Cracks in the Mirror

I am just coming up to the end of my 9th week of the COVID19 health crisis. I had entered this period believing my days of writing were behind me and that maybe, just maybe, it was time to just give up the fight and let others take up the torch. All indications are not many people didn’t really want to get their hands to close to that flame so maybe it is not time to exit.

After almost nine weeks of isolated reflection I am starting to see cracks in the mirror. If nothing else the COVID19 crisis has forced many people to take a hard look at what is around the community (and in many cases what “isn’t” around). We are in uncertain times for our health care system (#patients4abdocs), our educational sector is under attack and we have a government that doesn’t believe in governance. I guess now is not the time to be giving up activism.

I have been doing my best to avoid as much news as possible which is very difficult when you are a news junkie. Being in the wheelchair doesn’t exactly make “jumping on a bike” and work it off on the bike paths. I can’t exactly do a bunch of home repairs on a one bedroom condo. The weather, although improving (the rain has stopped), hasn’t been all that conducive to going out for a wheel. And even if I could right now there is no place to go. Calgary starts opening up Monday May 25 and I have already booked a haircut for Thursday. A true indication of the depths of boredom is when an old time hippie activist finds the act of a haircut exciting.

When your doctors office starts calling to see if they can e-mail some “Advance Care Planning” documents so they have something on file while finding activities to keep the office busy you start to realize just how bored everyone is becoming. These are things that need to be done but during a pandemic where healthcare facilities are being hyper vigilant about patients coming in you begin to understand just how far we have moved from the old norm.

When you have spend your life in some of the seediest areas of Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and never really felt threatened you would think a “stay home” pandemic order would be a piece of cake. When wearing masks and “social distancing” becomes part of a new norm (BTW Quebec how did that Bill 62 work out for you) you start to think you are on the set for some old western. For the first time in my life I actually feel a tinge of trepidation when the weather does allow me some sun and fresh air time. With that said my last three foray onto the streets for fresh air have resulted into almost epic movie scenes.

Part of the first event was caught on camera by a friend. He had come by and we decided to take a walk and capture some video on how well the Beltline was adhering to social distancing. This was 4:20 on a Sunday afternoon and we were just casually wheeling down 7th Street. My buddy (for the record a Millennial, trying to close that generation gap) stopped me and asked me to wait on that side of the alleyway entry. It had to do with capturing the light of coming out of the shadow and into the sun. He ran over to the other side of the alleyway opening and waved me on. Just as I was hitting the sun all hell broke loose and I found myself wheeling into the middle of a gang shoot out in an alley way (what level of education do you need to realize any good shoot out happens either at high noon or shortly after midnight), what kind of movies are these guys watching?

Anyway I was just starting to wheel across the alleyway curb when the shooting started. Being who I am I stopped to see if I could catch the licence plate off the car the one shooter was leaning over shooting at the guy in the oncoming truck who was shooting back. I’m staring down the alleyway, maybe sixty feet away, looking for that licence plate when my buddy hollered at me (he was already about 45 feet away, always good to know someone has your back) that it sunk in. As I looked at that gun it dawned on me that maybe the licence plate wasn’t that important and all of a sudden I was back at the National Wheelchair Games hauling ass on the track course. We hung around until the cops arrived, gave our statements and, after looking around, realized in the commotion the concept of social distancing quickly became irrelevant so got the hell out of there.

Along came a week of rain so I was in no immediacy to go wheeling. Started catching a bit of the local news just to stay abreast of the pandemic lockdown. If the world is coming to an end I figure my cable will be one of the first things to go, so I’ve paid for it, I’m going to max its use. My computer is WiFi capable and there are cell towers around so I can always use my phone to create a hotspot, data charges be damned. The COVID19 stories I could handle, there was very little that surprised me.

I have a fair idea of the underbelly of social conditions out there so not a lot of surprises. Some disgust, some disappointment and, on occasion, a few tears. I’ve lost a few friends in this time so that was difficult but the reality is when you are heading for 70 years old losing friend to death is a reality, as my brother would say “suck it up princess”. I have more compassion than that but I also understand the reality of a marginalized life. I don’t live in a bubble and when you are already socially isolated by a neglected build environment you have a lot of time to reflect. Accessibility is a concept in Calgary, not a reality. As the sun reappeared and it began to warm I started putting on my mask (bright yellow with some black and white design) to go out to catch a few rays. That’s when the public ignorance really hit home.

I have modified my “social distancing” to expand it to about ten feet. When you are sitting in a wheelchair and someone sneeze in your direction it sink as it settles. That extra four feet makes a difference (at least in my mind) and so physics tells me. On two different occasions, while having a mid-day wheel, I was approached by what I refer to as “brief-case rednecks” who spit on me while blaming the “stupid virus on you cripples”. These weren’t street people, drug addicts or people down on their luck, they were young guys in nice sport coats, I believe, waiting for the day they can put their sheets and pointy hats back on.

Now there was a time in my life when I would have handled this very differently and often involved violence but, as I’ve matured, I now behave in a more civilized manner. I did what a civilized person should do and made the police aware. Regardless I am now a little hesitant about wandering around on my own. I can handle the social isolation that comes with a healthcare crisis but I detest being a prisoner to my own insecurities. That’s state is relatively new to me. I have build my life refusing to be controlled by fear or intimidated by a series of policies designed to catch the deceitful while being presented as well meaning regulations meant to help the marginalized.

However when those policies begin to generate covert support of racism, and not all racism is ethnically focused, by a government that is more than willing to support racist tones then that is not the time for me to check out. I opened this by mentioning “cracks in the mirror”. I can’t sit back anymore and simply accept there is nothing we can do about it as an excuse for the erosion of our democracy. Look in that cracked mirror and see what’s looking back. We, collectively, elected a government and Premier with too many examples of coverts racism in their closets. We stuck our heads in the BBQ pretending to turn the burger while ignoring the facts of seniors being tossed on the street. We busily grab a cold one from the cooler while MLA Drew Barnes evicts a tenant two days after the lapse of the eviction protection expired, this during a healthcare crisis where so many people have been “furloughed” (fancy regurgitation of an old military word). We holler back at the kitchen to put some condiments on the shopping list instead of taking time to research the way the Kenney government is running (or should I say ruining) Alberta right now making it the Old West again. It is not hard to verify Kenney’s thirty years of covert racist behaviour.

So look in that mirror again and say “What can I do about it?”. I would highly recommend you start by developing an understanding of those of who may be different from you. Get to know someone younger, older, of a different culture, of a different gender (regardless of how they identify), of a different socio-economic strata, COMMUNICATE, be a mentor, bring some history to the discussion. We are all PEOPLE, we all have dreams, hopes, values, aspirations, etc. But we are not communicating very well. The best thing that can come from this COVID19 crisis is a “new norm” that we all have to work on to build. Don’t let a history of divisive rhetoric being spewed by a spiteful government continue to drive wedges between us.

So, yes, I am back and I will be keeping myself busy making people aware of what is spin and what is real. Two quick things in closing, kind of a food for thought but when a online petition demanding the province reopen “golf courses” can generate almost 50,000 signatures in less than a week but one asking for support of our frontline healthcare worker flounder with just less than 500 signatures after four weeks that speaks volumes to our priorities. Think about it.

Screen shot of a Tweet from Jason Ribeiro, current Director of Strategy for the Calgary Economic Development Board reading "We cannot let the last thing the remaining members of the Greatest Generation see be the betrayal of the values and principles they fought so hard to protect.  We ignore neo-fascism at our own peril and dishonour their service"
Jason Ribeiro is the current Director of Strategy for the Calgary Economic Development Board

I want to close by acknowledging and congratulating Jason Ribeiro. I met Jason soon after my return to Calgary through social media. He is one of those generational gaps I have been working with. He is passionate about his work and will need to be in light of the current economic challenges created by the COVID19 situation. Almost a week ago he and his wife brought their first child, Matteo, into this madness. I vividly remember the birth of my son and I am always at a loss for words to describe that but congratulations Jason, now you have someone to really fight for so what you are doing today will deeply impact his future. That always changed a persons point of view.

I can’t recall at what point Jason posted the attached screen shot of his tweet but for some reason I belief it was pre-COVID19. With a new norm now on the horizon I am not sure if Jason was being prophetic or sharing a view but it turns out to be very prophetic. So I say to Jason and the economic development sector of the community, we all have to overcome our differences and build on our commonalities.

We all had a role in combatting COVID19, now we have to, collectively, have an active role in the development of “new norms” that will work for the future of the Matteo’s. Don’t let hollow promises and shiny political bobbles get in his way. My regards to your wife and hold the little one tight. Trust me, in the blink of an eye you will be attending his high school graduation.

In Fascist Fields Where Hate Does Grow

For some reason I woke up at 3am this morning with the song “Romper, stomper, bompar boo” floating in my mind. Why that should have been there is beyond me. I was a few generations ahead of the TV show “Romper Room” but the tune was stuck in my head. I knew I wasn’t getting back to sleep so rather than lie there pretending I COULD go back to sleep while slapping myself around for being such a fool, I got up to do some writing. There’s a lot of material to write about so why not make the most of a good thing. Somebody has to speak out and the way I see it there is no one left for me to alienate so here goes. Let’s see who else I can piss off.

I’ve mentioned this before but it is well worth reiterating every now and then. I am not a journalist, a political pundit or even a professional writer. However I am a concerned citizen with something to say which is why I blog. As a polio survivor I had to learn to adapt quickly to almost every aspect of life. I have a life time of people expressing surprise and amazement over the day to day issues faced by my segment of the community, the disabled. Then I watch as they go back to their “comfort bubble” to completely forget our interaction. This is why things never get done. Very few people push and I’m just a “special interest guy”. Even the City turns its back on accessibility because nobody but “special needs groups” speaks up about it..

Unlike Kenney and his gang of backroom dealers, I am not trying to pat myself on the back here but the most successful disabled make being adaptive look natural and unplanned. It’s actually a form of “muscle memory” and requires a natural flow of “critical thinking”. I still do that and it shouldn’t take a genius to recognize how the UCP are ripping this province apart. They know how to use optics and now, conveniently, they have a healthcare crisis to hide behind.

While Kenney and his minions are going out of their way, at tax-payers expense, to destroy this province by hiding behind the veneer of a “healthcare crisis”, the “real” issues are being totally ignored.  Those who protect us, “the healthcare professionals”, are being decimated and caught up by that little ideological leprechaun’s ego and the even worse ideological idiots who make up his cabinet.  When we have a Health Minister, Shandro, who appears to be more interested in the financial returns of his wife’s “private health care” insurance business, we no longer have democracy, we have autocracy. 

I came into this world and face down the polio epidemic, I’m a survivor but I refuse to “quietly into the night”. Now, due to some dude who needs a stool to stand on behind his diaz so he can reach the mic to scare monger, I am challenging his campaign of misinformation. His use of feigned concerns of “life support” for a dying industry is much more apparent than his concerns over keeping the citizens of Alberta “off life support”.

I will not run the risk of losing all dignity like those poor unfortunates in the Dorval Residence Herron. That was a horrific criminal (in my mind) act and still Kenney (and he’s not the only Premier) push for privatization of senior care while removing oversight. He has already shown his disdain for oversight by removing the need for the energy sector to submit the environmental reports that use to be standard. I don’t disagree with his “red tape reduction” strategy but it has to be fair, equitable and it shouldn’t threaten public safety, particularly when a pandemic crisis is active. All tools, including air and environmental quality information is important.

Picture of nose and naval cavity being swapped as test for COVID19 virus
Nose swap to check for COVID19

We are just getting past the potential threat of returning snowbirds. It will be at least a month before we fully see the results of that. Kenney has already used his authority to remove a powerful tool from the infection control community. The coronavirus lives in the interior chamber of the nasal system making the swab difficult, uncomfortable but needed.

The next big threat (and I can almost guarantee Kenney hasn’t given this any thought as his “suspension” of environmental conditions shows) is the “spring allergy” season. A lot of sneezing, what pollutants are where, where are the environmental issues, etc is needed to identify and track potential “hot-spots”. As long as Kenney has suspended reporting those working on mitigation and trying to plan for what may be coming have just lost an important tool.

Good information is needed, not Kenney’s “misinformation” and rhetoric. As I said earlier I came into this world faced and beat the polio epidemic. I am not going to sit back while some fat little idiot more interested in the Koch brothers support than he is in the protection of ALL Albertans by putting profit before pandemic take me out of this world. People need to look past the optics and get to know the substance, how the ripple effect will affect everybody regardless of what silo you are in.

“I’m feeling more frustrated than a one armed man in a wall paper hanging contest. We are being told constantly that we “all have to do our part” and I am 100% behind that. In fact there is a certain amount of pride in how well most Albertans are pulling up their socks and make sacrifices but, again, Kenney uses this tragedy to hide behind and advance his agenda for the oil patch as well as environmental protection.

This is a time when we need as much environmental information as we can get. This is one of the tools used by infection control specialist to track “hot-spots” so not only is Kenney giving disproportionate amount of financial support to an industry on life support, he’s ignoring the support for programs meant to keep people “off” of life support systems.

Meanwhile our frontline #HealthcareWarriors are under attack by the Kenney government as a result of Bill 21. Health Minister Shandro’s used this bill to rip up the existing agreement with the Alberta Medical Association and it all took effect April 1. What kind of reasonably thinking compassion person intimidates and threats the very people working so hard to protect Albertans from COVID19. Our doctors and healthcare staff risk their life’s every day to protect Albertans from this pandemic crisis.

Not only themselves but their immediate families and loved ones. Is this the type of government you voted for? A government more concerned with the bottom line of “one” sector of the economy while threatening those who have dedicated themselves to protect us. Show our doctors that you DO care and sign the Change.org petition asking for the rights of Alberta doctors to be protected. They need some encouragement to know Albertans are standing behind them. Sign and share today…

"All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for good people of good conscience to remain silence" - Thomas Jefferson captioned "Are you part of the solution or a contributor to the problem
Are you part of the solution or a contributor to the problem

This is how fascism grows, when a military uprising can’t happen those despots incrementally dismantle the existing tools of protection. Baby steps leads to marathons…”

Are You Paying Attention?

Your complacency is killing me! I use to wake up in the morning looking forward to my coffee, blueberry bagel, check my news feeds and follow-up with my social media requests. I’m a news junkie, I don’t deny that but I am dealing with an increasing number of friends and relatives who don’t want to check the news anymore because of the COVID19 healthcare crisis. And although I understand I am very concerns about it. My analogy to that is being tested for cancer but then refusing to book a follow-up doctors appointment out of fear of the results. Burying our head in the sand will not make this crisis go away, in fact not knowing the preventative expectations of your community will only add to the severity of this crisis.

As I said I use to get up looking forward to my coffee, bagel, blah, blah, blah. Now I get up to e-mails of ire, Facebook comments decrying my ideology (not sure how wanting knowledge on a healthcare crisis is ideological but whatever), a Twitter feed of conspiracy theorists and the latest news showing how much the wick has been turned down on the kerosene lamp of rights. If you are not paying attention you are contributing to the crisis and every twisted political ago out there knows that. Trump isn’t the only one twisting this to his advantage, we have Premier Kenney and the UCP fascists doing the same thing.

A blank poster with the words "I want my friends to understand that "staying out of politics" or being "sick of politics" is privilege in action.  Your wealth, your race, your abilities or gender allows you a life in which you likely will not be a target of bigotry, attacks, deportation or genocide.  You don't want to get political, you don't want to fight because your life and safety are not at stake.  It is hard and exhausting to bring up the issue of oppression (aka "get political").  The fighting is tiring.  I get that.  Self-care is essential.  But if you find politics annoying and you just want everybody to be nice, please know that people are literally fighting for their lives and safety.  You might not see it but that's what privileged does".  I have caption this with "If you are looking for "cute kitty" videos you are in the wrong room.
If you are only looking for “cute kitty’ videos you are in the wrong room

I survived one pandemic already (in 1952 the polio epidemic was declared a pandemic). Polio was considered an epidemic up to its peak in 1952 when they called it a pandemic for that one year. That year there were over 57,000 reported cases with 3,145 deaths. I faced that one and due, in part, to people wanting to ignore it I went untreated for ten days before it was acknowledged that, yes, I had polio.

So I am not very patience with those who choose to turn their backs on the news. Complacency doesn’t sit well with me especially when it is used to disguise ignorance. If you don’t understand “voluntary isolation” you don’t do it, if you don’t know what “social distancing” is you don’t practice it, if you don’t know why businesses are closed you are running around looking for something that isn’t there while running the risk of picking up something unexpected, like the Coronavirus. You can limit your news but I do not have a “Google” stamp on my head, quit using me as your news source particularly if you are just going to ignore it. This isn’t shit and giggles to me.

Picture of Martin Luther King, Jt stating "In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemy, but the silence of our friends".  I have captioned it "Your silence is deafening"
Your silence is deafening

You know who else knows you are not paying attention, the ideologists pretending to be politicians. I watched Premier Kenney’s very public (optics) on the news last night patting himself on the back for the great job his government is doing fighting this pandemic. He touted the “extra” money his government is making available to fight this health crisis. He fails to mention the $100 million taken out of the nursing and doctor budget in the UCP November 2019 budget. He doesn’t mention the 47,000 seniors who will be taken off of the seniors drug plan or the $11 million cut to ambulance services. I could go on but why, people don’t seem to want details. That is substance, not optics.

I am not only a news junkie, I am also a history buff so imagine my horror when I looked at what Kenney and company had “quietly” push through the legislative process the night before. When a government with this one’s background the idea of something like Bill 10 is frightening. If you haven’t been following the news (and I know most of you haven’t) Bill 10 allows this government to do just about anything without going through the legislative process.

I have fought too hard in my lifetime for “disability rights” to sit back and let a government, whose moral compass is suspect at best, take complete control of a herd of sheeples. We have a Premier whose leadership was under investigation (Kamikaze scandal), a Health Minister who tore up the provincial agreement with doctors, the same Minister of Health who went out of his way to drive to a neighbours (2 miles away) and berate him (the “neighbour” happened to be a doctor). Then Minister Shandro finishes his month by using his “position of privilege” to by-pass the “Protection of Privacy” process to obtain the private residence phone number of another outspoken doctor. The message here was “no matter where you go I can find you” and laws be damned. #ShandroMustGo This is not democracy, it’s fascism in growth.

When Kenney gets in front of the public and rattled off a list of former Premiers worth emulating and fails to mention Peter Lougheed but includes Ernest Manning, there is something wrong with his “hero list”. Manning was the longest sitting Premier in Alberta’s history (25 years and 7 months) and in that time was never able to severe his state relationship from his church affiliation. Manning, the same Premier who felt it quite acceptable to forcibly sterilize the disabled as right up to 1971.

It was the Lougheed Conservatives that repealed that piece of legislation after decimating the Social Credit government and taking the rein of democracy in the 1971 election. Church and state were quickly separated moving Alberta into the waning era of the civil rights movement. Any politician with a wall of hero’s like that should not be given the type of carte blanche over our rights afforded through Bill 10.. Our rights are precious and hard fought for. In the last week I have had discussions with a numerous people talking about “the death of democracy“, that perhaps we should accept the idea of democracy as an old pipe dream and go back to the days of “survival of the fittest”. Let business run the province, how did that work out for the disabled seniors of the Dorval’s Residence Herron?

Does History really need repeating

Again review your history. Fascism did not happen in Germany over night. It was the Reichstag Fire Decree that opened the door for the Enabling Act. With the trumped up case of the Reichstag Fire Decree (later the person blamed was discovered to be a “patsy”) being rushed through a kangaroo court, a severely failing economy and the Enabling Act the German table was set for the rise of tyranny. These are the same conditions we are facing today in Alberta.

To give Kenney and company unfettered control would be the equivalent of throwing he whole kerosene lamp I mentioned in my opening into the lake. We already have more than amble examples of how little respect this government has for the democratic process let alone human rights, do we really want to throw fifty years of fighting for human rights away to an ego dressed up in a suit? I don’t…

Speak Up

I truly thought my days of writing were behind me. I still continue to write for myself however I haven’t been sharing it. When you have no one at home to discuss how your day went you either bottle it up or write it down. Bottling it turns it into a disease, I know I was there once. Bottling, or as some put it, eat your feelings just allows negativity and bitterness to fester both in yourself as well as your community. Writing is the better way to excise those demons that build up in your soul and let it fester until your loss in the darkness of despair. Having someone at home that you can share things with is the way to go. Just writing for myself is really loss of direction so you have become that person I empty my soul to at the end of the day. Thanks for that…

I have been an activist most of my life and with this newest COVID19 crisis now is not the time to go quiet. I have over forty years of fighting for change and I’m not going to sit back while a bunch of self-serving, ideology driven egos who call themselves “government” undo all of that by increasing panic on an already frightened community. I will not quietly let ideological driven individuals use this crisis to shred rights. That is not what true activism is about. Activism is for life, not for the moment.

A simple picture quoting Hubert Humphrey stating "It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of their life, the children; those who are in the twilight of their life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped" with my own caption "You can't solve a community health crisis that requires moral guidance when you have a government that is morally bankrupt"
You can’t solve a health crisis that requires moral guidance when those doing the guiding are morally bankrupt

I’m also an advocate. The biggest difference between an activist and an advocate is that an advocate is there for the moment. An advocate act as the voice for those unable to speak for themselves. Now that the the COVID19 has been labelled a pandemic people are scared, particularly the marginalized. These are the very individuals the Alberta ideologically driven government have been busy stripping supports from.

Now these individuals and the entire community are in full panic mode. Based on the phone calls I am receiving it’s a toss up if they are more frightened by the pandemic or the fear of losing the few supports they do have left. When you are dependent on a system that has been slowly stripped away under the Kenney government well fear, as Frank Herbert in his famous Dune series put it, is the “mind killer”. When your ability to control your life is dependent on a care giver arriving at your home in the morning to get you dressed, out of bed and into your wheelchair doesn’t arrive without notice panic takes over and rational thought, justifiably, goes out the window. This “social distancing” they speak of is already a life style for many of the highest risk target groups for COVID19.

As an advocate I response however minimally. Not having someone at the end of the day to unburden some of this plays into my own “social distancing”. What are the options? All of these high risk groups, the elderly, the disabled, children and marginalized individuals often suffering substance abuse, loneliness, homelessness wind up further stigmatized when you have a government that is busy dismantling healthcare, education and social programs. Now is not the time for me to stop communicating with others. How can I honestly tell people to speak out to these issues when I have silenced myself? I can NOT remain silent but I can change my approach. Enter the true power of social media.

Using social media as a tool of protest

I no longer physically participate in much protest marching but I do participate in my own way. It is time to exercise the power of social media as the constructive tool it was meant to be. Not as “click bait” in hopes of your cat being the next viral phenomenon, or as a source of meme’s distorting truth, spreading hate or building sickness. Social media is “social distancing” by design so let’s use it effectively. Thanks for listening, I’ll be back.

The Erosion of Rights

“Believing without questioning is an insult to the human conscience” – Abhijit Naskar

I have purposely been trying to stay politically quiet for the past four weeks while fuming internally. I grew up in Calgary but have had the opportunity to live and work in other areas of our great country Canada. However I continue to return to Calgary because, no matter where I was living, I have always been a proud Albertan. After an almost twenty year absence I have retired back to Calgary because it is MY city.

I have been an advocate and activist for the past fifty years and I am watching the erosion of so many gains I fought hard for over those years. It is time for me to speak up. I can’t be telling everyone else to speak up when I have silenced my own voice. I have been writing this for weeks now, then editing, then rewriting, then editing, then rewriting just to avoid looking like I’m angry and pissed off. That reticence has kept me from speaking out and the truth is, I AM ANGRY AND PISSED OFF. I’m sitting in the shadows while our new government is ripping our hard fought for democracy apart.

I have been hearing a lot of “voter remorse” on social media in Alberta lately. I wish I could say I’m surprised but sadly I’m not. I am continually disappointed when I begin to assume that everyone uses, at least, a modicum of critical thinking. I truly believed that most people would have seen past Kenney’s campaign of hate, fear and misinformation. To me Kenney’s pre-election promises were pretty unrealistic and, when you scratched the surface veneer, substantively lacking. That screamed “FACT CHECK”.

I didn’t vote for hate or separation and the people I know who did vote for the UCP have not been able to point at any misgivings or abuses piled on the NDP in the campaign of misinformation. They just kept drinking the cool-aid thinking Kenney would return them to the glory days of the 80’s energy abundance.

I was here for those days and trust me when I say they were good days but they also had their down times. I was here when mortgage rates were over 20% and hundred’s of mortgage holders were just walking away. I was here when a deregulated system allowed energy companies to declared bankruptcy then abandon wells, pipelines and other useless infrastructure for the tax payer to pick up the tab.

Anyone that believes for a minute that the 80’s were the party days Kenney’s pushing were undoubtedly snorting more coke than common sense. An eight ball of common sense and the ability to apply two minutes of critical thinking should have been enough for anyone to recognize the difference between realistic election promises and divisive rhetoric.

However when I question people today on who they believe the Conservative Party is to be they keep going back to the days of Diefenbaker. They just can’t get their heads around how far the new Conservatives have drifted so far from those guidelines so they wrap themselves in a warm quilt of cognitive dissonance while sipping hot chocolate.

The Conservative Party of today is like a five layer cake with bull-shit pudding between each layer. It has been blended, sifted with and mixed by so many angry disenfranchised power brokers that it has not just blurred but erased and redrawn the political lines of what Conservatism is. Meanwhile the voter is paying the price. I keep hearing “I didn’t vote to separate”, “I didn’t vote to eliminate the RCMP”, “I didn’t vote to turn over my pension”, etc. However these are the ideas being tossed around by the Kenney Conservatives and opposition be damned. For people who haven’t been paying attention a short review.

Over the past 30 year the Progressive Conservatives come so close to ash on so many occasions. Like minded parties like the Reform Party of Canada began to circle. Reform was little more than a resurrecting Social Credit substitute that managed to attract enough of the more far right of the Conservatives. Although I don’t deny the Social Credit did some good work in the almost 40 years of power in Alberta they became so tied up in their personal ideologies they lost sight of the democratic process and were completely wiped out in 1971. History can be so important.

A number of the Reform Party members began to realize that their very existence was damaging the Conservative power base by fragmenting that sector of the electorate. After some backroom meetings, strategizing and the establishment of some power brokers the Canadian Alliance Party of Canada grow from the ashes of the burnt out Reform Party in 2000. The Phoenix that arose from these ashes blurred the lines of conservatism even more by swinging the pendulum even further to the right. In this attempt to wipe out the Liberals those who had been centrist for most of their political life were being squeezed out of the conversation.

A consequence of this new political reality left room for the New Democrat Party to shift slightly towards centre. With the Canadian Alliance having moved so far right the Liberals were left with a larger and more diverse collective of voters. The New Democrats were able to recognize an opportunity to advance their political futures by encroaching on more of the centre voters. With the changing demographics of Canada and a generalized disenfranchisement of the electorate the NDP were primed for the future and no longer seen as “that leftist” party their past had indicated. This set the political buffet for the new world of the 21st century.

One of my scariest moments was the entertainment of a private members bill (Bill 207) disguised as an act to protect the “conscience rights” of healthcare providers. These rights are already protected from the Canadian Charter to most professional associations. Providing further, poorly worded legislation, would just be another step for an ideology to further muddy the waters of choice. This is just another Machiavellian tactic Premier Kenney has a long history of practicing with little to do with political party platforms.

To close let me say two words to you, FACT CHECK. Words matter and the improper use of a word can destroy the democracy generations of Canadians (both born and immigrated) have work so hard to build. Is your lack of knowledge destroying our country or do you take the time to keep us moving forward? You’re damn right I’m pissed off and, if you believe in a free open democracy, you should be as well.

New Decade, New Direction

I just got back in from a quick wheel around the community. It is still warm enough (the sun is bright) to do a good wheel and not lose too much air out of my tires. However, based on the numbness of my fingertips it was chillier than I thought. But they are forecasting a drastic drop in temperatures in the next couple of days so I grab those outdoor moments when I can. Anybody that knows Calgary understands just how fickle our weather can be.

When I got back into the comfort of my condo I flipped on the news. Big mistake with the current conditions of the world these days. Between the fires of Australia, the craziness of the middle east, the insanity of Brexit and the twisted ideology sweeping across Canada flipping on the news was a huge mistake. So then I switched over to my computer monitor to hit some social media sites.

While catching up there I was quite please to see the 2020 “Best of Calgary” list has been released. The four nominees for “Best Civic Activist” were Jason Ribeiro, Mike Morrison, Mark Hopkins and Hannah Kost. One I know, two I’m aware of and the fourth was a new name to me. Regardless activism is in my blood so I pay attention to those and congratulate all four of them. Voting starts Jan 15th so Calgarians pay attention. If you visit the voting site you can really realize just how much of the City has changed. I would never even have thought of “Best Ice Cream or Gelato” shop, Best Coffee, Best Night Spot and the list went on. Calgary has moved a long way since the 80’s and I use to know every spot out there. I have lost touch with the City that I love.

I traditionally wrote a weekly “Monday Meanderings of the Mindless Myth” blog which was dedicated to advocacy and activism. I was beginning to feel like I was talking in a vacuum so I pulled back about two months ago. However in light of recent political events in Alberta I have come to the realization that now is not the time to back off. I am witnessing the continuing erosion of so many things my generation of activists fought for now is not the time to quit. There are four good nominees for the Best Civic Activists on the City list however they all lack history.

This being the first Monday of a new year in a new decade I am refocusing my energies and changing the direction of my blog. I am going to be examining advocacy and activism by decade rather than years. It has really been hammered home to me recently that the new generation of activists have little knowledge of why we are where we are. Rights are being eroded and many activists have no understanding, in part, because those rights were already here. They’ve never known anything else so how would they know what they are loosing.

A generational chart showing a dozen generations from the Lost Generation (1890) up to the most current Gen Alpha born since 2013
Where we fit in the demographics can often determine our commitment to activism

Education, healthcare, community inclusion, cultural protections, federal transfers, the Canada Pension Plan, and the list goes on are all under attack these days. These development made in the past sixty years are very generational and that is reflected in how we vote, who we put in power. The generation that fought for those programs are now becoming seniors just to discover so many things they fought for have been whittled away. Each generation has their own belief’s when it comes to politics. Where you fit on the political spectrum is usually dictated by the rights and programs your generation could access based on the work of the generation before you. The generation before me died on the battlefields of Europe so my generation would not have to face fascism and have access to a better standard of life than those that came out of the “Dirty Thirties“.

I want those four “Best Civic Activist” nominees to understand the ground their work is build upon. This is where words matter and being an “activist” should not be confused with advocacy or lobbying. Words are powerful and the power of an activist is found in the strength to their commitment. It is based on their understanding of the details that come from out history and that history could be as recent as ten year ago. It is often build on the graves of others.

A black and white picture of an elderly lady holding a sign reading "I can't believe I still have to protest this fucking shit"
A true activist does not let age dictate their commitment

So I am back with my Monday Meanderings but I will be adding more. From my perspective we are facing a provincial government that no longer cares about people. They have given repeated indications that all they care about is what they can impose or take away from us. And they can only impose if we, as the voters, don’t take a stand and speak out. We need to support our activists but we also have to be vocal. We have to let OUR politicians aware that they work for us, the VOTERS. So I am back and I am speaking out. I am here to remind people of the decades that went on before many of you arrived and not just what has happened in the last year. History is more than 365 days and civic involvement doesn’t end at the polling station. So until next time be loud, #WordsMatter…

If you have any questions or any matter of particular interest to you, leave a comment. Plus the “donation” button is meant to be more than decorative, with Kenney deleting so many supports for seniors and persons with disabilities I have just resorted to the times of the 50’s and 60’s. Except instead of a “begging bowl” I’ve gone upscale with technology and now present a “Donation” button…

Political Promises, Vote Baits

“Those who don’t value their words, will never value your wishes.” 
― Amit Kalantri

I have put off writing for a week while my brain adjusted to the realities of the latest provincial election. In between writing this and the outcome of a very disruptive election period in Alberta was Easter. I am not a “religious” person but I am a person of faith. With that in mind I equate the vitriol and hate spewed during the election period as the same type of misinformation that the the Pharisees expressed to Pontius Pilate simply to protect their power. Religion aside, the politics of hate continue 2000 years later. April 30 is Kenney’s day of “ascension” and he will assume power over the people. That is where my concern is, he will have power “over” the people which is quite different from what politics should be about, power “for” the people.  

I listened carefully to Kenney’s election promises throughout the campaign and began to realize how little the average voter understands basic civic’s.  Of course a provincial government has the right to make some judgements on things like the carbon tax. I have no doubt it will go quickly but I firmly believe it will be done based on ideology rather than science.  For that not to happen Kenney would have to acknowledge climate change and facing 21st century reality is not one of Kenney’s strengths.  However Albertans will then get saddled with the federal formula minus the rebate four other provinces will be receiving. The UCP has come into this issue late so Albertans won’t receive the 90% rebates those provinces using the federal program.  However that won’t stop Kenney by using Alberta tax dollars to lodge another legal challenge based on ideology rather than facts..

Too many Albertans who grew up when energy and oil was king chose to elect a government who believes moving us back to the 80’s will solve all of our problems.  I can’t fault the electorate for that, many of those voters built this province and now want to enjoy the fruits of their labour by enjoying the planned retirement years. The idea of change is frightening. However growing up with a disability “change” is about the only constant in my life. Now I am focusing more on bridging that gap between my generation (baby-boomers) and the influencers of today (Millenials).

We see this fear of change in business. That same fear of change is embedded in the mentality of many in the upper management positions. They don’t relate the same way to the technology associated with change which makes “Shifting Gears in the New Economy” almost impossible. How do you move the economy forward while denying or avoiding the new world of a global economy. Technology represents change and too many upper management types just want to get to that retirement while avoiding as much change as possible. They did their part for change 30 years ago so now they want to just get to the retirement garden they had worked so hard preparing for.

The UCP leader, Jason Kenney, tapped into that generation and counted on their fear of change. He was able to wave the boogeyman of fear, hate and bigotry at every opportunity and tap into that by using his contempt for the truth by flaming the growing fears of Albertans. He disguise his commitment to the safety of our kids by attacking the protection that had been offered by the previous government but his commitment to his ideology speaks differently. He used the safety of the school supervised safe zones for Gay Straight Alliances (GSA’s) as bait for votes. His commitment to reverse the current piece of legislation that provides that safe zone by insisting teachers will now have to inform parents of their child’s involvement with the school GSA is the action of a man who is disconnected from the real world.

He lacks the compassion, discipline or understanding to truly appreciate what many of these kids have to deal with outside of the safety of a classroom. This safe zone that Kenney ignorantly denies while fanning the flames of hatred and bigotry just cost a Syrian immigrant family their 9 year old daughter, Amel Alshteiwi. Despite the reported support from the school and the awareness of what this wonderful young girl was enduring she still took her own life rather than face more hatred, racism and bullying she was being tormented with every day at school. Kenney’s commitment to “protecting” our children was a fishing hook aimed directly at his base.

One of his big commitments took us straight back to 2012. Kenney has vowed to counter any environmental or other groups who insist on “demonizing” the oil and energy sector. He send clear messages that he would do or spend whatever it costs by establishing a $30 million war room to counter groups like the Suzuki Foundation. Flash back to the “charity chill” he helped create when a Cabinet Minister with the federal Harper government. What the electorate fail to realize is the difference between a “non-profit” and “charitable status”. There are many small local non-profits who confront local issues but the issuance of “charitable status” is federal jurisdiction requiring a Revenue Canada charitable status number. Again vote bait for the base who don’t know the difference.

But the biggest and most threatening issue to me was how he jumped all over the federal transfer program. His repeated mantra about how unfair it is to Alberta. What Kenney never mentioned, and nobody seemed to question, was that he was part of the federal government that basically told provinces in 2009 “this is the deal, take it or leave it”. From conversations I’ve had most Albertans don’t even know, let alone understand, the transfer process. For the fiscal year 2018-2019 Alberta received $6.2 BILLION in two major categories and I’m not even going to touch the labour market transfer payments.

Comparing the Alberta transfers with the BC transfers

There are conditions and processes on how this money can be used while each provinces defines how they can use it themselves. For example, in Alberta, anything “medically” related comes out of the Federal Health Transfer fund ($4.6 billion) but anything that is considered a social program, like welfare, comes out of the Federal Social Transfer ($1.6 billion). Why is this important? In the world of disability it can make the difference of living on the street or living in a facility. Programs like the Alberta Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) is a social program, it comes out of the social transfer and a small “pension” (about $1400 per month) goes to the individual. It is not a health program.

The funds for Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PDD) is considered a “health” program. On PDD the individual is receiving a “service”, the payment doesn’t go to the individual, it goes to the service provider. That could be a facility, a group home or a private individual that is providing a room and board situation for someone who may not be able to live independently. One of the criteria for PDD (one I don’t necessarily support) is to have the label IQ 70. I don’t put a lot of faith in IQ measurements but Kenney has committed to review that criteria and possibly remove it.

On this one I am jaded. You take that piece of criteria out of their and you open the door to move many people from PDD to AISH. It is a worthless criteria but it does guarantee you a certain level of dignified living. On AISH you are on the street with little support but on PDD you have a safe (usually) place to live with some medical support. To me that is Kenney’s most threatening commitment. It might have sounded like compassion to his base and to those retired baby-boomers who want protection for the grandkids. I’ve dealt with enough disability reality in my life time to be pessimistic enough to see this as a ploy to cut the marginalized out of service.

The short version is his fishing trip worked. He laid out enough bait to hook the vote and I am left with this feeling of “back to the future”. And now for a PAID political announcement, if you like what you are reading hit the donate button above. Life in a wheelchair is expensive and I don’t qualify for any programs, therefore donations are my life. Have a good day and, if nothing else, at least take a minute on Wikipedia and learn a little “civics”.