Personal Will, Anyone?

Question:  What do Stephen Hawking and Shamsia Husseini have in common?

Answer:  They both know the power of personal will.

Ms Soapbox has been thinking a lot about “personal will” since she heard the term used by Sally Armstrong in a speech at the Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WAfghan) Breaking Bread event.

First let’s sort out the players.

CW4WAfghan is a Canadian non-profit organization that supports education and educational opportunities for Afghan women and their families.  It was started 20 years ago by two Calgary women who wanted to do something for Afghan women suffering under the Taliban.  It’s been tremendously successful in improving the lives of Afghan girls and women.

Stephen Hawking was a world renowned theoretical physicist and cosmologist who didn’t let the debilitating effects of motor neurone disease impede his quest for knowledge or his biting sense of humour.

Shamsia Husseini is a woman living in Kandahar who was 15 when a man threw battery acid in her face to stop her from going to school.  She recovered from the attack, returned to school and became a teacher, eventually upgrading her skills at the CW4WAfghan’s teacher-retraining program.  Then-president Hamid Karzai promised to arrest and execute her attacker.  He did nothing.  Husseini is unfazed.  She says she’s punishing her attacker far more than the president ever could–she’s teaching the girls.

Sally Armstrong (aka “La Talibanista”) is an award winning Canadian journalist who covers zones of conflict and reports on what happens to women and girls.

Personal will

Armstrong says there are three kinds of will:  political will, public will and personal will.  All three forms of will involve advocacy for a cause.  Political will and public will require collective action while personal will is a solitary activity that demands personal courage, the level of which will vary depending on the circumstances.

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Sally Armstrong

Armstrong provided three examples of personal will:  Husseini returned to school after recovering from the acid attack even though her attacker was still roaming the streets;  a Nigerian girl who’d been captured by the Boko Haram leapt off the kidnappers’ truck and hid in the woods, knowing she’d be murdered by the militants if they found her and a 12-year old Somali girl who couldn’t go to school because she was pregnant identified the man who raped her at a public meeting.

Rarely are Canadians called upon to demonstrate such courage, consequently we’ve become complacent–it’s easier to go along to get along than cause a ruckus.

Personal will in Canada  

Complacency is easy, but only if we turn a blind eye to reports like the annual B’Nai Brith audit of antisemitism.  The audit shows a dramatic increase in antisemitic vandalism, harassment and violence–1,752 incidences in 2017.  Before we dismiss this number as an aberration, we need to put it into perspective.  The Anti-Defamation League recorded 1,986 antisemitic incidents in 2017 in the US, a country that is “almost nine times bigger and with a Jewish population 14 times larger.”

The numbers and the trend are worrisome because as Abe Silverman of the Alberta chapter said, when incidents targeting the Jewish community rise, there’s often a concomitant rise in incidents against other minority groups.

And this is where personal will comes in.

While it’s unlikely you’ll be asked to be as brave as the girls of Afghanistan, Nigeria, or Somalia, it’s highly likely that you’ll be chatting with a friend or acquaintance who says “I know this isn’t politically correct” or “I’m not a [insert racist, homophobe, misogynist, antisemetic, Islamophobe, etc], but…[insert slur here].”

Hawking’s response

Now you have a choice.  You can turn a blind eye to hatred, prejudice and stupidity or your can address it.

If you decide to address it, you can choose the full-Hawking or mini-Hawking response.

When Hawking was asked for his opinion of Donald Trump he said Trump was “a demagogue who seems to appeal to the lowest common denominator”.  This confused the public who took to Google in search of the terms “demagogue,” “denominator,” and “Stephen Hawking”.

Trump’s campaign manager dismissed Hawking’s assessment:  “For a so-called genius, this was an epic fail.  If Professor Hawking wants to do some damage, maybe he should try talking in English next time.”

In a satirical piece for The New Yorker, Andy Borowitz reported that Hawking later clarified his comment by telling a reporter, “Trump bad man.  Real bad man.”

So those are your choices.  You can tell your friend/acquaintance what he just said was racist, homophobic, misogynist, antisemetic, Islamophobic, and explain why, or if the circumstances don’t allow for the full-Hawking, deploy the mini-Hawking and tell him “What you said is bad, real bad.”

This achieves two things:  (1) your friend/acquaintance may not understand why his comment crossed the line, but he’ll know that reasonable people won’t stand for it and (2) you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve done your bit in standing up for humanity.

When someone promotes injustice, all of us must speak out.

Posted in Crime and Justice, Politics and Government, Rich and/or Famous | Tagged , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

The Country is Broken!

Just when Albertans thought things couldn’t get any worse, Jason Kenney declared the country was broken.

What? Did Trumpism seep across the border while we were sleeping?

Canada survived the FLQ Crisis and the War Measures Act, the bitter negotiations over the repatriation of the Canadian Constitution, and the Quebec referendum on national sovereignty where the “No” vote carried the day with a slim 50.6%; and now we’re being told Canada is broken because a jurisdictional dispute over a pipeline project may not be resolved before an arbitrary deadline set by the pipeline proponent.

Really?

Kenney

“Canada is broken”

Canada is “broken” because…

If the breathless headlines are to be believed this is a relatively recent event.

We weren’t broken 11 weeks ago when Alberta announced a boycott of BC wines.  We weren’t broken six and a half weeks ago when BC said it would put a reference question to the BC courts asking whether it could stop the flow of bitumen and diluted bitumen from Alberta into BC.  And we weren’t broken on April 6 when Prime Minister Trudeau toured the oil sands and Suncor CEO Steve Williams said he was reassured by Trudeau’s commitment to the pipeline and the environment.

Those events were simply governments doing what governments do.

However, on April 8 Kinder Morgan announced it was suspending discretionary spending on the Trans Mountain expansion so it could consult with stakeholders and reach an agreement by May 31 that would allow the expansion to proceed.

And just like that Canada snapped like a twig! 

The Alberta and federal governments responded quickly.  Alberta whipped out Bill 12, legislation that would require companies exporting energy out of the province to get an export license (potentially reducing the flow to BC).  The Feds promised to enact legislation saying…well…no one is quite sure what it will be saying, presumably something to the effect that an interprovincial pipeline really is an interprovincial pipeline that falls under federal jurisdiction.

Look, we all understand that governments need to be seen to be doing something when the public is demanding that they do something even if there’s not much they can do under the circumstances.

However, there’s a difference between using all the tools in your toolbox (to quote an oft-repeated phrase) to resolve a situation and irresponsibly ratcheting up the rhetoric by telling everyone that the country going to hell in a handbasket.

Get a grip

The OMG (!!!) headlines focus on three things:  court decisions, pending legislation, and Kinder Morgan’s May 31 deadline.

The TM expansion has been the subject of numerous court challenges, all of which have failed.  The only court case that matters is the one brought by several First Nations who’ve appealed the NEB’s decision on the grounds of inadequate consultation and infringement of existing rights.  The Federal Court of Appeal has heard the case and a decision is expected shortly.

If the Federal Court of Appeal agrees with the First Nations or the decision is not out before May 31, Kinder Morgan may abandon the project and the legislation proposed by Alberta and the Feds won’t make any difference, however if Alberta and the Feds put enough money on the table to “de-risk” the project, Kinder Morgan may stick around.

The fact that the First Nations exercised their right to appeal the NEB’s decision and that the BC government wants a court to rule on the limits of its jurisdictional authority may be frustrating to Kinder Morgan and its stakeholders, but this is how things work in a democratic country that supports the rule of law.

The rule of law does not wither in the face of arbitrary deadlines and our democratic institutions are not props to be brushed aside by he who yells loudest.

Posted in Crime and Justice, Energy & Natural Resources, Politics and Government | Tagged , , | 51 Comments

The UCP Runs Away from the Bubble Zone

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.

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The Bubble Zone — who knew it could be this scary

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

Posted in Economy, General Health Care, Politics and Government, Privacy and Surveillance | Tagged , , , , | 36 Comments

The Attack on Gay-Straight Alliances Continues

Last week the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) brought a court application challenging the constitutionality of changes to the School Act which are intended to support the establishment of gay-straight alliances (GSAs) in Alberta schools.

Just to get our bearings, the JCCF is a non-profit legal organization run by John Carpay.  Mr Carpay is a lawyer and a former director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation for Alberta, a former candidate for the federal Reform Party and the Alberta Wildrose Party.

The Application was filed by eight parents, 26 schools and two non-profit organizations that promote choice and fundamental Christian education.

The Issue    

The Applicants argue the government violated their Charter rights and freedoms when it introduced legislation requiring schools to support students who want to set up a GSA (this includes allowing students to call the club a “gay-straight alliance” or a “queer-straight alliance” and implementing codes of conduct to support GSAs).  Schools are free to tell parents a GSA has been created but are not free to “out” kids that join one.

The Constitutional Argument

It’s difficult to follow the constitutional argument because the Application is tinged with hysteria.

It starts with the premise that kids are sexually and emotionally exploited by adults and their peers “most often in places and during times when parents are absent and unaware” so the lack of “parental knowledge” that kids have joined a GSA “opens the door to predation”.

The Application says parents are alarmed and frightened by the climate of secrecy that the School Act has created around ideological sexual clubs and related activities.  It cranks up the Alarm-O-Meter by providing a list of sexual practices it defines as “GSA materials”–the list is no doubt intended to shock God-fearing folk but is irrelevant because it is not part of the guide to GSAs produced by the Alberta Government or Alberta Teachers Association.  (For the record the official GSA materials include suggested activities like volunteering at a soup kitchen, baking rainbow cakes, and inviting your parents to attend a GSA meeting if you’re so inclined).

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The Application asserts that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms “constitutionalizes” (whatever that means) parents’ rights to protect, support and educate their children and a child’s right to be protected and supported, but fails to explain how the Charter, which makes no mention of parental or children’s rights, can be stretched to support this allegation.

It argues the requirement that schools allow kids to form GSAs infringes their parents’ freedom of religion, freedom of belief, and freedom of association, but doesn’t explain why a GSA would infringe such fundamental freedoms while a government mandated curriculum requirement to teach evolution does not.  (Did they stop teaching the Biblical version of creation?)

The Applicants argue they should have the right to opt their kids out of GSAs without acknowledging that the right to opt-out applies only to mandatory instruction if the focus is on human sexuality and religion, not voluntary participation in a club.  (Hint:  if you get credits for it, it’s a mandatory course and you can opt-out;  if you don’t get credits, it’s a club, there’s no opt-out because you’re not forced to opt-in).

Beliefs

The real issue is this.  The Applicants adhere to a set of “foundational beliefs” which they describe as follows:

  • People are created as male and female and God intends them to “accept their gender”
  • Individuals cannot “truly or actually” change their gender or sex
  • Marriage is the union of one man and one woman, for life, to the exclusion of all others, and so instituted by God
  • Sexual relations are intended only for within marriage
  • Departure from these “principles of God’s expressed will is morally wrong”

We understand that schools that cling to such foundational beliefs are thrown into crisis when their students ask for a GSA which, by definition, may not align with such beliefs and prove that all efforts to inculcate such beliefs in some students have failed.

However, society has moved beyond these beliefs, as evidenced by our legal right to be free from discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender expression.

Rather than bash each other with arguments about clashing belief systems, let’s ask the Applicants a simple question:  If they truly believe their children have a constitutional right to be protected and supported shouldn’t they focus less on outing the kids who want to join a GSA and more on supporting them if they do.

It’s time for the Applicants to show some compassion.

Sources:  https://www.jccf.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Binder1_b24.pdf

https://education.alberta.ca/gay-straight-alliances/what-is-a-gsa/?searchMode=3

http://albertagsanetwork.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/GSAs-in-Alberta-Schools-Guide.pdf

Posted in Education, Politics and Government, Privacy and Surveillance | Tagged , , | 40 Comments

Thoughts on Politics at Easter

Easter is not usually the time to reflect upon grumpy whiners; but given Jason Kenney’s mission to rebuild the conservative movement in Alberta this might be a good time to consider where the conservative Roman Catholic leader of the Opposition would take Alberta if given half a chance.

The Conservative Movement

In the absence of concrete policies, it is reasonable to expect Mr Kenney’s vision of Alberta’s future to mirror that of other conservative politicians from other places at other times.

Presumably, we can anticipate a tiny government responsible for little more than protecting the individual and his property rights (aka freedom), encouraging business (aka job creators) by eliminating “red tape” and repealing many laws that protect health, safety, unions and the environment;  it will reduce corporate and personal taxes which will create prosperity (we’ll be richer than in the Klein years!) and the rich will care for the poor through charity because they’re not forced to do so through taxation.

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We’ll be rich, an Easter egg for everyone. 

Oddly, Mr Kenney prefers to deliver this message of nirvana with anger, not compassion.

Why?

Because anger is necessary to overcome compassion and ignore the suffering created by these policies.

Also it helps the conservatives bulldoze through the inconsistencies of their arguments under the principle that he who yells loudest wins.

For example:

  • Mr Kenney’s promise to balance the budget is better than Ms Notley promise to balance the budget because Mr Kenney will achieve balance one year earlier. So what?
  • The provincial deficit will be eliminated by cutting services, not by raising revenue through additional taxes (sales tax, eek!!) because any additional taxes will erode the Alberta Advantage. Alberta has an $11.2 billion/year tax advantage over the other provinces, how much lower must taxes get to improve Alberta’s competitiveness?
  • Notwithstanding economists’ arguments to the contrary, the carbon tax is a sales tax in disguise and will be eliminated. It played no role in getting Trans Mountain approved and economists know nothing?
  • Climate change should be viewed with suspicion, the science is inconclusive and it’s a ruse to give the government greater control of the economy. Cue conspiracy theorists.
  • The government will not address social issues. They fall outside the prime directive which is to make everybody rich.  However, the province is free to defund abortions and attack sex education, gay-straight alliances, same-sex marriages, state-funded day care, the use of the non-gender specific pronouns and safe injection sites because they undermine the traditional family and are a form of social engineering.  Cue conspiracy theorists, again.

The impact of conservative thinking

Mr Kenney traps Albertans in misery by refusing to acknowledge the government’s obligation to seek solutions to social problems.  He won’t explore ways to increase revenue and betrays those desperately in need of the government’s support.

Then to finish the job, Mr Kenney amps Albertans’ frustration and anxiety by telling them they’re being persecuted and victimized by provincial governments that oppose pipelines and a federal government that collects and redistributes their tax dollars under an equalization formula that he himself put into place.

He’s turning conservative Albertans into whiners who’d rather sulk and complain than figure out how to move Alberta forward.

This form of conservative thinking is about as far as you can get from the spirit of Easter and the Christian message of redemption and hope.

Seventy-five years ago, the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, said, “Socialism is the economic realization of the Christian gospel.”

One wonders how Mr Kenney would respond.

 

Posted in Celebrations, Politics and Government | Tagged , , , | 31 Comments

An Evening with Michelle Obama

Last Friday Ms Soapbox and her friend spent an intimate evening with Michelle Obama.

True, we were packed into the Stampede Corral with 6000 other people, but as soon as Michelle Obama stepped on to the stage, we were captivated by her intelligence, kindness, and wit.

Michelle told us about growing up in a blue collar family on the south side of Chicago, attending public school, Princeton and Harvard law school, and then meeting Barack at the law firm where they both worked.  She tried to fix Barack up with her single friends.  Apparently, she liked Barack as a friend but wasn’t “feeling him at first”.   Barack persisted, and the rest is history.  (It really is history, there’s a plaque at Baskin Robbins commemorating their first kiss–much to the horror of their children).

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Michelle Obama

She described the groundswell of support that propelled Barack from the Illinois senate to the Democratic nomination, and the speed-of-light transition that started on Nov 3 when her “baby-faced big eared” husband became President Elect, until Jan 20 when he was sworn in as President of the United States.

Michelle talked about Inauguration Day (there was a huge crowd) and how she looked at her little girls, aged 7 and 10, and thought, it’s very cold, they should be wearing hats.  She talked about the stress of pulling the girls out of school in Chicago so they could start at their new schools on January 1st and then watching them go off to school in a three-car motorcade under the protection of men with guns.

Michelle gave full credit to her mother who accompanied the Obamas to the White House but never succumbed to the White House “hooey”.

First Lady

Michelle could have spent the entire evening reeling off her long list of accomplishments as First Lady but chose instead to take us behind the scenes at the White House.

She was determined to make the White House a home.  She talked about walking into broom closets when trying to leave a room (the White House has many doors) and trying to teach Sunny the dog that the Lincoln bedroom wasn’t actually “outside” in the “I need to go outside” sense.

She said the West Wing could be a “dark place” where somber people spoke in hushed tones, but the East Wing was lively, filled with children, dogs, laughter, and music.  It was a venue for arts and culture, poetry slams and Paul McCartney.  It brought balance to the White House because normalcy is important, it’s not good for the country to be in a constant state of chaos.

Role Models  

Michelle talked about Parker Curry, the little girl who was mesmerized by Michelle’s portrait in the National Portrait Gallery.  She said kids don’t see enough people who look like them.  She hoped Parker was dreaming of being like Michelle one day but thought it was equally possible the little girl was simply blown away by size of the painting which Michelle said was “pretty big”.

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Parker meets Michelle

Michelle and Barack see themselves as role models for all children.  They choose their words carefully and conduct themselves appropriately because “children watch us” and “we show them who they can be in the world”.

A Woman President

When asked whether the US would ever elect a woman president, Michelle replied there would be a woman president when American women were ready for a woman president.  Hillary Clinton was an extremely qualified candidate, but women chose the alternative because Hillary wasn’t perfect.  Women need to believe they’re worthy to be president before they’ll cast a vote for another woman running for the position.

Insights

Michelle Obama shared many insights over the course of the evening including:

  • Women can have it all if they take it in turn, they can’t have it all at once; and developing a core group of friends who support each other is crucial for sanity.
  • Young women are “still bottled up”. They choke their own voices and hold themselves back, they need to be as free as men, this includes the freedom to fail.
  • Men can’t have it both ways. They can’t boast about being good to their wives and daughters and then go to the office knowing women are paid less then men.  Men need to stand up for women.
  • Adversity is a constant in life. We need to be resilient and protect ourselves by eliminating negative people from our lives and replacing them with positive people who add value.
  • Change takes time. We plant seeds for the future and mustn’t stop because we don’t see immediate results.

The Future

Michelle Obama closed the evening with a message for young people: she said we believe in your resilience, persistence, honesty, and inclusion, we’re counting on you and will support you all the way.

The auditorium exploded in applause.  We joined the young woman in the pussy hat to our left and the young woman in the ripped jeans to our right to give Michelle Obama a standing ovation.

Michelle said when the world pushes young people, they push back.

This is good.

Posted in Politics, Rich and/or Famous | Tagged , | 27 Comments

Jason Kenney Debates a Motion

An update from the Kenney-channelling-Trump department.

After weeks of flooding the airwaves with demands for an emergency debate on a motion condemning BC’s interference with the Trans Mountain pipeline Jason Kenney finally got a chance to demonstrate what he meant when he called for the government to speak with “one voice” and present a “united front”.

Not surprisingly, the debate turned into Kenney channelling Donald Trump and other bombastic populists.

The motion

On March 12 Premier Notley presented this motion to the Legislative Assembly:

Be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly support the government of Alberta’s fight on behalf of Albertans’ interests to ensure the lawfully approved Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is built and be it further resolved that the Legislative Assembly call for the federal government to continue to take all necessary legal steps in support of the pipeline’s construction and be it further resolved that the Legislative Assembly reaffirm its support for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion as a key component of Alberta’s energy future.

The UCP wanted three amendments:  (1) strike out “the government of Alberta’s fight on behalf of Albertans’ interests” and substitute “the efforts by the government of Alberta to fight,” (2) strike out “continue to” and (3) add “including putting before Parliament a declaration that the pipeline is in the national interest pursuant to section 92(10)(c) of the Constitution Act, 1867” after “construction.”

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Jason Kenney, Emergency Debater 

Kenney ticked all the populist boxes as he laid out his rationale for these amendments (although “rationale” is a bit of a stretch when applied to Kenney’s rambling diatribe on everything from Pierre Eliot Trudeau’s approval ratings to a hocus pocus valuation of Alberta’s oil reserves).

Support?  

Unlike Saskatchewan premier Scott Moe, Kenney just couldn’t bring himself throw his unconditional support behind the Alberta government’s fight with BC.  So he proposed an amendment to signal the UCP’s “support” for the fight but not for the government.

The amendment was as clear as mud, but it gave Kenney an opportunity to deploy a number of Trump-like arguments to show Notley’s government hadn’t done enough.

Conspiracy theories

Kenney said he “understood” (from whom?) that the NDP had staged a “fake dispute with Victoria” because they didn’t want to get into a serious fight with their BC NDP brethren.  To demonstrate his “understanding” was accurate he said:  Look! The mayor of Burnaby, the mayor of Vancouver and the BC premier are all NDP!  Look! There’s the “NDP’s friend Tzeporah Berman” and “David Suzuki, who was recently paid up to $50,000 by the teachers’ union”.  Look!  Notley’s “ally” Justin Trudeau is counselled by Gerry Butt, formerly of the World Wildlife Fund and “described as the most powerful and influential person in Ottawa”.

All that was missing was Look!  Aliens spotted at Roswell!

Lies and half-truths

Kenney praised the Harper government for building four, count ‘em four, pipelines but failed to acknowledge that not one of these pipelines went to tidewater.

He denounced the Liberal government’s pipeline record saying it vetoed Northern Gateway (wrong, the Federal Court of Appeal said the Harper government failed to properly consult and the project stalled).  He said Ottawa didn’t protest Obama’s handling of Keystone (well, Harper was prime minister at the time and his “protest” consisted of saying Obama’s approval was “a complete no-brainer”, Obama was unmoved by the force of Harper’s logic), Kenney said the feds “indirectly” killed Energy East (did they, or did TCPL drop it after Trump approved Keystone XL).  He said the feds are doing nothing for Trans Mountain (apparently the unequivocal support of Trudeau and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr is nothing).

He said Notley did nothing to support Trans Mountain until Kenney was elected in Dec 2017.  This ignores the fact that (1) the feds approved Trans Mountain because Notley implemented the Climate Leadership Plan a full year earlier, (2) Notley intervened in support of Trans Mountain’s regulatory applications to prevent the BC government and municipalities from further delaying the pipeline, (3) Notley cancelled power deals worth up to $500 million to BC, (4) Notley imposed a wine boycott which caused BC to withdraw its attempt to control the product flowing in the pipe, and (5) Notley is a strong advocate for pipelines, building support for pipelines in every speech she’s given at home and across the country.

Ignorance or intentional misdirection

Kenney invoked what he snidely referred to as “Constitutional Law 101” in support of the third amendment, arguing the federal government should invoke its power pursuant to Section 92(10)(c) to declare the pipeline to be in the national interest.

Apparently, Kenney is more knowledgeable about constitutional law than Peter Hogg, the government’s constitutional law expert, who literally wrote the book(s) on constitutional law, and other constitutional law experts who say Section 92(10)(c) is irrelevant because the pipeline is already under federal jurisdiction and thus in the national interest.

Rather than learn from Stephen Hawking’s example (Hawking changed his mind about the existence of the unified theory of everything) Kenney refuses to budge from his flawed position, rather like Trump telling Trudeau the US has a trade deficit with Canada when Trump had no idea what he was talking about.

The moral/existential/something-or-other imperative

Kenney topped off his argument for amendments by preaching to the Assembly about Alberta’s moral imperative (if Alberta leaves the oil in the ground, it will be sold to us by bad countries) and the “existential question for Alberta’s prosperity” (based on Kenney’s flawed calculations the oil reserves are worth $11 trillion, Alberta could use this money to pay off its debt and the debt of every province and the federal government–wouldn’t that be a heck of an equalization payment–and provide all the social services we need).

The moral imperative and existential question arguments are based on the assumption Notley wants to leave the oil in the ground.  She doesn’t.  So Kenney’s allusions to a morally correct existentially prosperous Alberta were irrelevant and misleading.

The final motion

The Legislative Assembly unanimously passed the motion as amended by the second amendment (striking out the words “continue to”).  The first and third amendments failed because the first amendment was nothing more than partisan grandstanding and the third amendment was simply wrong at law.

Kenney’s performance in the debate demonstrates his contempt for the legislative process.  An emergency debate is not an excuse for a populist pep rally…unless of course you’re a politician like Donald Trump, in which case the words of Bob Barker and all the other carnie hucksters, apply:  “Come on down!”

Source: Alberta Hansard, March 12, 2018 starting at page 24

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