Last week the NDP government introduced Bill 9 which will create a 50-metre bubble zone of safety and privacy for women accessing healthcare, including abortions and other reproductive health services,* in Calgary and Edmonton.
Jason Kenney and the UCP caucus bailed on the debate, sending their colleague MLA Angela Pitt to deliver a message on their behalf. Ms Pitt said Bill 9 was a cheap shot intended to “politicize and reignite a deeply divisive debate” in order to paint “the opposition and its supporters as fundamentally incompatible with women and women’s rights.” Ms Soapbox is biting her tongue…
Ms Pitt made the following arguments.
The government wants to reopen the abortion debate:
Abortion falls under federal, not provincial jurisdiction, it’s been legal since 1969. As a federal MP Jason Kenney supported a fellow Conservative’s effort to reopen the abortion issue. Stephen Harper shut them down. The UCP may want to reopen the abortion debate but the NDP and the country have moved on to protecting women exercising their legal right to get one.
Clinics are protected by injunctions:
Injunctions don’t apply to public property. Protesters use roads and sidewalks to block women from opening their car doors and entering clinics. Injunctions don’t protect doctors and service providers from harassment at their homes and offices. They don’t protect pharmacies (which dispense Mifegymiso) from harassment at the workplace. Injunctions are ineffective because raucous protesters who are told to leave simply return. Bill 9 expands safe areas and creates real consequences for egregious behavior by imposing fines or jail terms.
Bill 9 infringes the fundamental freedom of speech and peaceful assembly:
If this were true Jason Kenney abandoned Albertans when they needed him the most.
But it’s not true. A protester’s freedom of speech and assembly does not extend to preventing a woman from exercising her legal right to access healthcare, or harassing women with 40-day campaigns twice a year, or taking unauthorized photos and videos of women, their families and their healthcare providers for distribution to third parties.
Protesters are free to exercise their fundamental freedoms of speech and assembly as long as they do so outside the bubble zone.
What Women Really Need
Instead of having the courage to debate bubble zones with the NDP and actually represent the Albertans who voted them into office, 25 UCP MLAs hid behind a Jason Kenney video in which Kenney told women that their biggest issue was…wait for it…the economy, you silly goose!
Apparently the UCP leader’s real concern with Bill 9 had nothing to do with violation of fundamental freedoms or the sufficiency of injunctions to protect women or even the NDP’s nefarious attempt to reopen the abortion issue; in fact it had nothing to do with Bill 9 at all. It’s all about women and the economy.
Here’s how Mr Kenney put it:
I’ll tell you what I think the most important women’s issue is in Alberta: Our economy. I don’t care whether you’re a woman or a man. Whether you’re straight or gay. Whether you’re an immigrant or you’re a sixth generation Albertan. If you’re out of work I want to get you a job. If you’re a small businesswoman, who’s put your life savings into a business, I don’t care about your gender–I want to ensure that that business dream is successful. So I think that the most important issue for Alberta women is getting our economy back on track. And not mortgaging the future of children.
Kenney’s female supporters lapped it up. The rest of us were stunned.
The UCP’s Job
Jason Kenney is the leader of the Official Opposition. The work of the Opposition is to “ensure…legislation is carefully considered and…differing views on important initiatives are publicly expressed and defended.” He and his caucus have a duty to debate and vote on all the legislation tabled by the government. It’s called holding the government to account. They can’t pick the debates that suit their fancy and skip the rest.
Mr Kenney sent Ms Pitt into the Legislature to speak on behalf of her leader and the UCP caucus. Ms Pitt said Bill 9 could be seen as “an attempt to curtail Albertans’ right to free speech and peaceful assembly.” And yet Mr Kenney pulled every member of the Official Opposition out of the Legislature and left the building.
Mr Kenney tried to rectify this appalling breach of duty by posting a video on social media recasting the Bill 9 debate as an economic issue. So now the Official Opposition is doing its job by mansplaining and sound bites?
If we’ve learned anything from the Bill 9 bubble zone debate, it’s this. When the going gets tough, the NDP stay on the field; Jason Kenney and the UCP run away.
*In addition to providing abortion services, clinics provide early and late pregnancy loss care, support services for pregnancy loss, birth control counselling including IUD insertion and STI testing and treatment.
Sources: Alberta Hansard, April 10, 2018, starting at p 498 https://www.ourcommons.ca/About/Compendium/ParliamentaryFramework/c_d_roleoppositionpartiescanada-e.htm
I am stunned that the UCP behaved like a petulant child who decided they did not want to play any more. Perhaps not stunned, but more of “I can’t believe you abdicated your duty” on the basis of dogma.It shows me these people are not responsible enough to even tie their shoes…argh!
I agree Roy, I’ll be watching the Legislature this week to see if the UCP stick to their boycott of the debate or have been shamed into showing up. Kenney said he’ll “let” his MLAs vote their conscience on social issues. The fact that every last one of them walked out makes me think that’s all a load of hooey or they’re a bunch of cowards. Likely both.
For anyone else who isn’t aware we can watch the legislature meetings live:
Today’s starts at 1:30 pm.
Is there anything Kenney does that doesn’t undermine his own credibility or present his fellow UCP MLA’s as mere lickspittle?
I’ve been giving that some thought Edison and I haven’t come up with anything yet. Remember when Kenney was elected and promised to “raise the bar” for debate in the Legislature. I guess one could say he’s raised the bar by being absent. Better no voice that a belligerent misleading voice? It’s nuts.
I am still amazed that Kenney and the UCP thought it was a good idea to post that video . The UCP and their supporters can defend a video like that as much as you want and argue how kenney thought the economy was important because of his discussions with Albertan. The biggest mistake the UCP made this week was not waiting until the criticism against their abstention went away. When people criticize you for something you usually wait for things to blow over instead of putting yourself in a worse position.Kenney already has issues female voters and has pissed off female voters multiple times in the last year or so. Why release a video were you tell females the issue they should worry about mostlyly.I always felt like Kenney was not a good fit for premier because of how he presents himself in public. That video and his other actions this week keep on proving me right. I always felt kenney was a more undisciplined version of Harper and more ideological than him. If you don’t align with him that well he would either ignore you, say something awful to you like calling you a radical activist,uncaffeinated lefties or communist and etc. Man I wish their someone else as UCP leader at this point besides Kenney.I felt Jean and Schweitzer were going to be at least okay UCP leaders. Maybe someone else will become UCP leader once Kenney either loses next year or in 4 or 8 years from now.
Doesn’t running away from the debate also annoy his anti-choice base?
(And will the UCP members refund the taxpayers for the time they took off from their jobs?)
That’s a really good point Keith. Assuming 40,000 people live in each of the 25 ridings held by the UCP that would mean that 1,000,000 Albertans were NOT represented in the bubble zone debate. Obviously some people in these ridings are not eligible to vote and not everyone who could vote voted for the UCP candidate, however this rough calculation gives us an idea of the impact of the UCP MLAs decision to boycott the debate–1,000,000 Albertans were NOT represented by their duly elected representative. Shocking.
Mohamed, you make a good point when you refer to Kenney’s supporters defending that video. The UCP posted a number of responses from female supporters. Here’s an example from Candace who said “I’m a born and raised Alberta woman, and I personally can say that Jason Kenney has given myself, and many other women equality in all regards. Jason Kenney is the BEST example of gender equality, because he wants services and jobs for everyone.”
This is wacko for so many reasons, firstly Kenney is not the premier, his party isn’t in power and he can’t be bothered to show up when women’s issues are being debated so how has he given Candace and many other women equality? Secondly, he attacks (not supports), anything Notley and Trudeau propose to improve gender equality, Thirdly he allows his mysogynous supporters to attack women, especially female politicians, on his social media feeds.
These women sound like the women who support Donald Trump, gushing with unfounded admiration…you’ve got to wonder what’s driving them.
…And the gaslighting continues unabated.
Jason Kenney pledged to return political decorum to Alberta politics and rid his party of its “Team Angry” persona. Referring to Albertans as “over-caffeinated lefties” during a media scrum, while discussing Bill 9, hardly achieves the desired result.
The UCP brand has become tarnished — and Jason Kenney is as much to blame as anyone in their caucus. Copping out on the Bill 9 debate severely devalues the UCP brand, evangelical right-wing hardliners notwithstanding.
J.E. you nailed it when you called it gaslighting. I’ve noticed a new strain of gaslighting creeping into the UCP pitch lately. Angela Pitt used this tactic in her statement against Bill 9. She said “[the NDP] have deliberately created a situation where personal views on deeply personal issues are publicly adjudicated, and those who fall on one side of the line are shamed by their own government.” She said if you don’t see Bill 9 as curtailing the freedom of expression and assembly then you’re automatically condoning the harassment and intimidation of women, or if you don’t support the government’s climate policies you’re automatically a climate denier. It looks like the UCP is tryiing to convince Albertans the government thinks they’re a “basket of deplorables” and use that concept (like Trump did) to drive them into the UCP camp. The irony here is it’s the UCP not the NDP who are being divisive which as you point out fits the classic definition of “gaslighting”. It’s a dangerous and divisive tactic.
I am not stunned, surprised, amazed or I guess I could say, a believer in anything any politician says or does because I firmly believe that politicians will do anything to get any kind of halfway good publicity and I also firmly believe they would sell their wives, husbands, children (born or not), parents, uncles, aunts, or grandparents to get it.
Jason Kenny is no different from Ms Notley. He is at least no worse and there may be just the very faintest possibility he may be a bit better but probably not.
Pregnancy is a shockingly traumatic time for women. No one, absolutely no one, should be yelling or screaming or photographing or doing anything to or around them that could cause them more trauma.
If I had my way, the screaming insane people protesting at any properly licensed medical facility that gives support to anyone, pregnant or not, would be sprayed with well aged dung.
Your blanket statement concerning politicians in no way proves Kenney is “no different” from Mrs. Notley.
They are as dissimilar as two politicians can possibly be.
I’m not even going to waste my time listing the ways until you offer some logical evidence to support your ridiculous assertion that they are the same.
Ken, I too agree that Jason Kenney and Rachel Notley are miles apart in every possible way. The next election is going to be an exercise is stark contrasts. I can’t wait to see the two of them debate the issues. Kenney, who we’ve seen at pep rallies but not a real debate, will drone on about the economy while Notley takes him to task on his policies (assuming he has any by then) on everything from the privatization of healthcare and education to social issues like GSAs and buffer zones. I wouldn’t miss it for the world!
Ed, I got a chuckle out of your suggestion that well aged dung may be an effect way to enforce the bubble zone. Who knows it might be protected as an exercise of our fundamental freedom of expression.
I’m not as down on all politicians as you are and still believe Notley is doing a good job under very trying circumstances, but I understand that others may disagree with me, particularly those who are not on board with the government’s support of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
It is really odd that Jason Kenney is so strongly taken up by this issue, particularly as you say, Susan, our laws spell out clearly what services women have a right to seek and safely acquire, including abortion. Regardless of how we feel about that issue, the law is the law. And then, why is he so riled up about clinics providing intrauterine devices for women, or testing for sexually transmitted diseases, or counselling for pregnancy loss or termination? This has been provided for women since the ’70’s. What does he want, exactly? I think the women of Alberta have every right to ask him this question. And, just being an average citizen, am I being off the mark for finding it even more puzzling because he has no little wife back in the kitchen with a passel of kids running around, and am wondering where his reference points are coming from? He has no knowledge of women or their issues, yet he is prepared to dictate what is most fundamentally available to them? If there is anything people hate in any politician it is hypocrisy, and that is what is going to bite him.
Elaine, you make a great point when you say “the law is the law”. Given Kenney’s position that the protesters are simply exercising their freedom of expression and assembly when they block a woman trying to get out of her car and enter a clinic, Kenney should be equally supportive of David Suzuki and the environmentalists exercising their freedom of expression and assembly when they block construction workers digging a trench for the Trans Mountain expansion…yes? Actually no, the rule of law is a mutable thing for Kenney, he invokes it when it serves his purpose and ignores it when it doesn’t.
I thought your question about Kenney’s “reference points” was bang on. The Alberta Party MLA Karen McPherson addressed this in her passionate support for Bill 9. She said: “I think that at the root of the protest against women seeking abortion services is a mistrust of women. I think that people don’t believe that women are smart enough or empowered enough or deserving of being able to make decisions about their health care by themselves with their doctor. It’s no one else’s business.”
She nailed it!
Does everyone remember how hot Kenney was to get into the Legislature and start “kicking Rachel’s ass” in debate?
He truly reminds me of the bullies I encountered in grade school.
As long as there is a crowd and no consequences he is loud, agressive, and assured of his own superiority until someone stands up to him.
Then he runs away around the corner and throws stones.
Sooooooooooo glad Brian Jean lost to him.
GinRummy your characterization of Kenney as the school yard bully is perfect. There’s something odd about a man who is so aggressive at his own pep rallies and on mainstream and social media (where he’s buffered from those he’s slamming) but relatively mild when he’s face to face with the person he’s denigrating.
It’s interesting to watch Kenney go off on Trudeau. Kenney’s latest outburst is “Canada is broken”. If these histrionics continue we’ll need to add a new item to the budget to cover the cost of damp towels and smelling salts.
The other day I was working on a carpentry project at the front of our house. A neighbour 3 or 4 houses down called out to me that the thing looked good, and that he might be asking me for advice for his own carpentry project. I responded with some self-deprecating comment about my workmanship. We had to raise our voices a bit because of the distance, but it was a fun conversation.
The reason this is relevant to the discussion is we were more than 50 metres apart. If I were to offer any criticism to Bill 9, it would be that 50 metres isn’t really far enough to prevent intimidating comments from reaching people accessing the facilities.
Susan, I really liked your point about the UCP’s failure to stand up for the right to free speech, if they really believe that Bill 9 is a free speech issue. Press Progress, incidentally, is suggesting that Kenney is abstaining so he can maintain the 100% pro-life voting record awarded to him by Campaign Life.
Bob, I liked your story illustrating that people can be heard across a space of 50 metres or more. You’re right that the government could have gone even further given that the protesters wouldn’t be engaged in a pleasant conversation but rather flinging abusive language at women who simply want to access their legal right to healthcare.
The issue of free speech is a very important one. In the Legislature today Marlin Schmidt, the Minister for Advanced Education, pointed out that notwithstanding the UCP presenting themselves as the champions of free speech and critical thought they all paraded out of the House when the debate on Bill 9 came up. It was a good point which highlighted the iron grip Kenney has on that bunch of cowards.
Jason Kenney cannot discuss the issue and he walks out. That is the reality. Everything else is just excuses. Furthermore he does not care about it. It is not economics of finances and so he has no use for it. He does not believe in society and social issues are of no interest to him.
I also agree with the dry dung suggestion and if possible from Lucy the elephant in the Edmonton zoo
Carlos, I’m watching the Legislature right now. Kenney presented the UCP Taxpayer Protection (Carbon Tax Referendum) Bill which would amend the Alberta Taxpayer Act by requiring the government to hold a referendum before it increases the carbon tax. Kenney is going on and on about how the carbon tax is actually a sales tax because everything we buy gets into the stores by trucks and trains running on fossil fuels (I guess that means we’re paying BC’s carbon tax too when we buy BC fruit). He says the NDP sneaked the carbon tax aka sales tax into law without holding a referendum and this is a violation of democratic principles.
This is unbelievable coming from Kenney who violated the key duty of an Opposition party by pulling his caucus out of the debate on bubble zones, leaving the people in 25 constituencies unrepresented. I guess the principles of democracy are not immutable in Kenney’s world.
I am sorry to say this but I doubt he even understands democracy. He does not have a clue. People like Jason Kenney just sail along with nonsense and lies and whatever beliefs that suit their interests. That is the reality and should be stated. I do not care what his sympathizers think because they do not even acknowledge our right to have a different opinion and are quick on the old and tired communist / socialist song.
I spent as long as I could stomach watching the Leg yesterday and it became blatantly apparent very quickly that the UCP are completely inept as a functioning opposition party.
With the exception of one member’s rambling recounting of a hockey game told in a play-by-play format, every question and criticism I heard from them was a complete waste of time.
They attacked the NDP with more logical fallacies than I could keep track of.
They continually criticized them for all the positive efforts the NDP has made and also blamed the NDP for actual leftover conservative policies, which I found to be stunningly hypocritical as well as ironic.
Watching one member of the UCP shamelessly self-aggrandizing and insisting we Albertans owed his party thanks and much back patting for some positive outcomes of NDP policies which he insisted the UCP as well as the previous conservative party thought up originally (they all seem to forget they aren’t the former conservative party and in fact are responsible for destroying it) without offering any proof or evidence other than this inept tactic of saying after the fact (“It worked? Oh yeah, that was our idea. The NDP stole it from us!”.
It is obvious the party can only appeal to the lowest common denominator in our fair province because everything they say assumes their listeners are idiots.
Their arrogance is incestuously entwined with their ignorance, and after watching Rachel Notley respond to Jason Kenney for the fourth time with “That simply is not true and the member opposite knows this.” I had to shut it off as I was not watching an intellectually honest and productive debate that was supposed to keep the party in power honest and in check, but a massive waste of taxpayers money being used to give Jason Kenney a platform to grandstand to his base by spewing lies and insults.
I really, really wish more Albertans understood how much better off our lives would be if we replaced Kenney and his gang of bootlicks with David Khan. A more centrist politician who more accurately represents the majority of Alberta conservatives than this group of far right extremists, and who would be so much more adept at offering logical,constructive criticism to the NDp than all this bullshit time-wasting Kenney is engaged in just so he can get back in power and continue the time honoured conservative tradition of gutting our province to fill his rich puppet masters pockets.
None of this surprises me. The UCP is a joke just like most other parties and the system is speeding to oblivion. The Legislature is irrelevant, discussions do not happen, nothing positive is built and then they pay millions to find out what is wrong with Democracy. Well it is simple, it does not exist. I personally doubt that it ever did. After the second world war when the economy was booming no one ever asked it but now the situation is different and we woke up to find that we make no difference even when we vote. A resurgence of dictatorships is on the rise headed by Putin in Russia, Erdogan in Turkey, Viktor Orban in Hungary, Mateusz Morawiecki in Poland, Xi Jinping in China and the rookie Trump in the US. They are sprouting even inside the European Union. We do not need to pay millions to find out why. Reform our pseudo-democratic system that is all. It seems impossible because they are so in there like the Mafia but we either do it or it will be slowly corroded to the point where people will abandon it altogether.
Ken, I suspect Kenney’s bullying style worked well when he was at the Canadian Tax Federation and then in the Harper government when there was no one around to contradict him, but one has to wonder why Kenney thinks bullying is necessary to do the job of Opposition leader campaigning to be premier.
Ian Buruma wrote an interesting piece on this topic in today’s Globe & Mail. He said people like Trump and Jordan Peterson pitch “hypermasculinity” (ie fight the liberal snowflakes, reassert your male authority, restore the old social hierarchies) because these men and those who support them are alarmed by the rise of women to positions of authority and the increase of “successful people from non-European backgrounds”. It’s an interesting argument especially when you get to the end where Buruma says this hypermasculinity is unconvincing. “Despite [Trump’s] rants and bluster, one still has the impression that behind that facade of pumped-up machismo lurks a frightened little white man who knows that he is no longer in control.” I immediately thought of Kenney who is quick to attack Notley (a powerful woman with a gender balanced cabinet) in the press and social media but doesn’t have the courage to stay in the room when the debate turns to bubble zones for abortion clinics. A very sad little man indeed.
Here’s the link to the Buruma article: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-resentment-fuels-the-fires-of-political-machismo/
Mr. Kenney might want to wrap himself in bubble wrap before he does any more damage to himself here. I think the strategy of say nothing and do nothing might appear politically astute, but really we don’t elect MLA’s or the opposition not to show up or speak up. If he says he supports he bill, fine he should say so on the record in the legislature, participate in the debate and vote accordingly. If he does not support it, he can explain why and suggest changes if he wants, that really is the job of the official opposition to scrutinize legislation and either support it or suggest alternatives.
Obviously he is walking a tight rope here. He doesn’t want to offend his social conservative supporters, who so far quietly hope he would repeal the bill if elected and he doesn’t want to reinforce concerns of the public at large that he is a social conservative who would do just that. Will the real Jason Kenney please stand up, rather than hide?
On a related note, wasn’t it so kind of him to share his wise thoughts about what women really want? Probably not his greatest move, but there are so few women in the UCP caucus and Kenney does tend to muzzle his MLA’s, so I guess it is left to him to speak for women too. It probably would have been helpful if he at least spoke to his wife or daughter before sharing his thoughts, but he doesn’t have either. He seems to lives in some sort of idyllic family values world of the past where his views have been shaped more by ideology or nostalgia rather than any real practical experience with a modern family.
That sums it up pretty good 🙂
The problem is that he has a status of prophet in the far right and that is all he needs.
Carlos, you make a very interesting point. Why is it that politicians like Kenney (and Trump) can say stupid things like “If you’re out of work I want to get you a job.” Of course he “wants” to get you a job. The real question is not what he wants but how he’s going to do it. He can’t make oil prices rise, he can’t force tech companies to relocate to Alberta, he certainly won’t be hiring more teachers and nurses, so what exactly is he going to do to deliver this utopia to Albertans? I just wish people would think a little before they fall all over themselves praising the man.
Well as far as I understand heir belief is that they will lower taxes, get rid of the carbon tax, bring back the coal spirit and get rid of environmental regulation and they hope that corporations just love his hyper masculinity and no regulation on the environment and they invest money without having to pay taxes or royalties. I am sure some of this will work because unfortunately the CEO world is full of Jason Kenneys but the fact is that in the long term, just like with Ralph Klein, this will be a disaster. People forget that the reason our oil revenues are so low right now is because of the wonderful contracts Klein and Cia left behind which are pathetic. The fact is that many Albertans just love this attitude. It makes them feel they are the real MEN.
David you nailed it when you described how Kenney failed to carry out the duty of the Opposition Leader by refusing to stay in the room and debate bubble zones. I think you’re right about this being nothing more than a cynical political move where he hopes to assuage his base while at the same time avoid antagonizing the moderates who would abandon him if he showed his true social conservative colours.
His video on what women want blew up big time on social media. My favourite response was the woman who said: “Dude…you’re the biggest issue facing women.” No kidding, the last thing we need is our grandpa’s party leading Alberta into 2020.
OMG this is funny
A not very smart grandpa 🙂
“…the last thing we need is our grandpa’s party leading Alberta into 2020.”
Not just our grandpa, but our ignorant, bigoted grandpa twisted up in the throes of dementia who spends most of his day sitting on a park bench swearing at pigeons and calling them “commie soshulists, spitting at young mothers pushing baby prams past him and calling them “uppity harlots that seem to have forgotten their place is in the kitchen.”, and hurling racist epithets at squirrels.
Wow I thought I was harsh !!!!! 🙂
Ken beats me anytime
By the way I agree. The guy was past is shelf live 20 years ago when in the Canadian Tax Federation here in Edmonton.
I have not sent many messages this week so here is one more!!! 🙂
This is the government that Stephen Harper sent congratulations to and aspires to work with.
This is what the Harper government with Jason Kenney always wanted to implement in Canada but did not have the guts or the skills to do. They tried hard including attacking the Supreme Court silencing scientists and avoid journalists but in the end our pseudo democracy still prevailed. Not has easy here.
Jason Kenney is now continuing the work here in Alberta.