Mr Kenney Runs Away

The last two weeks have been particularly tiring for Mr Kenney, the leader of the UCP, he spent most of it running away.

Mr Kenney hightailed it out of the Legislature, not once but six times, to avoid debating Bill 9 which would create protective bubble zones around abortion clinics to protect women from abusive protesters.  He kicked up a dust storm of excuses to explain why he’s not bound by a resolution passed by his party which would out kids who want to join gay-straight alliances at school.

Apparently social issues scare him witless.

Running away from the Legislature

It’s interesting to contrast Mr Kenney’s willingness to hide from the debate on Bill 9 bubble zones, with the determination of his caucus to stay to the bitter end on the debate on Bill 24.

The Notley government tabled Bill 24 in November 2017.  The Bill made it clear that the right of parents to pull their kids out of class if the curriculum dealt primarily with religion or human sexuality, did not extend to voluntary clubs like gay-straight alliances.  Consequently, schools were prohibited from notifying parents that their kids had joined a GSA.

The UCP did not support Bill 24.  UCP MLA Angela Pitt prefaced her comments by saying, “the United Conservative caucus does not take any piece of proposed legislation lightly.  We carefully review it, we ask questions, and we wonder if it can be improved.  We also look at each piece of legislation with an eye to determining if it has forged the right balance for Albertans of differing views.”*

The UCP vigorously debated the Bill and voted against it.  Even Mr Kenney, who was not yet sworn into office, participated in the debate by asking a colleague to read a lengthy statement into the record on his behalf.

But something changed between then and now.

This spring the Notley government tabled Bill 9, the bubble zone bill.  Mr Kenney, now a sitting MLA and the Leader of the Official Opposition, marched his caucus out of the Legislature again and again to avoid having to vote on the bill.

Contrary to Ms Pitt’s earlier statement the bubble zone bill did not trigger the Opposition’s duty to review, question and if possible improve each piece of proposed legislation; nor did it engage the Opposition’s obligation, as described by UCP MLA Prab Gill, “to defend…over 4 million [Albertans who] are depending on the decisions that are made in this House.”**

Why not?

Mr Kenney says he won’t debate legislation that’s a political ploy.

This is ludicrous.  Citizens most need a strong opposition party when the government is proposing controversial legislation.  It’s easy to nitpick issues we all agree upon (like pipelines to tidewater) it takes courage to debate issues that are contentious or controversial.

Running away from the UCP

Mr Kenney blamed his dereliction of duty as an elected representative and Leader of the Official Opposition on the NDP government playing wedge politics, but this does not explain why he rejected Resolution #30, his own party’s resolution to out kids to their parents before they’d be allowed to join a GSA.

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The Lake of Fire (again!)

Mr Kenney and his apologists made the following arguments:

  • The resolution was poorly worded–and yet it was clear as a bell to the three UCP MLAs who argued it would forever tar the UCP as the Lake of Fire party if it passed. Surprise!
  • It’s the result of parental backlash–this ignores the fact GSAs are clubs, not curriculum. Parents still have the right to pull their kids out of classes primarily focused on religion or human sexuality.
  • The UCP members who voted for the resolution fell into an NDP trap–in other words 57% of the UCP delegates were too stupid or too stubborn to heed the warning of their own MLAs who said, “Stop! It’s a trap!”
  • Half the delegates left before the vote came up, so Mr Kenney isn’t bound by the resolution–there is no evidence that half the delegates left before the vote, but if they did they should be ashamed of themselves for abandoning their party when it needed them the most.
  • (This one is my personal favourite). Mr Kenney said the resolution is entirely consistent with his own position on the issue and in the next breath said he’d have voted against the resolution if given the chance. What?  If the resolution is consistent with Mr Kenney’s position he would have voted for it not against it, right?

Nowhere left to run

Mr Kenney has shown Albertans he doesn’t respect the democratic process which requires the Leader of the Official Opposition to hold the government to account by debating and voting on proposed legislation, instead of dragging them into the hall where they can count the ceiling tiles.

He’s shown UCP party members that his Grassroots Guarantee isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.  When he said, “the policies of the UCP must be developed democratically by its grassroots members, not imposed by the Leader” what he really meant was “Guess what–I’m the leader and I get to interpret the resolution and its relevance to party policy.”

As someone astutely noted on Twitter, the signature on his Grassroots Guarantee wasn’t “Jason Kenney” but “Just Kidding”.

So, let’s pause for a moment:  If Mr Kenney is this arrogant when he needs our votes, what’s he going to be like if he actually gets them?

*Alberta Hansard, Nov 7, 2017, p 1798

**Alberta Hansard, May 9, 2018, p 882

 

Posted in Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , | 26 Comments

Handmaids For Kenney Attend The UCP Policy Convention

This would be funny in the ironic ha-ha sense if it wasn’t so damned serious.

While the rest of us were watching UCP members debate policy resolutions in a conference hall in Red Deer, Handmaids for Kenney stood silently outside the convention hall and quickly discovered just how unprincipled and ideologically flabby Jason Kenney and the UCP really are.

Handmaids for Kenney

Handmaids for Kenney are political activists who take their name from Margaret Atwood’s book, The Handmaid’s Tale. Their twitter account @HandmaidAlberta is “dedicated to the promotion & passive acceptance of a future Handmaid lifestyle in Jason Kenney’s UCP Alberta.”  Their feed is full of ironic and cutting observations of life in UCP land.

Not content to ride out the UCP policy convention on social media with the rest of us, Handmaids sent a delegation* to the policy convention in Red Deer to stage a silent protest.

Four women in red robes and snowy white bonnets stood quietly outside the convention hall.  They carried a handwritten sign saying, “The Handmaid’s Tale is NOT an instruction manual.”  They did not interfere with UCP supporters streaming into the convention hall and yet their presence was too much for the UCP who forced the Handmaids to back off 50 metres.  Presumably the UCP’s right to gaze upon metropolitan Red Deer trumped the Handmaids’ rights of free speech and assembly.

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Handmaids

The UCP’s inability to tolerate the Handmaids presence is even more ludicrous given the fact every member of the UCP caucus walked out of the Legislature last week to avoid debating a bill that would impose a 50-metre bubble zone around abortion clinics.  The bubble zone is intended to protect women and healthcare practitioners from aggressive antiabortion protesters.

Going on walkabout  

Kenney said the UCP MLAs walked off the job because:

  1. The legislation was “divisive”–a bizarre comment given the only possible bone of contention wasn’t whether abortions should be available to Alberta women (abortions have been legal for decades), but whether it strikes the right balance between a woman’s ability to enter an abortion clinic without being shamed or viciously attacked and a protester’s freedom of expression and assembly.
  2. The legislation was a “political trap”. See number 1.

The only reason for Kenney to fret about the legislation being “divisive” is the debate would reveal divisions within his own party.  His far-right supporters would expect their MLAs to condemn abortion clinics as yet another indication of a “promiscuous lifestyle” (not on my dime, thank you very much!);  while his moderate supporters would expect their MLAs to argue the legislation was unnecessary in the face of existing injunctions and would negatively impact protesters’ freedom of speech and assembly.

Rather than incur the wrath of a segment of his base or risk another UCP MLA popping off in a bozo eruption, Kenney pulled his MLAs out of the debate.

This is serious.

The UCP MLAs are the Official Opposition.  The Official Opposition has an obligation to hold the government to account.  This includes speaking to legislation and debating its merits and shortcomings, whether they like it or not. They don’t have the luxury of walking off the job.  It’s not as if we can call in a substitute Official Opposition, like a substitute teacher, to take their place when they don’t show up.

This flagrant abuse of process demonstrates Kenney’s belief that democratic principles are relative.  Principles are tested by context and will be upheld (or not) depending on who or what the UCP is protecting.  If showing up in your capacity as the Official Opposition might get messy, then ditch your duty and run away.  If four women bearing silent witness offends your conservative sensibilities, then ditch your “belief” in the freedom of speech and assembly and get rid of them.

Respect and representation

Kenney says he’ll run the policy resolutions through a non-party “platform committee” to create a “winning platform” because a Kenney government will serve not just the 120,000 UCP members but all 4 million Albertans.

This is a laudable statement but consider Kenney’s actions in the abortion clinic bubble zone debate.  Kenney pulled 25 MLAs out of the debate, leaving more than 1 million Albertans unrepresented (25 MLAs with constituencies averaging 46,000) rather than risk offending a segment of his base.

And if that doesn’t give you pause, consider the UCP’s treatment of the Handmaids who were standing quietly outside the conference hall while former Wildrose leader Heather Forsyth told an appreciative crowd that feminism is an “f-word”, Rachel Notley’s gender-balanced cabinet was “patronizing” and the idea that there are barriers to women in politics was “crap”.

The Handmaids respect the dignity of women; the UCP…not so much.

*I’ve been advised that the silent protesters represented Alberta, Edmonton and Red Deer Pro-choice organizations.  

Posted in Feminism, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , | 23 Comments

Personal Will, Anyone?

Question:  What do Stephen Hawking and Shamsia Husseini have in common?

Answer:  They both know the power of personal will.

Ms Soapbox has been thinking a lot about “personal will” since she heard the term used by Sally Armstrong in a speech at the Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WAfghan) Breaking Bread event.

First let’s sort out the players.

CW4WAfghan is a Canadian non-profit organization that supports education and educational opportunities for Afghan women and their families.  It was started 20 years ago by two Calgary women who wanted to do something for Afghan women suffering under the Taliban.  It’s been tremendously successful in improving the lives of Afghan girls and women.

Stephen Hawking was a world renowned theoretical physicist and cosmologist who didn’t let the debilitating effects of motor neurone disease impede his quest for knowledge or his biting sense of humour.

Shamsia Husseini is a woman living in Kandahar who was 15 when a man threw battery acid in her face to stop her from going to school.  She recovered from the attack, returned to school and became a teacher, eventually upgrading her skills at the CW4WAfghan’s teacher-retraining program.  Then-president Hamid Karzai promised to arrest and execute her attacker.  He did nothing.  Husseini is unfazed.  She says she’s punishing her attacker far more than the president ever could–she’s teaching the girls.

Sally Armstrong (aka “La Talibanista”) is an award winning Canadian journalist who covers zones of conflict and reports on what happens to women and girls.

Personal will

Armstrong says there are three kinds of will:  political will, public will and personal will.  All three forms of will involve advocacy for a cause.  Political will and public will require collective action while personal will is a solitary activity that demands personal courage, the level of which will vary depending on the circumstances.

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Sally Armstrong

Armstrong provided three examples of personal will:  Husseini returned to school after recovering from the acid attack even though her attacker was still roaming the streets;  a Nigerian girl who’d been captured by the Boko Haram leapt off the kidnappers’ truck and hid in the woods, knowing she’d be murdered by the militants if they found her and a 12-year old Somali girl who couldn’t go to school because she was pregnant identified the man who raped her at a public meeting.

Rarely are Canadians called upon to demonstrate such courage, consequently we’ve become complacent–it’s easier to go along to get along than cause a ruckus.

Personal will in Canada  

Complacency is easy, but only if we turn a blind eye to reports like the annual B’Nai Brith audit of antisemitism.  The audit shows a dramatic increase in antisemitic vandalism, harassment and violence–1,752 incidences in 2017.  Before we dismiss this number as an aberration, we need to put it into perspective.  The Anti-Defamation League recorded 1,986 antisemitic incidents in 2017 in the US, a country that is “almost nine times bigger and with a Jewish population 14 times larger.”

The numbers and the trend are worrisome because as Abe Silverman of the Alberta chapter said, when incidents targeting the Jewish community rise, there’s often a concomitant rise in incidents against other minority groups.

And this is where personal will comes in.

While it’s unlikely you’ll be asked to be as brave as the girls of Afghanistan, Nigeria, or Somalia, it’s highly likely that you’ll be chatting with a friend or acquaintance who says “I know this isn’t politically correct” or “I’m not a [insert racist, homophobe, misogynist, antisemetic, Islamophobe, etc], but…[insert slur here].”

Hawking’s response

Now you have a choice.  You can turn a blind eye to hatred, prejudice and stupidity or your can address it.

If you decide to address it, you can choose the full-Hawking or mini-Hawking response.

When Hawking was asked for his opinion of Donald Trump he said Trump was “a demagogue who seems to appeal to the lowest common denominator”.  This confused the public who took to Google in search of the terms “demagogue,” “denominator,” and “Stephen Hawking”.

Trump’s campaign manager dismissed Hawking’s assessment:  “For a so-called genius, this was an epic fail.  If Professor Hawking wants to do some damage, maybe he should try talking in English next time.”

In a satirical piece for The New Yorker, Andy Borowitz reported that Hawking later clarified his comment by telling a reporter, “Trump bad man.  Real bad man.”

So those are your choices.  You can tell your friend/acquaintance what he just said was racist, homophobic, misogynist, antisemetic, Islamophobic, and explain why, or if the circumstances don’t allow for the full-Hawking, deploy the mini-Hawking and tell him “What you said is bad, real bad.”

This achieves two things:  (1) your friend/acquaintance may not understand why his comment crossed the line, but he’ll know that reasonable people won’t stand for it and (2) you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve done your bit in standing up for humanity.

When someone promotes injustice, all of us must speak out.

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The Country is Broken!

Just when Albertans thought things couldn’t get any worse, Jason Kenney declared the country was broken.

What? Did Trumpism seep across the border while we were sleeping?

Canada survived the FLQ Crisis and the War Measures Act, the bitter negotiations over the repatriation of the Canadian Constitution, and the Quebec referendum on national sovereignty where the “No” vote carried the day with a slim 50.6%; and now we’re being told Canada is broken because a jurisdictional dispute over a pipeline project may not be resolved before an arbitrary deadline set by the pipeline proponent.

Really?

Kenney

“Canada is broken”

Canada is “broken” because…

If the breathless headlines are to be believed this is a relatively recent event.

We weren’t broken 11 weeks ago when Alberta announced a boycott of BC wines.  We weren’t broken six and a half weeks ago when BC said it would put a reference question to the BC courts asking whether it could stop the flow of bitumen and diluted bitumen from Alberta into BC.  And we weren’t broken on April 6 when Prime Minister Trudeau toured the oil sands and Suncor CEO Steve Williams said he was reassured by Trudeau’s commitment to the pipeline and the environment.

Those events were simply governments doing what governments do.

However, on April 8 Kinder Morgan announced it was suspending discretionary spending on the Trans Mountain expansion so it could consult with stakeholders and reach an agreement by May 31 that would allow the expansion to proceed.

And just like that Canada snapped like a twig! 

The Alberta and federal governments responded quickly.  Alberta whipped out Bill 12, legislation that would require companies exporting energy out of the province to get an export license (potentially reducing the flow to BC).  The Feds promised to enact legislation saying…well…no one is quite sure what it will be saying, presumably something to the effect that an interprovincial pipeline really is an interprovincial pipeline that falls under federal jurisdiction.

Look, we all understand that governments need to be seen to be doing something when the public is demanding that they do something even if there’s not much they can do under the circumstances.

However, there’s a difference between using all the tools in your toolbox (to quote an oft-repeated phrase) to resolve a situation and irresponsibly ratcheting up the rhetoric by telling everyone that the country going to hell in a handbasket.

Get a grip

The OMG (!!!) headlines focus on three things:  court decisions, pending legislation, and Kinder Morgan’s May 31 deadline.

The TM expansion has been the subject of numerous court challenges, all of which have failed.  The only court case that matters is the one brought by several First Nations who’ve appealed the NEB’s decision on the grounds of inadequate consultation and infringement of existing rights.  The Federal Court of Appeal has heard the case and a decision is expected shortly.

If the Federal Court of Appeal agrees with the First Nations or the decision is not out before May 31, Kinder Morgan may abandon the project and the legislation proposed by Alberta and the Feds won’t make any difference, however if Alberta and the Feds put enough money on the table to “de-risk” the project, Kinder Morgan may stick around.

The fact that the First Nations exercised their right to appeal the NEB’s decision and that the BC government wants a court to rule on the limits of its jurisdictional authority may be frustrating to Kinder Morgan and its stakeholders, but this is how things work in a democratic country that supports the rule of law.

The rule of law does not wither in the face of arbitrary deadlines and our democratic institutions are not props to be brushed aside by he who yells loudest.

Posted in Crime and Justice, Energy & Natural Resources, Politics and Government | Tagged , , | 49 Comments

The UCP Runs Away from the Bubble Zone

Last week the NDP government introduced Bill 9 which will create a 50-metre bubble zone of safety and privacy for women accessing healthcare, including abortions and other reproductive health services,* in Calgary and Edmonton.

Jason Kenney and the UCP caucus bailed on the debate, sending their colleague MLA Angela Pitt to deliver a message on their behalf.  Ms Pitt said Bill 9 was a cheap shot intended to “politicize and reignite a deeply divisive debate” in order to paint “the opposition and its supporters as fundamentally incompatible with women and women’s rights.”  Ms Soapbox is biting her tongue…

Ms Pitt made the following arguments.

The government wants to reopen the abortion debate:

Abortion falls under federal, not provincial jurisdiction, it’s been legal since 1969.  As a federal MP Jason Kenney supported a fellow Conservative’s effort to reopen the abortion issue.  Stephen Harper shut them down.  The UCP may want to reopen the abortion debate but the NDP and the country have moved on to protecting women exercising their legal right to get one.

Clinics are protected by injunctions: 

Injunctions don’t apply to public property.  Protesters use roads and sidewalks to block women from opening their car doors and entering clinics.  Injunctions don’t protect doctors and service providers from harassment at their homes and offices.  They don’t protect pharmacies (which dispense Mifegymiso) from harassment at the workplace.  Injunctions are ineffective because raucous protesters who are told to leave simply return.  Bill 9 expands safe areas and creates real consequences for egregious behavior by imposing fines or jail terms.

Bill 9 infringes the fundamental freedom of speech and peaceful assembly: 

If this were true Jason Kenney abandoned Albertans when they needed him the most. 

But it’s not true.  A protester’s freedom of speech and assembly does not extend to preventing a woman from exercising her legal right to access healthcare, or harassing women with 40-day campaigns twice a year, or taking unauthorized photos and videos of women, their families and their healthcare providers for distribution to third parties.

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The Bubble Zone — who knew it could be this scary

Protesters are free to exercise their fundamental freedoms of speech and assembly as long as they do so outside the bubble zone.

What Women Really Need   

Instead of having the courage to debate bubble zones with the NDP and actually represent the Albertans who voted them into office, 25 UCP MLAs hid behind a Jason Kenney video in which Kenney told women that their biggest issue was…wait for it…the economy, you silly goose!

Apparently the UCP leader’s real concern with Bill 9 had nothing to do with violation of fundamental freedoms or the sufficiency of injunctions to protect women or even the NDP’s nefarious attempt to reopen the abortion issue;  in fact it had nothing to do with Bill 9 at all.  It’s all about women and the economy.

Here’s how Mr Kenney put it:

I’ll tell you what I think the most important women’s issue is in Alberta:  Our economy.  I don’t care whether you’re a woman or a man.  Whether you’re straight or gay.   Whether you’re an immigrant or you’re a sixth generation Albertan.  If you’re out of work I want to get you a job.  If you’re a small businesswoman, who’s put your life savings into a business, I don’t care about your gender–I want to ensure that that business dream is successful.  So I think that the most important issue for Alberta women is getting our economy back on track.  And not mortgaging the future of children. 

Kenney’s female supporters lapped it up.   The rest of us were stunned.       

The UCP’s Job 

Jason Kenney is the leader of the Official Opposition.  The work of the Opposition is to “ensure…legislation is carefully considered and…differing views on important initiatives are publicly expressed and defended.”  He and his caucus have a duty to debate and vote on all the legislation tabled by the government.  It’s called holding the government to account.  They can’t pick the debates that suit their fancy and skip the rest.

Mr Kenney sent Ms Pitt into the Legislature to speak on behalf of her leader and the UCP caucus.  Ms Pitt said Bill 9 could be seen as “an attempt to curtail Albertans’ right to free speech and peaceful assembly.”  And yet Mr Kenney pulled every member of the Official Opposition out of the Legislature and left the building.

Mr Kenney tried to rectify this appalling breach of duty by posting a video on social media recasting the Bill 9 debate as an economic issue.  So now the Official Opposition is doing its job by mansplaining and sound bites?

If we’ve learned anything from the Bill 9 bubble zone debate, it’s this.  When the going gets tough, the NDP stay on the field; Jason Kenney and the UCP run away.

***

*In addition to providing abortion services, clinics provide early and late pregnancy loss care, support services for pregnancy loss, birth control counselling including IUD insertion and STI testing and treatment.

Sources: Alberta Hansard, April 10, 2018, starting at p 498  https://www.ourcommons.ca/About/Compendium/ParliamentaryFramework/c_d_roleoppositionpartiescanada-e.htm

Posted in Economy, General Health Care, Politics and Government, Privacy and Surveillance | Tagged , , , , | 36 Comments

The Attack on Gay-Straight Alliances Continues

Last week the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) brought a court application challenging the constitutionality of changes to the School Act which are intended to support the establishment of gay-straight alliances (GSAs) in Alberta schools.

Just to get our bearings, the JCCF is a non-profit legal organization run by John Carpay.  Mr Carpay is a lawyer and a former director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation for Alberta, a former candidate for the federal Reform Party and the Alberta Wildrose Party.

The Application was filed by eight parents, 26 schools and two non-profit organizations that promote choice and fundamental Christian education.

The Issue    

The Applicants argue the government violated their Charter rights and freedoms when it introduced legislation requiring schools to support students who want to set up a GSA (this includes allowing students to call the club a “gay-straight alliance” or a “queer-straight alliance” and implementing codes of conduct to support GSAs).  Schools are free to tell parents a GSA has been created but are not free to “out” kids that join one.

The Constitutional Argument

It’s difficult to follow the constitutional argument because the Application is tinged with hysteria.

It starts with the premise that kids are sexually and emotionally exploited by adults and their peers “most often in places and during times when parents are absent and unaware” so the lack of “parental knowledge” that kids have joined a GSA “opens the door to predation”.

The Application says parents are alarmed and frightened by the climate of secrecy that the School Act has created around ideological sexual clubs and related activities.  It cranks up the Alarm-O-Meter by providing a list of sexual practices it defines as “GSA materials”–the list is no doubt intended to shock God-fearing folk but is irrelevant because it is not part of the guide to GSAs produced by the Alberta Government or Alberta Teachers Association.  (For the record the official GSA materials include suggested activities like volunteering at a soup kitchen, baking rainbow cakes, and inviting your parents to attend a GSA meeting if you’re so inclined).

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The Application asserts that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms “constitutionalizes” (whatever that means) parents’ rights to protect, support and educate their children and a child’s right to be protected and supported, but fails to explain how the Charter, which makes no mention of parental or children’s rights, can be stretched to support this allegation.

It argues the requirement that schools allow kids to form GSAs infringes their parents’ freedom of religion, freedom of belief, and freedom of association, but doesn’t explain why a GSA would infringe such fundamental freedoms while a government mandated curriculum requirement to teach evolution does not.  (Did they stop teaching the Biblical version of creation?)

The Applicants argue they should have the right to opt their kids out of GSAs without acknowledging that the right to opt-out applies only to mandatory instruction if the focus is on human sexuality and religion, not voluntary participation in a club.  (Hint:  if you get credits for it, it’s a mandatory course and you can opt-out;  if you don’t get credits, it’s a club, there’s no opt-out because you’re not forced to opt-in).

Beliefs

The real issue is this.  The Applicants adhere to a set of “foundational beliefs” which they describe as follows:

  • People are created as male and female and God intends them to “accept their gender”
  • Individuals cannot “truly or actually” change their gender or sex
  • Marriage is the union of one man and one woman, for life, to the exclusion of all others, and so instituted by God
  • Sexual relations are intended only for within marriage
  • Departure from these “principles of God’s expressed will is morally wrong”

We understand that schools that cling to such foundational beliefs are thrown into crisis when their students ask for a GSA which, by definition, may not align with such beliefs and prove that all efforts to inculcate such beliefs in some students have failed.

However, society has moved beyond these beliefs, as evidenced by our legal right to be free from discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender expression.

Rather than bash each other with arguments about clashing belief systems, let’s ask the Applicants a simple question:  If they truly believe their children have a constitutional right to be protected and supported shouldn’t they focus less on outing the kids who want to join a GSA and more on supporting them if they do.

It’s time for the Applicants to show some compassion.

Sources:  https://www.jccf.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Binder1_b24.pdf

https://education.alberta.ca/gay-straight-alliances/what-is-a-gsa/?searchMode=3

http://albertagsanetwork.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/GSAs-in-Alberta-Schools-Guide.pdf

Posted in Education, Politics and Government, Privacy and Surveillance | Tagged , , | 40 Comments

Thoughts on Politics at Easter

Easter is not usually the time to reflect upon grumpy whiners; but given Jason Kenney’s mission to rebuild the conservative movement in Alberta this might be a good time to consider where the conservative Roman Catholic leader of the Opposition would take Alberta if given half a chance.

The Conservative Movement

In the absence of concrete policies, it is reasonable to expect Mr Kenney’s vision of Alberta’s future to mirror that of other conservative politicians from other places at other times.

Presumably, we can anticipate a tiny government responsible for little more than protecting the individual and his property rights (aka freedom), encouraging business (aka job creators) by eliminating “red tape” and repealing many laws that protect health, safety, unions and the environment;  it will reduce corporate and personal taxes which will create prosperity (we’ll be richer than in the Klein years!) and the rich will care for the poor through charity because they’re not forced to do so through taxation.

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We’ll be rich, an Easter egg for everyone. 

Oddly, Mr Kenney prefers to deliver this message of nirvana with anger, not compassion.

Why?

Because anger is necessary to overcome compassion and ignore the suffering created by these policies.

Also it helps the conservatives bulldoze through the inconsistencies of their arguments under the principle that he who yells loudest wins.

For example:

  • Mr Kenney’s promise to balance the budget is better than Ms Notley promise to balance the budget because Mr Kenney will achieve balance one year earlier. So what?
  • The provincial deficit will be eliminated by cutting services, not by raising revenue through additional taxes (sales tax, eek!!) because any additional taxes will erode the Alberta Advantage. Alberta has an $11.2 billion/year tax advantage over the other provinces, how much lower must taxes get to improve Alberta’s competitiveness?
  • Notwithstanding economists’ arguments to the contrary, the carbon tax is a sales tax in disguise and will be eliminated. It played no role in getting Trans Mountain approved and economists know nothing?
  • Climate change should be viewed with suspicion, the science is inconclusive and it’s a ruse to give the government greater control of the economy. Cue conspiracy theorists.
  • The government will not address social issues. They fall outside the prime directive which is to make everybody rich.  However, the province is free to defund abortions and attack sex education, gay-straight alliances, same-sex marriages, state-funded day care, the use of the non-gender specific pronouns and safe injection sites because they undermine the traditional family and are a form of social engineering.  Cue conspiracy theorists, again.

The impact of conservative thinking

Mr Kenney traps Albertans in misery by refusing to acknowledge the government’s obligation to seek solutions to social problems.  He won’t explore ways to increase revenue and betrays those desperately in need of the government’s support.

Then to finish the job, Mr Kenney amps Albertans’ frustration and anxiety by telling them they’re being persecuted and victimized by provincial governments that oppose pipelines and a federal government that collects and redistributes their tax dollars under an equalization formula that he himself put into place.

He’s turning conservative Albertans into whiners who’d rather sulk and complain than figure out how to move Alberta forward.

This form of conservative thinking is about as far as you can get from the spirit of Easter and the Christian message of redemption and hope.

Seventy-five years ago, the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, said, “Socialism is the economic realization of the Christian gospel.”

One wonders how Mr Kenney would respond.

 

Posted in Celebrations, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , | 31 Comments