitch in no time).

We’re going to check out the Parliament Buildings, Centre Block, which is about to undergo a major renovation.  Everything from the heritage stone exterior to the copper roof and building systems is due for an upgrade.  Technology, security and earthquake protection (earthquake protection?) are also being improved.

parliament-of-canada

Parliament Buildings in the summer (not November!)

Our MP Kent Hehr helped us get tour tickets and Question Period passes.  We’re delighted because we’re sure QP in the nation’s capital is a more civilized affair than QP here in Alberta (that is really hard to say with a straight face).

We will be visiting as many museums and art galleries as we can; if you know of a special place you think we should see, let us know.

Talk to you next week!

Posted in Culture, Education, Politics and Government, Uncategorized, Vacation | Tagged , , | 21 Comments