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.

Trouble on the front lines Part 2

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Things are getting dicey here in Alberta lately, to such a degree that this past week saw the Alberta Medical Association file a lawsuit against the Government of Alberta claiming more than $250 Million in damages has already been incurred due to the Governments decision to tear up their contract with healthcare workers in February. The government followed up this unprecedented move by imposing healthcare cuts across the board and making sweeping changes to physicians billing codes which went into effect on April 1st, despite calls to walk back the planned cuts in the face of the COVID 19 pandemic.

AMA president Dr. Christine Molnar has made it clear that the government has left the AMA with few alternatives and is quoted as saying “We think that we’ve reached an impasse with the government, our relationship has never been at a lower point. It’s very important that there’s a method to resolve disputes between the government and Alberta Physicians, it’s unavoidable that there will be disputes. There needs to be a remedy and method to dissolve those disputes and that would be determined by a negotiated agreement, and if that fails, by binding arbitration with a third party, and that is what we’re seeking to achieve.”

The central argument of the suit is that the UCP has violated the charter rights of Alberta Physicians by ripping up their agreement with the AMA and imposing unilateral changes to physician compensation. The AMA is the exclusive bargaining representative for physicians in the province and by law Alberta’s doctors must have access to an independent, third party resolution process. These elements are necessary to protect meaningful collective bargaining, which is protected by our constitutional right to freedom of association.

Patrick Nugent, the Lawyer representing the doctors is quoted as saying that “The government has attacked the core of freedom of association, has affected the AMA’s status as exclusive representative and it has crippled the AMA’s ability to meaningfully bargain on behalf of physicians. So, in the current environment with no access to arbitration as a backstop the AMA has essentially been reduced to collective begging, not collective bargaining, and we say in the claim these are fundamental attacks on freedom of association.”

It is important to note that the AMA agreement was terminated by the Minister of Health on February 20th, after the AMA had agreed, in good faith, to extend the 90 day negotiating period. 9 days before the AMA would have been entitled to serve formal notice of Arbitration and 1 day prior to the AMA’s expressed intention to submit a proposal to the Minister. If the AMA hadn’t agreed to extend the negotiation period, they could have served the formal notice on February 11th. In a statement on the AMA website Dr. Molnar, President of the AMA says “The refusal to bring their information to an arbitrator shows disrespect to physicians and a lack of faith in their own information.”

Another matter of importance here is the fact that Bill 21, which was touted as a bill to protect patients from sexual abuse, gave the government the power to terminate the agreement, which the AMA tried to warn us about back when the UCP introduced the bill last fall. The Bill actually grants a whole host of outrageous powers to the health minister, including the ability to tell physicians where they can and cannot provide care and is based on an outdated and ineffective management tool that failed in BC, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. It has been noted that a billing number restriction system, which Shandro would like to impose here, is ineffective because it restricts the number of physicians practicing and restricts their mobility and recruitment. It has been credited with a net loss of physicians in rural areas and created physician shortages, costly legal battles and expensive recruitment campaigns in the provinces where it was tried and deemed a failure.

I am unsure how disrespecting and hamstringing an organization that has represented physicians and patients in Alberta for 114 years is meant to help Albertans, but I think it’s pretty clear that it makes undermining our public healthcare as a means to justify privatizing our public services easier.

Calamity out.

The slow poisoning of Alberta’s politics

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While many of us are struggling to keep up with the daily bombardment of bad decisions, power grabs and now sponsored ad content (hello Shopify) from our provincial government, it’s sometimes hard to remember that Jason Kenney isn’t where our trouble started. He’s a symptom of a bigger problem.

The new UCP government is emboldened by 44 years of conservative corruption. For decades conservatives have been under investing in Alberta during boom times in favor of offering tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy as well as living the high life on taxpayer funds, Kenney is just clumsily recycling old plays at the wrong times.

The UCP has been corrupt since its beginning and their predecessors, the PC and Wildrose, have had more than their fair share of corruption scandals (particularly the PCs).

Where do I even start? I mean, Ralph Klein. Drunkenly yelling at homeless people, questionable comments about a youth court judge, making a lewd joke about a colleague at a charity event. I’m sure you can fill in the rest.

In 1992 there was outrage after MLAs were paid more than $1.3 Million to finance living expenses. It was discovered that some PC ministers had used that money to make mortgage payments on Edmonton properties which they then sold for large profits when they retired.

Even “Steady Eddie” had a few controversies under his belt. Notably, Stelmach’s conservatives gave themselves a 30% pay increase while sitting fewer days in the legislature than any other province’s legislature. They instead directed business through standing policy committees of the Progressive Conservative caucus which met in private.

In 2007 Fred Dunn, who was the auditor general at the time, exposed MLAs for regularly exceeded living allowances and accepting lavish gifts and bonuses paid for with taxpayer money.

In 2009, Lorne Gibson, who was then the Chief Electoral Officer got on the wrong side of PC MLAs by issuing two reports about issues with Alberta’s election laws, it was seen as a rebuke of the PC government. He was fired from his position and ended up successfully suing the province for wrongful dismissal.

2010 saw conservatives accepting illegal campaign contributions.

In 2012 the public paid MLAs thousands of dollars for sitting on a committee that hadn’t met in more than three years.

That same year, Christine Cusanelli, who was the Minister of Tourism, billed thousands of dollars of personal charges on her government credit card, including $4,078 in airfare to fly her mother and daughter to the London Olympics and $10, 600 in other expenses. Cusanelli claimed it was all a “misunderstanding”.

Which brings us to Allison Redford who resigned from her position after multiple expense controversies including $11,000 overspent on a trip to India, $45,000 for a trip to South Africa to attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral, $330,000 for a “trip scout” and the $2.7 Million “sky palace”.

Then, of course, there’s Derek Fildebrandt, who served as interim leader of the Wildrose party in 2018 and is known for making inappropriate comments online, legal issues with a neighbor, listing his taxpayer funded apartment on Air BnB, charging meals to his MLA expense account while simultaneously claiming his MLA per-Diem for meals and illegally killing a deer (sounds like someone else we know, but at least from what I can find, he didn’t threaten to shoot anybody). Oh, and he purchased and re launched the Western Standard, a right wing Political commentary site that was founded by Ezra Levant.

the PC merger with the Wildrose party in 2014, of course brought us the good old Kamikaze scandal, among others. Danielle Smith claimed that PC Leader Jim Prentice had moved the PCs to the right and adopted “the lion’s share” of the right wing Wildrose platform, including “increased choice” in healthcare (*cough* privatization) and “parent’s rights” in education (*cough* GSA’s). Interesting that all it took to end the Wildrose party’s criticisms of the PC’s overspending and poor budgetary management was to offer some “key positions” for those willing to cross the floor and make some questionable policy changes. It’s almost sad that Danielle left the Wildrose party, which she took from non-party status to official opposition in 3 years for some vague promises only to lose her seat to a Wildrose member the following year.

Of course, those are just the highlights and don’t include anything from the last year. There have been dozens of smaller controversies from links to white supremacist groups (this topic needs its own post) to expense abuses.

So, you see, none of the corruption we’re seeing is new, it’s just more blatant than we’re used to. Alberta consistently elects politicians on the promise to protect us from the “cash grabs” of Ottawa and Quebec, offer us “a fair deal” and “Balance the budget” when we should be electing politicians with ethics, morals and compassion that will protect us from certain politicians and their donors who seem capable of nothing but lining their own pockets with our tax dollars.

Calamity out.

Priorities

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Many of us are doing our best to manage the stresses of our new reality living through the COVID pandemic, we’re relying on government supports and community services to help us handle the isolation and anxiety. We’re turning to delivery services to help “plank the curve” by staying as isolated as possible. We’re requesting deferrals on our utilities and mortgages.

What many of us are forgetting though, is that we are fortunate to be able to take these steps for ourselves. For people who are homelessness, living in shelters or living in precarious housing, these challenges are multiplied.

We saw today, Minister of Community and social services, Rajan Sawhney post a photo to Twitter of an empty church with some gym mats strewn on the floor. This is Red Deer’s emergency shelter, it doesn’t comply with social distancing protocols or offer the people who are supposed to use the space any privacy or dignity. The UCP has argued that placing homeless Albertans in hotels is not an option, due to concerns about suicide mitigation, however one notable Political Scientist has pointed out that per a study done in 2015 (A longitudinal study of suicidal ideation among homeless, mentally ill individuals. Noel et al) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26518774 housing is not a factor in suicidal ideation and the goal is to prevent the spread of COVID19.

One confusing and frustrating factor in all this is that not only does the province have the ability to commandeer hotels for this purpose, hotels in Calgary OFFERED their space and the GoA refused, opting instead for a dangerous and insufficient approach that the government has provided no data to support.

One thing that may contribute to an increase in suicides during this challenging time is the recent cut to Psychiatric codes and the loneliness of self isolation, especially among low income or disabled people. Albertans are facing a challenging road for the next several months and this government seems determined to strip each and every one of us of whatever they can. Homeless, low income or precariously employed/housed and disabled Albertans have already been dealt a bad hand by this government through cuts to social services, changes to AISH payments and a lack of support, cuts to healthcare, education and other public services and now they’re being warehoused, abandoned and ignored.

While some of us are struggling with predatory behavior from banks and trying to access funding through the GoA/EI, others are struggling to manage increased costs associated with having food delivered to them because they physically cannot go to the grocery store either because they are self isolating or because they lack transportation and have nobody to help them. A challenge that is likely to get harder to rise to as the cost of living continues to increase. While some Albertans are disappointed by the cancellation of social events, others are left to make due without home care services that they rely on to help them cook their meals or maintain their physical health and well being.

If this government can reach into their pockets and pull out a couple Billion for a pipeline, I think they should be able to do at least marginally better than this for the people of Alberta. From Doctors and Teachers to our homeless neighbors. There is no excuse for this callous treatment.

Calamity out.

When the weight comes down

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Today Premier Jason Kenney announced 7B in funding for the Keystone pipeline and did a press conference with the CEO of TC energy, Russel K Girling, to tell us all how very essential the project is.

Kenney has stooped so low that he’s started to make Doug Ford look good by comparison. That’s where we are in Alberta.

Saturday saw the UCP laying off 25,000 public Ed employees, that’s 1% of Alberta’s workforce, via press release because apparently “we’re broke”. Kenney justified this move at the presser today by claiming that these employees were not working, which school boards and teachers have said is an outright lie. He also claims to have consulted with school boards but at least 2 EPSB trustees have come forward to say that they were not consulted at all on the matter.

This decision has been particularly concerning for families with special needs children who work with EAs to help them succeed in the classroom both socially and academically. The loss of these critical supports is devastating to these families who are concerned about what next year will look like for their children. When asked how special needs children are being supported Kenney claimed that EAs working with PUF children will be maintained, but did not speak to the supports that children from grade 1 on would be receiving.

Tomorrow UCP cuts to healthcare kick in, despite calls to change course. Doctors will see an array of changes that will inhibit their ability to offer their full range of support to their patients, including a 20% pay cut. One doctor noted that these cuts will force him to choose between his clinic practice and his ER privileges as he won’t be able to do both financially anymore. One doctor says that these cuts make Rural family medicine “completely unsustainable” noting that today 5 Albertans died of COVID 19 and yet the government of Alberta has chosen to cut palliative care codes by 27%, psychiatric codes also were cut by 27%, which are particularly heartless cuts given the situation we find ourselves in. All this because, apparently “we’re broke”.

We can, however, give $1.6 Billion to fund the Keystone pipeline now and another $6Billion next year. Given the current market, the global pandemic we’re facing and the divestment we’ve been seeing in the energy sector, it seems that this may, just perhaps, be a stupid thing to do.

Meanwhile, over 30,000 (33926 according to a screenshot from one twitter user) Albertans are waiting to access Emergency Financial Support payments through the GoA and of the few who are able to get through the site, many are being denied. Mortgage deferrals are available however some mortgage companies and banks are, in some cases, increasing mortgage payments to reflect the deferral amount or even expecting full repayment upon the end of the deferral period. Tenants are expected to continue paying rent, because their landlords have to pay their mortgages. MLAs are hanging up on concerned citizens and Tyler Shandro is probably in some nice Doctors driveway, crying.

I don’t know what else to say. Only about 1,111 days until the next election.

Wash your hands and stay home, it’s the least we can do.

Calamity out.

Won’t somebody think of the children?!

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Today the Minister of Education, Adriana Lagrange, went back on her word and announced cuts to public education, resulting in approximately 25,000 people being laid off.

It is no coincidence that this announcement was made on a Saturday immediately after the story of Tyler Shandro’s inappropriate behavior went public, and it is no coincidence that the pandemic we’re all weathering is being used as an excuse to push forward with cruel and unnecessary attacks on our public education system.

While the UCP refuses to dismantle their ridiculous “energy war room” claiming that it’s needed to defend our energy sector (read:corporate interests) from attack, they have no problem at all harming Albertans on a regular basis through actions like this.

Many of those being laid off are EAs or Educational Assistants, people who provide care and support for children with special needs or learning delays in and outside of the classroom. Those same EAs have been working to help mitigate the stress the school closures have been causing to parents and children that they work with.

I have heard several people close to me voicing their concerns about their EA losing their income as well as their children losing a vital support person in their lives. What Lagrange fails to understand is the bond these educators have with their students, they are not extras in the movie of our kids’ lives, they are front and center every day. My son, spends much of his day with his EA working on not only academics but on emotional regulation, managing sensory overload, working on receptive language skills and moving safely from activity to activity and place to place. These skills are not minor, and he now has no qualified support in these areas. He isn’t the only one.

Parents have been concerned about the impact of the class shutdown on their special needs children since the beginning, and that concern has been heaped on top of the stresses already being carried thanks to the cuts to PUF and what that would mean for children entering Kindergarten, which were piled on top of the worry about cuts to education funding. For the minister of education to announce cuts resulting in the loss of supports, the loss of livelihoods and the loss of our public educators on a Saturday afternoon as a distraction is, frankly, a slap in the face to the people of Alberta.

The Alberta Teachers Association tweeted out: “Today’s announcement is very concerning. We are worried about the thousands of workers who will be laid off at this very stressful time. Teachers and EAs work closely together to facilitate student learning. EAs were helping with accommodations and to deliver resources to students with inadequate technology. We have concerns about how students with special needs will be supported. Thankfully the federal government is stepping up to protect people and the economy through a humane, far-sighted and compassionate program that will make sure that individuals and the current fragile economy is supported. The Alberta government has missed an opportunity to show real leadership in a crisis by ensuring that thousands of Albertans have continuity of income at this very stressful time. This decision effectively adds 25,000 people to the unemployment line today, including 600 substitute teachers and 20,000 non certified staff.”

I wonder how the UCP will be able to convince anyone that they care about working people in Alberta after this? Some people found out about their layoff via the press release, because the Minister only gave school districts 15 minutes of notice before making these cuts public.

CUPE Alberta Region states that they have checked with BC, Sask and Ontario and received confirmation that Alberta is the only province laying off school support staff during this time.

Having just written a recap of this week, I can understand why people may be feeling powerless, but now is not the time for apathy. Now is the time to speak up.

You can email the Education Minister, Adriana Lagrange at: education.minister@gov.ab.ca

Be sure to CC the premier as well at: premier@gov.ab.ca.

Now remember, be nice about it or else a minister might show up at your house.

Stand up. Speak out. Protect each other.

Calamity out.

Recap for the week of March 21st-28th

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This week has been a bit overwhelming and so I’ve decided to do a brief run down of what’s happened and where we’re at now.

As of the writing of this post there have been no announcements about a walk back on changes to physician pay as of April 1, those changes include changes to complex modifiers which would see doctors being paid $9.00 instead of $18.00 for the time spent with patients over and above the 15 minute mark, a change that many physicians have raised concerns with over the past few months, capping the number of patients a doctor can see in a day at 65, denying doctors overhead costs if they work in an AHS facility, and not paying physicians to treat anyone who doesn’t have an Alberta Healthcare Card, among other changes. Dr. Christine Molnar, President of the AMA called the cuts “Deeply concerning” and said that the cuts are seemingly random and don’t follow any over arching health policy plan. Last month Minister of Health Tyler Shandro terminated the agreement between the Province and the AMA and as far as we’re aware he intends to move forward with these changes despite the COVID19 pandemic.

As all of this is happening as our healthcare workers are working while being openly attacked by our government (sometimes at their homes), with one official going so far as to imply that doctors would abuse telemedicine by “soliciting patients” to make money.

Steve Buick tweeted on march 23: “The intent is to avoid physicians calling non-patients (eg to solicit them); an avoid the overuse of clinical codes for administrative contracts. Docs should call as appropriate to care for patients”

This tweet was in defense of the much reviled Telus Babylon Health app, which doctors and patents in Alberta and in the UK have raised concerns about, both in regard to patient care and in regard to privacy laws.

One point of contention with Babylon was the funding model, which saw Babylon doctors being paid $38.00 for a visit that a family physician in Alberta would only be able to bill $20.00 for. Health Minister Shandro responded to pressure from the public on March 23, by amending billing codes for virtual care.

Speaking of Public pressure and Tyler Shandro, how could I forget the vital partners fiasco in which our Minister of Health responded to concerns of a conflict of interest by attacking citizens and going to the home of a doctor and yelling at him in front of his family.

Last week a screenshot was posted to twitter showing a post from Vital Partners, an insurance brokerage that is owned by Tyler Shandro’s wife. The post was about changes to seniors prescription coverage and it gained attention due to the obvious concern that the wife of the health minister was running a business that appeared likely to benefit from the policy decisions regarding public health coverage. The post was picked up by several well known Doctors, including one who the minister chose to single out publicly and accuse of “personal attacks” against his wife.

Minister Shandro engaged in continually inappropriate behavior from there, responding to emails from citizens, with accusations and attacks.

The situation reached its peak (we hope) with Minister Shandro and his wife, going to the home of a physician at 7pm on a Saturday, telling the Doctor’s teenage children to go inside because “they don’t want to listen to what’s going to happen” and proceeded to yell at him and tell him to delete a meme from his Facebook page. According to a report from the CBC Andrea Shandro yelled at the doctor that he only cares about money. The doctor stated that he felt belittled in that moment and that his wife is now fearful for the safety of their family.

Premier Jason Kenney has chosen to make excuses for the minister and to keep him in his role despite calls for Shandro to be removed setting a dangerous precedent in which the blatant harassment of private citizens at their homes becomes acceptable.

Meanwhile, the U of A is going ahead with budget imposed layoffs and set to lose approximately 1,000 positions due to retirement, layoffs, position closures and attrition. U of A president David Turpin said that despite attempting to reach an agreement with the UCP regarding funding, the $110 million cut to U of A funding is going ahead.

Today the Minister of Education, Adriana Lagrange, announced that the UCP would be imposing cuts resulting in the layoffs of 25,000 k-12 public ed employees including EAs, maintenance staff and substitute teachers with 15 minutes notice to school divisions. Some Albertans learned of their layoff via the press release itself. This move will force even more Albertans to rely on federal EI that may not be sufficient income to cover their cost of living and will do immense damage to our public school system. We still have the CEC war room though so, lucky us.

In response to the COVID19 pandemic, the Government of Alberta has committed to 7.7 Billion to relief funding, including $500 million for our healthcare system, $45 million to waive interest on student loan payments, 3.6 Billion in loans through ATB for deferrals for consumers and businesses, $60 million in funding for community organizations, and $50 million in emergency isolation support.

The government is also strongly encouraging landlords and tenants to come to agreements themselves and says that those who make a reasonable effort to come to an agreement with their landlord will not be evicted due to non-payment of rent for April. “No one will be evicted for non-payment of rent in the month of April” said Glubish. I’m of the opinion that the direction from the government on this matter is too vague and will not be sufficient to protect tenants from eviction, especially given the concerning and consistent messaging from our premier implying that tenants are criminals and vandals.

This non measure falls right in line with the needlessly complicated process for accessing provincial funding (which my friend Mike Dunn covered in the article linked here https://bymichaeldunn.wordpress.com/2020/03/23/the-big-shut-in-limited-info-for-albertans-pals-about-financial-supports-from-the-ucp-and-a-long-talk-at-the-end-i-suppose/ )which is unsurprising given this government’s obvious prioritization of corporate interests over the well being of the people of our province.

There’s so much to cover, it feels like this government doesn’t want to give us a chance to take a breath between insane events and terrible decisions, and it was a struggle to edit this post down to what it is now, but I don’t want to overwhelm you with information.

I’ll be exploring these topics in more depth next week, if the government can keep their ministers from harassing citizens at their homes long enough for me to devote the time to anything other than Government intimidation and corruption.

As always, Stand up. Speak out and look out for each other.

Calamity out.

Government Intimidation in the age of the Internet. A #Shandemic.

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If you’ve been following my series “Government Intimidation in the age of the Internet”, you’ll know that the story that the CBC published today about health minister Tyler Shandro is not news to me. Now that it’s news to everyone else though, let’s take a look at what has gone down with the UCP so far.

First, we have the kamikazi scandal, which includes accusations that Jason Kenney ran a “kamikaze candidate” during the UCP’s 2016 leadership race. Allegations of bribery and fraud were brought against UCP MLA Peter Singh and several party members (including Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer, Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda and MLA Joseph Schow) were included as part of the investigation into allegations of voter fraud during the 2016 race. Ethics Commissioner Lorne Gibson handed out several fines and was in the midst of his investigation when the UCP fired him. When Rachel Notley asked Marguerite Tussler (Alberta Ethics Commissioner) to request a delay of bill 22 while the investigation was underway, Tussler said that it would be “improper” for her to interfere with the political process. “Those individuals who are in the process of being investigated by the Elections Commissioner or the RCMP would be in breach of the Conflicts of Interest Act if they were to discuss the portions of Bill 22 pertaining to the Office of the Elections Commissioner or vote on the bill,” she wrote in her response to Rachel Notley on the matter. Coolcoolcool.

We also have Jason Nixon, who was charged with assaulting an Alberta woman in 2009 and eventually signed a peace bond, though he denies that the allegations are true. Jason Nixon again makes the scene again with his handling of a sexual harassment complaint filed in 2005, in which he decided to fire the woman.

There’s the recent behaviors in the Legislature, ministers refusing to answer questions, the premier openly calling the opposition “Socialists” and Kenney threatening to withhold $500 Million in emergency funds as a way to force through the UCPs ridiculous budget.

Last but certainly not least, there is the ongoing pattern of government harassment and intimidation which has reached the point where our Minister of Health has gone to a citizens home and yelled at him over a meme.

When I stared this series, I reached out to Twitter to ask people about their experiences with this government and I got 53 public responses from people sharing their stories of being targeted for public attacks by UCP ministers or representatives. I also received 20 private messages from people who were so worried about retaliation from their own government that they were not comfortable commenting publicly. Now, you may be thinking, “that’s only 73 people” but 1 person being afraid that their government is going to harass of threaten them is too many.

All told, I’d say that this government is corrupt and something needs to be done.

Step up. Speak out. Protect each other.

Calamity out.

Brouhaha at the Border?

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I’ve noticed a lot of concern on twitter about the US stationing troops at their border and I have some thoughts, but first, let’s get what details we can together.

Based on reports that I’ve read, the US is looking at placing about 1,000 troops 25km from the border and using sensors to prevent border crossings. They’ve said the the troops would have no legal power and would strictly be tasked with monitoring and reporting irregular border crossings.

Deputy PM Christia Freeland says that Canada is “Strongly opposed” to this idea, noting that Canada and the US have an “important and valued partnership” to consider when making decisions.

One concern people have is that this move would be a departure form our typical relations with the US. Although lately relations with the US seem to be a challenge to maintain, I have read reports indicating that there are US officials who also oppose this idea, so that’s promising.

Personally, I can understand why people are uncomfortable with the idea of the US militarizing the border, I’m not comfortable with it myself and neither are our government officials. The deputy PM and PM are currently working to prevent this militarization from happening, and that’s really all we can ask at this time.

Stay safe, stay home, and wash your damn hands you animals.

Calamity out.

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