The 2017 List

Last year Ms Soapbox made a list of New Year’s resolutions for Rachel Notley.

Happily, Ms Notley delivered on the list, with the exception of resolution #4 (Ms Soapbox failed to anticipate the arrival of Jason Kenney on the political scene).

Rather than rewrite the whole thing Ms Soapbox decided to create a list of things she’d like to see happen in 2017.

She’d like your input.


Things to strive for in 2017

  1. The end of Trump-style politics                 

Politicians like Jason Kenney say they want to avoid the “nasty, negative, irresponsible populism” of Donald Trump but they never miss an opportunity to inflame Albertans by telling them Alberta is wracked with “despair and recession” and they should put their faith in Mr Kenney to put an end to Alberta’s economic slide.

This is straight out of the Trump play book.

And it works.

When a supporter approached Mr Kenney in a café and said “Go Trump” and that he was “totally fed up with Alberta’s communist” politics, Mr Kenney didn’t bother to explain that Trump was not running in Alberta and Albertans live in a democracy, not a communist state.

Mr Kenney just smiled and shook the fellow’s hand.

If we want to stop the spread of Trump-style politics in Alberta the press and all political leaders, including Brian Jean, must call out politicians who indulge in it.

And the public needs to wise up, which leads me to…

2.  More facts less drivel

Mr Kenney is utterly transparent about his intention to use public despair (his words not mine) to capture the hearts and minds of voters.

He describes the situation in Alberta as “a human tragedy” and admits he overlooked local issues when he was a federal Cabinet minister because he may have viewed Alberta’s economic malaise “too statistically”.

Too statistically?

One of the statistics Mr Kenney is willing to ignore is that Albertans pay $7 billion less in taxes than their closest neighbours even with the NDP’s carbon levy and tax increases. 

Another fact Mr Kenney is downplaying is that Justin Trudeau would not have approved two major pipelines if Rachel Notley had not implemented a Climate Leadership Plan.

Those who don’t like these facts respond with anti-Notley memes like “cavemen walked everywhere and the glaciers still melted”.  What?

Ignoring the facts and posting idiotic memes do not encourage political discourse.

Speaking of social media…

3. Less mass distraction, more public engagement 

Where do you get your news…no wait, do you even get the news?

George Monbiot attributes the election of Donald Trump, in part, to the rise of celebrity culture as played out in our newspapers and on social media.

He refers to a study by Nick Couldry and Tim Markham that found citizens who follow celebrity culture, including reality TV, music and fashion are less likely to be politically engaged than those who stay current on traditional political issues like the economy and the environment.

Celebrity followers are three times less likely to be involved in local organizations and two times less likely to volunteer.  They believe they have no influence over government and it doesn’t matter who is in power.

This is not happy news but it illustrates the challenges we face in getting the public to focus on the issues and critically analyze the Trump-style politics coming at them from Jason Kenney, Kellie Leitch and their ilk.

4. Human dignity

Rather than review all the instances where civil rights and human dignity have been trampled in the political arena under the guise of an attack on political correctness, let’s focus on an issue we’re all familiar with—gender pronouns.

Contrary to popular belief, people who express a preference for a specific gender pronouns are not special snowflakes who have been triggered; they’re human beings entitled to the same level of respect as the rest of us.

We’ve learned how to refer to women as Ms;  it won’t kill us to ask someone what pronouns they prefer and to use them appropriately.

5. Happy Birthday Canada, but…

Canada will be 150 years old this year.

We should pause and enjoy our good fortune, but also remember that now more than ever we need to protect our democratic institutions from the populists, racists and power hungry politicians who would tear them down.


Right, that’s my list…now it’s your turn.

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34 Responses to The 2017 List

  1. midgelambert says:

    Re Point #5: I’m going with Gord Downie on this one – this is Day One of the next 150 years which we need to mend our relationships with the Indigenous inhabitants – and all the other residents of this land we all share.

  2. Excellent point Midge. Thanks.

  3. Roy Wright says:

    It is incredible that Mr. Kenny, with his comment of overlooking local issues, can now say he will fix Alberta. His party was in power federally for 10 years or so, and he could not deliver a single pipeline in Canada or the USA…perhaps that was a local issue too. The man is plain old fashioned dangerous, slippery etc. I hope the PC’s will see him for what he is and put him into unemployment come March.

    • Mr Kenney hasn’t offered any substantive policies yet on how he intends to turn the economy around. All we’ve heard so far is eliminate the carbon tax and reduce personal and corporate taxes. Why that will boost oil and gas prices which drive our energy economy and which are not within the government’s control is anybody’s guess. But then again, the facts didn’t matter to Trump and they don’t appear to matter to Kenney either.

      • Bob Raynard says:

        Very true, Susan. I’m not really sure how cutting taxes will eliminate deficits, but I’m pretty sure all those Kenneyites have a collective IQ in the triple digits so maybe they know. We are also still waiting to see how Mr. Kenney will address climate change too.

      • Bob: I suspect Mr Kenney will resort to a slick explanation similar to the conservatives’ argument that the carbon tax is nothing more than a provincial sales tax. Trevor Tombe, a U of C economist, say this is a ridiculous argument. He says “George Orwell wrote that political language is designed to make lies sound truthful. That is precisely what is going on in the carbon tax debate in Alberta.” He says if we “demand clarity in words and respectful policy debates” we’ll all be better off.
        Hear hear!

  4. riversiderita says:

    Susan. I cannot understand this WordPress material. I want to go back to reading your column where I read if before. Will give up trying to write to you which appeared in my outlook junk box. My husband told me word press is for having a personal web site.

    Not what I want every time this wordpress comes up I have problem



    • Rita, I’m not sure why WordPress is giving you such a hard time. I’ve approved your comments in the hope that you’ll be able to post directly on to the website in the future.

      Have a wonderful new year!

  5. riversiderita says:

    Hi Susan,

    You have a genuine computer dummy here.

    Yes, I want to read your column, but am clueless about WordPress and most of what else I read in the instructions.

    Not even sure how I got this to appear in my email.

    Have read your columns in the past from where I read all the other columns–have them all on a page. Wanted to respond to your comments because your words agree with most of my very liberal ideas.

    Then I ran into problems with word press.

    Want to continue reading your columns, but now am getting all these directives from you which I do not understand.

    Perhaps I should return to my column page where I read everyone else like the other 2 Alberta columnists, Dave Braid, Tom Shields and several others who escape me at the moment.

    MIght be less aggravating if I conitue to read you at the original place where I found you as I do not understand word Press and still cannot write back to you.

    This ols way, you can count me as your silent follower!!!



  6. Douglas Taylor says:

    Quite tiresome to hear the red neck Wild Posie PeeCees hurl the epithet about “commie pinko” socialist government. Pretty rich if coming from the O & G sector set. with it’s long history of handouts, public resource giveaways, subsidies and infrastructure gifts, or if coming from the farm set with it’s never ending subsidies, welfare grants and again infrastructure gifts of dams, roads, business services. etc.
    #2 is probably the highest resolve. Like the endless politician ears tightly closed attacks against America’s Affordable Health Care Law, The Wilders continue to ask drivel questions against Bill 6 almost as a weekly pop-up to do item when they ask the House what was the reasoning behind this worker employment standards in agriculture. Brian Jean who supported the elimination of the discrimination before the ND election win, sits there while Drumheller farmer poster boy member Rick Strankman continually wastes the House time. A just released book by U of A Press answers the question but as opined, drivel trumps over facts. Reading such sociological analysis is just too many “facts” and besides Rosies don’t like to read much, it makes their lips tired.

    • Douglas, you’ve identified the real problem, people need to take the time to become informed. The Couldry/Markham study included a number of quotes from people who followed celebrity culture instead of traditional politics because they were “tired” after a long day at work and just wanted to relax. That’s a pretty weak excuse given that it’s politicians, not celebrities, who’ll protect your rights and freedoms and decide whether you’ll have access to healthcare, education, elder care, a clean environment and a safe workplace.
      I keep thinking about all the Americans who elected Trump. If they thought they were tired before they elected him, just wait until he’s finished with them.

  7. Dr. Robert C Dickson says:

    Excellent commentary as usual, thanks!

    To hasten the implementation of these exemplary ideals, it behooves is all to lead by example, to continue to inform and educate ourselves and others often and diligently, and to, as much as self respect allows, come from love rather than fear in the face of attacks from the under informed.

    • Well said Dr Dickson. It takes a remarkable leader to lead as “from love rather than fear in the face of attacks from the under informed.” The NDs are doing a remarkably good job of it given the level of misinformation being thrown about by the Opposition and Mr Kenney. I worry that the PCs and WR will up the ante as Kenney pushes ahead in his quest to become PC leader, Unite Alberta leader and premier.

  8. Carl Hunt says:

    #2. “Those who don’t like these facts respond with anti-Notley memes like “cavemen walked everywhere and the glaciers still melted”.  What?”
    The answer for fossil fuel supporters is – the stone age didn’t end when cavemen ran out of stone!
    #3. “Trump-style politics coming at them from Jason Kenney, Kellie Leitch and their ilk”. Does “ilk” refer to Kevin O’Leary, waiting in the wings?
    #6. I don’t think Albertans recognize the natural renewable resources that provide ‘quality of life’ that we’ve lost in just a few decades. Most of our native salmonids are listed under some criteria as ‘species at risk’ or ‘endangered’. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has now recognized the potential for groundwater contamination from fracking and leaking from abandoned wells. If this is true we will lose more than a few species of fish and have contaminated drinking water for the future.

    • Carl: re:
      #2: good point
      #3: yes although O’Leary, like Kenney, says he’s nothing like Trump
      #6: one of my friends is a political scientist, another is a healthcare researcher, both are extremely concerned about what we’re doing to our water. They cite groundwater contamination as well as the chemicals we release into the water from our own households and businesses as being major threats to our environment and our health.

      There are many many issues facing us in the years ahead. We need leaders who can engage with the public in a dispassionate and objective way now more than ever.

  9. Beata Izabela says:

    Thank you! Those are brilliant resolutions but I think first we have to rebuild institution of common sense in people in order for them to be implemented. If we restore common sense I think we will succeed. Happy New Year! I look forward to your weekly letters in 2017.

    • Beata you’re so right. My mother was a young girl in Hungary during WW2. She has more common sense (which translates to political acumen) than most politicians I’ve met. Once we were discussing George Bush’s invasion of Iraq. She was watching CNN’s glowing coverage of the fall of Baghdad. She said the US would never win that war notwithstanding all the people standing in the streets waving little US flags. She said, where do you think they got those flags? Who do you think told them to wave them? And what do you think will happen when the US leaves? She was right of course.

  10. Pearlman Katie says:

    Excellent analysis. You always manage to cut right through to the facts in a clear and concise way. I so admire that. I will do my best to hold “post truth” politicians accountable. I will contact them either by email or phone and will write letters to the newspapers.

    • Thanks Katie. You’ve outlined a very effective way to hold “post truth” politicians accountable. Politicians pay attention to public feedback. They want to know which way the wind is blowing. I like sending issue specific emails because I think they’re more effective than petitions or form letters.
      Letters to newspapers have a big impact. The editorial page is the most read section of the newspaper and editors pay attention to letters even if they’re not published, if for no other reason than they indicate what the public is interested in. Finding a story that sparks public interest is good for circulation which is good for advertising which is good for revenue.

  11. Einar Davison says:

    Here’s my list
    1. I will stop trying to change right-wingers minds or correct their facts because it is pointless, they will keep changing the subject so they don’t have to admit they might be wrong, or they will “swarm” you. There is enough non rightwingers in Alberta and those are the people who need to be convinced.
    2. I would like to see ideology replaced with vision, we live in a fast changing world and being stuck in an ideological position is just another road block to making the world a better place. My vision is I would like to see Alberta as the best place to live in Canada, with opportunity and a decent standard of living for all, a government that works for all people of the province not just the group that elects them. I’d like Canada to be the greatest country in the world, not just the richest but the one that celebrates diversity and democracy. I believe in the saying “a chain is only as strong as the weakest link”, so we need to help those who need help to make them strong so we all can be stronger together. The right wing believe in survival of the fittest and he who has the gold rules.
    3. I’m not going to become a hater. It’s hard not to become a hater with so much hate around. However hate grows exponentially until it destroys itself and it usually does. So I will try not to become a hater, and let those who do destroy themselves. The signs this is happening are already appearing.
    4. I’m going to stop being a Twitter “Twit” it is easy to be mean in 120 characters, but a lot harder to be nice, intellegent and factful.
    5. I’m going to remember to do something –whether big or small, this year that serves my community, my province, my country and the world.
    If I can accomplish the above I will be a better person and sometimes that is the only thing that counts.
    Have a great 2017 everyone.

    • Einar, thank you for this amazing list. You’re absolutely right on #1. Politicians (and city planners for that matter) know it’s a waste of time trying to convince those who fundamentally disagree with you to change their opinion. So instead of wasting our time we should be focusing on people who are open to the discussion. Recognizing this simple fact will likely will help us achieve #3 and #4 as well. It will certainly be a lot less frustrating. Point #2 is very important, for example contrary to what Trump said, it’s not just NAFTA that eliminated manufacturing jobs, replacing human labour with robots played a big part. I really like #5. I think any small action that serves someone else creates ripples that magnify the action on a much broader scale.
      Here’s to a wonderful 2017!

  12. David Grant says:

    Very good list. I don’t think I could add anything at the moment except there needs to be more discussion as to what has happened to the commons or the public good. I think talking about the lack of the humanities or arts is also important in discussing what kind of society one should have. I would also like to stop talking about how it is only liberals who live in a “bubble” and conservatives don’t. I would also like to stop hearing about being an elitist for trying to expect people to try to learn more about political environment to make better decision without being called an “elitist”. The real elitists are the richest 1% who believe that they should run the world. Finally, it is time to encourage more non-conformity and radical thinking.

    • carlosbeca says:

      David you said it all – thank you
      More non-conformist and radical thinking
      I could not agree more. We need to shake up the entire system and create new realities and new dreams.
      People have to start believing that just dreaming about the big house and the expensive cars is NOT why we are here. That is part of a consumer society that is more than bankrupt, it is a bad dream and totally unsustainable. If that is the type of society we want to build than we already have seen the results. They are all around us.

      • “more non-conformist and radical thinking” would definitely help at this juncture.

        We can start by challenging the language of persecution bandied about by the conservatives. For example when Jason Kenney talks about Alberta’s economic slide and says long suffering Albertans are not on the elitists’ radar screen, the reporter should have asked him what (in his humble opinion) caused the economic slide (OPEC and oil companies?) and to identify the elitists who’ve turned their backs on down trodden Albertans (corporations who’ve laid off staff because times are tough?).

  13. GoinFawr says:

    I would like to see some progress on the COMER case T-2010-11 in 2017

    Because we all know who ultimately calls the shots in a debtor/creditor relationship.

    Happy New Year

    • GoinFawr, the COMER case looks like a complex matter, I’ll need to do more research before I can comment, but yes, you’re right, we all know who ultimately calls the shots in a debtor/creditor relationship. We also know that if the debtor is a big fish, he’ll be allowed a lot more latitude by the creditor than if he’s a little fish.
      Thanks for the link…you’ve piqued my curiosity.
      Have a happy new year.

  14. alvinfinkel says:

    I think that Jason Kenney is appealing to a false nostalgia for a petro-state period when abundant royalties–though far lower than they should have been–were used to fund public services and taxes on individuals and corporations were kept artificially low, particularly for the better off. It’s not a rational appeal since that period was marked by a failure to save money for harder times, services that were often mediocre, extremes in income among households, and a failure to either encourage economic diversification or to address the climate-change issue. That era couldn’t have existed at all except when oil prices were unusually high. Those who benefited from that era and are not prone to analysis of social phenomena just want it back, and the fact that Jason Kenney can only pretend to deliver it is lost on them. The Notley government needs to find better ways to counter this mythology of a golden age with a cheerier version of its vision of a more economically diversified, cleaner, more socially just Alberta. Visions of a hazy future of change are harder to make stick than phony images of a golden age in the past.

    • Very well said Alvin. Kenney’s narrative paints two false pictures of Alberta: yesterday’s golden petro-state brought to you by the PCs and today’s economic disaster brought to you by the NDs. Notley’s government is working hard to bring the public up to speed on what it has achieved (as per this post on Notley’s facebook page but the anti-ND Albertans are not about to go to Notley’s facebook page or even the government’s website to become better informed. The main stream media is of little help and while some of the commentary on social media (U of C economist Trevor Tombe comes to mind) is excellent you have to plow through some really stupid stuff to find it. So I guess that takes us back to your last sentence…the government needs to develop a communication plan that paints a “cheerier version of its vision” if it hopes to over come the sleazy misrepresentation and populist tactics of Kenney et al.

  15. Jean says:

    We have to keep in insisting PM J Trudeau continue to be accessible to the press and press conferences to handle the difficult questions and answer in a meaningful manner that points to key facts. Less focus on Instagram selfies..but encouragement to the masses and citizens on thinking well and taking positive action long term that benefits their entire community.

    The hardest part right now to demanding the public pay attention to evidence …to truth in front of their face. More than ever now, the Trump style politics has no interest in “experts” and mound of document evidence on action.

    • Jean you nailed it when you said Trump style politics has no interest in experts and evidence. The Canadian historian, Jennifer Welsh, says democracy is under a greater threat now than it has been over the last 25 years. Welsh talks about populists who argue that they have to take back control from the experts and elect politicians who listen to their voices, not just the voices of the “elites”. The anti-expert rhetoric and the sneering denunciation of the “elites” is very disturbing. Without experts we lack knowledge and understanding and the word “elites” is now being used to besmirch anyone who doesn’t agree with you. Kellie Leitch used it today to criticize Lisa Raitt. And Jason Kenney recently said there are a number of long suffering Albertans who “…are off the radar screen for the elites…” Elites? wouldn’t that be the corporate CEOs who set up the petro-state, not the NDP?
      The fact that the public buys this bafflegab indicates just how hard it’s going to be to refocus the political debate.

  16. Jean says:

    Not wanting to believe with hard evidence started with Americans several years ago, who still didn’t believe Obama was an American citizen when there was a photograph of his citizenship… If a person cannot believe a birth certificate, passport or citizenship government document, then deeply disturbing.

  17. Carlos Beca says:

    Happy New Year everyone

    There is so much on this post that I get lost as to which point is the one I want to comment on.

    First of all I find the comments that are made about the NDP government amazing. The NDP does not even make it to a social democratic party and Jason Kenney and friends call it communist and socialist and whatever else. Unfortunately they used the word communist and socialist in a derogatory way which is even more appalling. I wonder if they have by any chance noticed that the majority of the most successful countries in the world right now are social democracies.
    Not many people have anyway. We live still under the shadow of McCarthyism and we cannot see the obvious in front of our noses. Ask any Norwegian if they want to implement our oil royalty system and you would be surprised with the answer. Not only do they not want it but they clearly think we are a bunch of third world managers.

    Jason Kenney’s comments are intentionally aggressive and the idea of him or the whole Wildrose gang changing that style is as remote as having Donald Trump without his hairdo. It is part of their political consciousness and that is their strategy to inflict damage on the other leaders.
    How in the word they intend to get over our serious problems with that attitude is beyond me.

    I have to say that I am very disappointed that democratic renewal did not make it to your list but not surprised. It is not a concern with any party in Alberta and apparently not many people either. We got used to the MacDonald’s political process and we cannot cut the addiction. We continue the British tradition that started with the 2 parties back in the old world. One without power (Labour) and the other with all the power (Conservatives) which guaranteed the lords and the king the control to run the country regardless of elections. A pretend democracy to satisfy the masses. We love tradition so we get what we fight for – a pretend democracy.

    With the election of Donald Trump in the US and our own clowns here moving fast to take advantage of our distraction, it seems that we will be too late to contemplate a better province and better country for all of us.

  18. Fair point Carlos, I did indeed overlook democratic renewal…just goes to show you how bent out of shape I am about Trump-style politics creeping into Alberta and Canada. I’m reading an excellent book by the Canadian historian Jennifer Welsh in which she says democracy is under greater threat today than it has been over the last 25 years. She writes about the rise of populism under Trump-like politicians and warns that we need to fight for democracy (even if it’s not perfect) lest Trump, Le Pen and others lead us down the rabbit hole of illiberal democracy. It’s a frightening but very real possibility. I’ll be saying more on this in the weeks to come.

    • Carlos Beca says:

      Aren’t we all. I am just obsessed with it 🙂
      Jennifer Welsh book is quite good.
      Looking forward to a 2017 of great posts as always.

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