The Anti-Alberta Energy Inquiry (Thank God for Lawyers)

In his book On Tyranny historian Timothy Snyder sets out twenty lessons from the 20th century to help democracies resist the “the usurpation of power by a single individual or group, or the circumvention of law by rulers for their own benefit.” 

These lessons are as relevant for Alberta as they are for the rest of the world especially given Mr Kenney’s predilection for ginning up his base by creating up a $30M war room, commissioning a public inquiry into “the anti-Alberta energy campaigns” and setting up panels to hear Albertans vent about being short changed by Confederation. 

While all of these activities are concerning, the one that goes beyond the pale is the public inquiry into anti-Alberta energy campaigns.  Why?  Because the other two stunts simply foment anger and division, but the public inquiry may violate the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness. 

This is where Professor Snyder’s lessons on tyranny come in. 

Professional ethics  

Professor Snyder urges professionals to remember their ethical standards:  don’t sit on the sidelines when political leaders act badly; step up to stop politicians from subverting the rule of law. 

Thankfully Alberta’s lawyers and legal scholars have embraced this lesson.    

Doors outside Court of Queen’s Bench

ABlawg is the University of Calgary Faculty of Law blog.  It posts commentary on court and tribunal decisions and legislative and policy development in Alberta and beyond.  Its goal is to foster debate and discussion.  It does not purport to offer legal advice, but its posts are of such caliber that many have been cited by the courts including the Supreme Court of Canada. 

When ABlawg speaks, people listen.  That’s why we need to focus on two recent posts by Professors Martin Olszynski and Shaun Fluker on the “anti-Alberta” inquiry.  Rather that step through these posts in detail (I couldn’t do them justice) I’ve provided a summary of some of the concerns that were raised.*   

First a little background.  The Inquiry was commissioned in early June.  The first phase, the investigative phase, has been running for four months.   The commission will produce an interim report by Jan 31, 2020.  This process is shrouded in secrecy.  The second phase may include a public hearing.  A final report will be issued by July 2, 2020.  The Commissioner is Steve Allen, a forensic accountant. 

Right, let’s examine what Professors Olszynski and Fluker had to say:

  • The Inquiry was commissioned under the Public Inquiries Act.  It must be carried out in good faith and with the proper intent.  The law does not allow the PIA to be used to punish a person for exercising their rights, or arbitrarily and illegally trying to strip them of their rights.  Or to put it another way, the PIA cannot be used in an overtly political way.
  • The Inquiry’s mandate confirms its target is a specific group (Canadian environmental NGOs and others who’ve intervened in hearings or raised concerns) and suggests its findings may lead to adverse consequences for that group, but it’s unclear whether these groups have been afforded the legal right to know and meet the case against them.  This includes the right to counsel, the right to call witnesses, and perhaps to cross-examine other witnesses including Kenney’s favourite researcher Vivian Krause. 
  • The Inquiry’s Terms of Reference are ambiguous because “anti-Alberta energy campaign” is defined as an attempt to delay or frustrate “the timely, economic, efficient and responsible development” of Alberta’s oil and gas resources.  Who’s to say development has been timely, etc when the government has stacks of reports that conclude development has not been timely, etc.  If development has not be timely, etc, then how will the commissioner determine that the target groups have slowed it down?     
  • The Commissioner is directed to consider “misleading or false information”.  Who decides what information is false and misleading in this complex regulatory area?
  • Alberta politicians insist Alberta is a leader in environmental performance but independent expert reports dating back to 2006 raise serious concerns about emissions, land disturbance, reclamation (including tailings ponds and end-pit lakes), cumulative effects and monitoring regimes.

Ecojustice lawyers

The ABlawg posts include references to a letter submitted by Ecojustice lawyers to the commissioner.  They argue a public inquiry must be impartial, but Mr Kenney’s references to a “well-funded political propaganda campaign” to “defame our energy industry and landlock our resources” and his praise for “the valiant research of Vivian Krause” undermine the impartiality of the Inquiry. 

Furthermore, Mr Kenney’s use of the term “anti-Alberta” (which also appears in the Terms of Reference) is pejorative.  Pejorative comments about witnesses or parties to an Inquiry, or the nature of the Inquiry, contribute to a reasonable apprehension of bias because they signal to the public that evidence of wrongdoing is forthcoming. 

Ecojustice says such comments transform the nature of the Inquiry from a fact finding mission to an exhibition of misconduct and are “reminiscent of the darkest days of the activities of the House Un-American Activities Committee.” 

Which brings us to another one of Timothy Snyder’s lessons On Tyranny.   This lesson applies to all citizens not just professionals.  Snyder urges citizens to listen for dangerous words and to “be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary.” 

The state of Alberta

Is my concern that Alberta is on the slippery slope to something other than democracy overblown?    

Maybe, but when Mr Kenney responds to a question asking if he’s proceeding with litigation to repeal the federal carbon tax by saying “Our first effort was to get a democratic decision from Canadians—that didn’t happen on the carbon tax.”

 Two-thirds of Canadians voted against the federal Conservative party on Oct 21, 2019.  If that isn’t a democratic decision, I don’t know what is.

But then again Mr Kenney and his supporters appear to think Alberta’s right to elect federal representatives is the same as its right to determine who becomes prime minister. 

*I’ve simplified the legal language and urge readers to read the original posts.    

Posted in Energy & Natural Resources, Environment, Law, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , | 39 Comments

How did we get to Wexit?

“Is this democracy’s death spiral? Are we falling, in this and other countries, into a lethal cycle of fury and reaction, that blocks the reasoned conversation on which civic life depends?” – George Monbiot

The cycle of conservative fury and reaction hasn’t stopped for Albertans. 

It started with relentless attacks on Rachel Notley and her government, it peaked in the 2019 federal election with the absurd suggestion that Justin Trudeau be hung for treason. And it went into overdrive when two-thirds of Canadians elected enough progressive MPs to allow the Liberals to form a strong minority government.

All that conservative anger and outrage failed to deliver the desired result, a Conservative government, so they moved on to Plan B:  if the conservatives can’t tear down the Liberal government, they’ll tear down confederation. 

The dilemma for progressives is how do we respond to all this conservative rage, particularly when it takes the shape of Wexit.  We have three choices: (1) they yell at us, we yell at them, (this is demeaning and no one hears a thing),  (2) we ignore them, (they continue to work themselves into a frenzy), or (3) we rebut their arguments, (this takes effort and may produce nothing, but at least the rest of the country knows we’re not as nuts as they are).         

I prefer option #3. 

There are many ways to the challenge lies and half-truths that support conservatives’ beliefs.   

The first line of rebuttal is to challenge the supposed outcome of whatever it is the conservatives are raging about.     

Take the argument that Albertans should be fearful and angry because Trudeau will kill the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion.  As the economist Peter Tertzakian said, this is “highly, highly unlikely” because parliament approved TMX (twice actually) and the only way it can be stopped is if someone brings a motion in Parliament to kill it.  Such a motion would require the support of either the Liberals or the Conservatives to succeed.  Both parties have made it clear they support TMX.  Unless you’re a tinfoil hat conspiracy theorist—and there’s no point in arguing with them—that’s the end of it.  (Incidentally Tertzakian also points out that it’s not the government that’s holding up TMX, it’s the courts). 

The second line of rebuttal is to cite the experts.  The UCP bristled when the NDP said the UCP budget included a tax hike for all Albertans.  The U of C economist, Trevor Tombe, weighed in.  He pointed out the UCP deindexed the amount we’re allowed to  exempt, this will raise $196 million from taxpayers by 2021 and that $196 million would not have been paid without deindexing, so “it’s fair to say it’s a tax increase.”  The UCP responded by saying they didn’t raise taxes, they simply “paused” indexation.  Tomato, Tomaato,   

The third line of rebuttal is taking the conservatives’ positions at face value and seeing if they make any sense. 

Ted Morton wrote an article calling for Alberta’s own Boston Tea Party.  He says Albertans are fearful that the Liberals will kill TMX (see above) and they’re angry because the federal political structure is rigged in the Liberal’s favour because the Liberals don’t need any votes from the West to form government.  He says BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan only have 90 seats between them while Quebec has 78.  He concludes this is wrong because Quebec contributes only 19.5% to Canada’s GDP while BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan combined contribute 32.4%.   He misrepresents how equalization works to argue the “vote-poor” West is being forced to subsidize “vote-rich” Quebec and says Trudeau must respond with political or structural fixes to benefit the West or Albertans will take up the cry “No taxation without representation.” 

This is a goofy argument.  Let’s start by acknowledging that Canada’s political system promotes voter equality by accommodating deviations from riding to riding (for example urban ridings are consistently larger by population than rural ridings).  It has never been based on who has the best GDP. 

Secondly, even if GDP were an appropriate way to allocate seats (which it’s not) why include BC which is not pushing for separation and elected more progressive candidates (25) than conservative ones (17).  If you exclude BC from the GDP calculation, that leaves Alberta and Saskatchewan contributing 18.7% to Canada’s GDP which is less than Quebec’s 19.5%.   

Thirdly, why is the GDP threshold Quebec’s 19.5% and not Ontario’s 38.3% (I know, I know, it’s because Ontario’s GDP is too high to make Morton’s argument work).  

Lastly, what’s the Boston Tea Party got to do with it?   The American colonists had a legitimate beef, they did not have the right to elect representatives to British Parliament.  Albertans have the right to elect federal representatives, and they did, all but one seat went to the Conservatives. 

The problem with Morton’s position is the right to elect representatives does not translate into the right to form government. 

And maybe that’s what this rage, fear, and anger is about.  The Conservatives did not form government.

Frankly, that’s a good thing. 

When the conservatives formed government in the last provincial election, Kenney’s government passed an austerity budget, bet the house on global oil prices (still down) and offered tax cuts to corporations in the hope they would create jobs (they didn’t). 

When the conservatives formed government federally, Harper’s government failed to deliver a pipeline to tidewater, gutted environmental laws and botched the consultation process so badly that every pipeline project ended up in court.      

Albertans have a right to be angry, but before they charge out the door yelling “Wexit” they should consider the role they played in pushing Alberta to this point by electing politicians who consistently let them down.

Oh, and if they want to engage in reasoned conversation we’re here.

Posted in Economy, Energy & Natural Resources, Environment, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , , , | 70 Comments

Greta Visits Alberta

“So today is Friday and as always, we are on Climate Strike, young people all around the globe are today sacrificing their education to bring attention to the climate and ecological emergency.”—Greta Thunberg

On Friday my friend Elaine and I joined more than 10,000 Albertans to show our support for Greta Thunberg and Alberta’s climate activists in the climate strike at the Alberta Legislature because as Greta says, “nothing is impossible if enough people stand united and…never give up.”

I’m sure everyone who participated in this rally came away with different impressions.  Here are mine.

Credit @GretaThunberg

The Climate Strike

The event was extremely well organized despite the short notice—the date and time of Greta’s visit were announced on Wednesday.  We were reminded to march in “a good and kind way” and not to engage with counter-protesters.  (No problem there—the Rebel Media truck plastered with images of Greta and chirping her famous “how dare you” phrase could have been mistaken for an ad promoting the event). 

Before setting off for the Legislature we learned some new chants, talked to the Extinction Rebellion guy who was giving away cookies and watched the helicopters circling overhead (it was like the sixties all over again).      

Two images of the march will always stay with me. The first was an Indigenous drummer who sang as we moved down Jasper Avenue.  We didn’t understand the words, but when he was finished we burst into cheers and applause which he acknowledged with a small smile.  We’re all in this together.

The second was the feeling of awe as we streamed down Jasper Avenue and turned south towards the Legislative grounds, thousands of us flowing around the reflecting pool before finally coming to rest in front of the steps of the Legislature.  We are part of a global community united by a single purpose, to mitigate the disastrous effects of climate change.    

Many Indigenous speakers took the microphone before Greta appeared on stage.  The one I found especially moving was the young woman who rejected the myth that Alberta produces “ethical oil.”  She said this myth obscures the fact that energy companies, with the support of provincial and federal governments, have committed “violence against the land” and against Indigenous peoples and their way of life. 

This is an extremely important point for two reasons.  First, Indigenous peoples have had to go to the Supreme Court of Canada time after time to enforce the rights they’ve been granted under section 35 of the Constitution Act and second, the “ethical oil” argument only works if Canada compares itself to the worst human rights violators and polluters on the planet.  (When was the last time parents told their kids they didn’t have to bring home As and Bs, because anything above an F would do?)

Greta’s speech

I was especially interested to hear what Greta would say given the flak she received from climate change deniers who don’t like her “bossing” them around and the United We Roll folks who drove a convoy of trucks to Edmonton to “show Greta we do not need her yelling at us.”   

Did she yell at us and boss us around?     

No, she thanked Albertans for “the wonderful reception” she’d received and acknowledged we were on Treaty 6 land.   Then she gave a thoughtful and articulate speech about the science of climate change and our role in mitigating its impact.        

She said young people around the globe sacrifice their education on Fridays to bring attention to the climate and ecological emergency.  They do so because they will not be bystanders in the climate crisis and “want the people in power to unite behind the science.” 

She referred to the IPCC SR 1.5 report that concluded the world has a 67% chance of limiting the global temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees. On Jan 1, 2018 we had 420 gigatons of carbon dioxide left in our CO2 budget.  Today that number is less than 360 gigatons and at current emissions levels the remaining CO2 budget will be gone in less than 8.5 years. 

She discussed the suffering that will result from not addressing climate change, especially for “indigenous communities and people of the global south,” and reminded us that the Paris agreement requires equity so richer countries like Sweden and Canada will need to reach zero emissions faster than poorer countries to give poorer countries a chance to improve their standard of living by building necessary infrastructure to provide roads, schools, hospitals, electricity, and clean drinking water.

She said we can’t leave the responsibility to address climate change to “individuals, politicians, the market or other parts of the world.” This is not a partisan political question, “our main enemy right now is physics.” 

Not once did she mention Alberta’s oilsands, Jason Kenney, or the CEOs running oil and gas companies let alone those pathetic sods from the United We Roll convey who spent hours parked blocks away honking their horns. 

Another perspective

The 10,000 Albertans who attended Friday’s rally are not alone. 

In a recent ARC podcast, the respected economist and investment strategist Peter Tertzakian and his co-host Jackie Forrest discussed Greta Thunberg.  Mr Tertzakian said Greta was a “global icon”.  He welcomed her getting onstage and telling world leaders to wake up and create real solutions.  He praised Greta for bringing focus to the consumption side of the fossil fuels equation and for asking everyone to take personal responsibility for their energy consumption.

Jackie Forrest said 50% of emissions are created by people (40% by industry).   She suggested ways to reduce our personal emissions including changing the cars we drive, changing how we heat our homes and becoming more energy efficient. 

Mr Tertzakian said he’s personally concerned about climate change and owns a Tesla Model 3 that will “beat the pants” off its Audi and BMW comparables.   Mr Tertzakian, like many of us, believes if you’re committed to addressing climate change there’s no excuse for not making renewable choices.    

Unstoppable    

In yet another display of childishness, Mr Kenney’s government drew the blinds and closed the windows of the Legislature so it wouldn’t have to see or hear Greta Thunberg speak.    

It doesn’t matter. 

When 10,000 Albertans come together from all over the province to support Greta’s Climate Strike and well respected economists welcome Greta to the stage, we’re unstoppable. 

Mr Kenney and his anti-climate change supporters just don’t know it yet.   

Posted in Climate Change, Disasters, Economy, Energy & Natural Resources, Environment, Politics and Government, Science | Tagged , , , | 48 Comments

Some Thoughts on Thanksgiving

Usually the thought of Thanksgiving invokes images of family and friends sitting around the dining room table enjoying good food, sparkling conversation and laughter…as well as reminiscing over past thanksgiving disasters like Ms Soapbox’s stuffing that was as dry as sand and Mr Soapbox’s failed experiment involving an oyster.    

However, this year on the eve of the federal election, my thoughts went to a letter written by Canada’s former governor general David Johnston in which he described Canada as “a nation for all nations”.   

To understand the relevance of Mr Johnston’s letter to the federal election we need to acknowledge that, much to our dismay, some Canadians are prepared to sink to the dangerous level of political lunacy we’ve witnessed every day since Donald Trump decided to run for the presidency—yesterday Justin Trudeau had to wear a bulletproof vest at a campaign event in Mississauga.  We’ve reached a tipping point; all Canadians need to stop and ask themselves what it means to be Canadian.         

Former governor general David Johnston

This is where Mr Johnston comes in.   

What is a Canadian?  

David Johnston served as Governor General from 2010 to 2017.  He witnessed the shift in Canadian political behavior and still remains inspired by his vision of Canada.  He sets out this vision in a letter to John Buchan, Lord Tweedsmuir, Canada’s first governor general who died the year before Mr Johnston was born.*

This letter discusses the characteristics that have served Canadians well over time. 

As I list these characteristics consider how they’re reflected (or not) in the actions of politicians vying to become Canada’s next prime minister. 

The first governor general, Mr Buchan, believed Canadians tended to have a limited vision, they compartmentalized themselves and others in little boxes of region, language, religion or ancestry.  Decades later Mr Johnston has taken a more expansive view.  He believes being Canadian isn’t a matter of choosing which box to live in but choosing to stay open “to the world and all the complexity it represents” in order to overcome our differences and minimize the forces that would tear us apart. 

The first governor general believed Canada would “be home to all the peoples of the world”.  Seventy-five years later Mr Johnston says this is indeed the case. 

He says Canadians are inclusive and welcome the contributions of all who live here, we’re honourable, peaceful people who use our military power sparingly but with conviction when necessary.  We’re selfless, “our survival has been sustained by humility and acceptance of our mutual interdependence.”  We’re smart and caring, our concern “for the common good of our neighbours in each community makes us responsive.  We do not abandon our fellows to scrape by in times of distress or natural disaster” but come to their aid.    

Mr Johnston’s description of the nature of Canadians is a benchmark by which the political leaders vying for our votes in the upcoming election should be judged.   

Politicians who create a false narrative of victimhood and stoke anger to the point where a political leader is accused of treason and is forced to attend a political rally wearing a Kevlar vest, surrounded by uniformed security officers, are politicians who have fallen far short of Mr Johnston’s definition of a Canadian.   

A time to give thanks…and to think

Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks for the privilege of living in Canada and to think about which federal party will lift Canadians up, not tear them apart, to satisfy their own political ambitions. 

While none of the federal political parties are perfect, some are significantly better than others.

Vote wisely Canada.

*The Idea of Canada: Letters to a Nation, p 297 

Posted in Crime and Justice, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , , | 38 Comments

An Interview with Beverley McLachlin, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada

I was delighted when Shelley Youngblut, CEO & Creative Ringleader of Wordfest, asked if I would like to interview Beverley McLachlin, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, on stage before a live audience about her new book Truth Be Told: My Journey through Life and the Law. 

Before we talk about the interview, let me tell you that Beverley McLachlin is not only an icon of Canadian jurisprudence; she’s also brilliant, warm, witty, and thoughtful.    

Beverley McLachlin, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada

After we’d arrived and introduced ourselves, Shelley and her team left us in the Green Room.  We chatted about her first novel Full Disclosure.  She started the book in the 1980s but put it aside because of she was “busy at work”.  No kidding!  She returned to it when she was about to retire.  She said the process of updating it was fascinating because so much of what we take for granted, (eg cell phones) didn’t exist back then.  She made her main character, a defence lawyer, grittier and added elements reflecting her love for Vancouver and West Coast art.  The novel was completed in a year and instantly became a national best seller.  You should read it. 

Soon it was time for us to take our places on stage under the bright lights with a low coffee table between us and begin what felt to me like a private conversation in front of a sold out audience sitting quietly in the dark. 

The interview

We started where the book starts, with her childhood.  The former Chief Justice, oh let’s just call her Beverley, was a “free range” child born and raised in Pincher Creek, Alberta.  Her mother told her “school will teach you everything you need to know.”  Beverley needed to know everything, so she augmented her public school education with books from the local library which she credits with saving her from a “premature intellectual death.”

Her education was supposed to prepare her for the future, however the only occupations deemed suitable for a woman at that time—teacher, nurse, secretary, telephone operator, and waitress—didn’t interest her.  Besides she’d been told that due to her “low alertness score” she would not be a very good telephone operator or waitress.  She did have an extremely high reading retention score but what good was that to a woman.  (A lot of good as it turned out!)

Beverley studied philosophy and law at the University of Alberta.  Women made up 10% of her law class.    She was a brilliant student (my words, not hers) and was the Gold Medalist in her year.  Every law firm in Edmonton should have been clamouring for her to join them as an articling student, however in her first interview she was asked “why do you want to work?”   The question perplexed her until she discovered the unwritten rule that a woman, once married, should give up her career and become a full time wife and mother.  So much for seven years of education.     

She worked in private practice before joining the faculty at the UBC law school where she taught evidence.

She was appointed to the County Court in Vancouver in 1981 and nine years later was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada.  She spent 28 years at the Supreme Court, 17 of them as the Chief Justice—she said the position hands you the reins of power, it’s only later that you discover the reins aren’t attached to anything.  Her goal was to do everything possible to help each judge be the best he or she could be.

Along the way she married Rory McLachlin and had a son, Angus.  Rory developed cancer and died at 47, her son Angus was 12.  When Brian Mulroney called to offer her a position on the Supreme Court of Canada she was reluctant to take it given all that her little family had gone through, but Angus encouraged her to accept the offer. 

Eventually Beverly remarried, this time to Frank McArdle, who proposed on an airline flight over the plane’s PA system. 

Beverley is adept at weaving stories about her personal life with observations about justice and fairness.    

Discrimination

Discrimination can be overt or subtle.  In her book Beverley said the world is divided into two realms, one of men and one of women.  “Women were occasionally allowed to venture into the realm of men, but only to the extent required to accomplish what the men wanted or needed.”   She describes her obsession with perfection (which she says is a uniquely female preoccupation) as flowing from the feeling that women were allowed into a man’s world by grace, but to keep their place they had to be perfect.    

Discrimination can be brutally overt.  In her book Beverley describes the injustices experienced by Indigenous peoples—when she was growing up public washrooms still displayed “No Indians” signs—and credits her family for not preaching inclusion but living it.   

The Cases

When asked which of her cases was the most memorable, Beverley said there were many but highlighted the cases brought by Indigenous peoples struggling to protect the rights that have been guaranteed to them under Section 35 of The Constitution Act. 

She said if she had to pick a single case it would be the Reference re: Secession of Quebec which held that Quebec could not unilaterally secede from Canada but if a reference produced a clear majority in favour of secession, then the federal government would need to meet with Quebec to determine the terms of separation. 

The Nadon/Harper incident

As a rule, judges do not respond to public criticism, however when Prime Minister Harper publicly accused Ms McLachlin of interfering with the appointment of Marc Nadon to the Supreme Court, Ms McLaclin was forced to respond.  She issued a press release saying she’d done nothing wrong and setting out the facts.  She invited Mr Harper to respond with additional facts if he had any.  He did not.  The International Commission of Jurists (and the legal community as a whole) examined the facts and concluded Ms McLachlin had not acted improperly.  It called upon Mr Harper to apologize.  When I asked whether Mr Harper apologized, Beverley said no, but he always gives her a big hug when he sees her. 

The morning of our interview the Globe quoted Mr Nadon as saying he had more respect for the US Supreme Court than the Canadian Supreme Court and that Canadian “activist” judges should be more like American “originalist” judges who interpret statutes in the way the original drafters intended.  (An originalist interpretation would have killed legislation allowing physician assisted dying, decriminalizing abortion and recognizing Charter protections for the LBGTQ community). 

Beverley said people who support originalism don’t understand that such an interpretation of our Constitution would turn our world upside down because the Constitution as originally framed gave tremendous power to the federal government at the expense of the provinces.  She also said the complaint against “activist” judges is often used by someone who just doesn’t like a court’s decision. 

The perks of power

The Chief Justice is the third highest ranking official in Canada, after the Governor General and the Prime Minister.  Consequently, Beverley and Frank attended many ceremonial dinners.  She described attending a Golden Jubilee dinner for the Queen and discovering at the last minute that she was to be seated right next to Her Majesty.   Had she known she would have prepared a number of conversational gambits, luckily as a child she was obsessed with Princess Elizabeth and drew upon this knowledge to ask the Queen about her dogs and her education and where her horse was buried.  The two of them hit it off and every time someone tried to interject the Queen responded politely and then returned to their conversation with a regal “Now Beverley…” (Beverley does an amazingly good impression of the Queen).

All too quickly it was time to wrap it up.  I closed with a quote from Beverley’s book where she said, “Canada’s justice system is not perfect, but it is among the best in the world.”  

I thanked Beverley McLachlin then and I’d like to thank her again now for having the tenacity, courage and intelligence to make it so. 

Posted in Crime and Justice, Feminism, Law, Rich and/or Famous | Tagged , , , , , | 23 Comments

Justin Trudeau in Blackface

Ms Soapbox just returned from Italy with a miserable head cold, jet lag and no luggage.  In this pathetic state she is trying to make sense of the Trudeau/blackface stories that have dominated the news for the last week. 

Trudeau apologized twice and acknowledged that “layers of privilege” as a wealthy white man blinded him to the racism behind his actions.  He appears to be truly remorseful.  This is enough for some people and not enough for others.  Meanwhile the media continues to churn the story with irrelevant questions like “who is the real Trudeau” and assertions that the real problem is Trudeau “expects” forgiveness.  (Since the only one who knows who the “real” Trudeau is or whether he “expects” forgiveness is Trudeau, this is mindless speculation).    

A repentant Mr Trudeau

The only thing that matters now is whether Trudeau’s behavior almost 20 years ago is enough to derail the Liberals in this election. 

Given the Liberals’ progress on immigration, indigenous issues and climate change and their efforts to improve the quality of life for children and the elderly as well as those who happen not to be in the top one percent it would be sad if Trudeau’s lack of judgement so many years ago tanked the party’s chance of re-election. 

However, given the Liberals failure to deliver on the promise of proportional representation and their shoddy handling of the JWR/SNC file, this could be the last straw. 

Which leads Ms Soapbox to what’s truly bothering her about this mess—the feeling that we must vote for Trudeau because Scheer’s conservatives are so much worse.           

Only once did Ms Soapbox hit the trifecta in an election where she respected the party leader, she supported the party’s policies and she liked her local candidate.  That was with Rachel Notley’s NDP in 2015. 

Given the prospect of a Scheer conservative government, two out of three isn’t bad… 

…but surely, it’s not too much to ask for political parties to allow us to vote for a candidate with the best policies to face an uncertain future instead of against candidates who by comparison are less worthy of our support.        

Posted in Politics and Government | Tagged , , , | 66 Comments

When Goliath Thinks He’s David

Ms Soapbox and her daughter were admiring the statues in the Borghese Gallery in Rome when Amnesty International published an open letter expressing its concern that Mr Kenney’s decision to fund a $30 million war room and a $2.5 million public inquiry into foreign funding of environmental groups undermines and violates Canadian and international human rights.

Mr Kenney fired back with a mendacious diatribe that failed to address the issue (violation of human rights) and spewed nonsense intended to convince everyone that environmentalists were bullies and the energy sector and Albertans dependent on it were their victims. He’d promised to protect these “victims” and by golly he’d deploy the full power of the state to punish those who got in his way.

His supporters lapped it up; the rest of us were disgusted.

Which brings me back to the statues in the Borghese Gallery, specifically Bernini’s magnificent statue of David.

Bernini’s David

So here’s Mr Kenney’s problem. He’s got it backwards. He’s not David taking on Goliath, he’s Goliath taking on David and we all know how that turned out.

Those who oppose Mr Kenney’s policies on climate change, heck his policies in general, are like David, determined and unafraid. We’re gathering strength and refining our focus and one day that stone will fly and Goliath, the champion of the Philistines will fall.*

Mr Kenney’s cavalier response to a legitimate concern expressed by Amnesty International all but guarantees it.

*Ms Soapbox is not for one moment suggesting someone slingshot Mr Kenney. Like Mr Kenney’s use of the Putin/Greenpeace off-to-Siberia example, Mr Soapbox’s reference to David and Goliath is meant to be instructive, simply instructive.

Posted in Climate Change, Crime and Justice, Energy & Natural Resources, Environment, Politics and Government, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 39 Comments