Redford and Mandela: Hypocrisy and Hope

The Redford government’s capacity for hypocrisy knows no bounds.  In the same week that Redford’s PC government passed two corrosive pieces of anti-labour legislation, Ms Redford reflected on what she’d learned as a young lawyer working with Nelson Mandela to reform South Africa’s legal system.

Nelson Mandela

“He taught me that the best advice comes from people who have been working in the trenches, and that leaders have to sacrifice. I remember his wisdom, his optimism and his patience.” *

Instead of taking Nelson Mandela’s lessons to heart, the Redford government used its majority power to ram Bills 45 and 46 through the Legislature.  All of the opposition parties, including the Wildrose (much to the PC’s surprise), supported the unions in opposition to this oppressive legislation.

Bill 45:  Who is this “person” and why is he in so much trouble?

Let’s focus on Bill 45, the Public Sector Services Continuation Act.  It purports to protect the health and safety of Albertans and save them from hardship in the event of a strike.  We already have two statutes (the Alberta Labour Code and the Public Service Employee Relations Act) that do the same thing.  Why do we need another one?

Mr Horner and Mr Hancock say some tweaks are required to modernize the existing legislation.

But Bill 45 has a more sinister purpose.  In addition to fining the unions into oblivion, it takes a gigantic leap backward into George Orwell’s 1984.  It prohibits a union and its reps and employees from engaging in conduct that constitutes a strike threat and prohibits a “person” from counselling a person to go on strike or engaging in conduct that constitutes a strike threat.  And no one knows what that means.

Orwell’s definitions

A “strike threat” is defined as calling for a strike and ”an act or threat to act that could reasonably be perceived as preparation” for a strike.**

Let’s break that down shall we?  An “act” could be anything, right?  The “threat to act” would be the threat to do anything (??) and this threat or threat to do anything would have to “reasonably be perceived” (by whom?) as preparation (which would be what exactly?) for a strike.   Got it?

Let’s try something a little simpler.  What does “counselling a person to go on strike or engaging in conduct that constitutes a strike threat” mean?

Mr Hancock, Bill 45’s sponsor and a lawyer to boot, gave it a try in the debates.  Turns out he doesn’t know either. ***

He started by saying a strike threat is not (1) a couple of people talking about what they should do, (2) a water cooler conversation, (3) someone calling into a talk show or (4) somebody waving a sign.   Unfortunately none of these exclusions made it into the statutory definition.

Mr Hancock continued—a strike threat “is an effective and meaningful approach to induce or encourage a strike and to indicate that a strike is going to happen”.  This contradicts the statutory definition which hinges on “reasonable perception” in the eyes of Big Brother and not on the “effectiveness” of the threat itself. 

But Mr Hancock was on a roll.  With respect to “counselling” he said it’s a well known term which would be interpreted by the Labour Relations Board or the Courts.   In other words you won’t know if you’ve engaged in counselling until you’re hauled up before the Board or a Court and found guilty. 

Then he latched on the Criminal Code definition of “counselling” and blathered on about the perpetrator having to have the power, authority or credibility to cause the event to happen and concluded that you can’t be guilty of counselling an offence if the offence itself did not occur.

Mr Hancock

This is utter nonsense.  Section 464 of the Criminal Code says anyone who counsels another to commit an offence is guilty even if the offence is not committed and would be subject to the same punishment as the person who failed to commit the offence.   Oh and there’s no requirement for authority or credibility either.

One last question…I’m almost afraid to ask.  Who’s a “person” under Bill 45?  The government website says the Bill applies to “employees” who are forbidden to strike.  It also states its purpose is to hold “unions” and “individuals” (who wouldn’t necessarily have to be union employees) accountable for breaking the law.  Employees or individuals, which is it?

Mr Hancock clearly thinks Bill 45 applies to everyone, not just union employees, otherwise he’d have shut down the oppositions’ questions about people calling into radio talk shows as being irrelevant and outside the scope of the Bill.

Not to worry, Bill 45 allows the Lieutenant Governor in Counsel to make regulations defining terms that are not defined in the Act.

So sometime in the not too distant future we may find out (if we keep our eyes peeled for upcoming orders-in-council) exactly who Bill 45 applies to, what constitutes a “strike treat” and what’s involved in “counselling” a strike or a strike threat.   Quelle relief!

A Charter Challenge

The union will (and must) mount a legal challenge to Bill 45.  It will argue that Bill 45 violates our charter rights:  freedom of assembly (you and me meeting at the pub to discuss whether we should go on strike) and freedom of speech (can we even say “strike” or is that a “strike threat”?)

The government will hire the best lawyers possible to defend this “junk law” and Alberta taxpayers will foot the bill.  The law suit drag on for years.

Meanwhile union after union will be slammed into the boards by a government that, unlike Nelson Mandela, never learned to listen to the people with wisdom, optimism and patience.  Instead it crushes the people at every turn–that’s what’s required to hold on to power at all costs.  Tragic.   

*Government Media Release Dec 5, 2013

**Bill 45, Section 1(1)(k) 

***Hansard, Dec 4, 2013, 3372

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29 Responses to Redford and Mandela: Hypocrisy and Hope

  1. Carlos Beca says:

    This is all surreal and very hard to believe. I just read that Guy Smith will not talk to Lukaszuk without a third party, such is the trust he has on the new minister of whatever. I would not talk to that idiot even with 6 parties present.
    Yes Alison Redford is going to South Africa to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela. It looks that half of Ottawa is going with the prime minister probably on taxpayer’s money. Nothing surprises me anymore. Suddenly they all need to clean up their guilty souls. It is revolting to witness this display of imbecility and total lack of respect for others.

    • Surreal is a good word for it. When Peter Lougheed died, Ms Redford wrapped herself in his legacy. She said: “He was a powerful inspiration to me. He was a role model and mentor for me both personally and professionally since I first met him many years ago.” If Bills 45/46 are any indication of what she’s learned from Mr Lougheed and Mr Mandela, then she’s a very slow learner.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Alison Redford is a fake. The best personification I have seen is her in pajamas reading children’s books for Christmas.
        Amazingly she has made it to the top of the political piramid in Alberta. This just tells you what one needs to get there. To me she is not even a smart person, because those know well how to hide their incompetence.
        I can only imagine what Mandela thought of her while she went there to tell him about democracy and democratic law. OMG

  2. Cod Father says:

    Would the Lt.Gov. dare invoke his rarely used power of reservation on Bill 45 followed by the Gov.Gen. using the rare power of disallowance on Bill 45?

    • What an excellent idea! Alberta’s Lt.Gov is His Honour, Col. (Ret’d) the Honourable Donald S. Ethell (I looked it up). As you point out, if he refuses to sign Bill 45 it will NOT be proclaimed into law. We can all write to him at: LTGov@gov.ab.ca. Apparently the correct way to address him is “Your Honour”. I’ll send a letter and let you know what he says.

  3. Joanna@champspersonaltraining.com says:

    Hi Susan. I saw a brief interview of Nelson Mandela while on vacation and besides expressing many thought-provoking ideas, he emphasized having to communicate with his enemies if there was ever going to be change. Correct me if I’m wrong but it sounds like the Alberta govt is not interested in communication or compromise but just getting their own way at whatever costs.

    Sent from my iPhone

    • Joanna, you nailed it. A friend just sent me a copy of the interview Ms Redford gave to the Canadian Bar Association right after she was elected. She talked about the need to change politics by engaging the community and said “we can’t be afraid of political debate”. Then last week she shut down political debate by invoking closure and allowing her Ministers to make, how shall I put this, “misinformed statements” in what little debate time there was available. Appalling!

  4. Susan shows how far the hapless Dave Hancock and his “progressive” premier have ventured beyond their depth. It is to be hoped that voters will remember the PC government’s intransigence at voting time.
    Susan, don’t hold back. Next time tell us how you really feel!

    • Phil, Redford’s “progressive” conservatives are now to the right of Harper.
      PS the reason the blog took so long coming out was that I had to keep editing it to get rid of comments that reflected how I really feel! 🙂

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Too bad Susan. We want to know how you really feel.
        I know what you mean except I do not have as good manners as you do.
        I do not like insults but I think in life sometimes there are situations when we have no choice and Alison Redford is an idiot and she should be pushed out of where she is.
        I send a letter to our Lt.General – with or without the ‘Honour’ – I am tired of those – I want action and as a citizen I am tired of silly waste of time with nice words. It is time to move forward. No more excuses that the dog ate my homework!!

  5. Janet Keeping says:

    Susan, This is so good. I have been thinking much the same thing but putting the hypocrisy in a broader context, e.g. also noting the government’s failure to protect vulnerable people such as kids in care and seniors. I’ll send you my piece as leader of the Greens when it’s finished. Keep up the great work!

  6. Thanks Janet. I would love to post your piece on the Soapbox if that’s OK with you. I’m working on a companion piece about Bill 46–these two bills are bookends intended to crush the unions. It will be up in the next day or so (depending on how often I have to stop and edit out enraged comments and asides!)

  7. Carlos, I’ve sent off my letter to the Lt Gov. Next up–my letter to the Premier, Mr Horner, Mr Hancock and the leaders of the opposition parties. I should just put these guys on speed dial!

    • carlosbeca says:

      🙂 I love it 🙂 I know you can get them way more than just the speed dial. Go fo it Susan and publish you letter here so other Albertans know that we are not all sleeping in line.
      Thank you for doing that.
      I am not writing one because I know that first I would go to jail and secondly I doubt they would understand it. 🙂

  8. Andrea Bosse says:

    I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who’s been disturbed by all of the corrupt politicians across the spectrum talking about Nelson Mandela as though they even come close to holding the same values. From Redford to Harper to the drone assasin Obama, the level of hypocricy is stunning. To give credit where it is due, however, I do think the one exception is Brian Mulroney – he is the only one of the lot who actually did stand up to support Nelson Mandela – contrary to the U.S. and. U.K. positions on the issue. While I may not have agreed with Mulroney on lots of other issues, as far as I’m concerned he is the only one who deserves to attend the Mandela funeral at Canadian taxpayers’ expense.

    • Andrea, a friend sent me a communication from Premier Redford to everyone on her mailing list. In it she describes Bills 45 and 46 as protecting taxpayers from the costs of illegals strikes, imposing stiffer penalties on unions and individuals and getting AUPE back to the bargaining table. Then she prattled on about her progress on Building Alberta–high speed internet, twinning Hwy 63 and capital funding to U of Lethbridge, Lethbridge College and NorQuest College. Then she talked about visiting China (photo included).

      Then just under her signature she added a post script. Here it is: P.S. The world lost a great man on Thursday with the passing of Nelson Mandela. I had the privilege of working alongside President Mandela as South Africa wrestled with the challenges of ending decades of Apartheid and creating a new, equal, and fair legal system. As I said in my statement, I will miss his incredible influence. As you read this, I’ll be en route to South Africa with Prime Minister Harper to honour his memory on behalf of every Albertan.

      A post script! It struck me as tactless and disrespectful along the lines of PS if anyone needs to reach me I’ll be at Mandela’s funeral.

  9. Bruce Jackson says:

    Perhaps we need to provide white canes for our current leadership as they seem totally blind to their power and arrogance. We will have to provide hearing aids as well.
    Would heart transplants be beyond question??

    Bruce

    • Bruce, may I suggest a brain transplant would also be in order. This draconian legislation appears to be a ham fisted response to the Edmonton Remand Centre labour dispute–a wildcat strike over work place safety, not money. I discussed it in a recent blog: https://susanonthesoapbox.com/2013/05/05/strike-while-the-iron-is-hot-the-edmonton-remand-centre-labour-dispute/ Dr Sherman (Lib) says that the government was in a rush to open this state-of-the-art facility and critical safety policies had not been finalized. Ms Blakeman (Lib) says Bill 45 is the result of a wildcat strike over a pane of glass that could be smashed with a cup. All opposition MLAs agree that the government grossly mishandled the situation.

      The government was furious that the workers and others went on a wildcat strike over something that Mr Lucaszuk trivialized as a “personality conflict” and Mr Hancock said could have been resolved with a call to the occupational health and safety hot line.

      As some of the opposition members pointed out, the unions used wildcat strikes to bring in the five day work week, the minimum wage and safer working conditions–which benefit us all. This time the unions are fighting for their Charter Rights. All Albertans will benefit when the Supreme Court of Canada rules in their favour. Funny how history keeps repeating itself when a government’s prime concern is to stay in power.

  10. Julie Ali says:

    Hi Susan,

    I think these bills are a sign that the Tories are afraid of voters.
    Why else would they muzzle us like pit bulls when we are all terriers?

    I mean they already have total control of the province since we already self-monitor our workplace discourse so as to not get labeled anti-Tory— but now they want to control what we think and what we say in other public spaces where I believe we have the right to free speech. Actually I think we have the right to free speech anywhere –work or non-work but in Alberta it has never felt like we had the ability to say what we think because of big Brother and now big Alison.

    Every time I opened my yap in the past, folks would tell me to be careful.
    Careful of what?
    I see that this is what was implicitly known–that there are consequences for saying what you think that has now been made explicit as a legalized threat now.
    You gotta admire these folks. They get an embarrassing strike by prison workers and voila! The retribution is draconian. But effective.

    I think these bills will do the job of curtailing free speech since we don’t have the cash to defend ourselves in court and so we will all go beyond the usual Pablum chatter caused by our rabid self-monitoring and enter the good place that Redford and the Hancock as lawyers know we are cornered into which is silence. The failure of the lawyers is astounding to me –what about the professional requirements of the profession? Aren’t they supposed to be ethical and humane members of the profession dedicated to the truth? Apparently not. Once the lawyers enter the bitumen royalty we have laws that are anti-democratic.

    It’s a pretty bully attempt that adds to the other bully attempts of regulating discourse and the message in Alberta and it has worked for the public in this case because the public for some strange reason dislikes unions more than it dislikes the Tories. Unlike the fuss made over bill 28 that would have impacted the fiefdoms of the Tory faithful (the hive) there is no fuss made here because golly gee we are pressing down on the proletariat and not the royalty.

    I hope the proletariat folks in Alberta wake up and see the anti-democratic nature of the Tories but I am not hopeful since they are now converting universities from thinking places to Trade School Universities. Thinking is not encouraged in Alberta and the last bastion of some thinking is now being made into chaos so as object lessons are offered to professionals who do think. It may end with the entire educational system in a hash. I hope not but since the main objective of the university chaos is to ensure the folks there know who is in charge (the Redford) and to toe her Mao line–I don’t think we will get any sort of resistance from the universities to the revamping of our society to Republican blueprints.

    I mean the universities were always a sort of research center for big oil that never really worked because if I take just one example–they haven’t been able to spin oilsands tailings into anything other than oilsands tailings even after spending tons of our public money on it. They are now hoping that oil sands tailings ponds made into lake districts will solve the problem. And the future work of the universities will be to do what big oil asks them to do-as it was always doing–but on a bigger scale. This is the reason we have the China Institute and the push to make everyone follow the Conference Board of Canada’s sage advice on what our kids should train for.

    I am sure you are correct in everything you say in this post but I don’t think appealing to anyone is going to help matters. From the toiling worker on the street with the debts that keep them working to the top dogs in Alberta, there is a strange apathy that I call the Alberta Advantage that seems to have corrupted folks and I don’t think ordinary thinking Albertans can budge the majority from their child-like belief in the bitumen royalty in Alberta.

    I can’t say I understand why everyone is so afraid of the Tories.
    I mean I am not afraid of them.
    They’ve already done their worst by their 145 kids in the foster care system that they aren’t talking about who are dead.
    What is worse than this?
    Losing your job?
    I’d say losing your values and love for democracy is worse than losing your job.

    So although I am glad everyone is writing about this issue this is a problem that needs to be in the heads and minds of ordinary Albertans and because everyone is working like mad to pay off their debts and keep their jobs, these ordinary Albertans will put up with the Stalin and Mao pair of lawyers and shut up until the next election.
    I think this is a bad thing but what can you do?
    The folks who will decide the matter are heifers and steers.
    They may turf the China group we have now.
    But then they may be even dumber and vote Wildrosie.

    This current group of lawyers and shyster we have in the government are a hypocritical group as you have pointed out and yet, there has been one positive thing from the hiring of the Redford—I have learned an enormous amount about dirty politics from her.
    I’ve learned how politicians can lie and lie and lie without shame.
    I’ve learned that these lying politicians are mostly Tories.
    I’ve learned that deMockracy occurs when citizens don’t hold the lying Tories accountable.
    I’ve learned that it takes a great many passionate citizens to get together and unite to get change.
    In the last municipal election I worked on Dave Colburn’s campaign. Vote splitting prevented the hiring of a new councillor to ward 7.

    We got the same Tony Caterina back.
    It’s a shame.
    We have to unite the opposition beyond the partisan politics in order to turf the Tories out and prevent a Wildrosie victory.
    The Wildrosies are the extreme Tory version of today.
    And right now they are doing what Redford did to get elected.
    They’re using what we want (our three wishes for moderate, liberal and representative government) to get elected.
    In fact they will be worse than Redford if they get in.
    Don’t believe me?
    Just look at Harper and crew in Ottawa.

    I’m a Tory but these Conservatives are not my daddy’s Tory party.
    They are the Republican Tea Party from the good old USA.
    And they’re here to make Canada a Petro-colony (which by the way it was already to a major extent). They’re just making the colonization complete.

    The only thing that prevents the complete transformation to USA today in Alberta and Canada is an opposition that represents the majority of us who will not vote Tory in the next election.
    Will the opposition do their job of not splitting the vote?
    I’d say they’d better.
    If each opposition party decided to cooperate and have only one main opposition representative–eg. NDP and no Liberal or Green candidate–they could thereby keep their individual parties and get the opposition vote to coalesce around the single opposition candidate.
    This would be a smart thing to do.
    I don’t know if the opposition parties are this smart.
    They don’t seem to be.
    In the Edmonton election for example, if the candidate who had come in third in ward 7 had just used her brain and put her supporters behind Dave Colburn we could have evicted a poor councillor. Instead we had vote splitting and we are stuck for four more years.

    It is discouraging.
    But at least I am learning a great deal about dirty politics.

    • Janet Keeping says:

      Hi, Susan. Here is the link to my blog on Redford’s hypocrisy on the GPA website: http://greenpartyofalberta.ca/honouring-mandela-means-respecting-human-rights-here-at-home/ It originally appeared on Troy Media’s website at http://www.troymedia.com Take good care, Janet

    • Julie, you’ve made many good points here, especially your point about vote splitting. I’m not sure why the progressives continue to go down that path election after election, but they do. We had the same problem here in Calgary Centre when Harvey Locke (Liberal) and Chris Turner (Green) ran against Joan Crockatt (idiot). Naturally Harvey and Chris split the vote, both camps thought they’d have won had the other withdrawn, and Joan became my Conservative MP by default. Galling. If we could just get our act together in 2016 we’d have half a chance of rebalancing the power in the Legislature because there will be vote splitting on the right this time as the WR and the PC candidates fight for votes. This will open up more seats for the progressives. Let’s keep pressuring them to do the sensible thing and not run against each other, especially when one of the parties has a great candidate and the others are much weaker. It’s just plain stupid.

  11. JM says:

    Thank you Susan for your insight and great comments! We need to unite, union or non-union, employer or employee, it doesn’t matter. This government is turning into a dictatorship and it WILL impact us all at the end of the day. Unfortunately there are many Albertans that don’t realize that yet.

    • You’re absolutely right JM. I was talking with a friend today (another lawyer) and we’re both aghast at the impact of Bills 45 and 46. I don’t know what it will take to get Albertans to wake up to their loss of fundamental freedoms, but we need to do everything we can to support the unions who must fight this all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada for all our sakes.
      PS Anyone who has any information on how the general public can support the unions (rallies? petitions? etc) should feel free to share that information here.

  12. Susan, your thoughts about Alison Redford’s hypocrisy when she invoked Mandela’s influence so soon after supporting Bills 45 and 46 echoed my thoughts exactly. I read a review of an article recently on racial capitalism, “a process of deriving social or economic value from the racial identity of another person.” (Nancy Leong, “Racial Capitalism” (2013) 126 Harv. L. Rev. 2151 at 2153). I think that’s exactly what we’re seeing here, though perhaps it goes beyond race.
    Keep up the great rants!

    • Thanks Jennifer! I suspect you’re right. In my view the provincial and federal governments make it as easy as possible for businesses to derive “social or economic value” from the racial identify and many other attributes of the “anxious class” (those who face job insecurity through outsourcing and downsizing and their young who can’t find decent jobs). The young say that their generation will be the first that won’t have as good a standard of living as their parents. Why is that and why do we as a society accept that?

  13. David Grant says:

    Well there is some good news with the injunction. While that is small, it is a sign that there are those who side with us on this issue. It is up to everyone to do what they can to let the government know what they thought of this bill. If anyone wants information about this bill they can go AUPEs website for more information. I was told by someone in my union that there maybe another rally planned in Edmonton. One thing to remember is that activism did stop the exploitation of the Monterey Workers in Calgary. That was a long struggle which did end with a contract that for the workers which gave them the pay they deserve. If these workers could fight as hard as they did, we should do the same with Bill 45 and 46.

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