Razzle Dazzle ‘Em: Part One

“Give ‘em the old Razzle Dazzle…how can they see with sequins in their eyes?” —Richard Gere as a corrupt criminal lawyer in the musical Chicago

Prepare to be razzle dazzled!

Jason Kenney spoke at the Calgary Chamber of Commerce and the Energy Relaunch conference recently.  This post will cover the Chamber speech, tomorrow we’ll consider the Energy Relaunch speech—both were chock a block with razzle dazzle.

chicago-cast-reunite-oscar-presenters-miramax

Richard Gere razzle dazzles ’em

 

Kenney started the Chamber speech with a litany of all that’s wrong with Alberta’s economy, blaming NDP policies like the carbon tax, increased personal and business taxes, the increased minimum wage and “massive new regulations” for making the economy worse.

Kenney said these policies created a “crisis of investor confidence” and reduced investment in the energy sector, citing the cancellation of Northern Gateway, the “killing of Energy East”, the “surrender to President Obama’s veto of Keystone XL, and the failure of the feds to assert jurisdiction over Trans Mountain as examples.  NOTE: none of these were caused by the NDP.

But here’s where it got interesting.  Kenney said these were not “isolated incidents” but rather “the culmination of a long and largely foreign funded campaign of defamation of Canadian energy.”

Wait, what?  The “crisis in investor confidence” is the result of a plot by fake US charities to destroy Canada’s energy industry?

Cue Alex Jones…

Kenney supported his conspiracy theory by referring to a meeting cohosted by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Hewlett Packard Foundation 10 years ago with two dozen NGOs.  The purpose of the meeting was to plot the “tar sands campaign” to bottleneck Alberta’s resources.

Kenney cited “independent researcher” Vivian Krause as a source for his allegation that hedge fund billionaires and fake charities like the Tides Foundation are undermining Canadian energy.  (Vivian Krause is a nutritionist cum spokesperson for the energy industry.  She’s been discredited by tax and charity law expert Mark Blumberg.  Also, a significant part of the $425 million that US foundations donated to Canada over the last 15 years went to the Great Bear Rainforest, a project in partnership with the Harper government).

Kenney said the plotters chose Canada, (“a soft target”), because they knew they couldn’t stop oil production in the US, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Russian, Qatar, and Iran.  By keeping Canadian oil landlocked it would sell at a discount.

The logic is hard to follow but I think it’s this:  Tides funds protesters; regulators and the courts ignore the law and cave to protesters; oil companies move their investments to other jurisdictions like the US, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Russian, Qatar, and Iran and oil production continues apace.

Razzle Dazzle ‘em!

Kenney’s Solution

Having exposed the conspiracy to bring Alberta’s energy sector to its knees, Kenney then turned to his solution.

First, he reminded the audience of his messianic mission to recreate a “common sense, broad, mainstream free enterprise coalition” (translation: join the UCP).

Second, he promised the UCP would deliver on the following broad commitments if elected.  They would:

  • “hit the ground running”. Kenney will convene a summer session of the Legislature to repeal the carbon tax, reduce business and personal taxes and restructure and/or reduce the minimum wage hike.
  • “untie the regulatory knot/lightening regulatory red tape”. Kenney will appoint a minister to reduce the regulatory burden by one-third and hire people to help draft Orders in Council to eliminate/replace regulations across all sectors, not just energy.  Cabinet will adopt these OICs in the week they’re sworn into office.  He cautioned that his government would be “constrained” with respect to fiscal stimulus and will “overcompensate” for this constraint “on the regulatory side” (ie scrap regulations, unleash the free market!)
  • engage in a “fight-back strategy” to address the international conspiracy to landlock Alberta energy. We’ll explore this in greater detail in Razzle Dazzle ‘Em:  Part 2  

Rule of Law

Kenney is taking advice from Sir Roger Douglas, New Zealand’s (Labour) Minister of Finance from 1984 to 1988.  Sir Roger urges speed in order to make structural change in the public sector because speed creates momentum and makes it harder for opponents of reform to obstruct it.

Okay, hold that thought while we take a quick look at the Rule of Law.

The World Justice Project says the Rule of Law is founded on four universal principles:

  • Accountability: the law applies to the government as well as private actors
  • Just laws: laws are just, clear, publicized, and stable. They’re evenly applied and protect fundamental rights
  • Open government: the processes by which laws are enacted, administered, and enforced are accessible, fair, and efficient
  • Accessible and impartial dispute resolution: justice is timely. Delivered by competent, ethical, neutral and independent representatives who are accessible, have adequate resources, and reflect the communities they serve

The principle that is relevant here is Open Government.

Government is made up of three branches.  The Legislative branch, the Executive branch, and the Judicial branch.  The Legislative branch makes the laws and the Executive branch (Cabinet) implements them.

Kenney says he has no time for consultation, so he’ll hire people who’ll beaver away behind closed doors drafting Orders-in-Council to eliminate or replace regulations across all sectors.  These OICs will be adopted by Cabinet in the week the cabinet ministers are sworn into office.  Any laws that cannot be quietly erased or circumvented by OICs will be repealed in the summer session of the Legislature (assuming the UCP has a majority) and voila, this will send a message to global and domestic capital markets that the UCP government is a government of action, not one paralyzed by process.

Sadly, it will also send a message to Albertans that the UCP government is a government that does not believe in the Rule of Law because he’s prepared to violate the principle of Open Government.

OICs change the law.  They are not published before they’re adopted by Cabinet, they appear after the fact in the Alberta Gazette. The public won’t know which laws are changed or how they’ve been changed until it’s too late to do anything about it.

The Open Government principle requires the process of law making to be accessible, fair and efficient.  While it’s “efficient” to change laws behind closed doors by drafting OICs to be rubberstamped by clueless Cabinet ministers with very little understanding of their own ministries let alone the ministries of their fellow cabinet ministers; and it’s “efficient” to jam laws through the Legislature in the summer when no one is paying attention, this is neither “fair” nor “accessible”.

The need for speed

Kenney met Sir Roger in 1993 when Sir Roger came to Alberta to meet with the Klein government.  He described Sir Roger as spearheading the most ambitious and successful reforms of any modern government.

Really?

According to Murray Dobbin, after four years of “Rogernomics” New Zealand’s agricultural sector was in ruins: farm income dropped 40%, farm land value dropped by 50%, and a policy paying 3,000 farmers a $45,000 incentive to leave was in place.  Unemployment shot up from 4% before Douglas’s reforms to over 12% a year later.

Kenney may venerate Sir Roger but it’s difficult to see why Albertans should do so.

In his Chamber of Commerce speech Kenney told Albertans he believes in conspiracy theories and his government will not observe the Open Government principle of the Rule of Law.

And he told us all this in a blaze of razzle dazzle.

Which brings us back to Richard Gere who said, “What if your hinges all are rusting?  What if in fact you’re just disgusting?  Razzle dazzle ‘em.  And they’ll never catch wise!”

Maybe, but most Albertans don’t have sequins in their eyes.

Posted in Energy & Natural Resources, Law, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , | 14 Comments

How a Party’s Nominees Reflect a Party’s Values

Racists, homophobes and xenophobes do not feel at home in the New Democratic Party consequently NDP nomination meetings are not derailed by bozo eruptions and do not attract much media attention.

This radio silence means many Albertans are uninformed about the quality of the nominees the NDP considers of sufficient character to represent the party in the 2019 election.

If the two nomination meetings Ms Soapbox attended last week are any indication, the caliber of NDP nominees is outstanding.

On Thursday Janet Eremenko was acclaimed the NDP candidate for Calgary-Elbow and on Saturday Anne McGrath was acclaimed the NDP candidate (replacing Stephanie McLean who is stepping down) for Calgary-Varsity.

yaxnftcl_400x400

Janet Eremenko NDP candidate Calgary-Elbow

Both women are stellar candidates with much in common.  They have a long history of community service, Janet works in poverty reduction in Calgary and has a strong sense of civic duty (she ran in the last municipal election).  Anne has been active in politics and social justice for decades.  She was Jack Layton’s chief of staff before becoming Rachael Notley’s principal secretary.  They’re both married with children and are deeply committed to making Alberta work for all Albertans.

They’re eloquent speakers who can clearly articulate the Notley government’s accomplishments including $25/day daycare, the $15 minimum wage, and increased support of public healthcare (the Cancer Clinic will be completed ahead of schedule), and public education and infrastructure.

They’re in the enviable position of running for a party that knows what it stands for; and is led by a leader with a reputation for intelligence, integrity, compassion and wit.

220px-anne_mcgrath_28cropped29

Anne McGrath NDP candidate for Calgary-Varsity

Janet and Anne’s supporters packed the venues;  Janet’s event was held at a popular restaurant, Anne’s took place in a community hall.  There was barely room to move let alone hear each other as lawyers, doctors, business executives, entrepreneurs, teachers, nurses, electricians, welders, union reps, seniors and university students pressed close to hear what everyone had to say.  They were noisy, optimistic and generous (both candidates raised thousands of dollars).

And why shouldn’t they be upbeat, they’d just won the trifecta.  Voters decide on how they will vote based on three things:  the party, the party leader, and the local candidate.  If they’re lucky they’ll nail two out of three, but rarely do all three elements line up like three cherries on a slot machine.

Until now.

NDP voters in Calgary-Elbow and Calgary-Varsity are over the moon because they like the NDP party, they like Rachel Notley, and they like their local candidates.  Compare this to the dilemma faced by UCP supporters who are still waiting to find out what their party stands for (their leader holds the pen and will tell them when he’s good and ready), who are concerned about their leader’s position on social issues, and who are being asked to support local UCP candidates who may have zero influence on the party’s leader and the party’s policies.

Janet and Anne’s supporters are well aware the 2019 election will be a hard slog, but they’re up for the challenge, looking forward to the chance to put Rachel Notley and their local candidate up against Jason Kenney and the UCP candidates.  They’re confident that most Albertans don’t want to drag the province backward to the Klein era, economically and socially, and would prefer to move forward into the 21st century with confidence and resolve.

A supporter summed up their position with a Notley quote:  “We’re not afraid of the future.  We own it!”

So yes, the NDP nomination meetings don’t get much media coverage, and for good reason.  The NDP field quality nominees while the UCP is plagued with racists, homophobes and xenophobes.

If you’re still not sure whose vision, Notley’s or Kenney’s, best reflects your Alberta, take a closer look at the NDP and UCP nominees, that’ll tell you all you need to know.

NOTE:  this post is about the quality of the people running for nomination for political office in Alberta.  If it reads like a puff piece for the NDP that’s because I’m comparing certain NDP nominees to certain UCP nominees.  

Posted in Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , , | 41 Comments

Political Discourse in Alberta: Seen through Orwell’s Lens

“Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”—George Orwell

It was fascinating to consider Jason Kenney’s comments on two issues that arose this week in the context of George Orwell’s commentary on political discourse.

flickr_24745487197_0a544b95f4_o

George Orwell

The first issue was Mr Kenney’s response to the latest bozo eruption, the second issue was his plan to save Alberta’s energy industry.  Mr Kenney’s comments illustrate the political bafflegab Orwell calls a “catalogue of swindles and perversions”.

“Making lies sound truthful”

Last week three UCP nomination candidates running in an Edmonton riding posed for pictures with the Soldiers of Odin, a white nationalist, anti-immigration group originating in Finland with links to neo-Nazis in Europe.

Two of the candidates said they didn’t know who the SOO were.  The third candidate knew exactly who they were but gave them the benefit of the doubt because they were polite.

Jason Kenney’s response to the incident was, umm, creative:

  • The SOO “crashed” the event (they RSVP’d in advance and checked with the venue to make sure they could wear their colours)
  • The SOO could have been mistaken for a baseball team or motorcycle gang (or they could have been recognized as the SOO from their regalia)
  • The incident was “an act of political mischief” by the Alberta Independence Party who apparently associate “with various kooky organizations.” (google the AIP, there’s no reference to the SOO or their ilk; the AIP supports the LBGTQ+ community but shares the UCP’s belief that parents should be aware of any extracurricular activity (including GSAs) their children participate in).
  • Premier Notley was wrong to say the fact the UCP allowed eight people who expressed racist or homophobic views to run for nomination indicates a “pattern of behavior” that shows the UCP is open to extremists. Kenney said this is “gutter politics” (gutter politics is rooting around in someone’s personal life to dig up dirt to discredit them, it is not the same as stating a fact, namely that eight UCP candidates expressed extremist views and the party continues to attract extremist supporters like the SOO).
  • Notley should have “stood in solidarity” with the Aboriginal candidates who were the “victims of this situation” (why? because they’re women? because they’re Aboriginal? because they were duped? because they’re standing for a party that attracts extremists?)

Orwell says politicians who speak without precision: (1) have a meaning but can’t express it, or (2) inadvertently say something they don’t mean, or (3) are “almost indifferent as to whether [their] words mean anything or not”.

Given that it’s not true the SOO “crashed” the event, there are no facts to indicate the AIP set it up as an act of “political mischief”, a white nationalist, anti-immigration group can be described as many things but “kooky” is not one of them, and Mr Kenney’s attack on Premier Notley is based on an incorrect understanding of the meaning of “gutter politics”, one can only assume Mr Kenney is “almost indifferent” about whether his words mean anything at all.

“Giving the appearance of solidity to pure wind”

When Mr Kenney wasn’t dealing with bozo eruptions he was telling the business community he’d fix Alberta by “hitting the ground running” and sending a message that “Alberta is open for business again”.

He says his government will be a champion of the energy industry.  He’ll move from “being on the defence” to a “fight-back strategy” (I guess that’s supposed to be an offense strategy but fighting-back sounds defensive to me).  He’ll set up “a well-resourced war room in the Ministry of Energy to respond in real time to every lie and myth told about our energy industry here in Canada or around the world.”  He’ll set up satellite offices if necessary.

Orwell calls this “pretentious diction”.  It’s used to dress up a simple statement, namely that Mr Kenney intends to increase the bureaucracy by hiring more people to man a “well-resourced war room” in the Department of Energy and its satellite offices to respond to “lies and myths” wherever they arise.

How will they respond?  Presumably by writing papers and op-eds, attending speaking engagements, and monitoring and responding to comments made in the mainstream media and social media by other governments (including First Nations) and special interest groups.  It is unclear whether the plan includes showing up at conferences and demonstrations to deliver the energy industry’s message to those that oppose it.

It’s a nice piece of corporate welfare but it’s just talk and will have no impact on the federal regulators and courts that approve interprovincial pipelines or international organizations like OPEC that impact global supply and thus prices.

Orwell warns that hackneyed phrases are meaningless; this is particularly true when they’re code for hiring staff to do something that will have no impact on Alberta’s economy.

Orwell’s message

George Orwell made his comments about political discourse in the middle of WW2 while “highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me.”  Alberta’s situation is nowhere near as dire, but Orwell’s observations are still relevant.

Albertans deserve more than political language designed to make lies sound truthful and give substance to meaningless fluff.

Jason Kenney’s off-hand dismissal of the SOO fiasco and his promise that a UCP government will send the message that Alberta is open for business simply doesn’t cut it.

This week Mr Kenney said nothing more than what Orwell described as a string of hackneyed phrases “tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated hen-house.”

Posted in Culture, Energy & Natural Resources, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , , , | 17 Comments

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

It’s been an intense week (aren’t they all).

Today let’s pause and reflect.  We have much to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

IMG_5642

A turkey to serve cranberry sauce.  Perfect.

Posted in Celebrations, Uncategorized | Tagged | 27 Comments

The Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearing and How a Calgary City Councillor Sank PostMedia’s Credibility

The Kavanaugh confirmation hearing is like a mirror shattering on the floor, shards of glass are flying every where and women are demanding accountability.

Everyone knows about the two women who confronted Senator Jeff Flake in an elevator and demanded he think carefully about the message he’s sending women by voting in favour of confirmation.

Fewer people know about Calgary city councillor Jyoti Gondek who took the Calgary Herald to task for running a column headlined:  “Kavanaugh doesn’t deserve this. What happened in high school stays in high school.”

105476846-1538134325809rts236md-530x298

Brett Kavanaugh

On Sept 26, columnist Naomi Lakritz said the Kavanaugh hearing should “strike fear into the hearts of all men because it means no matter how sterling a reputation you have in your adult life and career, something dumb you may or may not have been involved in high school can forever come back to haunt you.”

The Herald says the column received “social media backlash”, local and national media called for comments, and two city councillors, Druh Farrell and Jyoti Gondek announced they would not respond to interview requests from Herald reporters.  (A third councillor, Gian-Carlo Carra, later made a similar announcement).

Gondek* is crystal clear about why she’s suspending interaction with the Herald.  She says it’s irresponsible to normalize sexual assault and disagrees with the Herald’s decision to print the column under the headline: “What happened in high school stays in high school”.

A day or so after Gondek announced her decision, she and the Herald leadership talked on the phone.  Gondek says they came to understand each other’s perspectives and are sorting through next steps.  She hopes Calgarians “can have a broader conversation about the state of journalism in a time of social media and polarizing global politics” and suggested journalists engage with citizens “to re-establish mutual expectations.”

This is a laudable goal on Gondek’s part, however it is doubtful the Herald will rise to the challenge.

On Sept 26 it published an editorial entitled “Free speech for all, including victims of sexual misconduct” where it said it did not agree with the Lakritz column but justified publishing it because editorial pages are intended to reflect a variety of opinions and stir debate so that “published ideas become part of the larger discussion.”

On Sept 29 it took a more aggressive stance with an editorial entitled “Importance of Free Speech” and declared, “We will not apologize.  We are a platform for free speech”.  The editorial included a reference to the Charter which protects “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication” and a quote from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (“It is only through exposure to different ideas and opinion that each person can make their own informed choices about their core beliefs.”)  The Herald said publishing the Lakritz column and two other columns that strongly disagreed with it was a privilege and a sacred trust and it would stand by its columnists’ right to express their opinions “and no amount of pressure from social media will change that.”

The Sept 29 editorial is bizarre for a number of reasons:

(1) No one is demanding an apology.  The Herald’s righteous refusal to offer one is a red herring that simply confuses the issue.

(2) Invoking the Charter in this context is meaningless.  The Charter protects freedom of expression, including freedom of the press and other media, from infringement by the government (incidentally, such protection is not absolute, the government can infringe our Charter rights with laws that are demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society).  Gondek and others, including the advertiser who objected to its ad running beside the Lakritz column, do not have the power to infringe the Herald’s freedom of speech.  However, they can galvanize public support for their opinion that the Herald acted irresponsibly and this could negatively impact advertiser and subscription revenues.

(3) Cherry picking a quote from Canadian Civil Liberties Association is disingenuous for a newspaper that often finds itself on the wrong side of CCLA causes like protecting LBGTQ rights and opposing what the CCLA calls “religious indoctrination” in public schools.

(4) The issue isn’t whether Lakritz should be free to express her opinion, but whether the Herald acted irresponsibly when it published Lakritz’s opinion in a format Gondek and others say normalizes sexual assault.

Where does this leave us?

Gondek says “we need to understand the significance of the words we choose, and the responsibility we carry when we express our sentiments publicly, regardless of the medium.”

This is particularly true for journalists who, in the words of veteran newspaper editor Neil Reynolds, are in a position to right wrongs and tell stories that bear witness to all that is universally human.

We live in difficult times.  We need newspaper editors like Neil Reynolds and citizens like Jyoti Gondek now more than ever.

*Gondek’s comments can be found @JyotiGondek or on her Facebook page

Posted in Law, Social Media, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 38 Comments

Blinded by the Brand

Why are people loyal to a brand that guarantees austerity today in return for the promise of prosperity tomorrow with no plan setting out how and when austerity will morph into prosperity and despite overwhelming evidence that similar promises failed to deliver prosperity in the past?

It’s a mystery, but part of the explanation has to be that people are blinded by the brand, especially if it sets up black hats and white hats and is easy to express in memes.

For example, if the UCP stands for righteous austerity, then the NDP must stand for frivolous spending.  If the UCP believes in trickle-down economics, then the NDP are rampant socialists.

There is nothing in between.

2000px-united_conservative_party_logo_28alberta29-svg

But here’s where loyalty to the brand becomes problematic.  People who say they support the UCP because they believe economic pain today will bring economic prosperity tomorrow fail to understand that the UCP brand is more than an economic ideology, it extends to a discriminatory position on social issues that is attractive to homophobes, Islamophobes, pro-lifers, alt-rightists and nutbars who will run roughshod over the rule of law and democratic norms if it’s necessary to implement their conservative agenda.

UCP supporters argue they can’t be tarred with the same brush as the UCP lunatic fringe, they insist they’re fiscally conservative and socially progressive.

This brings us to what Timothy Snyder describes in his book On Tyranny as the renunciation of the difference between what you want to hear and what actually is the case.

Snyder says the truth dies in four ways.  His analysis is set in the context of tyranny but in this post-Trump era it is equally applicable to the conservative movement as espoused by Jason Kenney.

Presenting lies as facts:  Jason Kenney has convinced many Albertans that Alberta is on the rocks and only he and the UCP can save it, however, Bloomberg reports Alberta led the country in 2017 with GDP growth at 4.9 percent.  GDP growth is expected to be 2.7 percent in 2018 and many economic indicators including exports, manufacturing, rig activity and wholesale trade have seen gains.  The labour market is improving, and corporate profits are expected to be higher in 2018.

Even Mr Kenney knows this to be true.  He didn’t describe Alberta as a sad sack province when he traveled to India on a bizarre little junket.   Instead he told government and industry representatives that Alberta was a low tax province with one of the best educated work forces, efficient power prices and lots of strategic advantages for investment.

Shamanistic incantation to make the fictional plausible:  If there’s one thing Kenney and the UCP are adamant about it’s that the NDP are a bunch of raving socialists.  The comment section of any article describing anything the NDP government does demonstrates this fiction has taken hold with UCP supporters who are convinced the socialists are using any means possible, including farm safety legislation and the curriculum re-write, to spread their socialist ideology to the unsuspecting masses.

If Mr Kenney and his supporters knew anything about political and economy theory or simply paid attention to the Notley government’s relationship with the business sector (particularly energy) they’d know this isn’t true.

Magical thinking to embrace contradiction:  Mr Kenney insists that cutting taxes and implementing austerity will not negatively impact public services.  He refers to the Klein era as the golden age of balanced budgets but never acknowledges the devastating impact Klein’s cuts had on education, healthcare and infrastructure.  Short-term and long-term beds were cut by 50%, nurses and teachers left the province in droves, and the infrastructure deficit is now over $16 billion.

No amount of magical thinking will reconcile a 10% flat tax with the expectation that public services will continue to be provided at today’s standards.

Misplaced faith:  Snyder says when a politician presents himself as the saviour of [insert favourite ideology here] evidence is irrelevant, his followers will support him based on faith.

UCP supporters believe Mr Kenney when he says he’s interested in economic issues, not social ones.  They believe Mr Kenney when he says the UCP rejects those who express hateful views of entire groups of people and that such people are not welcome to run for the party.  They have faith that Mr Kenney will not support policies that discriminate against certain Albertans, notwithstanding the regressive beliefs of the lunatic fringe who’ve found a home in the UCP.

And yet not a week goes by without the discovery of a UCP nominee whose social media pages are rife with Islamophobic, homophobic, racist and anti-Semitic content.  Some of these nominees are removed from the nomination process, others remain in the race.  Their supporters continue to spout the same discriminatory beliefs Mr Kenney says are abhorrent to him and the party.

UCP supporters who insist Mr Kenney will separate his fiscally conservative agenda from his socially regressive agenda* are kidding themselves.

In their desire to become wealthy at some undefined point in the future, they’ve renounced the difference between what they want to hear and what the UCP has been broadcasting in dog-whistles and overt appeals to those who want him to implement economic and social policies straight out of the 1950s.

They’ve allowed themselves to be blinded by the brand.

*See Kyle Morrow’s well researched account of Mr Kenney’s 30-year fight against women’s reproductive rights   

Posted in Politics and Government, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 32 Comments

The Notwithstanding Clause: A Gift from Doug Ford to Jason Kenney

Sometimes silence speaks louder than words.

Last week Doug Ford went straight to the nuclear option when a judge told him no Doug, you can’t downsize Toronto city council in the middle of a municipal election just because you feel like it.  Mr Ford says he’s going to invoke the “notwithstanding clause”, Section 33 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to get his way.

When a conservative politician makes a grand “I’ll show you” gesture, especially when it is accompanied by overblown rhetoric about activist judges interfering with the wise decisions of elected representatives, it is customary for all conservative politicians to pile on.

But one conservative politician, Jason Kenney, has remained uncharacteristically silent.  (Mr Kenney hits the airwaves to condemn things his own government did when it was in power, so it’s strange he’s not applauding Doug Ford for putting the judiciary in its place).

premiere-melee-politique-balado-jason-kenney-doug-ford

Mr Kenney and Mr Ford

Mr Kenney could have said many things, including the comments he made 20 years ago as a Reform MP when he said the Klein government should “have the courage to invoke Section 33 [and begin] the recovery of democracy” to override a Supreme Court of Canada decision that said an employee could not be fired on the basis of his sexual orientation because it was a protected ground under the legislation.

Instead he declined to be interviewed.

It’s unlikely Mr Kenney is no longer worried about “the recovery of democracy”.

It’s more likely Mr Kenney is beside himself with joy.  Mr Ford’s decision to invoke Section 33 will give Mr Kenney a preview of what to expect if he tries to do the same thing in Alberta (assuming he’s elected in 2019).  If Mr Ford pulls it off without grave political damage Mr Kenney will deploy Section 33 as part of his legislative arsenal to transform Alberta into the beacon of the conservative movement.

It’s an incredible gift for the man who sees himself as the leader of the Canadian conservative movement.

Section 33

Section 33 has been described as “reintroducing a measure of Supremacy of Parliament” by allowing Parliament and the legislatures to “have the last word on a number of issues”.

These issues concern fundamental freedoms including freedom of thought, assembly, association, and the press (section 2), legal rights including the right not to be arbitrarily detained and arrested (sections 7 to 14) and equality rights including the right to equal protection and benefit of the law without discrimination on the basis of race, ethnic origin, religion, sex, etc (section 15).

Critics of the notwithstanding clause say it renders the Charter useless.  Others disagree saying Section 33 is limited in scope (it looks pretty broad to me) and time, it must be renewed after five years or it expires.  They also say it’s rarely used and legislative bodies generally let the Supreme Court of Canada have the last word.

This may have been true in the past, but it’s not true today when the conservative movement is being led by the likes of Doug Ford and Jason Kenney.

Mr Kenney’s agenda

Mr Kenney has been crystal clear about his economic agenda.  He will bring back the “Alberta Advantage” by eliminating the carbon tax, bringing back the 10% flat tax, and reducing the deficit by imposing austerity measures.

Yes, it’s going to hurt but it can be accomplished without impacting our fundamental rights and freedoms.

Mr Kenney has been less transparent about his social agenda, preferring to boycott potentially contentious debates rather than risk a bozo eruption.

However, the reaction of UCP to NDP legislation that protects LBGTQ2S+ rights and the rights of organized labour signals a desire to reverse the progress the NDP has made on these fronts.

This is where the “notwithstanding clause” becomes important.  The UCP government could pass legislation revoking such protections and invoke the notwithstanding clause to pre-empt any attempt to challenge such legislation for violating the Charter.

And there is nothing anyone could do about it.

Will he or won’t he?  

Mr Kenney refused to be interviewed about Doug Ford’s decision to invoke Section 33, instead the UCP issued a statement saying Section 33 “is a tool available to every provincial government to use if and when it is appropriate.”

Mr Kenney won’t comment because he’s waiting to see if Mr Ford can pull this off.

If Mr Ford is able to ramrod legislation through the House using Section 33, Mr Kenney will use it at the “appropriate” time to reverse socially progressive legislation and demonstrate to Alberta and Canada that he’s got what it takes to be the true leader of the conservative movement.

If Mr Ford is hammered by political blowback, Mr Kenney won’t have to backtrack from having praised Mr Ford for trying this stunt in the first place and can hold the idea in reserve for the future.

Mr Kenney knows there’s a time to be silent and a time to speak up.

Albertans know this too.

If Albertans want to ensure their Charter rights won’t get trampled by a UCP government in 2019 we need to speak up today and most importantly on Election Day.

Posted in Economy, Politics and Government, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 22 Comments