Alberta’s Spectre of Trumpism

“The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man is threatened” – John F Kennedy

I know I promised to do an article on my perspective of the changing education system in Alberta and I will. However I will save it for my Monday meanderings post because right now I want to raise the issue of the Trumpism spectre being cast over Alberta by Premier (that’s hard to say) Jason Kenney.

To the future policy makers of our province (and possibly our country) please be aware of the power of words. I listened to Jason Kenney’s address to the Oil Sands Trade Show in Fort McMurray this week. I was blown away that a Canadian politician would find the deprivation of human rights to Greenpeace activists to be “instructive” for Alberta. I find it not only frightening but also insulting to every Canadian that believes in the protection of human rights.

It tears at the fabric of my soul as a Canadian to listen to Kenney justify human rights abuses with the same glee he proudly echoed over his success in removing spousal visitation rights for those dying of aids in California. This isn’t a leader “for all people”, this is an ideologist who will say or do whatever he has to in order to accomplish his agenda. It is truly frightening.

Kenney has back off from most of the sound bites of misinformation he expressed during the run up to this election. He not only removed the protection of anonymity that had been provided by GSA’s to vulnerable youth but also exhibited his lack of understanding regarding education. A large part of learning happens “outside” the classroom so his ignorant remark about his acceptance of kids protesting was fine but should not be done during class time, totally out of touch with the realities of experiential learning. That response was as much Machiavellian as it was absence of knowledge.

Kenney and his government put a freeze on funding to students and adults living with a disability. This left thousands of young people moving from children’s service to adult programming over the summer (a consequence of turning 18) with little or no supports. He suspended an agreed upon teachers contract condition and froze school board funding up to the last minute resulting in understaffing with oversized classes.

The creation of this “Blue Ribbon Review Committee” on education was, in my opinion, an exercise in optics. The results were a foregone conclusion. It would be like me suggesting an “independent committee” made up of the Calgary Catholic Bishop, two priest, the retired Mother Superior of the Alberta Grey Nuns, maybe an obstetrician/gynecologist (need that medical expertise) and a couple of foster parents (community balance) to determine the need to change the abortion issue. I can pretty well guarantee the results.

My main issue here is nobody should be surprised. If you followed Kenney’s time in Ottawa at all you would be aware of his operating style. Remember this is the same guy who was forced to issue an apology in 2012 to the then Deputy Premier of Alberta, Thomas Lukaszak for calling him an asshole. Kenney wasn’t always Alberta’s biggest fan.

Picture with seven boxes rows of two side by side, first row reads The Holocaust was legal" next to "Hiding Jews was Criminalized", second row "Slavery was legal", "Freeing slaves was criminalized", third row "Segregation was legal", "Protesting Racism was Criminalized" Bottom row )one square) "Friendly Reminder:  Legality isn't a Guide to morality"
Ideological differences

And this brings us to today. The federal election is being called and Kenney has vowed to be on the trail helping his friend, Andrew Scheer. Well there are rules about that so I have to ask, “Premier Kenney are you doing that on the tax payers dime?”. If so are you making every Albertan complicit in contravening the federal election regulations. Have we, as citizens of Alberta become “third party donors” to an election campaign? Are we registered in compliance with the regulations? #WordsMatter and I’m not donating $1600 to a campaign I don’t support.

We are at a point in our provincial history where it has become imperative for the collective electorate to speak out for services. If we don’t by the time we get to that point where we want a better place for our kids nothing will be left. The Kenney government is busy dismantling education, human rights, labour relations and starting to tackle healthcare. If we want these protected, we have to speak out. We cannot afford to live in the spectre of Trumpism politics…

2018 Write More Say Less

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end” – Seneca

Welcome 2018.  I really had no intention of seeing the New Year in but after lying wide awake in bed for the past hour and a half I decided what the hell.  I had a few ideas floating around in my mind so decided to put some word to paper or in this case keyboard to blog.

I stopped doing the whole New Years resolution many years ago.  To me New Years resolutions are right up there with political campaign promises.  They sound good when you are making them but they become pretty misty when it is time to actually act.  However this year I have made a commitment to myself to avoid the dismal experience of repeating the mood altering process of 2017.  As I indicated in my last article 2017 was pretty dismal and I have to hold myself responsible for that.  I spend too much time focused on CNN, CBC and other equally political news shows.

The politics of the past year has been very disheartening and really highlights the shrinking middle ground of North American society.  There has been a major upswing in the polarization of current ideologies and as a hard core centrist I felt battered by the tsunami of negativity.  I think the best strategy I can adopt to counter that is write more often but say less.  More articles but short bursts.  Most people I know don’t want a lot of detail but something short and to the point.  That is my commitment for 2018.  Not to be overwhelmed with political drama (I won’t be ignoring it) but to produce more personal observations based on my historical involvement of todays society.

I can link this type of thinking to my childhood and the cognitive development of my beliefs.  Growing up in the children’s hospital involved short bursts of activities which had a major impact on my development so why not delve into that.

This current state of polarization is destroying the middle ground for a large part of what is generally referred to as the silent majority.  One of the things I have heard repeatedly throughout 2017 was the reluctance of family get togethers to introduce political discussion.  I remember a time where that kind of discussion could happen regularly with some form of compromise being reached.  Today compromise appears to have disappeared.  It has become hard core right or left ideologies.  Negativity abounds and too many good people have just abandoned any opportunity to an open discussion out of fear of resulting hard feelings.  I have seen more families ripped apart in the past year due to this polarization.

I have personalized too much of this as I watch hard fought for gains being eroded by so many who believe history began in 1980.  By 1980 I had almost fifteen years of activism under my belt and remember things like the 1963 peace march, the assassination of Medgar Evers, the same year John F Kennedy was assassinated, the 1968 killing of Martin Luther King, and the equivalent of the North American Arab Springs, the Kent State Massacre.  These were all results of the advancements being challenged by the civil rights movement.

Canada was not innocent either.  We had our own “October Crisis” involving the FLQ and resulting in the murder of Minister of Immigration and Minister of Labour Pierre Laporte,  We are not innocent but so many people born after 1980 are totally unaware of these events.  They seem to prefer a more simplistic approach and avoid detail.  That needs to stop before all of the advances made since 1980 including the Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Freedoms only work when they are acknowledged and practiced

These were not black and white events but they did open the door for the middle ground required for effective civil rights.  The polarization we are now seeing is allowing these events to start creeping back into our society.  All of these things happened before I was twenty so to me they are not history, they are experiences that have molded me and I can’t in good conscience afford to abandon them now.

My commitment to improving 2018 is to write more but say less.  I hope you find it informative and helps give you the strength to speak out or question me.  I would also like to share some of what I call my “social awareness poetry”.  This one was a short statement about the environment.  Please enjoy and if you have questions leave it in the comment section and I will get back to you.

Nature’s Battle

Instant this and packaged that,

Designed to save man haste,

Landfills growing and air polluting,

Creating a poisonous waste,

Energy sources and expanding technology,

Helps man extend his life,

Waste and pollution all around,

Causing harm and strife.

The love of nature moves along,

New grass growing, old oaks strong,

Crisp snow melting on mountaintops,

Clouds above create raindrops,

Undoing man for what it’s worth,

Mother Nature cleansing the earth,

How can nature keep pace with man?

While we poison the earth in all ways we can.

Terry Wiens August 2005

 

Happy New Year not maybe I can sleep…

Our Climate, Our Earth

The United Nations Climate Summit was billed as a way to galvanize and catalyze climate action prior to the 2015 Paris meeting.  Of the over 150 world leaders that attended Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper would not.  Apparently he felt it would be more important to attend events focused on maternal and child health.  A worthy cause no doubt but what good is maternal and child health initiatives if that local third world clinic is buried under an area flooded due to extreme weather change.  Harper’s “genuine concern” over maternal and child health is questionable when you look at the restrictive nature of Canada’s funding commitment.

With the amount of world leaders attending the climate change event and speaking to the General Assembly we have a Prime Minister who only attended the free meal that evening.  Having lived through the floods in Alberta but particularly the Calgary area I think climate issues should be front and centre of this governments agenda.  It was estimated at the time to be in excess of $5 billion to make things right and that cost continues to grow.  It is also a dollar estimate which in no way reflects that devastation and tragedy caused to the people of the area.  If the Harper government is really about the economy then they really need to look at this.  This has big time effects on the economy and extreme weather is having major economic effects across Canada.

So for today, rather than just whine about it, I submit my simplistic thoughts on climate change.

The Conflict of Nature

 The warmth of the sun on the cold mountain snow,

A conflict created through which new life will grow,

This is the way of this place we call earth,

Seasonal affects to give the world worth.

Through time eternal the balance has grown,

The cycle of nature is all we have known.

 Now the vanity of man claims we can do better,

Cut down the forests, make the desert wetter.

That life giving balance that had worked for so long,

The arrogance of man will make it all wrong.

We threw off the balance that existed in nature,

By denying the fact that we are just earth’s creature.

 Terry Wiens – Jan 2005

 

Pipelines and Tankers

Well the people of Kitimat, and by extension the citizens of BC, had their say yesterday, April 12/14.  They held their own plebiscite and said “NO” to the Northern Gateway Pipeline.  Now granted this is a non-binding vote but it still goes down in the books as citizens taking action and rejecting a potentially serious threat to their community.  The plebiscite was not without controversy and the source of a lot of derision in the community but then many folks were being fed false information.  And the level of detail was sorely lacking however many of the people living there know the landmarks and where able to filter fact from fiction.

This process of misleading by eliminating detail is showing up with greater frequency these days.  In fact in many cases it is complete misinformation.  The Northern Gateway pipeline is a prime example of that.  Case in point a cursory look at Enbridge’s PR campaign demonstrates just how embellished it has become.  Enbridge had removed  almost 1000 square kilometres of islands from the Douglas Channel.  That is the Channel these large tankers would have to navigate in order to collect the bitumen coming out of the end of the pipeline.  The Douglas Channel is part of and opens into some of the most pristine ocean environment in the world and needs protecting.  This abuse of detail is an insult to our collective intelligence.

What Enbridge shows versus reality!
What Enbridge shows versus reality!

The Douglas Channel is where super tankers have to maneuver through to get to Kitimat.  Douglas Channel is not a big catch basin as presented in the Enbridge ad but a very convoluted section of small islands and channels.  Premier Clark, in your concern over the Northern Gateway could you look at this one?

Then we have Prime Minister Harper insisting that this pipeline will be “based on science and not politics”.   Premier Clark, could you ask the PM how he hopes to do this when his government has completely gutted Fisheries and Oceans in BC while your government quietly sat back.  Over the past four years the federal government has sent letters to 92 habitat staff members within Fisheries and Oceans in B.C., telling them that their positions will be cut.  Thirty-two of them were be laid off outright.  The west coast Coast Guard has been decimated.   And there are more coming!

All but five of the province’s fisheries field offices where cut as part of a $79 million — 5.8 per cent — cut to the department’s operational budget, including the offices in Prince George and Smithers.  Those are the offices that would have had the lead in monitoring pipeline effects.  The marine contaminant group that would have been involved in a spill in B.C. has been disbanded and the fisheries and environmental legislation gutted.  The cuts will mean the department in B.C. has half the habitat staff it had a decade ago but in the future they have to babysit this pipeline.  Premier Clark when is your government going to take a position on the gutting of these protective services?

Premier Clark, do you really believe that the average BC citizen should march blindly forward and run the risk of an environmental disaster based on the blatant misinformation and contradictory facts being presented to us?  Do what the citizens of BC elected your party to do, protect the interests of BC and the rest of Canada.  Bring some principle back into government permanently rather than just providing lip service to the citizens of BC and Canada!

Campaign promises seem to be a dime a dozen but are valued in pennies when it comes to keeping them.  In other words they go the way of the penny which is extinction.  Premier Clark, words are easy but actions are dramatic and speak volumes.  And to the citizens of BC, if you are as upset over this as me then go to the Dogwood Initiative website and register your outrage.  It is only through the power of each citizen can we do what Kitimat has done.  Sign the petition today!