A Kenney Style Fireside Chat  

On radio, [Franklin D Roosevelt} was able to quell rumors, counter conservative-dominated newspapers and explain his policies directly to the American people. His tone and demeanor communicated self-assurance during times of despair and uncertainty.—Wikipedia

Roosevelt used radio, a “nascent media platform” to explain complex issues such as the Great Depression, the banking crisis, his New Deal initiatives, and WWII to the American people. His fireside chats were extremely popular and highly effective.

Now almost a century later, Kenney is using another media platform, Facebook, to address Albertans’ concerns about his government’s policies to address covid.

Unlike FDR’s fireside chats Kenney’ Facebook Live chats are a disaster.

“Hello…I’m listening”

At last week’s FB event Kenney made a short speech about Alberta’s improving economy, took a gratuitous swipe at the CBC, pundits and the NDP who love “downtalking” Alberta, then turned to questions from the audience which were posted in the chat box.     

It was a gong show.

Many of the questions appeared to come from unvaccinated, uninformed, and/or misguided Albertans. And while it’s easy to criticize such questions; a premier who uses Facebook to connect with Albertans on a once in a lifetime pandemic should, at the very least, be prepared to respond to such questions in a way that dispels misinformation and fear.  

Kenney’s FB Live Chat

It’s not enough to reel off statistics (the unvaccinated are 17 times more likely to be hospitalized, 39 times more likely to be in the ICU and 16 times more likely to die of covid) because this crowd doesn’t believe the data.

A matter of trust

The data wasn’t their only problem, it quickly became apparent they didn’t trust Kenney.

Why? Because in the early days of the pandemic Kenney staked his position loud and clear…only to backtrack when it turned out he was wrong.     

This created the bizarre situation where the participants used Kenney’s earlier arguments to refute the data. They argued covid is mild, it’s only harmful to the elderly and those with comorbidities, natural immunity is just as good as vaccines, and vaccine passports (or REP as they’re known in Alberta) violate fundamental rights and freedoms.

They refused to believe Kenney when he said Alberta would never impose a mandatory vaccination policy. They countered with (a) you flipped on vaccine passports, (b) you flipped on Open for Summer, and (c) your government forced healthcare workers to get vaccinated in order to keep their jobs.  

Kenney had no response. Perhaps he couldn’t keep up with the comments rolling into the chat box.

Talk to the experts

Kenney urged the unvaccinated to talk to the experts, saying 99.8% of Alberta doctors were vaccinated so there’s a high likelihood their own doctor would tell them to get vaccinated.

They countered with personal anecdotes of doctors who’d told them not to be “lab rats” and told Kenney to talk to their “experts,” people like Robert Malone, a controversial figure who claims to have invented mRNA vaccines 33 years ago. (Tim Caulfield, a U of A prof in health law and policy, described Malone as a disgraced virologist who pushes his false theories on Fox News).

Kenney invoked Donald Trump who said vaccines were the greatest achievement in human history. They rejected the “Trump-card” because Trump also said the decision to get vaccinated was a matter of personal choice.

Some participants went so far as to demand a tax refund because they’d been refused entry to infrastructure paid for by their tax dollars. Kenney failed to point out their tax dollars are not used to build restaurants and movie theatres.   

The best question was the one which asked when covid would end; what would it take for Kenney to give them their lives back?

Kenney stared into the camera for a moment, then said he didn’t know, nobody knows. The memory of Kenney on July 1, 2021 confidently declaring the pandemic was over and Alberta was open for summer came to mind.  

Where’s FDR when you need him?

Instead of reassuring Albertans, correcting misinformation and dispelling conspiracy theories during this time of heightened uncertainty, Kenney’s FB event provided a platform for those who seek to undermine what little the government has achieved to date.

This would never pass muster in FDR’s day. And it would be intolerable now, but for the existence of groups like Protect our Province (PoPAB), a group of doctors and experts who provide timely accurate updates on covid to Albertans, as well as advocate on our behalf.

Alberta is sinking into the narrative that covid is inevitable, we’ll all get it. Now more than ever we need to change the dial, click off Kenney’s FB Live Chat and click onto the most recent PopAB update for science-based information and practical advice to help get us through our day.

PoPAB may not be FDR, but they’re darn close.

Posted in Alberta Health Care, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , , , | 36 Comments

The Kids Go Back to School (it’s a matter of “balance”)  

“We’re on the cusp of a generational catastrophe. We need to prioritise children. And yet, for some reason, children are never prioritised. They’re the afterthought of a pandemic.” – Dr Tracey Vaillancourt, Chair, COVID-19 Task Force, Royal Society of Canada

On Jan 5, 2022, after a one-week delay, Education Minister, Adrianna LaGrange announced kids would be returning to in-class instruction because “experts agree and continue to stress the important of in-person learning to the overall health of children and youth.”

This is true, experts do agree that in-person learning offers academic, emotional, social, and societal benefits in addition to academic ones. School is more than reading, writing and arithmetic.

LaGrange also said the government has placed “a high priority on safe in-class instruction and making sure schools have the tools they need to continue providing a world-class education” to students.

There is very little evidence to support this.

Adrianna Lagrange & Dr Hinshaw

What did we get?

Over the last two years the government implemented the following tools/protocols for safe instruction: masking for grades 4 and up, physical distancing, cohorting, enhanced sanitization and hygiene practices, public reporting, contact notification and outbreak definition/alerts, and encouraged school authorities to have proof of vaccination policies for adults. We’ve had outbreak after outbreak, shut down after shut down, so to say these tools/protocols have been less than effective would be an understatement.   

On Jan 5, 2022, LaGrange announced two additional tools to ensure a safe return and quality instruction.

The first was a shipment of rapid test kits and medical-grade masks. Unfortunately some schools won’t get their shipments until Jan 14, four days after the kids return to school, and the number of tests each school receives will only last two and a half weeks.  

The second was a free online tutoring resource for kids in grades 4 and up. This tops up the $45 million earmarked to address learning disruptions for kids in grades 1 to 3.

LaGrange did not mention that the rapid rise in cases resulted in the government eliminating public reporting, contact notification or outbreak definition/alerts for schools.

Nor did she mention that many of the resources provided by the government to teachers and parents, including the 2021-22 School Year Plan and the Parent Guide and the translated versions of the Alberta Health Daily Checklist are out of date, or that the list of mental health resources, a hodgepodge of federal, provincial, and local resources, isn’t necessarily covid specific.  

LaGrange isn’t alone in touting the Kenney government’s “balanced approach”.

In Aug 2021 the CMOH, Dr Hinshaw, referred to the government’s “balanced approach” to the risks children face, noting we’d have to learn to live with covid in our schools.

She committed to closely monitor what happened after the fall term began and assured us she wouldn’t hesitate to consider additional measures and work with schools and local health officials in the event of an outbreak.

Six months later the CMOH is silent while the government removes existing measures like public reporting, contract notification and the protocol for defining outbreaks, leaving parents, teachers and students in the dark.

What do we need?

Alberta is a rich province in a privileged G7 country. If the Kenney government truly prioritizes safe in-class learning it would, as Sarah Hoffman (NDP education critic) said provide HEPA filters, N95 masks, carbon dioxide monitors, contact tracing, contact reports to parents, and funding for additional staff. Instead it’s eliminating some of our existing tools.

Furthermore if it wants children to grow up to lead productive, healthy, meaningful lives it would take a sincere, nonpartisan look at the curriculum because every grade is connected to the others and some parts of the curriculum may need to be lengthened or pushed into the next year to address the disruptions created by almost three years of start/stop, in-class/online education.* An online tutoring program simply won’t cut it.

Lastly, if the Kenney government won’t do it for the kids, it should do it for the economy. Education economists predict school closures of 14 to 16 weeks in a country like Canada can result in a six percent drop in GDP.*

The Kenney government should pull out all the stops to protect in-class learning, instead it’s exposing students and staff to the highly infectious Omicron virus and risking another shut down.

Alberta is the richest province in Canada, and yet it won’t take care of its children.

But you know Jason Kenney. It’s all about balance.

*Prof Prachi Shrivastava, associate professor of education and global development, Western University on CBC The Current Jan 5, 2022

Posted in Alberta Health Care, Economy, Education, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , | 42 Comments

Kenney’s New Modus Operandi: Goodbye Peter Lougheed; Hello Donald Trump

There was a time when Jason Kenney pretended to be the modern-day manifestation of Peter Lougheed, notwithstanding his conviction that Lougheed’s programs were akin to “neo-Stalinist make-work projects.”

He’s since dropped the charade. He no longer pretends to be anything other than what he is. A Trump admirer.

Recently he’s taken to invoking Trump’s name to bolster his credibility.

When a stubborn minority of Albertans thumbed their noses at Kenney’s plea they get vaccinated, he tweeted a clip of Trump extolling the virtues of vaccines. (Trump also took credit for developing them; what else is new).

A fine pair

When asked about reducing emissions, Kenney ridiculed Trudeau’s plan to transition from oil and gas jobs to greener jobs, saying Trump had great success in cutting emissions by switching from coal to gas fired power plants. (He failed to mention Trump also weakened EPA rules to allow more coal plants to stay open).   

It’s likely Kenney has always been a Trump admirer (he bet $1.5 billion on Keystone XL in anticipation of Trump being re-elected in 2020), but it’s peculiar for a Canadian politician to continue to invoke the name of the American president who perpetrated the Big Lie and incited the Jan 6 attack on the Capital to lend credibility to his provincial policies. Wouldn’t a big-name Canadian politician—perhaps his old boss, Stephen Harper—be more suitable?

One wonders whether Trump is on Kenney’s mind because Kenney knows he’s in trouble and is focusing on the Trump playbook to dig himself out.  

Trump’s modus operandi

Kenney and Trump share the same political ambition and deploy the same ruthless tactics. For example:

Hyperpartisanship: The first thing Kenney did when he came into office was rip down everything Notley had done, only to reinstate some of her policies—attracting tech investment, for example—with similar, but watered-down versions of his own.  

Eroding our faith in democratic institutions: In Kenney’s world it’s OK to wear ear plugs in debates (who cares what the Opposition has to say), it’s OK to curtail debate on a whim, it’s OK to demonize private citizens by name in the Legislature if they dare criticize the government, and it’s OK to create special commissions and war rooms to attack and intimidate those who disagree with government policy.

Undermining the public service: Kenney views public servants as a pack of unionized slackers, teachers as pushing socialist, leftie claptrap onto their students, and doctors and nurses as grossly overpaid.

Exacerbating inequality: Kenney cut corporate taxes, thereby starving public services and paving the way for privatization. Services will be available to those who can pay. He’s hinted at a flat personal income tax which will increase inequality by pushing the more of the tax burden onto lower income earners.

Degrading the environment: Kenney eliminated Lougheed’s Coal Policy. (He backtracked temporarily but he’ll green light coal mining in the Rockies once again). He’s weakened regulatory agencies (too much red tape) because Alberta is open for business, damn the consequences.

Perpetuating a culture of victimhood: Alberta is still the wealthiest province in the country, yet Kenney wants us to believe we’re victims. The feds, the socialists and the lefties are coming for us at every turn. We need a protector to stand up for us, and by George, we’ve got one in Jason Trump…um, Jason Kenney.

Us against them: Nowhere is Kenney’s appetite for power more obvious than when he pits Albertans against each other. He started with an easy target, the unions, and has moved onto people who eat bat soup. Kenney’s comment that he tries not to predict the behavior of covid because who knows what “the next bat soup thing out of Wuhan” will be set off a storm of criticism. His spokesperson denied the comment was racist, then following protests in Calgary and Edmonton, offered a statement that purported to be, but fell far short of, an apology.  

Why now?

2022 will be the most important year in Kenney’s entire political career. He rode into town a few years ago determined to make Alberta the country’s conservative beacon. He failed.  

He’s fighting off mutinous MLAs, the economy will never regain the lofty heights it enjoyed in the golden years, Brian Jean is actively campaigning to unseat him, his nemesis Rachel Notley consistently outpolls him, and he’s utterly mismanaged his most important file, the government’s response to covid.

This is not a man who will go gracefully into retirement.  

But I know this and I’m prepared to act (be it through a letter writing campaign or taking to the streets) when Kenney does what Trump would do to hold onto power regardless of the cost.

That’s my New Year’s resolution. I hope it’s yours too.   

Posted in Alberta Health Care, Climate Change, Environment, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , , , | 53 Comments

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

A choir is singing something vaguely classical on the radio. Rudy the rescue dog is chilling in front of the Christmas tree.   

And the Soapbox family is almost ready for Christmas (although Ms Soapbox will be scrambling around at the eleventh hour as usual). Have a safe and happy holiday, my friends, and we’ll talk again in the new year.

Susan

Rudy the rescue dog
Posted in Celebrations, Uncategorized | Tagged | 42 Comments

Bill 81: The ‘what the hell was that’ Bill

“Bill 81 has always been about strengthening the democratic process in our province.” – Kaycee Madu, Justice Minister.  

“[Bill 81 is] one of the most overt antidemocratic moves we’ve seen from the current government in this place.” – Sarah Hoffman, NDP MLA

This is your lucky day! An unknown benefactor just bought you a membership in the UCP without your knowledge or consent.

Why?

Gosh, I don’t know. let’s check out the debate in the House on the last day of the fall sitting and find out.  

Just delivering campaign promises

Law students are taught to interpret legislation by asking themselves: what problem is this statute trying to fix? If the answer isn’t obvious on the face of the legislation, we turn to Hansard which records the debate in the House.

Justice minister Madu told the House that the purpose of Bill 81 (the Election Statutes Amendment Act) is to deliver on the UCP’s campaign promises to:    

  • Remove big money and foreign money from Alberta politics  
  • Close the Alberta Federation of Labour “loophole” that allowed the AFL to pour “millions…into funding the NDP campaign”
  • Ensure only Albertans could impact the outcome of an election

Sounds very UCP, right. So why did three UCP MLAs (Leela Aheer, Richard Gotfried, David Hanson), and the two independents (former UCP MLAs Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen) join the NDP in voting against it?

Justice Minister Kaycee Madu

Because Bill 81 made changes that are undemocratic.

Becoming a member of a political party just got a whole lot easier

The amendment that received the most airtime was the one that tacitly authorizes people to purchase party memberships for someone else without their knowledge or consent…in bulk. (Aheer said she, her husband and her kids could purchase 1600 memberships).

Before Bill 81, section 25 of the Election Finances Contribution and Disclosure Act addressed the characterization of an annual party membership. A fee of $50 or less was not considered a political contribution, anything above the $50 threshold was considered a political contribution.

After Bill 81, the section says an annual membership fee paid by a person on behalf of another person for that person’s membership is considered a political contribution by the person who paid the fee. This adds a new wrinkle that acknowledges the legality of X purchasing a membership for Y and characterizing that transaction as a political contribution.

The critics argue…

The dissenting UCP MLAs fought to amend Bill 81 by adding words to the effect that X could not buy a membership for Y without Y’s knowledge or consent. The government rejected this amendment.

The dissenting UCP MLAs and independent MLAs argued the ability to buy memberships in “bulk” would allow special interest groups to change the outcome of nomination races (and leadership races?). It would legalize something that had been illegal in the past, and it goes to the heart of the ongoing RCMP investigation into fraud, forgery, and bribery in the last leadership race. Questions were raised with respect to electronic voting and what happens when these bulk memberships are transferred to a PIN.

All the critics argued the amendment was undemocratic because “membership brokers” delivering “bulk participants” would have greater influence and access to power and “bulk participants” are not connected to the candidates the way “aware participants” who donate their time and money are.  

The government replies…

If the government wants to pass a piece of legislation that is so controversial its own caucus members can’t support it, it must be able to provide a cogent rationale for the amendment.

It should be able to answer the question: what problem is this statute intended to solve?

Guess what. It failed.     

The government’s justification of Bill 81 can be boiled down to this:   

  • It’s always been legal for X to buy a membership for Y. The Chief Electoral Officer disagreed. Madu said the Chief Electoral Officer was wrong.  
  • The NDP are fussing because the UCP’s nomination races are competitive and theirs aren’t. How is this relevant and how does it address the UCP MLAs request for an amendment saying X can’t buy Y a membership without Y’s knowledge and consent?   
  • It’s a privilege to serve as an MLA under the leadership of the man who sat next to the greatest prime minister (Harper) the country every had. Relevance?
  • You can’t impute what you cannot impute…Lord Denning, greatest jurist…House of Lords. Entertaining but irrelevant.
  • The dissenting UCP MLAs can’t delay the bill just because they don’t like it. Madu said he was concerned about the public health measures but that didn’t mean he was going “to destroy the government.” Irrelevant and bombastic.
  • The UCP by-laws prohibit X from buying a membership for Y. Irrelevant and hardly reassuring given that the by-laws can be changed with the stroke of a pen and the guy who holds the pen is the same guy who’s pushing Bill 81.  

Scared and embarrassed

The government rammed the bill through by invoking closure for the 25th time (the NDP resorted to closure 4 times during their entire term).

Why the rush?

Independent ex-UCP MLA Loewen says Bill 81 was flawed and the government was scared and embarrassed that its own caucus wanted to amend it.

Perhaps.

The other explanation is Jason Kenney wanted Bill 81 in place in plenty of time for the UCP leadership review and possible leadership race against his nemesis, Brian Jean, who won the UCP nomination for the upcoming by-election with 68% of the vote by running an “oust Kenney” campaign.

On the bright side, Bill 81 declared the last Monday in May four years after the previous election as election day. Woo hoo!

Until then if you find a UCP membership under the Christmas tree keep it as a relic of the bygone party that Jason Kenney started and destroyed in four short years.

*Updated to correct the reference to Brian Jean winning the UCP nomination, not the by-election.

Posted in Politics and Government | Tagged , , | 42 Comments

Who’s On First: Jason Kenney’s Response to the 4th Wave

Abbott and Costello’s comedy routine “Who’s on First” was performed in the late 1940s. It’s based on a skit Abbott heard in an episode of a radio comedy show called “It Pays to be Ignorant.”

Premier Kenney performed his own version of this routine in the Legislature last Thursday, only Kenney’s version wasn’t funny. It was offered in response to questions from Opposition MLAs trying to determine who was in charge of Alberta’s covid response while Kenney was vacationing abroad.  

Quick recap: Kenney was away from Aug 11 through Aug 30. He says he managed the government’s covid response the entire time. His Health Minister, Tyler Shandro, also booked vacation during this period and designated Education Minister LaGrange to be the “acting Health Minister” in his absence.

While Kenney was on vacation daily case numbers soared from 126/day to 960/day, the number of Albertans hospitalized with covid tripled from 90 to 336 and thousands of surgeries were cancelled.

Kenney’s routine   

Last Thursday the Opposition asked LaGrange to explain why, given she was the “acting” Health Minister, she failed to act while positive case counts and hospitalizations spiked.   

Kenney stepped in to answer for her—he has a habit of responding to questions directed at someone else if there’s a chance his ministers or officials might say something that could embarrass him. In this case he need not have bothered, he did an excellent job of making himself look incompetent all by himself.

The real Abbott and Costello

His answers can be boiled down to this:*

  • The Opposition’s question was ridiculous because Shandro was on the job “every single day, seven days a week” and Kenney talked to Shandro “every single day” … or was that … “almost every single day” … or maybe  … he was in “constant communication” with his health minister.  A good litigator would have a field day with this guy.  
  • The suggestion that LaGrange was in charge was complete rubbish. Being designated acting health minister was simply a formality intended to confer “signing authority.” Really? That’s not how the Opposition, or anyone else in the private sector who’s gone on vacation and appointed someone to “act” on their behalf, sees it.  

Does this make sense?  

Kenney insists he was in charge of the covid file the entire time he was away on vacation, but there are no emails or CMOH phone calls during that time to back Kenney up. Perhaps Kenney, without the benefit of input from public health and healthcare specialists, was simply taking calls from Shandro who was running around like a chicken with his head cut off trying to fit his vacation around his duties as health minister as the 4th wave worsened.   

Kenney approved Shandro’s vacation in the middle of the 4th wave. That means both the premier and the health minister intended to take a vacation during the worst of the pandemic. This is irresponsible and reckless.  

Kenney said that when Shandro designated LaGrange to be “acting Health Minister” this merely gave her “signing authority” in Shandro’s absence. There are two problems with this explanation.

First, Kenney says Shandro was holding briefings and being briefed and making critical decisions while on personal time. However LaGrange continued to hold the power to sign health ministry documents. This is extremely sloppy governance. If Shandro did work through his vacation he should have withdrawn LaGrange’s “signing authority.”

Second, the Opposition says acting ministers act. They make decisions, take meetings, and are kept in the loop. This makes sense. Either Kenney does not understand what an “acting” minister is supposed to do or he deliberately attempted to mislead the House and Albertans on the implications of naming the minister of one portfolio, the “acting” minister of another. In either case, this is poor leadership.     

Let’s try this again  

In Abbot and Costello’s comedy routine “Who” is on first base (or in this case on vacation in Europe with no intention of returning as the 4th wave worsens because the health minister—who is also going on vacation—is on it). “What” is on second (having designated the education minister to step in for him while he’s on vacation and then attending briefings and calling the premier while at the same time trying to salvage his holiday plans). And “I Don’t Know” is on third (blissfully unaware that being designated “acting” Health Minister means more than simply signing whatever document is put before her).

So who’s on first? In Kenney-land the answer is Nobody.

*Alberta Hansard, Dec 2, 2021, pp 6763-6764

Posted in Alberta Health Care, General Health Care, Politics and Government, Vacation | Tagged , , , , | 57 Comments

It’s my birthday (sort of)

I celebrated a birthday earlier this week and in the Soapbox household birthday celebrations go on forever. Which is why there is no blog today.

I’ll be back next week. In the meantime I’d like to leave you with a thought. This comes from an interesting new book called Bucking Conservatism: Alternative Stories of Alberta from the 1960s and 1970s which argues that grassroots opposition to conservatism has existed and continues to exist.  

The book describes the contributions of “defiant radicals, rabble-rousers, and heretics” who were able to make change because they had like-minded people around them.

It urges us to find our people, build our community and organize in solidarity with others, in order to “break down the myth that living in Alberta means [we’re] resigned to a past and a future of conservatism.”

The thought cheered me immeasurably. I hope it inspires you, my community, as well.

Susan

Posted in Celebrations, Politics and Government, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 44 Comments

Jason Kenney’s Last AGM

A political party’s AGM tells you a lot about the party.

What we learned after the UCP AGM is the UCP’s big tent isn’t big enough to hold all its members.

But first a quick recap relating to the small matter of Jason Kenney’s leadership review.

The proposal to make it tougher to trigger an early leadership review failed and the 22 constituency associations that want to fast track Kenney outta here are now in position to do so while Brian Jean and Danielle Smith are standing ready to take over the reins.

Let the internecine games begin.  

What’s on the agenda?

Okay, back to the agenda.

What made it onto the agenda and what didn’t is enlightening because it signals which factions, the moderate conservatives or the right wing nutjobs, are ascendant in the party.     

The UCP powers-that-be rejected resolutions that proposed introducing a provincial sales tax and creating a revenue-neutral Alberta carbon tax to replace the federal carbon tax (hmmm, that sounds familiar). They also rejected a moratorium on new coal exploration and development on the eastern slopes of the Rockies.    

These resolutions gave way to ones calling for the elimination of Alberta’s debt and beefing up the rainy-day fund and a swack of anti-union, anti-public sector, and anti-teacher resolutions. Heaven forbid we forget who the enemy is here.

Some resolutions, like the one “vigorously opposing” the imposition of the federal carbon tax make you wonder whether they were asleep the day the Supreme Court of Canada said the federal carbon tax was okay.

Most disturbing were resolutions addressing “cancel culture” and religious freedoms/conscience rights.

Cancel culture and conscience rights

The grassroots says cancel culture threatens free speech and suppresses conservative values and opinions. They tabled 3 separate resolutions (out of 30) which called for:

  • standing with the federal CPC in denouncing actions by Trudeau (and Google, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook) that cancel culture (#1)  
  • protecting post-secondary students or employees from being harassed or ousted because they expressed their political opinions or beliefs (#8)
  • safeguarding “our achievements and respecting our accomplishments by addressing the threats to our history and culture posed by cancel culture and the woke temperament with their historical revisionism and vilification of individuals” (wow, that was a mouthful! #23). The rationale in support of this resolution notes that Idaho banned teaching that “any sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color or national origin is inherently superior or inferior” and here in Alberta the ATA opposes the new K-6 curriculum.

They’re also concerned about rules and regulations that violate conscience rights by requiring professionals to do their jobs properly and propose:   

  • to strip professional associations of the power to “discriminate” against healthcare workers who refuse to do their jobs on moral grounds by enshrining conscience rights in the law (#12)
  • to protect the right of medical professionals to refuse to give patients reasonable and timely access to MAID consultation services on the grounds of religion or conscience rights (#19)

It looks like right wing nutjobs are winning, but wait, there are also some resolutions that appear to recognize that climate change is real and Alberta will have to transition away from fossil fuels.

Diversifying the economy

Resolutions with language that acknowledge a future beyond fossil fuels were tabled. They called for the government:

  • to prepare for the “post-fossil fuel world” by developing a strategy for nuclear and hydrogen fuel industries (#27),
  • to call on the feds to impose a carbon tax on foreign imports from countries without similar carbon tax regimes, while this is a protectionist strategy it could benefit climate change mitigation (#24),
  • to support small modular reactors (SMR) because nuclear power is a viable source of clean energy and workers could transition from fossil fuel energy plants to SMR.

Covid-19

Resolutions that appeared to take notice of Kenney’s abysmal management of the pandemic called for research to identify best-practices to mitigate illness and death societal disruption, and economic damage, better care for seniors, a plan to develop Alberta-based vaccines, pharmaceuticals, and PPE. As well as a rapid response plan for public health emergencies.  

In the wrong hands these proposals could turn into a nightmare, but at least they acknowledge Kenney did a poor job.      

Who holds the pen?

The last time the UCP held an AGM Kenney said he was not bound by the policy resolutions because he holds the pen.  

That was then, this is now.

Then he was riding high in the polls and had the freedom to defy the grassroots. Today his popularity is at rock bottom, his caucus is openly hostile and his nemesis Brian Jean is openly campaigning against him.

Kenney may hold the pen, but he won’t hold it for long.  

It really doesn’t matter though.

Because by the time his replacement picks up the reins, he or she will have aligned themselves with the moderate conservatives or the right wing nutjobs, the big tent will collapse and the party will split.  

And Jason Kenney’s UCP will be finished once and for all.

Oh happy day!

Posted in Politics and Government | Tagged , , , | 54 Comments

The Department of Education: The Nazis were good people too (or some such BS)

This week we learned that in 2020 the Dept of Education published a document recommending that teachers discussing Nazi atrocities also include material showing the Nazi’s policies strengthened Germany’s economy.

Why? Because it’s important from a diversity and respect perspective to “reveal both the positive and negative behaviors and attitudes of the various groups portrayed.” What part of murdering 6 million Jews and 5 million Roma, Jehovah’s Witnesses, gays, and disabled people don’t you understand??   

Education Minister LaGrange addressed this horrific recommendation in a Twitter thread rather than an official government press statement. (A curious omission given that 3 other ministers found time over the weekend to issue statements recognizing Metis Week, Victims and Survivors of Crime Week, and World Diabetes Day).

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange

In her Twitter thread LaGrange said:  

  • She had no idea the document existed
  • She told the Dept of Education to remove the document from all Alberta Education publications
  • It was concerning, unacceptable, and wrongheaded  
  • There is no positive side to the murderous Nazi regime
  • This has nothing to do with the curriculum review process. Under no circumstances would her office approve horrendous content like this being taught to Alberta students.
  • She thanked those who brought it to her attention, and is meeting with 3 groups to inform them of the action she’s taking to rectify the situation

Nope, not enough

The mainstream media caught up with the story after it exploded on social media. LaGrange categorically denounced it and Kenney completely disavowed it.

Lovely, but the document didn’t magically write itself. Apparently, way back in 1984 some bright-light in the government created it, their superiors approved it, and it continued to exist right up to Nov 12, 2021.

And now it’s come home to roost on LaGrange’s doorstep.

It’s not enough for LaGrange to promise to remove it from all government publications and move on (nothing to see here, folks).

LaGrange is accountable. She must examine the processes used by her department to create guidance documents in the first place, she must determine how such horrific documents are allowed to stand for so long, and most importantly she must explain why such documentation was not obliterated as part of the UCP’s government’s curriculum review process.

Because contrary to LaGrange’s tweet, this has everything to do with the UCP’s curriculum review.

If she’s being honest about never approving “horrendous content like this being taught to Alberta students” then she can’t implement the new UCP curriculum which has been universally criticized by parents, teachers, academics, and Indigenous leaders as racist and Eurocentric.  

Remember Kenney’s friend, Chris Champion, who worked on the revamp of the social studies curriculum? Champion dismissed the notion that residential schools were part of a policy of genocide and said the inclusion of First Nation perspectives was a fad. His comments are examples of the kind of “guidance” that results in the Nazis-were-good-people-too thinking.

And this is where the Pacific Northwest tree octopus comes in.

Octopus paxarbolis

The Pacific Northwest tree octopus website was used by researchers studying critical thinking and gullibility in teenage students. The research required students to learn more about the tree octopus which could live on land as well as in the water, was on the verge of extinction because it had been over-harvested in the early 20th century for use as a hat decoration, and its main predator was the Sasquatch.

Most students believed this claptrap because they were given the assignment in school, they trusted their teachers and they were emotionally involved in saving an endangered species.

Many continued to believe the lie even after they were told the website was a hoax.

If bright young students believe the tree octopus exists even after they discover it’s a hoax, how hard is it for them to believe residential schools were a blessing for poor little Indigenous children and colonialism was good for the Indigenous population, especially if these lies are presented as fact in the UCP curriculum.

Next Steps  

No, LaGrange’s Twitter promise to remove the ‘good things about Nazis’ document is not enough. She must (1) issue a press statement apologizing for the mistakes made by her department, (2) commit to removing all documents promoting the so-called positive side of atrocities, and (3) halt the implementation of the new UCP curriculum until she’s reviewed the curriculum to ensure it does not include “horrendous content like this.”

She should be able to manage (1) and (2) on her own, but she’ll need the help of a brand new curriculum review team to ensure (3) is done without political or ideological bias.  

Over to you Adriana.

PS: Can you talk with the Energy Minister about taking steps to protect this cute little octopus that lives in the coal mines on the Eastern Slopes?

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Government or Frat House? Either Way Kenney Can’t Lead  

Ariella Kimmel, former chief of staff to Jobs Minister Doug Schweitzer, filed a lawsuit this spring alleging the Premier’s office fostered a “poisoned work environment,” it failed to address her concerns about the sexual harassment of another employee, and she’d been fired for raising it. She’s suing for just under $400,000.

Kimmel says she raised her concerns in Oct 2020, she became the target of a smear campaign, and was fired in Feb 2021. Kenney’s chief of staff says her termination was unrelated to her insistence the government implement a robust sexual harassment policy, but Schweitzer says Kimmel was an excellent chief of staff. If she wasn’t terminated because she wouldn’t let up about sexual harassment and she wasn’t terminated for poor performance, then why was she terminated?  

Kimmel’s lawsuit referred to a specific comment made at a drinking party in (former) Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen’s office in the Legislature.

Devin Dreeshem hard at work

And boom, just like that we discovered that sometimes Dreeshen’s office functioned like a speakeasy; someone declared “shields up,” the doors were locked and out came the booze.     

At first Dreeshen brushed aside the allegation that he drank to excess (he didn’t have a problem with alcohol, he worked long hard days in the Legislature, there’s a “social aspect” to politics) but eventually he offered to resign his cabinet post saying his “personal conduct with regards to alcohol [had] become an issue for the government as a whole” and it was time for him to “focus on [his] personal health and wellness.” Premier Kenney accepted Dreeshen’s resignation.

What’s interesting about all this is that neither Dreeshen nor Kenney appeared to have a problem with Dreeshen’s “conduct with regards to alcohol” until it was raised in Kimmel’s lawsuit. Which makes us wonder whether Kenney would have accepted Dreeshen’s resignation had “shields up” not become public knowledge.

Why did it take so long?

Kenney has a reputation for micro-managing. It’s inconceivable he did not know about Dreeshen’s conduct. His principal secretary was handling Kimmel harassment complaint last fall and his chief of staff fired her this spring.  

Kenney admits to having a drink or two in Dreeshen’s office and says he’s not averse to social drinking in the Legislature as long as it’s done with maturity. The “shields up” imbroglio doesn’t sound terribly mature, so why didn’t Kenney do something about it sooner?

Well, Dreeshen wasn’t an ordinary MLA. He’s been described as an up and comer. He hails from a political family and he’s an effective fundraiser. Apparently, he raised $180,000 in the third quarter making him a powerbroker within the party.*  

No doubt it was easier for Kenney to turn a blind eye to “shields up” than take Dreeshen to task. What does this say about Kenney’s leadership?  

Other than Dreeshen, the only other cabinet minister to be demoted (outside of a cabinet shuffle) is Tracey Allard who lost her cabinet post when she went to Hawaii during the covid ban on travel. Even then Kenney didn’t demote her until the public was in an uproar over his failure to discipline Allard and the other UCP MLAs and staff who ignored the travel ban.  

It would appear nonstop carping about Kenney’s failures as a leader and policy maker won’t get you the sack unless you’re Drew Barnes or Todd Loewen. The remaining 25% of his caucus, including the vociferous Leela Aheer, Angela Pitt and Richard Gotfried, have expressed their disappointment and dissatisfaction with Kenney’s decisions and lived to gripe another day.

Kenney’s reluctance to take action over Dreeshen’s “shields up” and his hesitancy in disciplining MLAs who ignore or criticize his policies signal two things: (1) Kenney, unlike Harper, is a weak leader, and (2) Kenney’s frat house is coming apart at the seams

It’s only going to get worse if Brian Jean wins the nomination to run in the byelection in Fort McMurray.

Kenney’s demise would be welcome news but for the fact his government will be in power until May 2023 and he and his government should be focused on critical issues like managing covid and its aftermath, kickstarting the economy, and fixing healthcare, education, and other social services.

And for the record, Rachel Notley and her MLAs are putting in the long hard days at the Legislature and engaged in the social aspect of politics in their constituencies with no bozo eruptions, no cockups, and no complaints.

Just saying.

*West of Centre interview with Duane Bratt and others. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/alberta-politics-west-of-centre-podcast-kathleen-petty-1.5473933

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