Redford and Mandela: Hypocrisy and Hope (Part 2)

“He would continually bring people back to the table.  That was his greatest strength”—Ms Redford on Nelson Mandela*

Sadly, Ms Redford never learned how to bring “people back to the table” here in Alberta.  So she resorted to the meat hammer—ramming through Bill 46 for force a “settlement” on the AUPE in order to abort the compulsory arbitration process.

Peter Lougheed

With a stoke of the pen, Ms Redford destroyed the integrity of Mr Lougheed’s promise to 100,000 public service employees who gave up the right to strike in return for a statutory right to compulsory arbitration. 

Let’s make a deal (or not)

The preamble to Bill 46, the Public Service Salary Restraint Act, overflows with vacuous statements about the government “living within its means” and seeking “better market alignment” with public service employees in other provinces.

Ms Redford said she wants the government to reach a “fair deal for taxpayers and a fair deal for public servants.”**Public servants don’t pay taxes? 

Interestingly, the government’s commitment to “living within its means” does not apply to MLA compensation or paying a certain deputy minister double what her fellow DMs are being paid.

Similarly, the principle of “market alignment” only works one way—down.  Mr Horner told the House that “...all of the research…would suggest that we are very competitive, and we should stay that way.”***   

Mr Bilous

Well then, said Mr Bilous (NDP), Alberta should consider the fact that BC just gave its 51,000 public service employees a 5.5% increase over five years together with a bonus if the BC economy continues to grow.  Mr Horner said the BC situation was unique—it came about through negotiation which (he said in a bizarre leap of logic) is exactly what the government is doing with Bill 46.

Let me get this straight.  The government rammed through Bill 46 which forces a four year settlement of 0%, 0%, 1% and 1% so that AUPE will come back to the bargaining table and get what?  Certainly not the five year 5.5% plus bonus settlement BC’s public service got because that’s “unique”.  

Mr Horner described Bill 46 as a framework for negotiations (actually it’s a law).  But he can’t explain why the law put in place by Peter Lougheed in 1971 is suddenly so inadequate.

Here’s a clue:  The Lougheed arbitration clause requires the arbitrator to consider wages and benefits in the public and private sectors within the context of Alberta’s general economy.  The Conference Board of Canada says Alberta’s outlook is “exceedingly bright” with a 3.4% increase in 2014 and a 2.6% increase in 2015…in other words, Mr Horner’s offer of zippo is unacceptable.

It’s just this once

Mr Horner can’t understand why we’re fussing.  Sure, Lougheed’s government passed a law guaranteeing the unions compulsory arbitration, and sure, Redford’s government just passed a law breaking that law, but it’s only this once and only for the AUPE, so what’s the big deal?

Mr Horner

Let me spell it out for you Mr Horner.  Passing a law which crushes a right guaranteed by law even once is a betrayal of public trust and immoral.

Furthermore, singling out one group, who will be held up to others as an object lesson of what to expect if they don’t fall into line is also immoral.

Lastly, defending this immoral law as an example of prudent fiscal practice and living within our means is the height of hypocrisy.

Sadly, it’s working.  Too many people have accepted the “taxpayers” (us) versus “unions” (them) dichotomy.  They relish the thought of the unions getting a dose of their own medicine (whatever that means).  They’re blind to the bigger issue at stake which is this:  If the government can strip away the fundamental rights of one segment of society, they can strip away your fundamental rights as well.

Bills 45 and 46 exposed

Bill 46 took away the union’s right to compulsory arbitration without giving back its right to strike.  Bill 45 made it illegal to even whisper about the possibility of a strike (all strikes are illegal) or take steps to protect the public in the event an illegal strike might be coming.

Redford’s government justifies the breach of the union’s fundamental rights on the basis of living within our means and remaining competitive—at a time of unprecedented economic growth.

Professor Charles Derber in his book Morality Wars calls this “immoral morality” where certain principles and beliefs are used to justify socially harmful or unethical policies.

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela fought tooth and nail against “immoral morality” in South Africa.  Ms Redford worked with him as part of a team steering Africa out of apartheid and rebuilding its legal system.  And yet she learned nothing from the man she called her friend.

But we have.  We’ve learned we can fight these immoral laws by doing exactly what Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, asked us to do:  (1) protest to protect our democratic rights, (2) reassess Ms Redford (is she really a progressive conservative) and (3) support the public sector workers.****

Who knows, maybe Ms Redford’s attempt to crush the unions will reinvigorate the union movement in Alberta.  Wouldn’t that be ultimate justice!

* Calgary Herald, Dec 6, 2013, A3

**Hansard, Nov 28, 2013, 3196 

*** Hansard, Dec 4, 2013, 3384 

****Calgary Herald , Dec 4, 2013 A15  

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21 Responses to Redford and Mandela: Hypocrisy and Hope (Part 2)

  1. In Canada we are beginning to recognize through the Truth and Reconciliation an untold history of the injustices and racist policies and legacy we struggle with today. When President Obama spoke at the Celebration of Life for Nelson Mandela – he spoke the words/ “There are too many people who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation put passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality…. |There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom but do not tolerate dissent from their own people.” When these words were spoken I thought of both Premier Allison Redford and PM Steven Harper as possible leaders who the words may apply. Why did my thoughts go there?
    The recent bills in both houses of legislation.
    Seems the Koch brother’s Institute for Democratic Reform has been sending their materials to Canadian politicians like they offered Wisconsin. Same ideas – different place. Small minds tend to think alike.

    • Absolutely! In Morality Wars Charles Derber, a sociology prof at Boston College, says “It is one thing to do evil, another to do evil in the name of good”. Both are destructive but immoral morality warps the moral fabric of society. We challenge people who do bad things and in so doing strengthen moral society. But it’s difficult to challenge people who do bad things under the cover of good values (in the South, the churches supported slavery as the way to bring salvation to African heathens). Left unchecked, such immoral morality will break down society. All highfalutin words to say all Albertans need to support the unions in their fight against Bills 45 and 46 and whatever else this wretched government intends to rain down on us over the next two years.

  2. Carlos Beca says:

    Interesting that those words came from Obama because he has been part of this group of leaders that come up with nice slogans but that is about all they have to offer. I am sure he is going to be on the list as the biggest disappointment in American History.
    As far as Alison Redford and her gang of quite substandard ministers, she is not even worth the amount of posts we have managed to write here. I believe she has lived for so long in her make belief world that she does not even know what reality is anymore and the damage she is causing to this province and especially to politics in general. Peter Lougheed would have had a brain freeze if he was alive today.

    • I agree Carlos that Redford may not be worth the air time, but it’s the only way we can spread the word about the impact of her actions on all Albertans. I’m looking forward to the day when Redford and her government are packed up and out of the Legislature and we have other things to discuss. However until we get there we need to (as a good friend put it) “stand watch” so they know they can’t take liberties with our rights and get away with it.

  3. Janet Keeping says:

    This is great stuff, Susan. I particularly appreciate your reminding us of one of the great truths, as you put, of “the bigger issue at stake which is this: If the government can strip away the fundamental rights of one segment of society, they can strip away your fundamental rights as well.” The basic decency or humanity of a society is an integrated package: either a government gets that it exists to serve us all equally, or it does not. And this government neither understands that truth nor wishes to, as far as I can see. They see their mission as not to serve the public interest but to hold onto power.

    • Exactly. To your point about a government understanding that it exists to serve us all equally…I think that is the point Carlos is making–the PC government’s purpose is to hold on to power and to serve those who put them there. It’s a nice symbiotic relationship.

  4. Carlos Beca says:

    Janet very well said, I just add to your last sentence that there is unfortunately more than hold on to power. These people serve an elite class that in the last 30 years has benefited tremendously financially and otherwise. It was reported that just this year alone the fortunes of the wealthiest people in Canada has grown 15%. Just this year. There is an interest they are serving and I am sure there is also a cost.

    • Janet Keeping says:

      I agree, Carlos. There are powerful interests served by this government, one of them being the coal industry. Hence, Alberta is not moving as quickly as it should to produce less electricity from burning coal and more from demonstrably safer renewables such as solar, geo-thermal and wind.

      • carlosbeca says:

        You got that very right Janet. The coal industry and others know very well what to do to maintain the status quo. Our Leaders on the other hand do not mind at all to help them along.

  5. John Smith says:

    I am using a pseudonym because I’m a public servant and I do not trust the Redford government. I could not agree more with this outstanding post. I couldn’t believe that Redford would show her face at the Mandela tribute after ramming through these profoundly undemocratic bills. It is simply not possible to more of a hypocrite than that. Thank you for these words and best wishes to the AUPE in their fight against this nonsense.

    • Thank you for your comments John. I don’t blame you for not trusting the Redford government, it hasn’t earned our trust.
      The public is slowing catching on to the impact of these draconian bills. Friends who’ve never given unions a second thought are horrified. The union’s fight is our fight. We will do everything we can to support them.

  6. Hi Susan. I thought you’d like to know that ABlawg nominated Susan on the Soapbox for a 2013 Clawbie. Here’s our nomination:

    Susan Wright’s blog offers incisive commentary on legal and public policy issues in Alberta. For example, her recent posts on “Redford and Mandela: Hypocrisy and Hope” (here and here) offered a compelling critique of 2 Alberta Bills (45 and 46) rushed through the legislature that will greatly curtail the rights of public sector workers. Those posts have generated many comments from Susan’s readers, including the leader of Alberta’s Green Party. Susan on the Soapbox is a much needed forum for progressive debate on law, policy and democracy in Alberta.

    Good luck in the competition!

    Your friends at ABlawg

  7. kbjcalgary says:

    Okay, I know I am often dazed and confused, reading these blogs, but I thoroughly enjoy the heated debates above. But I got stuck on the math here. So in a province who has privatized much of what is still considered “public” in BC, Alberta has twice the number of public service employees than BC? Perhaps our desire to “live within our means” would be better addressed through efficiencies and removing the bureaucratic overheads like 175+ VPs in Alberta Health Services for instance. How can there be so much administration in a public service so small? And with our so-robust economy, isn’t now a great time for them to find work (and reality) in the private sector?

    • Great points and perfectly timed KBJ! Today’s Daily Oil Bulletin provides an update on the transition to a “streamlined” Alberta Energy Regulator (that mashup of the ERCB, Environment and Sustainable Development under one umbrella).

      Guess what, Jim Ellis, AER’s CEO, is busy hiring. In addition to the 100 employees brought over from Environment & Sustainable Resources and the 150 more coming in the spring he expects to increase headcount by an additional 8% to 12%. He’s already beefed up the executive staff which now includes an executive vice president of stakeholder and government relations. Shades of AHS. This EVP is responsible for aboriginal groups and local communities as well as “stakeholders” like the governments like BC, Sask, NWT and Washington, plus policy development. So if AER is working with provincial and international governments and developing policy what are the Ministries of Energy (McQueen) and Environment (Campbell) and all their staff doing?

      Looks to me like you can build an empire if you work in energy, but are cut to the bone if you’re a front line public servant working anywhere else.

  8. Chris Conway says:

    I was banned from Redford’s Facebook page for calling her a hypocrite for attacking workers while wrapping herself in fake Mandela sanctimony.

    I chuckled about the irony all day. What a fraud she is.

  9. Carlos Beca says:

    Chris I would feel proud of myself if I managed to be banned from her page. It is a sign that you think critically. She only wants ‘Yes Mum …’ bozos. She needs that praise to make her day. This is why Lukaszuk is no longer her deputy minister. He was doing the same thing. Big egos need morons around them.

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