The Game of Clue – Part 2 (Did Mr Zwozdesky lie?)

When we last saw Miss Scarlett (oops, Ms Notley) she had just informed Professor Plum (sorry, House Speaker, Mr Kowalski) that the former Health Minister Mr Zwozdesky (oh the heck with it…Colonel Mustard) had misled the House when he said that the source of the July 2010 power point document (which outlined the government’s future plans for increased privatization of healthcare) was the people of Alberta and not the government itself.

Let’s pick up the thread and see how Miss Scarlett, I beg your pardon, Ms Notley, made out… 

You’ll recall that the Speaker postponed Ms Notley’s motion on the point of privilege because Mr Zwozdesky was away from the House attending to a family matter.  So Ms Notley waited patiently until Nov 21, 2011 when the House reconvened following an unexpected (and unnecessary) recess.

Painstakingly she laid out her case;  an allegation of misleading the House (also known as lying) is a very serious matter.  If proven, the former Health Minister would be in contempt of the House.  In my view any elected representative caught misleading the House—the only assembly with power to enact legislation—should be drawn and quartered, but I digress.

Ms Notley had to meet the test established by Mr McGee, former Clerk of the House of Representatives in New Zealand.  (Mr McGee from New Zealand…I love it!)  She had to show that (1) Mr Zwozdesky’s statement was misleading, (2) he knew it was misleading when he made it and (3) he intended to mislead the House when he made it.

She was 17 minutes into her presentation when the Speaker cut her off in mid-sentence.  He said:  Hon. Member, please excuse me for a second.  Would you please take your seat?  What?  That’s like a judge cutting off an attorney’s summation to the jury in mid flight.

The Speaker reminded Ms Notley of the rules governing standing orders.  They are to be “brief statements”.  He acknowledged that “brief” was a subjective term, but in his view “brief” meant “several moments”.*  Mr Speaker, might I direct you to the Oxford dictionary which defines “moment” as a very brief period indeed, in fact an instant?  So much for procedural fairness, but perhaps it doesn’t matter if you’ve already made up your mind.  But I digress.         

Ms Notley, being the spunky gal that she is, stood her ground:  she had 4 minutes left and wanted to present the document underpinning her case.  The Speaker responded graciously—“You just wasted 20 seconds.  I’ll give you 4 more minutes”.*  

Ms Notley replied with a snarky comeback.  Well no, she didn’t, but I’m sure she wanted to.

Ms Notley showed that a Confidential Ministerial Report written in May 2010 represented the views of the government.  Mr Zwodesky was aware of these views because the May document was created by his ministry on his behalf.  These views reappeared in the July power point document and Mr Zwozdesky said that the July power point document represented the views of Albertans, not the views of the government.  This was not true and as a result Mr Zwozdesky misled the House and should be censured (or drawn and quartered, take your pick).

The Speaker gave Mr Zwozdesky some time to respond.  Two days later Mr Zwozdesky replied in classic bombastic fashion:  “This is absolutely false and otherwise totally incorrect.”**  

Apparently the problem isn’t Mr Zwozdesky’s misstatement, but rather Ms Notley’s “fundamental lack of understanding of government processes and misinterpretation of some facts”.** Mr Zwozdesky offeredthis convoluted explanation.  The government routinely consults with the people and compiles, collates, categorizes and otherwise organizes their feedback in a report to the Minister.  The May document is such a report and represents the views of the people.  The May document became the foundation for the July power point document.  Ergo, the July power point document represents the views of the people and Mr Zwozdesky did not mislead the House.  Sorry Ms Scarlett, it’s not Colonel Mustard in the ballroom with the wrench afterall.  Try again.

But wait…think about the logic of Mr Zwozdesky’s explanation.  If the May document reflects the views of the people, then they’ve told the Government that they want a two-tier system, extra billing, queue jumping and doctors to be able to opt in and out of the public system!  That’s Mr Zwozdesky’s explanation of how those statements made it into the May report and were ultimately carried forward into the July power point document…or maybe, just maybe, the May document represents the views of the Government just as Ms Notley alleged and Mr Zwozdesky misled the House yet again.   

The Game was put on hold for a day while the Speaker ruminated over what he’d heard.  It came as no surprise that the Speaker ruled that Ms Notley failed to meet the McGee test and the matter was concluded in favour of Mr Zwozdesky.

Only a fool would fail to see that the Game of Clue is rigged.  The opposition will never catch Colonel Mustard in the ballroom with the wrench because the Government will simply grab the dice and pack up the board.  So why do Ms Notley and others like her bother to raise a point of privilege in the first place?

Simple, the opposition isn’t playing the Game with the Government.  They are playing the Game with the people.  The opposition wants the people to see how the Government has misused its power in order to circumvent the democratic process.

So thank you Ms Scarlett!  We see the real game being played out beneath the veneer of government consultation.  And we’ll remember that game when we step into the voting booth next spring because we’re on the same side.

* Hansard, Nov 21, 2011, 1206

** Hansard, Nov 23, 2011, p 1299

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11 Responses to The Game of Clue – Part 2 (Did Mr Zwozdesky lie?)

  1. Elaine Fleming says:

    Rachel Notley wasn’t able to force former Health Minister to “fess up” that the pressures to re-format our health care delivery via the Alberta Health Act aren’t coming from the citizens of Alberta (quite the opposite) but more likely the people who stand to gain from it. That would be the insurance companies and private health care providers, including those in the nursing home business. It’s not surprising that the Speaker let Zwozdesky off the hook, but you are right, it must be hard for someone like Rachel Notley to press on, trying to get at the truth, when the game is rigged. But it is important that Albertans see that Notley and Brian Mason are a couple of voices in the Legislature who keep trying to speak up for us. I admire their pluck and perseverance. It would be interesting to see them in action as the official Opposition after the next election. I think It’s time for them to step to the plate, and keep our government honest, particularly with healthcare. The Wildrose would just try to force the Government to give up Public Health Care altogether.

  2. You’re right. There are just the two of them and yet they’re amazingly effective. Their knowledge of the issues and level of preparation shines through in the quality of the debate. They also do a great job of keeping cool when the PCs try to humiliate them. Lord knows how.

    The Herald published Mason’s year-end interview on Dec 20. Mason said the NDP was shifting to centre-left which I found pleasantly surprising. He said they supported the oilsands but wanted to see tougher environmental oversight and upgrading done in Alberta (both would be good things). They also support balanced budgets and competitive taxes. Here’s the link http://www.calgaryherald.com/news/Brian+Mason+sees+making+gains+2012/5885906/story.html This next election could be very interesting indeed. Thanks for your feedback Elaine.

  3. Carlos Beca says:

    Susan if you remember a couple of weeks ago when you made your first reference to this issue I said that the PCs would find a way to just mix it all up and find a way out of it. You showed some optimism and although I hate to do this, I have to say I told you so. This is the pattern and there is no democratic process and there is no legislature assembly at all. This is all a sham and as much as I hate to be the broken record here, this situation will not change. It is up to us Albertans to start behaving like responsible adults and reform this process clean. Einstein told us in 1905 that one cannot resolve a problem using the same mindset that created it in the first place and that is what is happening over and over. This is what, with all its drawbacks, the Occupy movement was showing us. Unfortunately we all behave like the battered wife syndrome and keep asking for more of the same. We are addicted to this display of nonsense and we no longer recognize the absurdity of all that is going on. Did you really believe that brilliant Zwozdesky was going to allow low left wing nut Ms. Notley prove anything or go anywhere with her claim? That will never happen and Alison Redford is on the path of more of the same.

    Hoping for Bryan Mason to do well in the next election is like hoping that a meteorite falls in our backyard with the secret of life in the Universe. First, Albertans will never vote for a NDP goverment. Second our anti-democratic past the post system will never give proper representation to any party other than those that can successfully control the media. If it is true that the NDP has 13% of the vote they should get 13% of the seats and having any debate about that to me is like questioning if 13% is 13 out of 100. So if the total seats in the Legislature is 86 the NDP should have 11 seats. I still do not understand why we need another 100 years to come to this conclusion. The excuses of majorities and more difficult to govern with minorities ….. blah blah is just that BLAH. Democracy was created to avoid dominations and to allow all voices to be heard, not to make majorities as often as possible. If anything it was to do exactly the opposite. If we as a society think that democracycumbersome, slow and expensive like someone in the federal government suggested, then do not call it democracy and just call it what really is – a sophisticated dictatorship.

  4. Elaine Fleming says:

    Perhaps the Long Nights are getting you down, Carlos.

    In the words of a person who inspired (still does) a lot of people, got enormous things done, and one of my heroes, “Courage my friends! “Tis never too late to make a better world.”

    Tommy Douglas

  5. Carlos, I knew that Ms Notley would do a very professional job in making the case against Mr Zwozdesky. I also knew she couldn’t possibly succeed given the PC majority in the Legislature. I think her purpose was to bring this sham of a consultation process to the attention of the public. What I found terribly disappointing was the fact that the media didn’t care. I didn’t see any coverage of Notley’s contempt application anywhere. In a situation like this where the opposition is so outnumbered by the ruling party it is absolutely critical that the media do its job and bring these issues to the public’s attention. How else will the public become informed and understand what’s really going on in the Legislature?

    I think we’re all in agreement that this is not good governance. We need an effective democratic process with a high degree of transparency. Like Elaine, I am an optimist and refuse to give up hope that change is possible. If it can happen in Quebec, it can happen anywhere.

    Elaine, thanks for the inspiring quote. Tommy Douglas was a gifted leader and remarkable man.

  6. Carlos Beca says:

    Elaine thank for the great words especially coming from Tommy Douglas. We just wished we had more people like him and more often.

    A lot of people have told me in a polite and positive way what you are suggesting as well. Unfortunately I have seen with my own eyes how easy it is to go from full stability to total social unrest in a question of days. I do not have the same faith you have in human beings. I know what they are capable of.

    Furthermore, due to my love for political and social issues, I always challenge people to discuss the reasons behind their comments. Would you kindly tell me in my post what is that you think is not true or that it is exagerated so we can go a bit deeper into it? I think that is what makes these blogs useful. Democracy is the real discussion of the issues we as a society need to go through to evolve and enrich our lives. It is not just voting and hope that these people do not damage the good we have and clean up our treasuries.

    I am not sure I will have another opportunity before Sunday, so I wish you and Susan and all the other people that read this blog a very Merry Christmas.

  7. Carlos Beca says:

    Well it seems that we posted almost at the same time :).

    Thank you for your comment. I fully agree with you but let me continue with the issue if I may for one more post.

    When you say that the media did not care, do you believe that there is no journalist in either the Edmonton journal or the Sun that cares about this issue? This is something that was in the news and was something Ms. Alison Redford promised to do while running for the leadership of PC party. This is not an obscure esoteric subject that no one has heard about. As far as I remember this was front page news for a while especially when Mr. Ducket got a bit more excited than when he was eating cookies. I believe the media is purposedly letting it go because it is convenient to the party they support. The sun is no surprise because they openly support the right wing of anything. During the last Federal election they actually had on the front page a request to support Mr. Harper.
    The Edmonton Journal as been moving to the right as these big conglomerates slowly take over the brain of the nation.

    I strongly agree with you that the function the media should exercise does not exist and is to say the least very compromised. So where does this leaves us? The voting system is a distortion of representation, politicians lie as if that is their most important responsibility, the media is ultra biased and the parties are in it for power, prestige and serve only one group of our society. In the meantime people are voting less and less simple because there really is no point. Any party is ok because they all lie and they all do whatever is in their interest regardless of the promises made.

    The idea that we are a democracy and have reached a certain stable level of stability that is writen in stone is not any more naive than the belief that once one has a University Education a good job and prosperity are garanteed. Democracy has to evolve in order to create more stability and allow societies to experiment and choose the path that seems more promising for its citizens. Lack of openess brought down most monarchies in Europe after the First Worl War. In fact I think that if societies in the West do not react to this take over of our democratic systems by the powerful elites backed by major interests and corporations, something as important will happen in the next 5 to 10 years.

  8. Elaine Fleming says:

    I don’t know where you come from, or what your story is, Carlos.
    But I am aware that Canada’s short history, (after our First Nation’s peoples, who were here for tens of thousands of years) hasn’t been all that “wonderful”. My own grandfather was put into a Canadian internment camp during the first World War because his family had fled oppression, ironically, from the Austro-Hungarian empire, which Canada came to be at war with. I only found out about this later in my life, because the homesteaders here didn’t like to talk about those dark days.
    People here are not as naive as you think they are. If you scratch the surface, most of us know how important a healthy democracy is, and how quickly society can disintegrate. One of my nursing classmates is from southern Alberta, of Japanese background – and they were put into camps as well, because of the politics and fear during the Second World War.
    We have friends from Ireland, South Africa, Vietnam, Croatia, and so on. People here are more committed than you realise, to defend a decent Canadian society.
    Take heart. And Merry Christmas to you.

  9. Elaine I agree with you. My parents left Hungary because there was no future for them under communism. They became Canadian citizens and voted in every provincial and federal election since. They know that democracy is something to be cherished and protected. We’ve learned from our parents’ experience and know that if there is slippage in the system we need to take action. You and the Whitemud group are a perfect example of such activism in the area of healthcare. Thank you for sharing your story. Merry Christmas everyone.

  10. Carlos Beca says:

    Another Christmas is here and time just seems to go by faster and faster. What is interesting about this is that when I was younger I had this feeling that time went way slower, but my kids tell me that for them it has always been fast.

    The discussion instead of the state of our political system in Alberta and Canada, moved more to our commitment to it. I did not mean to take it that way if that is what happened. Most Canadians have similar stories in their lives or of their ancestors and I am no exception. Mine is just more recent then yours. I have no doubts that there are many of us that care about democracy. The point to me is that we no longer have a democratic system.

  11. I think we all have the same goal, we’re just coming at it from different angles. In any event, it’s Christmas Eve. Time for us all to turn our attention to the most important thing in our lives–our family and friends. Wishing all of you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

    .

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