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Meritocracy only works if there is equality of opportunity. That equality doesn’t exist in our society today. Let’s try to change that

@calamityjayne4

This is the first post on my new blog. You may recognize me from Twitter, where I enjoy aggressively discussing parenting issues and progressive policy. I plan to do more of that here as well as sharing some of my thoughts, opinions and hard learned lessons. If this sounds like something you might be into, subscribe below to get notifications when I post new content.

If It Walks Like A Duck…

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It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I apologize for being away so long, I really can’t say much other than that living in this province the last few moths has been an endless barrage of horrible policy and gaslighting and I just lost the will to write articles that all basically scream the same message: This Government is Horribly Corrupt.

Who would have guessed that a morally bankrupt zealot with a history of questionable ethics who is under investigation for campaign fraud would lead a less than upstanding government? Anyways…

I’m sure anybody reading this today is fully aware of what went down yesterday with the wildcat strikes at 48 healthcare facilities across the province and the disappointing response of the Labour Relations Board. Some people expressed suspicion that the LRB may be tied to the government somehow, so I went looking and it did not take me long to find some interesting history.

The LRB was also involved in attempting to force the Alberta Federation of Labour to return documents granted to them regarding Klein’s controversial Bill 27. Labour Relations Amendment Act, which came into force in 2003. The Act made significant changes to bargaining rights for healthcare workers in Alberta, excluding Nurse Practitioners from unionization, terminating the right to strike for all healthcare workers and removing negotiated severance provisions from collective agreements. It restructured the healthcare sector and enforced intermingling votes within unions as a result. Unions unsuccessful in those votes we not permitted to organize the unorganized.

“Bill 27 strips the right to strike from thousands of people working in community health care. It attacks the right of ALL health care workers to choose their own union. It denies workers access to severance pay-outs if their jobs are contracted out. It removes decision-making power from impartial tribunals like the Labour Relations Board and hand it over to the provincial cabinet And it sets up a process that will almost certainly give regional health authorities the power to impose inferior agreements on health care workers. From our perspective at the AFL, Bill 27 is just the first shot in what may turn into a war on workers waged by the Alberta government against unions in this province.” *Excerpt from AFL website posting of 2003 speech

https://www.afl.org/tags/speeches?page=3

Now, you may be wondering why Labour Relations Board was so concerned with the documents obtained by the AFL, you see, the AFL happened to come across some documents that indicated that the LRB was involved in helping draft that government legislation. The LRB was understandably unhappy that these documents had been released and so they took the AFL to court to try to get the docs back. They were denied. They were also “ordered to disclose portions of documents that reveal who was involved in creating, drafting, editing or commenting on legislation, as well as the dates of those communications.” The Judge ruled the LRB “failed in its legal duties under FOIP by issuing an incomplete response and by delaying the release of other documents.” according to the AFL at the time.

The AFL, with the support of 45 union leaders, decided to “put pressure on the board by signing an open letter to Ralph Klein demanding the resignations of some of their members. Mark Asbell, Les Wallace and Nancy Schlesinger.” Ms. Schlesinger is the Vice-Chair and Essential Services commissioner for the LRB and according to the LRB website, Les Wallace is still a part-time member.

I’m not saying there is bias at play, all I’m saying is that there seems to be a pattern here.

Calamity Out

So many choices!

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The Government of Alberta recently introduced Bill 15 the “Choice in Education act” which they claim is intended to offer parents in Alberta more “choice” in how their children are educated. 

According to the Government of Alberta the Act is intended to “strengthen Alberta’s successful history of educational choice, including public and separate schools, Francophone schools, charter schools, independent (private) schools, early childhood education and home education.” The Act is supposed to achieve this goal by amending the current Education Act to:

  • affirm that parents have the right to choose the kind of education they feel is best for their children
  • support the creation of new charter schools, including vocation-focused charter schools
  • protect the status and funding of independent (private) schools
  • provide new options for parents who choose to home school their children
  • allow a person to bypass the school board and apply directly to the Minister to begin the process to establish a new charter school 
  • allow for an unsupervised, notification-only, non-funded home education program
  • exclude charter school operators from being subject to the Board Procedures Regulation as they are societies or companies registered under Part 9 of the Companies Act
  • exempt charter school operators from the application of new joint use and planning agreement requirements between school boards and municipalities

The Alberta School Council Association further claims that the bill will:

• Affirm parents have primary responsibility for the education of their children

Add to the preamble of the Education Act recognition of Section 26.3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”

Protect the status and funding of independent schools in legislation given that they save the public education system $168 million annually. (They provide no source for this claim) 

https://www.pressprogressalberta.ca/actually-theyre-double-dipping

Facilitate the creation and operation of new charter schools by

Lifting the cap on the number of charter schools

• Lifting charter school enrollment caps

Allowing charter schools to own property

Treat charter schools as priorities above other possible uses for surplus public-school infrastructure

Support and encourage an expansion of alternative programs in the public system

Respect the constitutional right to separate schools

Maintain funding for independent schools and home schoolers at current levels

Encourage the sharing of busing and infrastructure where appropriate, while respecting the distinctive nature of both systems

Amend the Education Act to implement the Leadership Quality Standards

Ensure that requests from parents for blended home school programs are facilitated

This Bill has drawn criticism and concern from Public Education Advocates across Alberta, including Edmonton Public School Board Chair Trisha Estabrooks who said she is concerned that the legislation would make it easier to start a charter school.

“At Edmonton Public we have concerns about that because we know that charter schools don’t actually have to take every student that applies and although they receive the full funding that a public school would receive, they aren’t publicly accessible for all students the way public schools are,” she said, “That sort of setup is a threat to public education and the valuable dollars that are required in public education.”

Despite Lagrange’s claims that these changes would not benefit private or religious schools, we’ve already seen that funding changes made by the UCP do exactly that.

“This year, private schools received a four per cent funding increase while public boards received about two per cent less. This is unfair and inequitable,” ATA President Jason Schilling said.

The Education Minister, however, claims she’s just giving Albertans what they want, despite her own survey returning 50,000 responses resulting in 61.6% of Albertans who responded to Lagrange’s satisfaction stating that they were satisfied with the amount of Educational Choice in Alberta and 59.1% stating that they were satisfied with the information available about school choice in Alberta. These results, of course, do not include the 2,357 survey responses Lagrange excluded because she deemed them “too similar” to include, she also didn’t like that they were from people associated with “SOS”, also known as Support Our Students Alberta, a public education advocacy group which Minister Lagrange referred to as “A private interest group trying to hijack the survey”. One of those responses was probably from me. Jason Kenney believes that this proposed legislation is important because there are special interest groups and political parties in Alberta who “undermine” the rights of parents to choose how their children are educated. “This legislation won’t let them do so in the future,” Kenney said.

Shockingly, Lagrange and Kenney had no such concerns about religious groups that encouraged their members to advocate for Bill 15. 

Welcome To The 2017-18 Academic Year by Léo Gaumont - YouTube

Leo Gaumont, Founder of Education Unlimited. (Still image from his youtube video “welcome to the 2017-2018 academic year”)

As if concerns about funding distribution and administrative and academic oversight weren’t enough, the fervent support we’re seeing from religious schools is even more concerning. The Canadian Centre for Home Education welcomed Kenney as its keynote speaker for the closing banquet of the 2018 National Home Education Conference in Edmonton (Ted Byfield, founder of The Alberta Report also gave a speech).

According to Press Progress the 2018 conference was sponsored by:

Wisdom Homeschooling is a group that made headlines in 2016 after it was shut down by the province over allegations of fraud, “financial irregularities” and misuse of public education dollars. An audit found that Trinity Christian School Association had outsourced its homeschooling operations to Wisdom Homeschooling Society, which was founded in 1995 by the then associate principal of Trinity. The audit found that the 2 families responsible for the alleged mismanagement compensated themselves in excess of $2.76 Million over a three year period. 

https://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/gjclimenhga/2016/12/wildrose-defence-christian-home-homeschooling-group-unravels-on-news

https://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/families-involved-in-embattled-home-schooling-group-earned-2-86m-from-2012-15

A former student of Wisdom, which provides resources for homeschooling parents, also raised questions about its credibility as an educational organization. 

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/shocking-allegations-against-christian-school-show-need-for-regulation-says-graduate-1.3827504

Classical Conversations is a company headquartered in the United States (NC) which calls itself a “Classical Christian Community” and features heavy handed religious teachings.

Education Unlimited which was founded in 1999 and “functions as a home Education management system” for Harvest Baptist Academy to provide services to families without using provincial accreditation. They tout their organization as recognizing “the authority and responsibility of parents” and encouraging them in “the training of their children at home”.

Harvest Baptist academy gained public attention for refusing to adhere to GSA policy. When interviewed, Brian Coldwell, Chairman of HBA and Pastor of New Testament Baptist Church said that he has a duty as a pastor to refuse GSAs in his two schools. He said his schools would not comply with the law and equated the rules to religious persecution.

The Alberta Home Education Association claim on their website that “AHEA has been working with the Minister’s Office and Alberta Education throughout this process.” The AHEA also has ties to the Home School Legal Defense Association and even advertises those connections on their website, they actively ran a campaign against Bill 24, which grants privacy and protections for students who join gay-straight alliances. In fact, the group encouraged its supporters to contact Kenney directly and voice their opposition to the GSA bill.

The Home School Legal Defence Association is run by Peter Stock, who founded a far-right group called Canada Family Action, which claims their mission is to “mobilize, train and activate Canadians in defending and promoting Christian principles in Canadian society”. He also wrote an article for the now gloriously defunct news magazine “The Report” which boasted such “writers” as Kenneth Whyte, Ezra Levant and Lorne Gunter, about how he believed that legislation introduced to expand the definition of spouse to include same sex and common law partners would lead to a “polygamist society” in which immigration would become an issue (?) and quotes Jason Kenney as saying that “When the supreme Court invented a constitutional right to sexual orientation, a right based on sexual conduct, they opened the door for polygamists, advocates of incest and others to claim the same status as homosexuals.”

The CFA also promotes the idea of conversion therapy on their website and called for a “values test” for films shot in the province after “Brokeback Mountain was shot here. 

UCP MLA for Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills Nathan Cooper (you know, the speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta), another member of Canada Family Action, drew scrutiny in 2017 when it was revealed he hosted a CFA podcast with guest Dr. Scott Livey who helped draft Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act which proposed making homosexual acts punishable by death. The “Honorable” speaker, indeed.

In my humble opinion, this Bill appears to be about diverting resources away from Public Education in Alberta, making private options look more appealing to the public by comparison, and eroding oversight for independent and religious schools in the name of “parents rights”. 

Considering everything else that’s going on, it seems very on brand for them, doesn’t it?

Calamity out.

If you like what I’m doing, please consider buying me a coffee so I can stay awake long enough to write my next post 🙂

https://ko-fi.com/calamityjayne4

Is it time for Canadian Mincome?

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With millions of Canadians facing the challenges presented due to the COVID19 pandemic and economic crash, the idea of a Universal Basic Income is gaining popularity.

More than a million Canadians have lost their jobs since March, prompting the Government to roll out benefits to support people in the meantime. Prof. Evelyn Forget, an economist at the University of Manitoba says that a we’ve needed a targeted Basic Income for a long time and that we are well on our way to seeing one implemented thanks to the roll out of the new support benefits in recent weeks. Dionne Pohler from the Center for Industrial Relations and Human Resources at the University of Toronto says that a targeted basic income would be an effective way to ensure that Canadians who may not qualify for other supports but who are low income don’t fall through the cracks.

This isn’t the first, or even second, time that Canada has flirted with the idea of a UBI. The Dauphin Mincome project is often referenced by advocates of UBI due to the overwhelmingly positive results including a reduced rate of medical and psychiatric emergencies, and in 2018 Ontario was set to move ahead with a UBI pilot that was, unfortunately, cancelled by Doug Ford’s conservative government.

A transition from a means tested approach to transfers and credits may take some time, but this situation has opened a door for advocates of UBI to make their case. The Alberta Liberal Party has done just that, calling on the Federal Government to abandon means testing and immediately begin issuing a temporary UBI to Canadians in the amount of $1,500 for every adult and $500 for every child, a measure that would provide stability for Canadians and act as economic stimulus. The ALP has stated clearly that they do not believe that the UBI should be means tested, making the measure truly universal.

A UBI that would not be scaled back in proportion to income like other benefits are, would offer people more incentive to work and allow more flexibility for employees and employers alike, something that is desperately needed in our current jobs market and could actually encourage more people to take on part time or seasonal positions that employers sometimes struggle to fill. In 2018, 120 CEOs, Presidents and Owners of Canadian businesses wrote a letter in support of UBI to Doug Ford, explaining their position and requesting that he reconsider cancelling the Ontario Pilot, you can read their letter here https://ceosforbasicincome.ca/ceos-letter-oct-18-2018 and they aren’t the only supporters of UBI. A 2017 Ipsos poll found that 44% of Canadians agreed with the idea of a UBI with 24% saying they were neutral on the topic, only 30% were opposed to the idea and a 2019 poll by Gallup and Northeastern University showed that 3 of 4 Canadians asked supported a UBI.

Considering everything that’s happened over the last few months I can’t imagine a better time for advocates to push for change.

Calamity out.

Rise of the cretins

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Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer has found herself to be a target after Jason Kenney accused Canada’s CPHO of repeating messages from the People’s Republic of China. 

Recently a far right political and social commentary website known for their inflammatory content and seemingly endless controversies, has started a petition calling for the firing of the CPHO claiming that Dr. Tam has been “working for the Chinese-controlled World Health Organization” and that she either was claiming that her position on the WHO oversight committee for health emergencies is a conflict of interest because “who’s side is she on, Canada or China’s WHO?”. The ridiculous petition has gained 25,285 signatures. 

First of all, the World Health Organization is a specialized agency of the UN headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. It was established in 1948 with the purpose of advocating for universal healthcare, coordinating responses to public health emergencies and protecting human health and well being, (no wonder conservatives hate it so much). The WHO has 192 member states who appoint representatives to the World Health Assembly, the governing body of the WHO.

The World Health Organization’s largest source of funding is the US which contributes over $400 million a year through their State Department. The Second largest source of funding is The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “Chinese Controlled”, eh?

This is all very easy information to find, I have to wonder how it is that the website in question is unaware of it. 

They also seem unaware of Dr. Tam’s history and credentials. Dr. Tam was the Assistant Deputy Minister of the PHAC Infectious Disease Prevention and Control Branch and has helped to lead Canada’s responses to SARS, H1N1, Ebola and now the COVID 19 crisis. Dr. Tam has been Canada’s CPHO since the retirement of Dr. Gregory Taylor in 2016 and was formally appointed to the position in June, 2017. From what I can find, her professionalism or commitment to her work has never been questioned before. 

Dr. Tam has committed her life to ensuring the best possible health outcomes for people facing public health emergencies, she has worked to ensure public safety and advocated for public health education. The idea that Dr. Tam is an agent of China is laughable and it is deeply disturbing that there are people who believe this nonsense. 

Calamity out.

Trouble on the front lines Part 3

The UCP attack on healthcare continues with physicians being forced to limit their services, give up their hospital privileges and close their offices due to financial challenges caused by recent cuts and changes to physician compensation. There are reports of doctors reducing their services or leaving their regions in Rimbey, Settler, Sundre, Lac la Biche, and St. Paul.

At a meeting in Bonnyville, AB on March 11, doctors from Lac la Biche, Cold Lake, Bonnyville, and St. Paul explained to residents how the recent changes to physician billing could affect their communities. They warned of longer wait times, an exodus of doctors and reduced services which we are now seeing the proof of as 10 Lac la Biche doctors are withdrawing their ER and Obstetric services from the William J. Cazdow Health Centre after July 31, 2020 saying they are being forced to “restructure” their practice to cope with the loss of income due to recent changes.

One doctor expressed concern that changes to the way physicians bill for complex patient visits will disproportionately affect people who are not able to make frequent appointments but will now not be able to address multiple issues in one appointment. He worries that these patients will be forced to access walk ins or emergency care, a very real concern in rural areas where wait times to see a doctor are already often long and doctors usually try to fit as much in at one appointment as possible so health issues don’t go untreated for long periods of time.

Another concern is the lack of obstetricians at rural hospitals, like the Sundre hospital where there are no longer any physicians insured to provide obstetrical services, meaning that expectant parents now need to travel to hospitals in surrounding areas. As a woman who had rapid labors and even faster deliveries as well as serious complications with my last 2 pregnancies and lives in a rural area, I can attest to how stressful and dangerous that actually is. In the event of an emergency, this change could add approximately a half hour to the time it takes a pregnant woman to get the help she needs, putting mothers and babies at risk of serious complications.

The potential for risk in pregnant women in rural areas is already higher according to a 2016 UBC study which found that pregnant women in rural areas are at higher risk for serious complications when compared to women in urban areas. Researchers found that women in rural areas face approximately double the risk of life threatening complications and that their babies are more likely to have poor health outcomes at birth but are less likely to be admitted to NICU for treatment. One of the factors noted to be an issue in the study was that rural mothers are more likely to have fewer prenatal visits and a lack of availability of care in rural areas. A problem that is likely to be made significantly worse if things continue on their current course.

On top of all that, we also have a pandemic to manage. There have been some disturbing reports of front line workers either being provided poor quality supplies or being supplied none at all. There are reports of doctors and nurses being supplied inadequate or ineffective masks and funeral homes being unable to safely do their work due to challenges accessing masks and other PPE. Not only are healthcare workers facing a lack of moral support from a government that has spent the last year convincing their base that healthcare workers are “greedy” they’re also facing shortages of personal protective equipment and sanitation supplies, with one employee who works in geriatric acute care writing to Rachel Notley in an email which was shared on twitter “We have a shortage of masks. We are out of disinfectant wipes, they have substituted rags that are soaked in pcs that we wipe with until dry. I suppose that works but there’s less of those too.” With recent outbreaks of COVID in long term care facilities in Alberta, these revelations are particularly distressing. “I love my job, I just never imagined working without the supplies needed to do the job.” the email reads.

Hearing these reports while Jason Kenney claims that we have an abundance of PPE to send to other provinces to help int heir fight against COVID19 is particularly confusing and frustrating, of course we all want to help other provinces however, the inconsistencies from this government are piling up and the decisions being made could put lives at risk.

The UCP needs to change course, stop their assault of our healthcare system and focus on repairing the damage they’ve already done before it’s too late.

Thoughts on Prayers

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I’ve noticed recently that there are a surprising number of people who didn’t know that Legislative Sessions begin with prayers in Alberta and are shocked by this reality, so I thought I’d briefly cover the subject.

8 of 10 provincial legislatures begin their day with prayer, as well as all 3 territories. Provincial Legislatures that do not open their day with prayers are Quebec and Newfoundland. Even the House of Commons opens with a daily prayer led by the Speaker. Believe it or not, no daily business may proceed in the house of commons until the daily prayer has been recited, according to the rules of parliament.

It is a standing order in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta that “the Speaker shall offer Prayers every day at the meeting of the Assembly before business is entered into.”

It was also once a tradition for the premier of Alberta to attend an annual prayer breakfast, something the NDP did away with during their time in office. Jason Kenney, a Catholic brought the tradition back in November 2019, just days after the controversial Bill 207 failed to pass int he legislature. Kenney claimed that the prayer breakfast is “pluralism in action” and showed respect for freedom of religion.

Despite the Supreme Court’s in decision in the case of an atheist man in Saguenay Quebec went to the Human Rights Council to raise his concern about his town council meetings opening with prayers that the government should strive for “true neutrality” and that the invocation of a “God” no matter how non-denominational was still an endorsement of theism, most of our legislatures and House of Commons continue the practice as a “tradition”.

As it stands, it appears that someone will have to challenge the daily prayers in the legislature and/or the HoC in order for the “tradition” to change.

Cease and Desist!

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I’m sure you’ve seen that the UCP is struggling financially. They claim that because they spent so much on “political messaging” leading up to the 2019 election that they now don’t have enough credit to maintain their basic operations without fundraising revenues and may have to “cease operations”. 

With $7.37 million raised in 2019, a 2.3 million deficit and 1.1 million in liabilities, it’s fair to wonder where exactly the UCP was spending all their money and if that deficit figure includes the hundreds of thousands of dollars of fines levied against the party by the elections commissioner in response to the UCPs questionable campaign.

The claim from UCP president Ryan Becker, “aggressive spending on political messaging” leading up to the 2019 election is what has caused this situation brings up some questions for me. For example, the UCP fundraising email claims that the pandemic is the cause of the party’s woes, so how close to their financial limits were they operating if they could find themselves at risk of insolvency in a matter of weeks? 

You may be wondering what it would mean if the UCP “ceased operations”, unfortunately the UCP Communications Director Evan Menzies did not clarify that, so I tried to find out. 

Shockingly, there is very little information about what happens to provincial parties that are unable to fund their operations, let alone what happens if that party is currently the majority government. There is the possibility that the UCP may find themselves defaulting on their payments to their vendors, which the Alberta Elections Act is clear would open the UCP up to potential legal action.

With the UCP losing support across the province, I have to say, I think it would be great if the UCP would cease their operations and let the NDP take over.

Tell me lies

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As people have been self isolating and trying to manage all the effects of this pandemic, one of the things we’ve all been hoping for is that some lessons will come out of this that will make life better for people after this is over. There’ve been a lot of people saying “If this has taught us anything” and “What we’ve learned from this” and I have to wonder, are people really learning anything? Or are progressives, like myself, just telling ourselves sweet lies to help make things more bearable?

You would think that people would be able to recognize that it’s not stock brokers or CEOs keeping the world as we know it afloat through this, it’s doctors, nurses, teachers, postal workers and employees in grocery stores, on farms and in and food service establishments. It’s garbage collectors and utility workers. Customer service reps and take out delivery people. Unfortunately, if you look at the divide on social media, it appears that some have missed the memo. 

Healthcare workers are still being attacked, either by conservative commentators for blowing off steam with some harmless fun, or by people embittered by recent layoffs while trying to keep their heads above water and dealing with the trauma of a pandemic and healthcare cuts and cuts to their compensation at the same time. Teachers are being told they’re not doing anything, while they work to navigate online learning and retooling lesson plans for their pupils, now without the support of their EAs (thanks UCP), and grocery store employees are sharing stories of being abused and put in harm’s way while the UCP made temporary changes removing the requirement for employers to give notice of shift changes and allowing employers to do mass layoffs without reasonable notice to employees among other things.We call these people “essential workers” but I wonder if the title “sacrificial employees” might be more apt, since there appears to be such a vocal percentage of the population denying their importance in this strange world we’re now inhabiting. 

Some of us are hoping for a more just model of economic stewardship, maybe something loosely resembling the Nordic model with a UBI and stronger social support for the vulnerable, you might expect there to be more support and less opposition to these ideas, given how this situation has highlighted the failures of capitalism. Yes and no, while it appears that support has grown, opposition has also become more fervent and aggressive. Wild conspiracy theories are picking up momentum, with some notable right wingers claiming that the government is using this crisis to force “communism” and “socialism” onto the population. I have yet to see a coherent explanation of why these people think the government would do such a thing, or why “socialism” is so bad, but that isn’t entirely surprising.  

There are some who are actively putting others at risk by “protesting” the quarantine, or advocating to loosen the recommendations from Health Canada early (thus putting others at risk) just because they’re bored and want to engage in their hobbies again. I know everyone is tired of the golf thing, but I believe that it highlights the extent of the problem we’re facing here. There are huge swaths of the population that are deeply selfish, and they’ve been allowed, or even encouraged to be that way. 

Canadians may judge people in the US for their capitalist ways, but we have our own elitism festering under our very own feet that we’ve never really had to look too closely at. It’s been easy to tsk tsk at the wealthy and politicians, because they’re the most obvious culprits, but now we can see that it’s Dave next door too. It’s not just oil and gas workers being entitled because oil is king in Alberta, it’s the accountant down the block who thinks his hobby is more important than the safety of his neighbors. It’s the lady who packs her family of 6 into the van and takes a holiday to their cabin in BC because they’re just so BORED. 

I don’t begrudge anyone a delivery meal from their favourite local restaurant,  or a walk around the block, but when we have people advocating to loosen Health Canada restrictions that are in place to keep people from dying because they’re BORED, we have a problem.

When we have people taking pot shots at our front line workers because they’re bitter and brainwashed by capitalist talking points, we have a problem.

When we have a government that is comfortable undermining the institutions that protect us, WE HAVE A PROBLEM.

I hope that speaking up is helping, I hope that the collectives of progressive people working to enact change will be enough. I hope that we come through this wiser, kinder and more prepared to face challenges. I hope that people are learning from this, and that they teach those lessons to their children and grandchildren and that we can offer a better future to them.

Calamity out.

A bitter pill to swallow

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True to form, Jason Kenney has dug himself a hole by saying that Alberta will circumvent Health Canada in the pursuit of treatments and tests for COVID19. 

“We’re not going to wait for Health Canada to play catch up with, for example the European Union’s drug regulator or the Food and Drug Administration in the United States.” Kenney said in an interview with the CBC. Unsurprisingly, Andrew Scheer has come out in support of Jason Kenney and his desire to bypass regulatory measures meant to protect Canadians if there is a legal way to do so, saying “often Canada is the last to get drugs for individuals or products for other types of industries as well.”

Kenney said that he trusts Health Canada as an institution before criticizing Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam saying, “This is the same Dr. Tam who is telling us that we shouldn’t close our borders to countries with high levels of infection and who in January was repeating talking points out of the [People’s Republic of China] about the no evidence of human-to-human transmission”.

This statement is deeply concerning because it mirrors the kind of dog whistle statement we see from Donald Trump who has been promoting not only untested and potentially dangerous treatments, but also conspiracy theories and xenophobic propaganda to rile up his base.

Timothy Caufield, a noted UofA Health Law Professor says that Kenney’s comments are fueling misinformation circulating on social media that claim that regulators are withholding COVID19 treatments from the public.

I’m not shocked that the premier would make such problematic statements, implying that the federal government is slowing the process of accessing tests or treatments, after all, he isn’t well educated nor does he seem to adhere to any kind of ethical standard as far as we can see.

Kenney seems to have missed the fact that Canada has been lauded for our response to the COVID 19 pandemic and the fact that by law, Alberta is subject to the Canada Health Act and the regulatory overview of Health Canada. Provinces don’t have their own regulatory bodies, nor do they have the ability to import drugs that aren’t federally approved. While provinces can bypass the Health Products and Food Branch of Health Canada, they can only do so under the Special Access Program, which only allows the use of devices or treatments not yet approves if the need is legitimate, conventional options have failed and the test or treatment is being provided under the supervision of a physician.

I suppose the silver lining to all this is that Jason’s approval rating is the lowest of any premier in Canada, sitting at approximately 40% overall with 54% of Albertans saying that they believe that Rachel Notley would do a better job managing the pandemic. Of course, polling isn’t always accurate, but it does give me some hope.

Calamity out.

Reaching and Overreaching

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Lately it’s been a challenge to keep up with the antics of the UCP. We’ve been forced to set aside some of our very valid concerns and focus our energies on, you know, violations of the Charter and Ministers abusing their power and harassing doctors. As a result some important topics have managed to slip under the wire. Things like Bill 10, which I would like to take a look at today.

Bill 10, the Public Health Amendment Act, was rushed through the legislature on April 2 with only 21 of the 87 elected MLAs present and grants Ministers sweeping powers to create, implement and enforce new laws without consultation. While it may be the most glaring example of Government overreach to date this isn’t the first questionable act by the UCP, nor is it the first to be challenged legally.

Jay Cameron, Litigation Manager for the Justice Center is quoted as saying “This concentration of power in one individual, without meaningful accountability, opens the door for widespread abuse of civilians. Bill 10 is foreign to Canada’s system of government with its checks and balances, and its limits on the use of government power. Alberta citizens ought to be deeply concerned.”

I agree, the lack of clarity around why the government feels that their ministers need to have such unprecedented power and why the Act itself is not subject to a sunset clause, allowing it to remain in effect for the duration of the public health emergency declaration by itself is deeply troubling, but there’s more.

Bill 10 grants ministers the ability to write and implement new laws, yes (52.1(2), but it also allows them to grant jurisdiction to peace officers without consultation, grants ministers retroactive lawmaking powers (52.1 (2.1&2.2) and increases the financial penalties for non compliance significantly. There is also a notable change in language of some of the amendments, for example in section (52.1 (2.2)) where the UCP has amended the act to grant Ministers the power to set out new provisions, the amendment changes the wording to say “if the person is satisfied that doing so is in the public interest” instead of the much more clear and specific “if the Minister is satisfied that its application or operation may directly or indirectly unreasonably hinder or delay action required in order to protect the public health.” It may seem like a small thing, however the wording of legal documents is important as it determines how the document is going to be interpreted and implemented. Opening up an Act to broader interpretations creates an opportunity for the legislation to be misused or misunderstood. I don’t want to say that this is the intent here, but I can’t help but wonder why the same type of rephrasing seems to happen consistently throughout this bill. I’m almost as interested in the rationale behind the changes to the language of the Act as in the powers it grants directly.

It was a challenge to pare this post down to what it is, I have so many questions and concerns about the language of this bill. The scope of this government’s overreach is truly shocking when viewed with a wide lens. To the point that I’m unsure how to cover it all in a concise way. Denying special needs children access to the supports they need to attain an education in our province, the destruction of our public health services, budget 2020 and now this bill shows us that this government isn’t even trying to pretend to respect the people of Alberta anymore. With courts closed and/or severely restricted, there are few to no checks and balances in place to protect the people of Alberta from a government that has shown a pattern of disrespect for boundaries, ethics and even the Charter.

Stay safe, protect each other, keep records and for goodness sake, stay home.

Calamity out.