Dignity and Respect

Two remarkable things happened this week.  One remarkably good, the other remarkably bad.

Let’s start with the remarkably good.

Ricardo Miranda, Alberta’s Minister of Culture and Tourism, got married to journalist and communications specialist, Christopher Brown, this week.  Premier Rachel Notley officiated at the wedding and had the privilege of declaring them “husband and husband”.


Credit @RachelNotley

Minister Miranda was a little hesitant about going public with his engagement to Mr Brown but said “Visibility is very important to the community.  We’ve seen, unfortunately, even here in the province, a rise in hate crimes.  And it takes us back to a time I don’t want to go back to.”

Speaking of going back in time, this brings Ms Soapbox to the remarkably bad thing that happened last week.

In his year-end interview with the Calgary Herald, UCP leader Jason Kenney said he didn’t think stories about his socially conservative political history, including voting against same-sex marriage, would be an issue in the upcoming election because Albertans are focused on economic issues, not social ones.

He dismissed the “a few hundred agitated people on Twitter” as not reflecting the real political debates going on in Alberta, noting he’s done over 20,000 events in the last two and a half years and these “so-called divisive issues” didn’t come up.

(Interestingly, Mr Kenney refused to say whether he’d repeal Bill 24 which prohibits parental notification if kids join gay-straight alliances in schools, so it’s safe to assume this issue is a little more “divisive” than Mr Kenney lets on.)

Dignity cannot be prioritized

Mr Kenney argues that all Albertans want is a fair shake from Confederation, so they can work in decent jobs and pursue their lives with dignity.  This is the “give us a hand up, not a hand out” argument, although truth be told the distinction between a “hand up” and a “hand out” was lost on Ms Soapbox when Albertans took to the streets to tell the prime minister what he could do with his $1.6 billion relief package—it was a basket of loans and financing initiatives (a “hand up”), not the promise of welfare cheques (a “hand out”) yet Albertans could hardly contain their righteous indignation.

Mr Kenney is wrong to frame the political debate as a choice between economic issues or social issues, with economic issues taking priority over social issues because, as the UCP put it, in order to be a compassionate, caring province, we must be prosperous first.

This “first one, then the other” characterization obscures the fact that we live in a civilized society.  Civility is based on respect.  Respect requires us to treat each other with dignity because we’re all human beings and as such deserve it.

There never has been and there never will be a time when we can’t afford to treat each other with dignity and respect.

It is impossible to carve up dignity and respect like Solomon’s baby and bestow it on the population in good economic times and withhold it from the population in bad economic times while we anxiously wait for the economy to improve.

And yet that’s exactly what Mr Kenney is saying when he says he would prioritize economic issues over social issues.

The problem with this argument (aside from it being immoral) is exacerbated when one considers Mr Kenney’s position on same-sex marriage.

After decades of opposing same-sex unions Mr Kenney said he supported a 2016 motion to defeat the Conservative Party policy that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman because there had “…been a change legally, politically and in public opinion and [he would] accept the consensus”.

Mr Kenney did not say he was fine with it because the country had moved forward economically and now had the capacity to address social issues like same-sex marriage.  He did not say that a decade after the highest court in the land legalized same-sex marriage he’d come to terms with it.

The tipping point for Mr Kenney appears to be that political and public opinion finally caught up with the law, (although one suspects it was the other way around and the law finally caught up with political and public opinion), the consensus favoured same-sex marriage and Mr Kenney could lay down his objections and go with the flow.

Mr Kenney’s muddled rationale does not bode well for Albertans who believe everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect regardless of the state of the economy or prevailing political and public opinion.

Albertans have a right to be treated with dignity and respect because civility puts a higher value on people than things and requires members of minority groups to be treated with as much dignity as members of majority groups and, believe it or not, children to be treated with as much dignity as their parents.

Next year is an election year.  Let’s focus on electing outstanding leaders like Rachel Notley who are not afraid to treat all Albertans with respect and dignity regardless of which way the political winds blow.


While we’re here, Ms Soapbox would like to raise her glass to Ricardo and Christopher and wish them a future filled with happiness!  Clink clink!

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25 Responses to Dignity and Respect

  1. ed henderson says:

    First the best…
    All the best to the newly weds.
    Then the worst..
    Bah Humbag Rachael Notley and her crew!

    • Ed, I’m sure the newlyweds appreciate your good wishes. With respect to Rachel Notley, while I may not agree with everything she’s done, she’s head and shoulders above the competition. Of course that’s just Ms Soapbox’s humble opinion. 🙂

  2. Jim Lees says:

    A great perspective on this issue, or non-issue, Susan. All the best for 2019! Jim

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. jerrymacgp says:

    All the best to Messrs Miranda & Brown, and can you imagine any previous Alberta Premier officiating at such a wedding?

    As for Mr Kenney, he’s trying madly to deflect public attention from his odious views on social issues, in the hope that his equally odious views on economic & fiscal policy will be more palatable to the electorate. His Postmedia cheering section is lending a helping hand on this, without a doubt, but the public isn’t yet really paying attention; that will change when the writ drops. As we have all learned, in politics, campaigns matter.

    • Very good points Jerry. Campaigns do matter. Other than the “hyper-engaged” like us, most people pay very little attention to what goes on between elections.
      Speaking of Postmedia, they failed to deliver our Calgary Herald (again!) over the holidays. We phoned them and when the replacement paper came, it included a Calgary Sun and National Post. The Sun is such an appalling paper and the NP was virtually identical to the Herald. Looking at all three I came “this close” to cancelling my subscription.

  4. Munroe Scott says:

    Susan, you should have been a carpenter. You always hit the nail on the head. Thank you.
    As for your paraphrase of Mr. Kenney’s philosophy — “as the UCP put it, in order to be a compassionate, caring province, we must be prosperous first” – I would simply like to say that as a writer/researcher I have visited many disadvantaged areas of the globe and have observed that compassion and caring have nothing whatsoever to do with prosperity. Nor do dignity and respect. Indeed, too often the reverse.

    • Thank you Munroe, your observations about disadvantaged areas still having “room” to be caring and compassionate and to show dignity and respect are bang on.
      One must have a heart to be caring and compassionate, one must recognize one isn’t the centre of the universe before one can protect the dignity of others and treat them with respect. None of us exhibit all of these personality traits all of the time, but it’s deeply troubling that so many members of the UCP find it difficult to exhibit some of these traits at least some of the time.

  5. J.E. Molnar says:

    Jason Kenney’s moral and political compasses are severely askew.

    Compassion, brotherly love and empathy for others are the underpinnings of the Catholic Church — a church and teachings Jason Kenney purported to ardently support on numerous occasions in the past. Furthermore, polling for health care and education, as two social planks, consistently ranks as extremely high priorities with voters.

    Here’s hoping Alberta’s huge silent majority is committed to keeping its moral and political compass securely moored with the NDP in 2019 — God forbid the alternative (yes, I said God Jason — deal with it).

    • J.E. your point about the teachings of the Catholic Church is very well taken. In this year’s Christmas message Pope Francis called for peace and fraternity. “Fraternity among individuals of every nation and culture. Fraternity among people with different ideas, yet capable of respecting and listening to one another. Fraternity among persons of different religions.” He also expressed concern for those lacking access to education and healthcare and firmly rejected consumerism, saying “the food of life is not material riches but love, not gluttony but charity,”
      I know many Albertans would agree, surely some of them are showing up at the 20,000 events Kenney has hosted to date. Frankly I find it hard to believe that the only thing Albertans care about is the economy. As you said education and healthcare are near the top of the list when Albertans rank their priorities

  6. Baldwin Reichwein says:

    During part of my career I had the privilege of working with colleagues who were educated in the 1950s in Wilcox, Saskatchewan under the tutelage of the legendary, cosmopolitan priest Pere Athol Murray, and I ever met Pere Murray in person. Pere Murray was a conservative with a strong sense of social justice, known for humanism and intellectualism. In a story told to Patricia Robertson (http://slapshotdiaries.com), Pere Murray’s motto was quoted: “Take the initiative. Take up your enterprise for the community.”

    Jason Kenney attended high school in Wilcox. While there what did Jason Kenney learn and did not learn, and what community does Kenney intend to serve?

    • Baldwin, your comments about Pere Murray intrigued me so I googled him. He sounds like an interesting and thoughtful man. He refused to turn away good students who couldn’t afford tuition and accepted wheat and potatoes in lieu of cash. He also had a good sense of humour saying “I love God, Canada and hockey — not always in that order.” As you said, Kenney attended high school in Wilcox, Pere Murray would have imprinted the school with his values; what did Kenney learn there and what community does Kenney intend to serve?

  7. I am not an Albertan (so maybe I should keep my opinions to myself) but every time I read something about Mr. Kenney I start to wonder if he is BFF’s with certain fellows in Ontario (Ford) and in the USA (you know who) – why is hatred rising to powerful positions? Best wishes to the happy couple!

    • Linda, you’re more than welcome to comment on Kenney (we Albertans have not been bashful about commenting on BC’s premier Horgan). It won’t surprise you to learn that Kenney and Ford are indeed BFFs. Kenney says they are so alike they finish each others’ sentences. This is very worrying given Ford’s willingness to use notwithstanding clause to circumvent rights and freedoms granted to us under the Charter (Kenney supported Ford in this) and Ford’s generally oafish behavior which as you point out mirrors you know who in the US.
      Your question is a good one: why are there so many leaders like this rising to power now, and what can we do to stop them?

  8. Tom Kerwin says:

    Susan – Kenney’s social policies are almost as bad as his environmental ones, and then there’s his/the UCP’s ‘democratic deficit’; Kenney’s on record as saying that he won’t bother with the inefficiency of public consultation; he’ll just base his policies on his take on UCP members’ views. Seems even worse than Ralph Klein, which I thought I’d never say.

    • Tom you make an excellent point about the “democratic deficit”. Kenney says he’s got a team working on reducing the regulatory burden and one of the first things he’ll do if he’s elected is scrap regulations he thinks are useless. This is a serious concern because enacting or eliminating regulations is the last step in the legislative process, not the first. What happens under good government is a party is elected based on its policies. Its policies are translated into bills which are debated in the House. The bills become statutes. Cabinet then passes regulations which set out details that are too minor to put put into the statute. Kenney has it backwards, he’s starting with the regs before he’s got the policies in place.
      Even Ralph Klein had the brains to go about this the right way. He appointed Dianna McQueen to head a task force to streamline the regulatory process for the energy industry. The process included 6 months of consultation with industry, First Nations, landowners, municipalities and environmentalist as well as government departments including Tourism, Advanced Education and Sustainable Resource Development. At the end of the day McQueen’s team put together a comprehensive regulatory overhaul which Klein said would save the province anywhere from $80 to $170 million. I don’t know whether this came to pass, but at least Klein got the process right.

  9. carlosbeca says:

    Jason Kenney maybe be the favorite candidate for 2019 but time will wipe him out.

    • John Clark says:

      Jason Kenny is run by the LDS church. Opinions saying he is ahead in the poll are based on the very vocal segment in southern Alberta who still believe they settled Alberta in total and therefore have the God-given right to separate us from Canada. The LDS is formable it has more money than most countries and a media smart crew working it.

    • Carlos and John, Kenney does appear to be the favourite candidate for a segment of the electorate which includes rural folk as well as wealthy city folk. The big question is why. I do agree with Carlos’s comment that time will wipe Kenney out because regardless of how much faith people put in him to fix everything that ails them, if he can’t deliver (and I don’t think he can) they’ll abandon him for the next guy with prettier Make Alberta Great Again promises.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Yes Susan you are right but unfortunately people have to experience it to verify. Facts do not matter much anymore and what it has been said about Jason Kenney is just ignored by him and his delighted fans.
        If it is correct that LDS supports him then we know where most of the propaganda comes from.
        Unless he is as lucky as Ralph Klein when both gas and oil prices peaked and made him a hero, he will not deliver because he does not know how and cutting taxes is not going to improve much because we are in a different era. One cuts taxes and the money goes to the Bahamas. Furthermore we are in transition to a new energy world and it is gaining speed despite the naysayers.

  10. John Clark says:

    A great article Susan good to see you are still running the world!

  11. David says:

    Of course Kenney is trying to portray it as a choice between economic and social issues. His record on social issues is so pathetic that even he realizes he is potentially in great danger if they do become an important part of the election discussion.

    However, his strategy is also based on the mistaken assumption that economic issues are his strength. Really? How many jobs has Kenney ever created in his life? He has never run a business or met a payroll. How would he magically build pipelines, when the previous Harper government he was a part of also failed to get Northern Gateway through the courts? If he repeals the provincial carbon tax only to have it replaced shortly thereafter by a Federal one, how does that help our economy?

    Yes, there is a wide spread assumption that economic issues are his strength, but when you look below the surface, you quickly see Emperor Kenney actually has no clothes. Its not just social issues that are a problem for Kenney, is is scrutiny in general.

    • David, this is a very good point. Kenney’s lack of experience with economic issues comes through loud and clear in his so-called strategy to get pipelines built. He starts by saying he’s going to call the CEOs of major oil companies and tell them to get in this game and start fighting the anti-oil groups. This is wrong on many levels. In the first place governments should have a hands-off approach to businesses, they should NOT be telling CEOs what to do. Secondly, (and as you eloquently point out) Kenney’s lack of experience means whatever he tells the CEOs to do will be wrong. CEOs have teams of professionals helping them decide what’s in the best interests of the corporation. They are answerable to their board of directors and shareholders, not the premier. The government’s job is to develop policy and enact legislation to support that policy, not to poke its nose into business. If business likes where the government is going it will follow along. If it doesn’t, it will lobby the government to change direction, or sit tight, or (if it’s really bad) leave.
      What Kenney is really doing is playing to his supporters with his pitch “I’m not afraid of the CEOs and I’ll call them on the carpet”.
      Kenney prides himself on being “bellicose” but a premier yelling at the wrong people about the wrong thing is the last thing Albertans need right now.

      • carlosbeca says:

        Oh Yes he is going to scream at everything – he has been trying to change but we know what happens once reality comes in.
        We will go back to the Redford type show every once in a while and the CEOs will call him to the carpet to make sure he delivers more profits to their shareholders. He has been playing the boss but that is just before the election. He is allowed to show his macho style until he gets in there. Afterwards he will learn how to march in a straight line.

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