Premier Prentice likes corporate-speak (“under new management”, “price takers, not price makers”, etc) so let’s apply a corporate communication tool, the FAQ, to explain the government’s rationale for Bill 10. And let’s assume for a wild and crazy moment that the answers his spokesperson provides are the unvarnished truth.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q: What problem is Bill 10 intended to rectify?
A: Research shows that LGBTQ students feel more unsafe in their schools, suffer more from depression, and make more suicide attempts than heterosexual students.
Q: What can schools do to help LGBTQ students?
A: They can allow students to form gay-straight alliances (GSAs) which have been shown to reduce the incidence of depression and suicide in LBGTQ students.
Q: Does Bill 10 allow students to form GSAs?
A: Yes, but students need the consent of their school boards.
Q: So that’s a no, right?
A: Yes. I mean no. Students can sue a school board that refuses to give them permission.
Q: You’re joking. You want kids to litigate to protect themselves from discrimination?
A: Um. Yes.
Q: Are you expecting students to hold bake sales to fund their lawsuits?
A: Well, the government isn’t going to subsidize them. The government subsidizes corporations. It does not subsidize people…well, okay it subsidizes rich people. Why am I talking about this?
Q: OK just to make sure I’ve got this straight. Bill 10 does NOT allow kids to form GSAs, because they can be shut down by red neck school boards, but it’s a good thing because it lets kids spend thousands of dollars and countless years in court trying to force school boards to allow them to form GSAs to protect them from discrimination. Did I get that right?
Q: And this makes sense, why?
A: Because it “balances” the rights of LGBTQ students to be free from discrimination with the rights of parents and school boards to discriminate against them. And guess what, grownups’ rights trump kids’ rights because grownups vote.
Q: Looks to me like redneck grownups’ rights trump the rights of parents who would like to see GSAs in their kids’ schools.
A: Yeah, that too.
Q: Are you proud of yourself?
A: You bet!
Q: Is there anything I can do about this ludicrous situation?
A: Sure, you can vote out redneck school boards…and while you’re at it you can vote out the government that gave them the right to take away your children’s rights. Oops did I just say that out loud?
Interview terminated. Spokesperson fired.
NEWSFLASH!! Prentice amends Bill 10. If a school board rejects the kids request for a GSA they can contact the Minister of Education who will “facilitate and support” setting up a GSA. Bill 10 passes 38 to 17.
Q: What does “facilitate and support” mean?
A: How would I know? Set up a meeting in an empty portable across town—no wait we don’t have any spare portables. Write the school board a “Gee whiz guys, help me out here” letter? Set up a Facebook page? Twitter “Go kids go!”?
Interview terminated. Second spokesperson fired.
Sent from my iPhone
Thanks Ken. The stupidity of this government never ceases to amaze me.
Best explanation I’ve seen yet of the lunacy of Bill 10, thanks Susan!
John it’s gotten even loonier with the amendment which replaces the obligation to take a school board to court with the obligation to contact the Minister of Education (who ran an educational institution that required students to sign a morality clause) to get his facilitation and support. It takes public interest groups and action committees months to set up a telephone appointment with their MLAs. Imagine how long it will take a teenager from Okotoks to get through.
hi Susan…I agree with both of the above commenters. Very well done. Bill 10 is disgusting. The only thing I would add is that studies show that GSAs make schools safer for LGBT AND straight kids. Prentice should be ashamed of himself.
Great point Simon, thanks for sharing it. I agree with your comment about Prentice. Apparently the three Tories who voted against it were Thomas Lukaszuk, Doug Griffiths and Ian Donovan. This is peculiar in that Jason Luan (PC) made an impassioned pitch against the amendment during the debate but appeared to fold when it came to the vote. I don’t know the story behind Ian Donovan, former WR, now PC, voting against it. The whole thing is a mess.
Thanks for sharing. Power and authority (aka) bullying often trumps equality and respect**. No wonder there is so much bullying and violence in all levels of our culture. Continue to support and enhance Domestic Violence by maintaining patriarchy and fear. Hard to comprehend what Human Rights truly means in Alberta.
Thanks for the link to the power wheel, Holycow. I note that some of the examples of abuse include intimidation, isolation, coercion and emotional abuse. Given some of the sad stories I’ve heard of young people coming out to their parents I would think many of them were on the receiving end of these behaviors. All the more reason to make GSAs available to them in school.
What did you expect from this Mafia? I am actually surprised that the answer was not – ‘ Well we should the market decide whether or not the LGBTQ communitty should survive’.
This of course would be a better answer than the Wildrose one about burning gays on the cross.
Carlos, in yesterday’s Globe & Mail Prentice is quoted as saying that despite concerns, Bill 10 is a strong and balanced piece of legislation. He said “rights are never absolute”. In other words, rights are “conditional” upon other stuff. While I understand that the right to free speech does not allow someone to yell “Fire” in a crowded movie theatre, I don’t understand how Prentice can pass legislation that enshrines sexual preference as a protected class in the Bill of Rights but then says LBGTQ students need to get permission from the school board and failing that, the assistance of the Education Minister, to set up a club in publicly funded schools but the kids who want a Glee Club do not.
Well he is probably right, Bill 10 is a strong and balanced piece of legislation, but in what context? Within the half brain PC Mafia I am sure this Bill is too Progressive for them to be able to sleep at night.
Well I was not too wrong in my assessment of Jim Prentice. If anything I was too positive.
Brilliant! This should go viral!
It will if you guys tweet and facebook it! Thanks Jane.
I wouldn’t want to live in a place where a big heavy handed government can tell an independent school what to do in their private property. That’s not democracy and that’s not Canada.
Brian, a couple of points here. Independent schools are publicly funded so they fall under the Alberta Bill of Rights and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual preference. A school board that refuses to allow LBGTQ youth to set up a GSA is violating the law. If the independent schools wish to exclude themselves and their students from the protections provided by the Bill of Rights and the Charter, all they have to do is refuse to accept public funding.
Naomi Lakritiz’s column excerpted below is a useful reply to Tumbach’s comment. I’d add that democracy is not founded on protection of private property as its first organizing principle.
Naomi Lakritz excerpts:
Lakritiz excerpt: “What claptrap, and let’s hope the Tories don’t borrow the Wildrose’s regressive idea when all is said and done.
We’re talking about a school club. How does the existence of a club, which is not even part of the curriculum, affect the autonomy of school boards? It doesn’t.
The boards shouldn’t concern themselves with such matters. If anything, trustees should be happy that high school students are forming these alliances and helping to fight discrimination.”
longer Lakritz excerpt:
“Brickbats to Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith, who came up with her own equally disgusting compromise. Wednesday, she proposed an amendment to the bill that would allow a three-member panel to decide about GSAs. This, according to a Wildrose news release, “would provide a swift and free appeal panel process rather than forcing students to go through an expensive and cumbersome legal appeal. The appeal panel of no fewer than three individuals would either confirm board decisions or recommend how to better support students.”
No word on how this panel would be selected, or by whom, but Smith said her amendments would “find the right balance between the rights of LGTBQ students and the autonomy of locally elected school boards.”
What claptrap, and let’s hope the Tories don’t borrow the Wildrose’s regressive idea when all is said and done.
We’re talking about a school club. How does the existence of a club, which is not even part of the curriculum, affect the autonomy of school boards? It doesn’t. The boards shouldn’t concern themselves with such matters. If anything, trustees should be happy that high school students are forming these alliances and helping to fight discrimination.
Or maybe the boards would prefer the status quo — younger children running around at recess calling each other “fags.” That’s what I hear all the time on the playground of my neighbourhood school whenever I walk by during recess. And I’ve never seen the teachers who are outdoors with these kids do anything but ignore it. If GSAs help these kids move from bigoted insults to breaking down barriers when they get into the upper grades, why should anyone object?”
Sam, great column by Lakritiz. I wonder whether the Calgary Herald editorial board would still say Jim Prentice is the next Peter Lougheed.
re: private property and democracy argument by Taumbach
Seems to me private property owners of slaves once used a parallel argument to push back against democratic, humanist citizen movements, because of what they perceived to be ‘heavy handed’ government infringing on their property rights. That is, democratic representative governments that citizens had collectively decided must adopt public policy to abolish slavery.
And ultimately governments on behalf of the citizens who found slavery to be repugnant, a violation of human dignity and denial of the basic human right to be free, did prevail against private property arguments and their proponents. Democracies now recognize the human right to be free. And like the abolitionists, citizen movements for human rights are demanding their governments reject the private property and related religious arguments that defend sexual orientation discrimination.
In Canada, in this democracy, we have human rights legislation that protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation. And most of the citizenry think its wrong that religions/schools be permitted to pick and choose among human rights and discriminate based on their property rights or another supposed ‘private’ rights dogma, or literal readings of their respective holy Books.
A nation-state that actively relied or permitted religion to determine what human rights get respected? That would be a theocracy that you’re thinking of.
And you must have noticed even the current Pope has started to recognize this.
Well said Sam. Albertans were put on this slipperly slope by none other than their premier, Jim Prentice. He declared many times that “rights are not absolute”. Based on this premise he pushed his argument for “balancing” the “conditional” rights of LBGTQ students not to be discriminated against with the legislative rights of school boards to provide religious instruction pursuant to the 1905 Alberta Act (how GSAs impair a schools’ right to provide religious instruction is beyond me),, and the brand new right he created by enshrining a parent’s “right” to make informed decisions about their children’s education in the Alberta Bill of Rights.
So we’re looking at (1) characterizing an absolute right to be free from discrimination as a “conditional” right, (2) extending a legislative right to provide religious instruction to include the power to ban support groups for a sexual minority and (3) creating a new parental right that didn’t exist before…and Prentice decided it was ok to invoke closure on the debate in order to jam Bill 10 through the Legislature.
Abusive of the democratic process doesn’t begin to describe what Prentice tried to pull off over the last 2 weeks. Thank God Albertans were paying attention!
re Tumbach’s argument about government infringing on independent schools
Doug Griffiths explained quite clearly in the Legislature debate(excerpts below) why the schools are not being infringed upon by being required to permit GSA’s.
And he says some moving stuff about the values he’s taught his children about standing up against bullying, about human rights and treating everyone equally. Pretty good stuff.
Hopefully the PCAA doesn’t banish him further.
Doug Griffiths, MLA speaking in opposition to his own PCAA’s Bill 10
excerpt: “They (school boards) have the right and
ability by our Constitution to teach faith but not to enforce it.”
excerpt: “frankly, I think it’s absurd to ask
students to go to court to fight for the right to set up a GSA. I also
personally think it is abhorrent and ridiculous that we would ever
suggest that our school boards would have the right to tell students
whether or not they can set up a GSA.”
excerpt: “School boards are created to enforce education policy, Mr.
Chairman. That’s what they’re there to do. They deal with
education. Gay-straight alliances haven’t got a thing to do with
education, not one single thing, so in my mind no school board
should have the right to tell students that they’re not allowed to set
I can say this because I am Catholic. ”
excerpt: ” For me, this is about my sons. This is about what they are
going to be allowed to do in
the school to help defend people who are weak, who are picked
on, who are bullied or are treated without respect, Mr. Chairman.
That’s what I taught them. I believe they can make those
judgments and create the allegiances and the clubs and the
friendships that they need to to stand for those continued values. It
doesn’t need to be dictated by a school board, and it in no way
infringes on the school board’s ability to enforce educational
policy, which is what they’re elected to do.”
excerpt: “But my understanding from all my studying of
the Constitution is that that enables Catholic school boards to
teach their faith within the schools – teach their faith within the
schools – not enforce values on their students…
They have the right and ability by our Constitution to teach faith but not to enforce it.”
excerpt: “I’ve taught my boys that they need to be fair, that they need to
be equitable, that they need to love, that every single person
regardless of their disability or their race or their colour or their
sexual orientation or the colour of their hair, what clothes they
wear, is equal, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re Catholic or
Muslim or Protestant or have no religious values at all. Everybody
lives by those principles in their hearts, or they have bigger issues
to deal with.”
excerpt: “So if my boys, I was thinking, were in school – it doesn’t matter
if it’s a public school or a Catholic school – and they saw friends
that they have in junior high or high school that are gay and being
picked on and they decided they wanted to set up a gay-straight
alliance, I taught them the values of defending people and to stand
up for people and to have everyone be treated with respect. There
is no way I would accept a school board of any religious
background or nonreligious background to dictate to my sons
whether or not they’re allowed to partner with gay students to set
up a gay-straight alliance.”
excerpt: “Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what
your religious faith is. Agree that everyone is equal before God or
created equal, whether or not you believe in God. Dictating what
we’re going to allow our students to do when it is something that
has absolutely nothing to do with education is absurd.”
Both Griffiths and Lukaszuk made eloquent arguments in favour of GSAs in schools. I am impressed by their courage. And frankly mystified by all the comments coming from the PC side of the House about Sandra Jansen’s courage (Prentice also highlighted her courage in his “pause” press conference). Seems to me she did nothing but toe the PC party line–no courage there.
Speaking of a lack of courage did you see the exchange between Rachel Notley and Gord Dirks on Wednesday evening? Hansard, Dec 3, p 360:
Ms Notley: I would love to have the Minister of Education actually get up and engage in this debate.
Mr Dirks: Are you serious?
Ms Notley: I’m very serious, Mr. Minister. He’s asking if I’m serious about this suggestion. Let me be very clear, Minister, I am very serious. Telling kids that to have a gay-straight alliance club, they have to leave the property of their school…
An Hon. Member: Nobody is saying that.
Ms Notley: Yes, you are because you are absolutely refusing to insist that it can be provided on the school property. [interjections}
Mr Dirks had many opportunities to stand up and set the record straight if Ms Notley and the other Opposition members had gotten it wrong. He sat there and said absolutely nothing. He also ducked reporters who tried to catch him before the Legislature was in session and his press secretary was unavailable for comment. How’s that for representation and accountability? Looks more like arrogance to me.
Oh I am quite certain Mr.Prentice has recently issued a FAQ or two, yes indeed.
GoinFawr: I want to see the one that explains how Bill 10 went from a brilliant “balanced” bill on Monday to a fiasco by Thursday. The only thing that has plummeted faster is oil prices!
Interesting I have been wondering about that myself. 🙂
This bill must have been generated by Gordon Dirks progressive mind set 🙂
Carlos: “Progressive mind set” indeed!
re Susan’s comments that: “Mr Dirks had many opportunities to stand up and set the record straight if Ms Notley and the other Opposition members had gotten it wrong. He sat there and said absolutely nothing. He also ducked reporters who tried to catch him before the Legislature was in session and his press secretary was unavailable for comment. How’s that for representation and accountability? Looks more like arrogance to me.”
I agree with your pointing up the lack of representation and accountability of the current PCAA’s… but isn’t that critique largely confined to the perspective of AB citizenry that would consider themselves in the centre/left or progressive/left of centre of AB citizenry. No?
For the PCs, the so-con right is the voting segment in play with regard to mandatory acceptance of GSA’s.
I agree with some of the commentators out there: that the political crux of all this is the voting intention context of WRP’s high polls pre-Prentice: in that situation Dirk was an asset to be obtained, and remains an asset in PCAA’s competition with WRP. An asset re the so-con portion of the WRP base.
Given his widely known so-con resume, Dirk was Prentice’s very deliberate choice to ensure maximum recall of so-con’s to the PCAA tent. Recalling so-cons back from WRP, that is.
(And BTW, I’ll make the immodest claim that I made this point when Dirks was announced for the bye-election — just sayin’ that my cynical take on this is not based on 20-20 hindsight. At the time of his announcement, which for a lot of Albertans was a WTF?! moment, IMO upon reflection, it seemed to me there was no other explanation but a dog-whistle to so-cons in Prentice’s choice of Dirk. Prentice and his crew knew exactly what they wanted to achieve in recruiting Dirks. They were undercutting WRP as much as possible.)
Hence: Now, Dirk’s silence is necessary to ensure PC’s *don’t* actively alienate so-con voters by letting Dirks say anything that signals he has abandoned any of their dogma. I mean: If Dirks gets up and defends Bill 10, the PC’s bury themselves further than necessary into 1963 politics and thus alienate progressives.
But what’s much worse for the PCAA: If Dirks gets up and tries some hair-splitting mealy-mouthed sop in response to the progressive critique, then the so-cons across AB immediately doubt whether the PC’s are sticking with them. And that the lose-lose scenario for PC’s. Bill 10 already alienates progressives. If Dirks says anything that sounds like a back-pedal, then some of the so-cons go back to entrenching the WRP teaparty. Better for Dirk to not speak and let everyone complain about that silence, than speak up and make matters worse.
To repeat/expand my American-political analysis of the PC machinations: Dirk as cabinet member in a high-profile portfolio is able to function symbolically as the PC’s dog-whistle to AB so-cons.
Better Dirks stay silent and let the so-con voter base believe/hope that he and the PC will husband their agenda. Strict-father connotation intended.
Sam, I take your point. It is naïve for those of us who support the progressive agenda to expect Mr Dirks to represent us in these debates. But the fact that Mr Dirks failed to get up on his hind legs in support of his “courageous” colleagues sends a pretty weak message to the so-cons he was presumably put there to represent. At the very least he could have addressed how he, the Minister of Education, planned to “facilitate and support” a student appealing the school board’s decision not to allow him to start a GSA.
Frankly I think Mr Dirks lacks courage. He took a beating at the first all-candidates debate in the Calgary-Elbow by-election and failed to show up for the second debate which was scheduled at Mount Royal University. Given the venue we expected and received many questions about the $147 million cut to the education budget or the plan to introduce market modifiers for certain courses. When Mr Dirks hit a tough question in the first debate his answer was always the same: Jim Prentice is a wonderful leader and when he asked me to run I was honoured to join his team. That answer received “boos” the first time and likely would have garnered tomatoes at MRU. So rather than show up and face the music he hid. I wouldn’t be surprised if his response to the question: Are you going to the debate at MRU? was the same as his response to Rachel Notley, namely, “Are you serious?” How sad that this was the best the Mr Prentice could come up with.
re: Susan’s observation: “He took a beating at the first candidates debate in the Calgary-Elbow”
It does appear that he has limited skills as a debater or advocate, on his feet, given the evidence of his first few responses in GP.
That’s probably the main reason the PR/strategy team around Prentice would have decided to tell Dirks to dummy up, to stay in his seat once the GSA Bill 10 questions became quite intense. e.g. Had Dirks tried to engage with Notley, for example, he probably would have been shredded.
excerpt of Don Braid: Lukaszuk was the only PC to formally abandon the Prentice truck, which seems to be steering sharply toward Wildrose country.
Calgary Herald’s Don Braid (excerpt above) provides a supplemental to support my argument that Bill 10 is a recall by PCAA to so-con voters, a come home message, from PCAA to voters who went to WRP.
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Sam, I’m looking forward to Laurie Blakeman’s request that the Speaker put Bill 202 back on the Order Paper. Laurie knows that this request has virtually no chance of success.
In fact she refers to it as a “Hail Mary Pass” (for the non-sports fans in the room that’s a football term not a religious one). Nevertheless, there may be an opportunity for more commentary from the Premier who has failed to dig himself out of this mess. Indeed, a Globe and Mail editorial this morning called this “a major test of his leadership” and asked, would he take a principled stand in favour of equality or would he try to triangulate under the auspices of balancing the rights of gays, parents and faith-based schools. Mr Prentice did neither, he “paused” the Bill. This, the editorial says, is nothing more than a “punt”. In my view that’s a failure of leadership. Alberta is entering difficult times, if this is the quality of leadership we can expect we’re in big trouble.
Well done Susan, this is too good to just remain in print, it deserves to be brought to life in the form of a mock interview….
Jim, Mr Prentice’s press conference would fit the bill. He justified his decision to “pause” Bill 10 by saying that the government needed to do “further consultation”. A reporter asked who he’d already “consulted” with prior to tabling Bill 10. Mr Prentice referred to everyone he talked to when he was running for leadership and then campaigning in the by-election who apparently told him they found the law allowing parents to pull their kids out of classes on sexual orientation to be awful, then he admitted that no one had talked to him about GSAs. Another reporter asked him which political constituency was preventing the government from mandating GSAs in school. He responded with his classic response–he rejected the premise of the reporter’s question–he uses this tactic in Question Period all the time to blow off the Opposition. Now he’s using it to blow off the press too.
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