Alberta politics


Horwath is spot on. Brown’s leadership is up to his caucus and they, who know him, won’t have him. That speaks volumes.
According to the news trickling out, Brown’s reputation for preying on young women is well-known, and reporters have been trying to piece together leads for a long time. This is not as sudden as the apologists and conspiracy nuts would like everyone to believe. And we need to remember there is never an upside for women who come forward. Never. Which is why women don’t make accusations public lightly because they are victimized for doing so.

The inspiration for allegations these days is Me Too and Time’s Up. Women see positive responses and real action being taken and they feel more secure. They know more and more people are going to finally believe and support them.

Whether women come forward the day before an election, or two years before one, isn’t the point or the problem. Our political system is rife with systemic issues of sexual harassment and assault, and it’s time for a close examination of who our parties are presenting as candidates when some of them come with baggage of barely concealed patterns of abuse of power.

 
And it’s disgusting when the default for some is still “women are liars”. Brown’s own right hand people quit. Just quit. His party tossed him within hours. Does anyone think there’s nothing to the allegations when that’s the response? Who skips carefree away from a leader they chose to follow? Thought was the answer to whatever the problems were. Who does that? No one.
 
Contrast the Ontario PCs with the Alberta UCP’s now. Their response to Jason Nixon, leader Jason Kenney’s top lieutenant in the legislative, is informative in the Me Too era. Nixon fired a woman in his company back in 2005 when she reported being sexually harassed. A claim that has been proven valid. The UCP? Crickets mostly until they trotted out the “he was young” and the “times have changed and he certainly wouldn’t respond like that today”.

Of course he wouldn’t but most likely because he couldn’t get away with it, and that’s just depressing. Doing the right thing because not doing isn’t a viable option is not an inspiration.

VOTE FOR ME BECAUSE I DO THE RIGHT THING WHEN I KNOW I WILL GET CAUGHT IF I DON’T

For too long that has been one of the foundation stones of politics. These bad actors hide in plain sight in our parties and in our governments. The bar couldn’t be lower.

Me too is not just something Americans struggle with. It’s coming for Alberta. Sooner than later. Just watch.


On Saturday, January 20th, women marched. Again. With them were men and children, friends, neighbors, coworkers, strangers. People with whom they agreed on varied issues, and people they didn’t agree with so very much.

Women all over North America planned and organized marches and rallies that drew millions in total.

But not everyone saw the point.

 

There is a lot to unpack in those few sentences, and between their lines, but we’ll stick to the words.

In the United States, unlike Canada, women are not specifically included in the Constitution or The Bill of Rights. An attempt was made to add women as women rather than “all men” back in the 1970’s, but anti-feminists successfully fought that in a lengthy state by state battle, and it’s not been revisited since.

Women’s rights in the US are largely a series of court rulings, between the line readings of the Constitution, and individual pieces of legislation that are only as good as those willing to enforce them. They exist on paper but could disappear with the stroke of a pen.

Men and women have always had the same right to rights, but the reality is that women’s access is fairly new and not everyone is keen about that.

The election of an openly sexist man to the Presidency of the United States, the most powerful nation in the world, was a wake up call. Complacency, which should never have been an option, cannot be a comfy corner of denial any longer.

And women marched. It was a rallying point. One that has launched more women than ever into politics and activism.

There isn’t a single purpose because women’s lives are made up of more than single issues, but there is an overarching theme. Time’s up.

Time is up on sexism in the workplace, education, religions and their institutions. No more hiding behind reasons that never made any sense or had much validity in the first place.

Time is up on misogyny. The casual violence of words used to silence, defame and wound. The physical violence that is still too often dismissed or ignored. The use of sex as a weapon to demean, instill fear, and dominate.

Time is up on the exclusion from politics and governance via systemic sexism which everyone can plainly see, but even in 2018, we still accept for reasons that have no validity if we really do believe that men and women have the same rights.

It takes fire in the belly to organize a march once, but doing it a second time requires clarity. Acknowledging that a year has gone by with successes and failures and with still much to be done. Being able to create an atmosphere that allows anyone who wants to participate the space to do so.

Organizers and marchers, by the millions, all across the continent showed up, marched, spoke, connected and became for a moment in time peaceful communities. They acknowledged each other and the importance of the many aspects of democracy and community activism they’d been involved in since the last march. To insinuate this lacked clarity is a bit of an insult.

But I understand where that impulse to dismiss comes from because once upon a time, I shared a disdain for the need to be a feminist. I wouldn’t call myself one. I played that silly word game of “I believe everyone is equal, but I’m not a feminist”. Except I was.

I can think of dozens of examples in grade school alone where I all but stood atop a desk and declared war on Sr. Walter Marie’s attempts to make a “proper lady” of me. I could never have been other than a feminist.

But as a young woman, all I could see was the hard work of being a feminist compared to the seemingly more cushy existence of not, and it wasn’t until I was out working on a career and running into roadblocks that my male peers weren’t that it dawned on me that feminism was just this. It was the blatant unfairness of being passed over for jobs that I was the most qualified for in favor of a male colleague who golfed with the principal or coached the football team of a superintendent’s son. There were too many boys’ clubs in too many aspects of life and being the most accomplished or hardest worker was never going to grow me the penis I needed for entry.

Privilege, and I never forget that I have a lot of it these days, makes agnostics of many. The need to believe and fight isn’t so much when bias and bigotry don’t affect your existence all that often. And so many girls are still brought up as objects rather than individuals with dreams and talents of their own that the acceptance of everyday sexism has to reach deafening levels to break through that training.

It’s hard to understand, but there are women who preferred the old way because they believed it benefited them more, and they were willing to make the compromises and personal sacrifices to play along with that game. There are still women who are fine with it and would like to turn back the clock regardless of how that affects other women.

In North America, we like to say that we all have the same rights. We are all equal in the eyes of the law. We all have the same opportunities. Even though we know this isn’t always true because of bigotry and bias, we are mostly united in the belief that we are striving towards that and making good progress.

The Women’s March was born out of the angry realization that we’d erred in our belief that good progress was good enough.

Women’s March of 2018 was clearly stating that we know there is more to do, and we are still committed to doing it.


With the exception of kindergarten and my undergrad years, I attended Catholic schools my entire life. Religion. Religion. Religion. Even in university, I fulfilled my humanities requirements with religion classes. As a result, I am pretty well grounded in the ideas that motivate a lot of conservatives.

In the Canadian province where I live, the government turned over from 40 plus years of conservative rule to a social democratic government a few years ago. One would have thought – given the wailing and gnashing of teeth – that end times were upon us. The concern came from a somewhat genuine place as the province was sliding rapidly into an economic downturn that pounded the province financially and conservatives, being who they are, never feel safe even in good times with “lefties” at the wheel, so the angst was raging at eleven most of those early days.

But, the new provincial government went with the tested and true method of taking on some debt and not drastically cutting anything and now, nearly three years on, things are really looking up.

Looking up is never a good thing for conservative parties who are out of power. They don’t have much to offer citizens in good times. So, they fall back on what they do best – social issues. And understand, when I say “do best”, I don’t mean they are offering great ideas. I mean they are incredibly efficient at stirring up bitterness, bigotry and outrage because say what you will, those things absolutely work with the disenfranchised, ill-formed and people who get all their talking points from a pulpit.

Where I come from in the US Midwest, and was a teacher for many years, curriculum updates are normal and slightly boring for non-educational wonks. They are undertaken at regular intervals to little fanfare.

Here, they are seen in the farther reaches of conservative-land as communist agendas made flesh. Zombie flesh that will devour the souls of good little future conservatives by distorting the cold hard facts of life with unicorns, rainbows and puppies. Children who might have entered a solid trade are rendered useless university students by a social studies curriculum that doesn’t spend significant man hours on Bahamian British troops sacking the White House during the War of 1812 or the importance of Canadian soldiers being used by the British as cannon fodder at Paschendale. Important factoids, don’t misunderstand, but less important than children understanding that we live on treaty land, our obligations as a society and how our parliamentarian system works and what our Charter Rights actually are and how they differentiate us from our southern neighbor.

The feeling among the “concerned” conservatives is that the provincial government is using the curriculum update to instill thoughts and feelings in students that will keep them from voting conservative as adults. It’s brainwashing for future votes.

I attended a school system where “brainwashing” was a primary mandate. In theory, I should be a Catholic rather than an atheist and militant feminist, so anecdotally, I roll my eyes a bit. Even my school mates who still consider themselves Catholic are cafeteria at best. Having gone to  agenda laden Catholic grade school and high school, I am super dubious about the brainwashing potential of social studies or science.

When I look back, I can pinpoint the moment I began to doubt and my usefulness as a future member of the Women’s Conservative Auxillary probably ended. It was grade two. I announced I wanted to be a priest. I was told, “But you’re just a girl, so you can’t.”

The beginning of the end.

We like to believe children are blank slates, and what fills them up is what we actively write on them, but that isn’t true.

My Dad sent me to a Catholic school because he wanted me to be a conservative really. Like he was. But if he’d truly wanted that, he’d have lived a conservative life and been more aware that he really wasn’t as conservative as he thought he was and with his own upbringing, never really stood a chance at being one anyway.

Yes, he was a sexist and voted against the ERA. He was hurt by my anger when I found that out because he never  thought that his vote would impact me because he raised three daughters to be independent and able to take care of themselves. He never told us we couldn’t do things because we were girls. He expected us to do well in school. In math. He didn’t think we needed to marry and never offered his opinion on our dating or living arrangements. He thought in his Depression Era influenced way that this was enough.

He taught me the basics of politics during the Watergate crisis, and when I was 12 and wanted to volunteer at Jimmy Carter’s campaign headquarters in our town, he drove me there. He was proud as hell of me. When Carter won, he assured me that my volunteering had mattered in that win.

Dad was a democratic socialist by actions. He believed we had a duty to our communities via taxes and volunteering. He helped found the first credit union in our city. He was on the board of directors for 40 years, and I remember going along with him when he went to talk with people who’d fallen behind on their loan payments. He was helpful and understanding. His family was wiped out during the tulmultous years leading up to the Depression. His baby sister died in childbirth because they couldn’t afford a hospital birth and they grew up shuffling from one relatives farm to another. Charity cases. He understood being that poor, and what a credit union represented to people and could do for them.

He sent me to a Catholic school believing that it would teach me to be a Christ like person and conservative. In school I heard one thing and watched the nuns and priests be something else.

And all the while I had a front-row seat for hypocrisy in school, I had a Dad who volunteered for church groups, pray lines, tutoring at the alternative high school, Meals on Wheels, read the newspaper from front to back to stay informed and modeled a commitment to casting his ballot in every election long after he stopped believing in partisan politics because he believed his vote could add up with others and matter. Not every time but enough times to make a difference over the long haul.

If a person is worried that their child might not grow up to think, behave or vote in ways they’d prefer they didn’t, it’s not the schools they showed be worried about.

Dad could never figure out why I wasn’t conservative  but of course I wasn’t because he didn’t raise me to be.

Schools don’t raise children. Parents do.


2017 arrived on a sleigh of smoking turds pulled by the four horseman of biblical fame, and still, we made it to 2018. Don’t ask me how. Last year was a blur. The world reeled, staggering from one shallow foxhole to the next with the various status quo in flames all around.

It reminded me of my favorite scene from that stink bomb of a psycho-drama The Birds.

Crows have just attacked the school, and the adults are huddled in a bar (kinda fitting) discussing a complete and terrifying turn of the table by Mother Nature (well played by the way) as though there was something rational to be found, if they just used their indoor voices, with town drunk – the only rational voice in the room – punctuating the discussion with occasional “It’s the end of the world”.

Is it though? Really? The end of the world.

Probably more reasonable to take our cultural reference cue from REM. It’s the end of the world … as we know it.

Because that happens throughout history, and if we are really ready to be honest, it’s happened more than once in living memory.

Someone on Twitter today had a list of all things that didn’t exist in 2003. On that list was pretty much the entirety of the internet as we use it today. Certainly most of our communication devices. The way we interact socially has been completely altered by social media.

Generation Zed knows nothing about an existence before hand held devices. They’ve literally been born and grown along with them. Our world is basically a teenager entering the end stages of puberty. And that, explains a lot.

So it makes sense that a political and economic world that our great-grandparents would still recognize and feel comfortable with simply can’t adapt. Things are giving way. It’s not like there are other options.

And okay, I will grant that the nuclear code rattling by America and North Korea could maybe sort of bring about an Armageddonish crisis, but I am going to throw caution to the wind and bet on us still being here in a year. What I will not claim is that the world will have settled down much. The current version of Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it won’t transform itself in a couple of years anymore than the last Rome did. Change takes time even when it feels like the exact opposite.

Happy New Year then. Congratulate yourself if you aren’t a Nazi or one of their enablers, yet, and remind yourself that whatever is coming, you are not the only one going through it. Look around your neighborhood, workplace, gym, school, community and find those like-minded, who are out there, and connect a bit more than you currently are. There is safety in numbers, but also laughs, joys and fiendish plots to thwart those bags of dicks who thrive in the chaos of change.

Bring it 2018. If the world could survive 2017, it’s ready for you.


Outside of election periods, most people scarcely give politics the slightest thought. Well, except perhaps to frown or sigh heavily at the antics elected officials always seem to be up to. Antics that never seem to be simply doing their damn jobs.

And people these days have a right to sigh or frown or furiously pound out the odd rant or two on Fort Informed or in one of the other community groups that link us as surely as hockey or soccer matches, Paint Nites at the Bear’s Den and the Trade-show at the Dow. People have, correctly, surmised that some of our elected representatives seem far more fond of the thrill of political gamesmanship and the quest for votes than of the actual jobs that result from the winning of an election.

While residents of communities wonder where the promises of elections have wandered off to, representatives from councilors to MLAs to MPs seem stuck in the moment just before they won. A time when selfies and throwing shade at opponents was the only job.

In Parliament, Question Period is talking points only. English or French.

The Alberta Legislation often most resembles a junior high class when the teacher steps out of the room for a few minutes too long.

And the Fort Saskatchewan city council?

It suffers from a chronic case of side-eye and shade.

From chickens to bees to common-sense regulations to keep liquor stores from literally becoming the alcoholic beverage equivalent of a Starbucks on every corner, the Fort city council hasn’t met a proposal that at least one councilor can’t find a reason to dismiss with dramatic effect. Never mind that residents have made requests and councilors have responded with actual initiative – there’s an election coming! In October.

And if anyone is wondering why the library suddenly has a gate? What would the lead up to an election – months from now – be without an issue worthy of gating?

Library-gate, a completely manufactured outrage wherein the all volunteer library board, using money it raised itself, had the audacity to purchase a vehicle outside the city limits. Much like many Fort residents do when the vehicle that best suits their needs and budget can’t be obtained locally.

At last night’s council meeting, the library board chair attempted to set the record straight – with actual facts – after the city’s only newspaper deemed the truth not newsworthy.

She read from her prepared remarks but was cut off by the Mayor when she mentioned one of the councilors by name.

How the record can be set straight without mentioning the names of the councilors involved – though she was allowed to name the councilor* the Mayor doesn’t seem as fond of – is a mystery. And after a few minutes of back forth, the library chair finished her remarks and left the council chambers clearly angry**. Not an emotion that city councilors or the Mayor should want to foster in volunteers who step up and run important boards like the library board.

Fort Saskatachewan has an understanding reputation for volunteerism and publicly smearing  volunteers is a good way to kill community appetite for stepping up and pitching in.

And that’s the current state of good governing in Fort Saskatchewan. Volunteers and volunteer initiatives like the library board are sacrificed to petty politics.

Days, and sadly sometimes weeks,  worth of drama follows every trumped up incident while no one mentions the elephant lurking in the corner. It’s an election year.

A year when council members – instead of going to constituents to remind them of all the good things that have been achieved and asking, “What can I do for you now?” – decide the best course of action is make the person sitting next to them at a council meeting look bad. And if that can only be accomplished through creating outrage where none exists, well, that’s politics. What were people expecting?

When citizens go to the polls to cast ballots for a candidate, generally they have an issue or two on their minds. Water bills, a new bridge, the puzzling overgrowth of strip malls that never seems to yield more than a new liquor store, take away pizza joints or a walk-in clinic that won’t be open on Sundays.

They’ve probably made a connection or two with new faces running their first campaign for office or reaffirmed commitments to sitting councilors who proved their mettle over the previous years.

Voters are reasonable people. They have wish lists. They have grievances. They expect to be heard and taken seriously. They are looking for representation and people who understand that serving at any level of government is service on behalf of the people. Not self-service.

Too many elected officials anymore – at every level of government – are still laboring under the assumption that governing is ruling like the feudal lords in Medieval times. They treat their time in office as though it was a rousing game of Catan or an episode of Game of Thrones. As if their actions don’t have real world consequences that can adversely affect the lives of real people. The people they are supposed to be serving, and the people they are serving with on council, in the legislature, and in Parliament.

Politics might be a game, but life is not. Voters are tired, but not so much so that they don’t see what’s going and aren’t taking notes. But whether this coming city election is a long and brutal House of Cards knock off or a responsible, thoughtful campaign where adults behave as though they are familiar with the idea of adulting, is almost entirely up to those who step forward to run. For the first time or again.

*Disclaimer – I know the Bosserts. Our daughters are school friends.

**Edited after speaking with Renetta Peddle, the library chair who assured me she was happy to get a chance to speak and furious at being silenced in her attempt to set the record straight and clear the reputation of the library board.