Trumpism: A Wake Up Call

We can pick apart Donald Trump’s acceptance speech but it won’t get us very far.

Trump is getting smarter in how he presents “the facts”.  For example:

  • He uses anecdotal stories about three children killed by illegal Mexican immigrants (murdered and in car accidents) as proof that illegal immigration is out of control notwithstanding the fact that border crossing statistics show that illegal immigration is at its lowest point since 1969.
  • He cherry picks crime statistics (murders are up by 50% in Washington DC) to demonstrate America is in the middle of a crime wave when America is experiencing its lowest crime rates in 25 years.

He sends contradictory messages to Big Business and wingnuts:

  • He promises to rip up NAFTA and the TPP but his Vice Presidential nominee, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, voted in favour of both
  • He showcased Peter Thiel (the billionaire co-founder of PayPal who went on stage to declare he was proudly gay) but laps up support from evangelical preachers like Jerry Falwell who blamed 9/11 on homosexuals, pro-choice supporters, secular schools and courts
  • He says he’ll bring back off-shored jobs by penalizing corporations who refuse to stop off-shoring while ignoring the reality that corporations that employ Bangladeshi workers will treat the penalty as part of the cost of doing business overseas

And if none of that convinces voters to vote for Trump he’ll just chant USA! USA! USA!

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Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump

The point here is that it really doesn’t matter what Trump says as long as he promises to annihilate Hillary Clinton and destroy those evil interlopers who’ve stolen America’s economy, security and peace of mind.

Only in America?

Many Canadians are watching the rise of Trumpism with a sense of smug superiority, confident that it would never happen here in the land of peace, order and good government.

They may be right—in the short term.

Justin Trudeau swept into power partly because Canadians grew tired of the autocratic “fix the economy/maintain law and order/watch out there’s a terrorist!” policies of Stephen Harper.   Trudeau has a solid majority and the opposition parties are in disarray.

Rachel Notley’s NDP won a majority because Albertans were fed up with the PCs failure to deliver on their promise that unfettered corporate power, particularly in the oilsands, was the key to prosperity.  Rampant cronyism didn’t help.

However, both Trudeau and Notley are vulnerable given the country’s dependence on a strong energy sector.  Economic recovery is years away and Canadians, particularly Albertans, are feeling the strain.

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Premier Notley with Prime Minister Trudeau

And the leaders and potential leaders of the conservative parties know it.

They’ve augmented their “low taxes, less government” message with a message of loss.  Jason Kenney’s slogan “Working to Bring Back the Alberta Advantage” isn’t that different from Trump’s “Make America Great Again”.  Both yearn for something that was there in the Father Knows Best years before the progressives snuck into power.

So here’s the problem.  When a government, especially a progressive government, fails to meet the economic expectations of the people it becomes unstable even if those expectations are unreasonable.  The Liberals and the NDP really can’t increase oil prices.

History Prof Margaret MacMillan says we may be entering “a period of destabilization” which started with 9/11 and continued through the “war on terror” and the invasion of Iraq.  It was exacerbated by the 2008 financial crisis which proved to the little people that the bright lights running the economy were in it for themselves.

MacMillan says destabilization creates a dangerous mood in the population and when things go wrong they go wrong very quickly.

MacMillan’s comments were made in the global context but they apply equally well at the national and provincial level.

Canadians and Albertans are fortunate to have a prime minister and a premier who preach hope not fear, however the current climate of uncertainty could see both of them out the door if an opportunistic politician exploits the destabilization created by economic and political forces beyond their control.

This presents Canadians and Albertans with a unique opportunity to demonstrate that Trumpism will never gain a foothold north of the 49th parallel.

Go ahead, earn the right to be smugly superior!     

Posted in Disasters, Politics | Tagged , , , , , | 23 Comments

Stampede!

“Sometimes you need a little break”—Ms Soapbox’s Mom

The fun started when Ms Soapbox’s sister Roz and her husband Jay came to town.

They flew in from Vancouver where it rains 168 days a year–to spend a week in Calgary enjoying the rain, thunder, lightning, more thunder and rain.

Ms Soapbox and Roz risked a short walk to the store, got caught in a downpour and returned home looking like drowned rats.  This started a selfie war with their sister Elle who heartlessly responded to the “drowned rat” selfie with a selfie of herself and our baby sister basking in the Victoria sunshine.  Booyah!  she said.  We don’t know what that means but we think it’s a taunt.

Yesterday we went to the Calgary Stampede.  Four of us had free passes and zipped through the fast lane.  Mini worked her way through the paying line while Jay and I made bets on which gate she’d come through.  We both lost and Mini refused to go back and do it again.

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Spin Out?  No thanks!

We’re too old for the Spin Out 360 degree rotating claw and upchuck machine (thank god) and headed straight for the agricultural barns where we learned some remarkable things like:

  • How to make pearl barley
  • Dr Oz is wrong. Canola oil is way better for you than coconut oil
  • The agency that regulates manure production has a sense of humour. Its table top display of a miniature feedlot included dinosaurs as well as cattle
  • The Soapbox family, Roz and Jay weigh 1018 lbs, that’s as much as a two year old cow
  • If you’re a human the cattle squeeze contraption isn’t soothing, it’s noisy and unsettling

It was pouring rain when we left the agriculture barn (surprise).  We popped open two ridiculously small umbrellas and headed straight for the International exhibit where absolutely nothing was happening.  We staked out a table and Mini and Ms Soapbox squeezed themselves under a sodden umbrella and went back outside in search of perogies (2 traditional, 1 teryaki), deep fried oreos and chocolate covered strawberries.

After lunch we splashed our way over to Indian Village to sample bannock with homemade Saskatoon berry jam and wandered down the midway looking for chocolate dipped ice cream bars on a stick.  We found chocolate dipped cheesecake and bananas but no ice creams (boo) and settled for pretzels and mini donuts.

Photo Credit: Bill Marsh / Calgary Stampede

Indian Village

That evening Mr Soapbox barbequed jalapeno hamburgers in honour of Stampede.  It was raining so we ate indoors (surprise).

We tried to teach ourselves line dancing from a YouTube video but the Cupid Shuffle proved to be too difficult and we got sidetracked by John Travolta (Staying Alive) and Patrick Swayze (Dirty Dancing) which led us to articles about Jennifer Grey’s nose (the internet really is a sink hole).

Today we walked over to Village Ice Cream in Marda Loop.  We were armed with two umbrellas which came in handy when the skies opened and it started to hail.

We’ve had a terrific visit.  My hairdresser taught us the Cadillac Ranch (sorta).  We played Checkers and Rummikub.  Jay showed Ms Soapbox how to find Netflix using the new DVD player and we crushed Elle in the selfie war–shots of us in cowboy hats, clinging to each other on the cattle scale and saying hi to a bull beat people sitting in the sunlight any day of the week.

Roz and Jay fly home tomorrow.  They think our weather is fantastic.  Booyah!!

Posted in Celebrations, Culture, Uncategorized, Vacation | Tagged | 27 Comments

Jason Kenney: Alberta’s Very Own Music Man

Like the Music Man, Jason Kenney blew into town with a message:  We’ve got trouble folks!  Trouble with a capital “T” that rhymes with “P” and that stands for “Progressive!”

The Music Man says we don’t need no “accidental government” to lead this province astray, and we certainly don’t need no social engineering in our education system to confuse the young ones.  We gotta figure out a way to make this madness stop.

And like the townsfolk of River City we want to know how the Music Man will rid us of the socialists and deliver us safely into the hands of a “single united free enterprise party” he calls the Conservative Party of Alberta.

Here’s his plan.

One:  elect Mr Kenney to be leader of the Progressive Conservative party

Mr Kenney and his supporters are (or will be) card carrying members of the PC party.  They’ll infiltrate all 87 PC constituency associations with enough pro-Kenney members to send enough pro-Kenney delegates to the 2017 Leadership Convention to elect Mr Kenney leader of the party he’s pledged to destroy.

One small hiccup.

The Code of Conduct and Ethics requires PC members to support the principles of progressive conservatism, to respect to their duty of loyalty to the PCs and not to harm the PC brand.

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Mr Kenney is untroubled by the ethics of his plan.  He says we already have three progressive parties in Alberta and sees no need for a fourth party “in the same zone”…(translation: the ends justify the means).

Two: start merger talks with the Wildrose

Once elected Mr Kenney will contact Wildrose leader Brian Jean and negotiate an agreement-in-principle outlining the merger and the creation of the Conservative Party of Alberta.

One small hiccup.

The Wildrose says it will only merge with the PCs under the Wildrose banner and the PCs have rejected merger all together.

Perhaps Mr Kenney can entice Mr Jean and influential PCs like Sandra Jansen and Richard Starke to “move beyond recriminations and pointless divisions” with the promise of a cabinet post in the soon-to-be-elected-or-not Conservative government… (pause here for hysterical laughter).

Three: hold a referendum for PC and WR members to ratify the merger agreed to by Mr Jean and Mr Kenney.    

Assuming the Music Man gets this far he has his work cut out for him.

“Progressive” Conservatives are concerned about Mr Kenney’s social conservatism—with good reason.  His position on abortion, same-sex marriage, the niqab and the barbaric practices hot line are unsupportable.

Mr Kenney admits the merger will cause members to leave the party and says the loss “at the margins” is inevitable.

What he doesn’t understand is that the “hot button social issues” he’s dismissed as irrelevant are an issue for the general population, not just those “at the margins”.

Four: hold a second leadership race for the new leader of the new merged party

The Music Man’s raison d’être is to merge the PCs and WR.  If he succeeds he will be elected the leader of the single unified free enterprise party.

Five:  defeat the NDP in 2019

Assuming the Music Man gets this far the free enterprise conservatives will throw money at him like there’s no tomorrow.

Jason Kenny’s biggest problem will be people.  The free enterprise party candidates will have spent three years engaged in internecine warfare and playing political games to hedge their bets in case the Music Man pulls it off.

They’ll ride a wave of political intrigue into the next election.  They’ll be exhausted and some of them will make horrendous mistakes fighting an election with Notley’s NDP who will be much better prepared than they were the last time.

Add to the mix wild card PCs like Sandra Jansen, Thomas Lukaszuk and Doug Griffiths who’ll make the Music Man fight for every last vote in every riding across the province…well you get my drift.

Likely outcome?

Mr Kenney says the merger will be a walk in the park because notwithstanding what progressives and the media think ordinary Albertans don’t care about “hot button social issues”.

He’s wrong.

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The Music Man will likely fail at step three.  The merger campaign (like the Brexit campaign) will harden animosities between the PCs and the Wildrose to the point where the Right will be divided for another decade.

In the unlikely event that the Music Man makes it all the way to step five he’ll lose the election because as Mayor Nenshi pointed out, after 19 years in Ottawa Mr Kenney is hopelessly out of touch with Albertans who want leaders who care about fiscal and social issues.

In both cases Alberta will re-elect an NDP government and Mr Kenney will join Mr Prentice in political oblivion.

In The Music Man con artist Harold Hill is redeemed by the love of a good woman, librarian Marian Paroo.

If you’re a progressive conservative I’d suggest you start looking for a good librarian.

Posted in Politics and Government, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 36 Comments

Brexit and Trump: It’s All Your Fault

Ms Soapbox was just getting her head around the fact that Donald Trump was her fault when they blamed her for Brexit.

Wait, what?

Political philosophers and journalists on both sides of the Atlantic point out that not everyone who supports Trump or voted “Leave” in the Brexit referendum is a xenophobic bigot; they may simply be disillusioned citizens tired of being left behind by globalization.

OK, I’m with you so far.

However political philosophers like Michael Sandel go further.

Mr Sandel, a Harvard professor, says a large group of working-class voters feel that they’ve been left behind not just by the economy but also by the culture which erodes and mocks the dignity of their labour.

Culture mocks the dignity of labour?

Mr Sandel says “…the culture no longer respects work and labour.  This is connected to the enormous rewards that…have been lavished on Wall Street and those who work in the financial industry, the growing financialisation of the American economy and the decline of manufacturing and of work in the traditional sense.”

Donald Trump announces his Candidacy for President

Donald Trump – My fault?

 

With all due respect, arguing a causal relationship between culture and a lack of respect for work and labour in first world countries sounds a bit strained.

Ms Soapbox can’t speak on behalf of all labourers but she’s just lived through a kitchen renovation that morphed into a living room and dining room renovation.  She’s shared her living space, indeed her kitchen table (what was left of it) with the demo guy, the drywall guy, the electricians, the plumber, the granite guy, the tiler, the cabinet guy, the fireplace guy, the appliance guys (twins, very unnerving) and the wonderful wonderful painter who was so meticulous he took an artist’s brush to the awkward space between the kitchen cabinets and the door jamb.

Every one of these guys (sadly they were all men) took enormous pride in their work, sharing the details of what they were doing and how they were going to do it with Ms Soapbox who emerged from the basement periodically to see how things were going.

And yes, this is just a personal anecdote, but Ms Soapbox notes that Mr Sandel provides no facts to support his assertion that the culture of globalization, not just its economic impact, destroys the dignity of labour.

Okay, back to the main point…

Mr Sandel, together with journalists like Chris Hedges and Glenn Greenwald, blame the rise of Trump and his European counterparts on the failure of progressive parties to support working-class and middle-class communities.

They have a point.

Starting with Clinton’s Democrats and Chretien’s Liberals and continuing through to the present day, progressive political parties have made a point of satisfying their high-rolling corporate backers, often at the expense of everyone else.

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Brexit–Also my fault?

Journalist George Monbiot suggests a solution.  He argues that the Brexit vote creates an opportunity for the left and the centre to develop a new economic and political philosophy that will “contain corporate power” by demanding that corporations “…offer proper contracts, share their profits, cut their emissions and pay their taxes”.  He adds that now is the time to regain control of public services.

Hmmm, that rings a bell. 

Let’s look at Alberta.

Since the NDP were elected a little over a year ago the Notley government has increased corporate taxes, increased personal taxes on high earners, restored funding to public services, imposed a carbon levy and modernized the royalty structure.  It’s also running deficit budgets until oil prices rise.

One might argue the NDP government has taken Monbiot’s suggestion to heart but hasn’t gone far enough, however recent opinion polls indicate the opposite is true.  Most Albertans think the government is moving too far and too fast.  NDP support has dropped to 27% while the Wildrose has moved up to 33% and the PCs are at 31%.

Ms Soapbox’s husband, Mr Soapbox, can attest to that.  Mr Soapbox has a charming personality.  He makes friends with everyone.  His pub friends include tradesmen, small business owners, IT guys and accountants.  They’re not worried about globalization but are mad as hell that Notley’s raised personal taxes and the minimum wage and are convinced her carbon levy will cripple Alberta’s energy based economy.  They want Notley to cut the deficit and clobber the unions.

So now what?

Here’s a thought.  We could adopt Public Interest Alberta’s “advocacy in times of opportunity” strategy.  PIA supports the NDP government when it’s moving in the right direction and provides strong advocacy in areas that could be improved.

One of PIA’s most significant submissions to the government is a call for democratic reform and renewal.

PIA argues that our electoral system is undemocratic and undermines the elements of representative democracy.  It calls upon the government to effectively engage citizens and civil society groups in governance, decision-making and policy development in order to build a stronger democracy.

A stronger democracy will ensure that no one is left behind, economically or culturally.

Surely that’s a more effective solution that blaming the elites for paving the way for Donald Trump and Brexit.

Posted in Culture, Economy, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , | 35 Comments

Four Things We Learned From Brexit

What was he thinking? 

The UK, with or without Scotland and Northern Ireland, is leaving the EU, but first it has to slog through two harrowing years extricating itself from its most important market (44% of all of the UK’s exports go to the EU) and trying not blowing itself up in the process.

Lord only knows what he was thinking.

David Cameron’s historic blunder taught us some important lessons.

ONE:  Politicians are elected to lead, not govern by referendum        

One hundred and thirty eight Tory MPs wanted Britain to leave the EU.  David Cameron couldn’t toss them all out of caucus without destroying his government so in order to unite the party (and embarrass Labour who didn’t want a vote on the EU question) he punted the issue to the public—in a referendum that would be decided on the basis of a 50% plus one majority.

This was irresponsible.

The result, which any good politician could have predicted, was chaos.

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PM David Cameron

The Leave vote will trigger one, more likely two, leadership races.  A Tory leadership race to replace Cameron and a Labour leadership race to replace Jeremy Corbyn who is seen as not doing enough to support the Remain side.

The big question now is how far their replacements will go to keep the anti-immigration crowd from defecting to nutbars like UKIP leader Nigel Farage.

Mr Farage claims the razor thin majority supports his “take Britain back” campaign.

Take Britain back from what?  According to The Times of London writer A A Gill it means “taking Britain back from Johnny Foreigner”.  It certainly does not mean taking Britain back to Miss Marple who gets along with everybody including the murderer who left the body in the library.

Britain’s relationship with Scotland and Northern Ireland has become more fraught.  They both voted to Remain.  Scotland is now considering a bid for independence to avoid being dragged out of the EU against its will and Northern Ireland is worried that tensions will escalate on its border with Ireland once the EU guarantee of free movement across borders is withdrawn.

The EU itself is alarmed at the prospect of other member countries following the UK example and conducting Remain/Leave referendums of their own.

Lesson:  If a politician can’t manage internal dissent he must step aside.  Defaulting to a referendum is an abdication of leadership with grave consequences.    

TWO:  A wake up call for politicians, banks and big business

Mr Cameron called in political and economic heavy weights like Barack Obama, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to underline his argument that leaving the EU would cause untold economic hardship.  (Mark Carney joined the debate of his own accord and will likely suffer the consequences as a result).

The public didn’t buy it.  They’ve heard all this before but know from personal experience that indiscriminate and unchecked globalization does not guarantee increased prosperity.

Lesson:  The people are no longer prepared to support globalization at all costs.  It’s time to move to Plan B and address the growing inequity between the rich and the poor.

THREE: Don’t trust the experts

The Leave vote blindsided the financial experts.

World markets lost $2 trillion.  The British pound went into a tailspin and fell to its lowest level since 1985 (creating great buying opportunities for the very foreigners the Leave crowd wants to keep out of Britain in the first place).

David Rosenberg, a financial writer, says the dramatic drop in the market could have been avoided if investors hadn’t been so complacent and treated the “Remain” vote as a fait accompli.  Rosenberg says no one trusted the pollsters (understandably so, given their failure to predict the Tory landslide in 2015) and instead took their cues from betting shops (!!) which put the Remain camp at 90% at the start of the vote count.

Lesson:  If the experts don’t trust the experts, why should we?

FOUR:  Power to the people

Thirty three million Brits (72 percent) turned out for the Brexit referendum vote with 48% voting to “Remain” and 52% voting to “Leave”.

A petition posted before the vote asked the government to hold a second referendum if the vote was less than 60% for either side and the turnout was lower than 75% of eligible voters.  More than 3 million people have signed the petition.

This is a sensible request, unfortunately it came much too late in the process.

If these 3 million voters had inundated their MPs with such a petition months ago they would have had an impact on the referendum process.  The referendum (if it went ahead) may have delivered an entirely different result (or perhaps the same result but with greater support and legitimacy) and some of the anguish resulting from Mr Cameron’s poor judgment might have been avoided.

Lesson:  See #1.  A democratic society has the right to expect its leaders to lead, not “govern” by referendum.  Otherwise we risk letting the mob (Trump supporters, I’m talking to you) run away with the country.

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The world seems to be spinning out of control but with any luck we’ll learn from Mr Cameron’s mistakes.

Meanwhile let’s all try to “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

Posted in Economics, Politics and Government, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 63 Comments

Responding to Orlando

Can we talk about that which cannot be named?

On June 12 forty-nine people were massacred at a nightclub in Orlando.

Alberta’s political leaders expressed their horror at the senseless slaughter.

All but one of the politicians recognized that the victims were members of the LGBTQ community.

Politicians respond

Premier Notley tweeted her government’s solidarity with the LGBTQ community and lit the Legislature building with Pride colours.  On the night of the slaughter Ms Notley, Ricardo Miranda (a member of the group she affectionately calls her “MLgAys”) and other supporters were at an event at a Calgary gay bar.

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Premier Notley and MLA Ricardo Miranda

Liberal leader David Swann expressed his sympathy for the victims and their loved ones saying “this heinous act against the LGBTQ community reminds us that the battle for unconditional equality and acceptance is not won and that we must all stand strong against discrimination and hostility.”

Alberta Party Greg Clark was heartbroken and said there was “still work to do to ensure #LGBTQ community [is] truly equal.”

Even PC leader Ric McIver stepped up and tweeted “So sad to hear of mass shooting at Orlando LGBTQ club. 50 people murdered.  Many more wounded. Hate cannot prevail.”

Only Brian Jean, the leader of the Wildrose, ignored the fact the victims were LGBTQ, tweeting: “Praying for the families of those killed and injured by such a vicious act of hatred and terror in Orlando this morning”.  But for the reference to Orlando he could have been tweeting about any number of random shootings that occur with heartbreaking regularity in the United States.

Why the lack of recognition that the victims were LGBTQ?

Because if Mr Jean wants to stay on as leader of the Wildrose party he needs to stay true to the Wildrose base.

The official word on discrimination Wildrose style

Mr Jean’s vague statement of condolence is consistent with the party’s decision to reject (twice) a principle that expressly protects the rights and freedoms of Albertans, regardless of their race, religion, colour, gender, physical or mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital or family status, source of income, or sexual orientation.

The Wildrose says it’s already covered in its utterly meaningless promise to defend the rights and freedoms of “all persons” in section 2.2 of the Wildrose Constitution.

Read it and you’ll find “all persons” really means “citizens” (apparently landed immigrants, temporary foreign workers and refugees don’t count).

Read a little further and you’ll find a promise to protect the right to life, safety, liberty and privacy and the freedom of speech, peaceful assembly, property ownership and advocacy on public policies which reflect “their deeply held values”, but no protection from discrimination if a citizen exercising his right to, say property ownership, violates another citizen’s right to be free from discrimination in access to housing on the basis of sexual orientation (or race or gender for that matter).

Welcome to the bizarro world of the Wildrose Constitution.

No rights without protection

But wait, you say, the Wildrose Constitution says all citizens are equal before the law and entitled to fundamental justice.

That’s true, but as Mr Vriend discovered when he was fired by an Edmonton college for being gay, being told that you have equal and inalienable rights and actually having them are two different things when the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation is missing from the legislation intended to protect you from discrimination in the first place.

The Supreme Court of Canada ultimately resolved the case in Mr Vriend’s favour by reading the words “sexual orientation” into the Alberta Individual Rights Protection Act.

Courts can “read in” protection from discrimination, the public cannot.

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Wildrose Leader Brian Jean

All the public can do is scrutinize the actions of the political parties to see whether their promise to protect the public’s rights and freedoms are borne out in reality.

The Base and the Squishes

A rift has developed between the traditional Wildrose base and more moderate party members (the “squishes”) who want the party to become more progressive in the hopes of winning the next election.

The base is convinced that shifting even slightly to the centre is a mistake and if it sticks to the “old values” Albertans will come back to them.

One of these “old values” is a refusal to kowtow to the 1.5% of the population who is LGBTQ (gosh, before you know it your Christian school will be forced to allow transgendered students into the washrooms!)

Mr Jean hopes to stay on as party leader.  As such he’s trying to appease the base without driving away the squishes by making it blatantly obvious that the Wildrose is not the party for them.

The Wildrose base and squishes will battle this out over the coming months.

In the meantime Albertans should ask themselves:  what does it say about the Official Opposition—the government in waiting—when its leader is prepared to pray for the families of the LGBTQ people who were slaughtered on June 12 but not the LGBTQ victims themselves?

Posted in Culture, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Rachel Notley and the Wonder Women

Anyone who thinks women are too emotional and unpredictable for a life in politics hasn’t met Rachel Notley and the Wonder Women.

Ms Soapbox had the pleasure of meeting some of the Wonder Women this weekend at the NDP Convention.

They’re smart and have a wicked sense of humour.  When Finance Minister Joe Ceci told Environment Minister Shannon Phillips he enjoyed watching her take apart the Wildrose Opposition when they attacked the carbon levy, Ms Phillips replied “Actually I’m a nice person.”

And she is.

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Environment Minister Phillips

She’s also ten times more knowledgeable about the environment and climate change than the Opposition MLAS who are attempting to discredit the Climate Leadership Plan (which has the support of industry, environmentalists and First Nations by the way) with what Ed Whittingham, executive director of the Pembina Institute, characterizes as misinformation and outright lies.

They’re committed and tireless. Rachel Notley and Municipal Affairs minister Danielle Larivee moved heaven and earth to protect the residents of Fort McMurray after the worst forest fire in Alberta’s history.  Both of them have families but their sole focus was on keeping the residents of Fort McMurray safe.  Unlike a previous premier, neither of them checked into the Jasper Park Lodge for a little R&R over the weekend.

Even the crotchety Leader of the Official Opposition gave Ms Notley and Ms Larivee credit for a job well done…or was it credit for having a good communication plan throughout the emergency.  It’s hard to tell with Mr Jean.

The Premier and Municipal Affairs minister will get a short break over the summer but unlike the rest of us they won’t be turning off their cell phones.  They’re on call 24/7.

They’re affectionate.  Ms Notley beams with pride when she talks about Baby Patrick, the first baby born to a sitting MLA, Ms Stephanie McLean, Minister of Service and Status of Women.  Apparently, the cabinet ministers fight over who gets to hold Baby Patrick during cabinet meetings—others have a talking stick, Notley says, we have a baby.

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Services Minister McLean and Baby Patrick

They like to hug people.  Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman gave Ms Soapbox “a squeeze” (hug) while at the same time juggling notebooks and a cell phone after meeting Ms Soapbox for the first time in the convention hall.  Premier Notley’s speech was delayed a few minutes to give her time to hug her way up to the podium.  The crowd didn’t care, it was busy waving signs and chanting NDP NDP NDP.

They get things done.  While the Opposition spent an inordinate amount of time cranking up the Angry Machine, the government moved ahead with a royalty review and the climate leadership plan and enacted legislation prohibiting corporate election funding, increasing the minimum wage, establishing a progressive income tax regime, increasing corporate taxes and implementing laws to increase farm safety.

Ms Notley’s first year at the helm brought about dramatic change.

The next three years will be equally challenging—the government cannot continue to borrow, it will have to balance the budget.  The economy may strengthen or it may not.  And while Ms Notley recognizes that the foundation of Alberta’s economy is energy and access to global markets is vital; she also knows she has to move ahead with plans to develop a more diversified, value-added economy (which includes renewable energy) in order to achieve a brighter economic future.

Ms Notley is confident she’ll get there because as she succinctly puts it, when new people are elected to form a new government they take a new look at tough problems.

It’s no coincidence that good things have happened.  Half of the new people in Ms Notley’s Cabinet are women.

Posted in Politics and Government, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 21 Comments