Category Archives: politics

This is the way we all lose #elxn42

A friend just sent me this article in a direct message. Probably because they know I am all over politics. Openly. I am choosing to be open in my reply to this article because I think we all need to be more open and vocal about politics, and stop misinterpreting political discourse as impolite.

READ THIS

My sense is that Stephen Harper is, to some degree, xenophobic. I say this based on statements he has made in the past and the people he has chosen to align himself with. I can only imagine how much worse his inner monologue is, because I also think he is keenly intelligent and knows what not to say out loud.

HOWEVER, my strongest sense about Stephen Harper is that he is very much a man who want power for himself. He is less concerned with how he gets that power than with any ideology. Which is not to say that when he is successful in securing his power that he will not then act upon his ideology.

We should be asking ourselves whether he is the master of manipulation because that is what he excels at. He manipulates people who, for reasons I do not comprehend and have lost the willingness to accommodate, seek simple, superficial and easy answers to the complex questions in life.

Those people vote in knee-jerk reaction to Harper’s masterful dog-whistle politics. Those people hand him the power, which he then uses to undermine each and every one of us. He undermines our access to information (which I guess most people don’t mind because clearly very few of us bother to access information before forming opinions), he undermines our public goods, he undermines our social fabric, he undermines our institutions. He incrementally takes power away from the electorate and puts more power in the hands for the few. And his own hands as Prime Minister.

So, does he believe that it is un-Canadian to cover your face when you take participate in a non binding ceremony? No. But he does believe those women should be able to do and not do as they wish as his whim. And that is terrifying. He believes he should have the right to define what is Canadian. Does he believe that stripping citizenship will survive a Charter challenge, or go unchallenged under international law? No. But he does believe he should have the right to rank Canadians according to his personal whim. And that is terrifying. Does he think he has evidence that the Alberta NDP government is a disaster? No. But he does think he has the right to declare any organization that has ideas contrary to his own to be wrong, regardless of evidence to the contrary.

The scandals that he is suppressing with his dog-whistle and showboating xenophobic assertions are beautiful. They tell me that somewhere in this wounded democratic machine someone is still working for the public good and bringing the corruption to light. For every corruption you see I have no doubt there are ten of which we are not yet aware.

Harper’s ideology is control. He sees that tolerance and sharing of wealth undermine the extent of his control.

He wants us to re-elect him so he can tell us what is good for us. He wants us to re-elect him so that he can continue to do things on our behalf without our knowledge or consent.

He knows that a huge proportion of the electorate that bother to vote then immediately disengage. (Never mind those who simply don’t even care enough to vote)

Canadians want a government they can trust to do what is right, and so they trust without remaining vigilant or questioning.

 

I want YOU to re-elect a government that allows facts and evidence, and yes public preferences that are based in evidence, to tell them what is good for us.

 

Is Harper a racist? Probably. A little. But it isn’t his worst flaw. And that isn’t the important question. The important question is are you? Because if you aren’t you need to wake up and pay attention to the shell game we are calling #elxn42.

 

 

PLEASE challenge me on this. I do change my opinions if I hear good reason. What I don’t change is my world view or my sense of what is, and what is not moral.

Niquab or not Niquab, that is the question, Canada

COVERINGS

(hasty blog alert)

I admit to having an emotional first reaction to the niquab.

It is not of my culture, and it does, visually, represent to me all the things that I as a western feminist have worked to overcome.

Or does it?

I know women who feel it is their right to wear skimpy clothes, show their bras as part of their ensemble, wear tiny skirts, and bare their cleavage.

I admit to having an emotional reaction to that as well. Dressing so skimpily represents to me all the things that I, as a western feminist, have worked to overcome.

Or does it?

I choose to dress conservatively, but I would be livid if someone told me to wear a longer skirt OR a shorter skirt. Fundamentally it is my choice. I choose a hem length to balance what I want to say about myself and about how I view myself in relation to the world around me. I love clothes, and I love feeling attractive. But I most definitely do not like sensing that men are imagining me in ways that I would never in reality consent to. Naked. With them. In their sight at all, really. So I balance wanting to look like a beautiful woman with my distaste for being sexualized. And that balance is a very personal one.

That balance is a very personal one for every woman.

My choices are influenced by my upbringing, my dad, my mom, my Sunday School classes, my friends, my husband… But saying that the choice is influenced is very different from saying I do not have free choice.

I assume this is the case with almost all women. There are women who feel pressured to dress sexy for their significant others. There are women who feel pressured to cover up for their significant others.

But we aren’t going to mitigate that by being yet another party in that woman’s life to pressure her to conform to an outside (outside her own head and body) definition of what is, or what is not, acceptable when it comes to how she clothes herself.

My emotional reaction to her choices, her emotional reactions to my choices, do not matter. What matters is that logic dictates that the choice be hers.

Our laws protect her freedom to choose. What she chooses must always be left up to her. And to me.

Deja-vu,you-too?

My oh my, Mr. Harper dropped the writ. As an Albertan I am having deja vu. Calling an election as an attempt to capitalize on unfair advantage before the truth of a budget reveals itself and before the taxpayers figure out what is actually going on seems pretty familiar to me. I am certainly angry in a very familiar way and being led politically in a familiar direction.

It is so patently obvious that the timing is a ploy to increase his party’s financial advantage. Who can blame him, he has no other real advantage.

He can’t run on his economic record.

He can’t run on the quality of his leadership.

He can run on his accountability or claim a lack of corruption during his time in office.

He can’t run on his policy record for research or science or his ability to create good laws that respect the Canadian constitution and align with Canadian values.

He can’t run on his record on environment.

Watch his speech announcing the election (or read what all the leaders said).

Stephen Harper thinks it is appropriate that Canadians have the opportunity to consider their options. He says elections are not popularity contests but about serious choices. All this I agree on.

It’s not all agreement from me though. Far from it. I completely disagree in an awful lot of what he is trying to sell.

Note when he says now is not the time for the kind of risky economic schemes that are doing so much damage in the rest of the world? Harper has in the past and continues to support the type of flawed economic policies that created the current global economic problems. Austerity is killing the world, and we have austerity because we didn’t have enough regulation of capital markets to prevent the current global collapse from happening. Cuts to the most vulnerable, tax breaks at the top, trickle down economic fairy tales and a short run race to environmental destruction? Therein lies the real risk.

He balanced the spring current budget using a slight of hand and on the backs of regular Canadians and our economic future.  I wouldn’t count on it being solid fact; it may magically not even be true.

Harper claims his party is the only party that is fiscally responsible, but does his record support that? No it does not.

The significant new benefits to Canadians are a short term illusion, for most Canadians. Plus, is he really trying to benefit all Canadians, or just those Canadians that make choices he approves of because? He seems to have his own narrow definition of what makes a Canadian.

Harper goes on about security and being tough on crime. What exactly is secure about constant constitutional challenges to dodgy laws and public fights with the supreme court? How is his approach to crime constructive? It’s really a war on what defines Canada. That doesn’t make me feel very secure.

It takes some real balls to thank to the brave members of our military for their service to our country, afterall, what has he done for the armed forces?

In terms of your election advantages I think Stephen Harper might be a bit over confident.

Harper is a deeply prejudiced, deceitful, secretive, controlling man, and his party marches in step with him. His ideology is out of step with Canada, and a poor long term political strategy.

I hope he enjoys the next 77 days while they lasts. I hope they are his last. I hope that the lesson Alberta taught the arrogant, irresponsible right is a lesson that Canada embraces and will dole out on a Canadian scale.

Let the games begin and let the best man win. I know I’ll be voting for the best man.

 

 

…dee dee deedle deedle dee dee dee dee…

So Huffington Post has decided to put Donald Trump’s campaign coverage in their entertainment section as a way of indicating their refusal to take his parody of political discourse seriously.clown trump

Mother Jones is countering that the problem is that Trump is a serious contender. I agree. He has a frightening level of supportive.

They’re both right.

I understand what Huffington Post is doing. I one hundred per cent support refusing to give this …

trump ruprict

…a seat at the grown-up table. His ideas, beliefs and commentary are laughable. No intelligent, informed, mature person could possibly take his views seriously. America shouldn’t take him seriously. He has no place in serious political discourse. He shouldn’t be given any serious thought as a potential leader. Energy spent portraying him as a serious voice for the average American or as an advocate for the American way of life is energy wasted. While there is (sadly) a market for his kind of chicanery, that market demographic isn’t the intelligent thoughtful voter looking to cast an informed ballot.  He should be ignored for the same reason you don’t give in to your screaming toddler in the toy store.

I also understand what Mother Jones is saying. The right wing created the environment in which Donald Trump became a ‘credible’ right wing voice, and now the joke is on them. He and his ilk have turned the American political and social system against the best interest of America by cranking up the volume on the least rational parts of American society. The right wing is feeding on itself, eating its own tail in an ever more desperate bid to achieve conservative political immortality and defeat progressive liberalism. Trump represents the monster that the right wing allowed to grow out of the childish desire to never admit the legitimate, demonstrable constructive progress America is making in the absence of conservative rule.

No, the joke is on the whole society. Donald Trump could be the undoing of the GOP, or worse, the undoing of the US as a respected world power. Really.

Trump sets the bar dangerously low for the GOP. Pretty well any looney they choose to lead them into the next election is going look like a right minded competent human being compared to the alternative – if the alternative is Donald Trump. Sadly this just sets the race up to elect someone who sits just a smidgen to the left of complete asshattery who will appeal to the rabble but inevitably damage the GOP and, if elected, do real damage to the country. Let’s be honest; politics isn’t about finding the best person for the job, it’s about finding the least bad person. Often, and I am tempted to say always in the American 2 party system, casting a ballot is like deciding to settle on a rock or in a hard place.

Ignoring Donald Trump could have dire consequences. America is in a tough spot right now.cob over trump

On a local note, I personally think this is where Alberta and Canada was/is heading but for our inherent tendency to be skeptical of the kind of tomfoolery and corruption that gives fodder to extreme thinking or behavior. We are a nation of moderates that can be roused from our political apathy when our moderation is threatened.

Unfortunately in the US moderation has never caught on so they take everything they do to the extreme, often to the point of defying logic. Donald Trump for President is the result. As much as it hurts our heads, the world would be wise to listen to this man talk so we keep tabs on the crazy before it gets any more out of control because clearly the US hasn’t got a handle on the situation.

 

Are you a pedant pretender?

This article cracks me up. And it plays right into my blog theme, lucky me.
“Ditching Dan Brown, pretending to like opera and sharing intellectual articles on Facebook: The lengths people go to in an attempt to appear clever”

I’m curious, how many of us do these things for real, and how many to create an impression? Are you an faux intellectual? (Taken from the list at the bottom of the article.)

1. Repeating someone else’s joke as your own?
We ALL steal jokes. We tell them a bit different, and we tweak them for our own use. That’s like implying that everyone who painted a sunflower after Van Gogh is an imposter.

2. Going to an art gallery and posting about it.
Better than posting about getting drunk or that tea party propaganda crap that forces me to unfriend people on Facebook. Maybe I just like to share. Maybe it serves a greater purpose. Check out my twitter feed in the next couple weeks for proof of attendance at the AGA Baroque exhibit. Then I can cross off number 23 for #31daysofyeg

3. Listening to classical music in front of others
In public; like at the symphony? I listen to classical music all the time, not just when other people could find out about it. But not exclusively. I also openly like ABBA. And one song by Nickelback (but the just one)

4. Reading a ‘serious’ tome on the beach
I don’t do beaches. Beaches are for people who read Dan Brown.

5. Re-tweeting a clever tweet
Isn’t that half the point of twitter?

6. Talking loudly about politics in front of others
I talk ad nauseam about politics to anyone who will listen. At any volume.

7. Reading an intellectual magazine on public transport
I can’t read in a moving vehicle. Makes me dizzy. How about listening to a ‘Learn to Speak Russian’ podcast? I do that. But not loud enough that anyone would know.

8. Sharing an academic article on Facebook
Have I done that? Probably.

9. Pretending to know about wine
I know nothing about wine except which wine I think tastes good and how to order a glass of it in 4 languages, not in Russian though (yet). I do have a brother-in-law who does know wine. Pity he lives in Ottawa or I’d never accidentally buy a mediocre bottle of wine again.

10. Wearing glasses with clear lenses
I don’t even wear the glasses I actually need to correct my vision. Next…

11. Mentioning an opera you’d seen
Speaking of which, I just filled out a survey for Edmonton Opera. They want me to buy season tickets and I don’t. Since they asked, I told them why. I love opera, but Edmonton Opera needs a reboot. Magic Flute last year was a big, big disappointment. They did it about 15 years ago (?) and I enjoyed it. This time it fell flat.  While waiting in a buffet line for an eggs benedict re-fresh at the Freewill Shakespeare fundraiser this spring, I spoke to a woman who totally agreed with me.  I think they’re catering too much to a crowd that thinks no true opera was written past (insert random date pre-1900 here). Opera, like any art, lives or dies. What live has evolved to survive in its circumstances. The first night I was in New York last year I saw Book of Mormon. The second night I saw Prince Igor. Those two things are not mutually exclusive. Long story short, I filled out your survey Edmonton Opera, but I still got yer back and I’ve never seen Maria Stuarda so I’ll be there for sure.

12. Pretending to like jazz
I fricken love jazz. At 21 I used to hang out with my girlfriend, drink a litre of hungarian red wine, order fried cheese and listen to live jazz and a now defunct restaurant called Cafe Budapest (in the spot that the fabulous Blue Plate Diner now occupies). I was kinda like a beatnik.

13. Tagging yourself at an exhibition
If I’m in the photo sure. If I’m not that is pretty weird.

12. Referencing a Booker Prizewinning novel
I don’t know about the booker prize, but I do talk about what I read. Anyone who knows me knows I loathed Dan Brown’s novels. And that I defend Atlas Shrugged on the quality of wiring and story, not the themes though. And that I don’t like Jane Austen, but am probably due to give her another try (every 5 years)

There you go. I think it’s clear that I am both authentically pretentious and plebeian.

 

(link to article in case the hyperlink fails)
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2352306/Ditching-Dan-Brown-pretending-like-opera-sharing-intellectual-articles-Facebook-The-lengths-people-attempt-appear-clever.html#ixzz3g6j1J4k6
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Precaution & Providence or Parsimony & Peril

(Preface: sometimes I think I started this blog as an homage to the letter ‘p’)

Every time that a story about Greece’s debt crisis comes up on the news I rant a little. My family is used to it.

Many people are, in my opinion, dead wrong on this. Even my husband seems to lean toward the idea that Greece is just a bunch of deadbeats that want to have 16 weeks vacation, retire at 50 and not repay their debts. That’s a fairly common perception. But it doesn’t take account of the root cause of the global (not Greek) financial crisis that precipitated Greece’s current woes. Which is not to say that Greece will not have to scale back their lives and roll up their sleeves, they will. What I am saying is that what the Greeks are being asked to sacrifice is extreme, and they are being asked to make do with considerably less than they could sustained had financial markets been better regulated.

It was not Greek excesses that created these messes.

No good can come of forcing Greece, and Greeks, to suffer more. Pushing people to the edge of an economic precipice has never yielded good results. People on the edge will grab and hold onto anything to keep themselves form falling. Pushing the post WWI Germans and the German economy to the limit of economic endurance and devastating the German economy was a significant contributing factor to the development of the political climate and social conditions under which Hitler’s Nazi ideology gained credibility.

What made John Maynard Keyes mutter under his breath as he stormed out of the Paris Peace Conference is eerily similar to economists are saying about Greek Austerity today. The potential for it to not end well is real. Economics and politics cannot be separated. Greece has some unstable neighbours and aside from potential internal civil unrest, they could be unstable enough to become a gateway into Europe for some unsavory groups.

greece marked

It will also not come anywhere near resolving the root problem or preventing similar crises in the future. The global financial problems were made possible by a few irresponsible/unfettered wealthy corporations, largely banks. It was not dissimilar behavior that contributed to the great depression; bad borrowing and lending, lack of oversight for banks, markets expanding beyond their ability to sustain the  growth. It was capitalism unchecked, unbalanced.

We, globally, must recognize that capitalism has no soul and no remorse and no conscience. For these reasons economic activity must be guided by regulations to prevent them from wealth accumulation at the expense of economic stability. No austerity or ideological doctrine of market efficiency will prevent unhappy history from repeating itself until we admit capitalism has limitations.

cap quote

Not that you need a degree in economics to see where this could be headed but to drive the point home, I will point out that some noted economists are saying this exact thing about the Greek debt crisis. Economics is one of those fields that people claim is subjective, almost more an art than science. This is true to an extent. What you see as the economic solution depends entirely on what you believe is the acceptable economic and social outcome. If you believe that the acceptable outcome is long term stability for the majority at the expense of short term wealth for the few, then you will agree with what I have said. If you believe that unfettered pursuit of wealth is a right and that the accumulation of wealth is in and of itself the goal, you will disagree.

However, there is also some science to economics, and it’s science worth noting.

Read this article by Joseph E. Stiglitz. He is a Nobel laureate in economics. He won for modelling how asymmetric info begs a larger role for government intervention in markets, and how regulation leads to pareto efficiency – the market alone is not efficient. There is no invisible hand guiding capitalism.

And read this articleMaybe you’ll recognize the name Thomas Piketty, Professor of Economics at the Paris School of Economics and author of ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’ and current left-wing darling. The other signatories are Jeffrey D. Sachs, Heiner Flassbeck, Dani Rodrik, and Simon Wren-Lewis. Looking them up is your homework.

The end of an era awaits you

Wow Alberta. The last 4 weeks have been exhausting.

I am sure right now the PC party is questioning the wisdom of this early election call. It certainly didn’t stay on script.

Alberta has had enough script, it is high time we cut loose and say what we really want. We seem to be on the verge of doing that.

I have some theories on why Prentice thought an early election was good logic, and he had good reason … reason that we have given him, Alberta. It’s our fear of change, our apathy, and our inability to imagine ourselves other than how we are today.

After so many years of PC rule the PCs certainly must feel entitled to governing. They have reason to see themselves as the only available option. They have not seen any real challenge to their authority, and certainly no challenge that they cannot stamp out like a little flame underfoot.

So the first piece of Prentice logic was based in past experience. The PCs have never been burned, and have never stopped to imagine it could happen.

In the past when  times have looked tough the PCs have simply changed costume and come back out on stage as if they had a whole new act. Alberta always noticed the new props and never noticed the old songs.

You have all undoubtedly noticed that I have some significant left leaning values. I do not hide that. I ascribe them to compassion for my fellow man.

However, the primary reason for my excitement about the unforeseen strength of the left in this election isn’t driven by ideology. It is driven by realty. The health of any democracy depends on change. Without change the political process increasingly resembles a popularity poll for Stalin. Voting has to matter. It can’t become a chore, the results cannot be a foregone conclusion.

I don’t know how the vote will go tomorrow but I hope we choose to change, because change is good. The worst reason there is to continue doing something is that it is the way we’ve done it in the past. The worst reason to avoid trying new things is that you are not guaranteed success. Everything you have that is worth while came from someone taking a risk. We have more to gain than to lose.

You’ve got to go out on a limb sometimes because that’s where the fruit is. ~ Will Rogers

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. ~ T. S. Eliot

The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks. ~ Mark Zuckerberg

The risk of a wrong decision is preferable to the terror of indecision. ~ Maimonides

It seems to be a law of nature, inflexible and inexorable, that those who will not risk cannot win. ~ John Paul Jones

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. ~ George Bernard Shaw

To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often. ~ Winston Churchill

Progress is a nice word. But change is its motivator. And change has its enemies. ~ Robert Kennedy

 

 

Confessions of a political pedant

THIS WILL BE A  BRIEF NOTE:

I watched the leaders debate last night.

Now, I have been interested in politics as long as I can remember so it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has known me for any significant amount of time that I would watch.

Nope. The surprise was on me. I have never been this excited about a political horse race. I need to confess why.

First of all, I am 46, so for all intents and purposes my lifetime has been lived under a progressive conservative government. Most of the elections I have witnessed have been easy progressive conservative wins.

I have never identified as a conservative.

I have usually labelled  myself a liberal, but when pressed to identify my values and beliefs have always been revealed as more left leaning. So, number one, I am excited because this is the first election where a party that reflects my values and beliefs has been a real contender. That makes me happy.

Now for number two, and real honesty. It makes me outrageously happy that the person leading the charge for a province that matches my values and beliefs is a woman. Politics, and in particular Alberta politics, have been a man’s game. I firmly believe that people are people regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation etc… but I still cannot help but be giddy watching a woman make a good strong run. She represents me in values and beliefs, and in gender. I cannot help but feel that on my behalf she is kicking old white guy ass for every time an old white guy though I wasn’t a contender because of my gender.

Add in Rachel Notley is my height and that we are a few years apart in age and it starts to look like I have a wee crush on her. It is an orange crush though, because my admiration starts with what she stands for.

How much more could she possible represent me? I don’t know. But I hope when she is premier I get the chance to find out.

notley

Pork-barrel-pie Politics

So topic of the day has to be the pie. Look at this political poster.

pie politics

B Y W P … Bring Your Wife’s Pie.

In spite of the people who claim that this is not a real issue, I am going to explain why it actually is an issue and why it actually is offensive to progressive Albertans.

I know it can be subtle, but sexism in politics is a real problem. It seems minor in the same way that low dose daily exposure to a carcinogen seems minor. Sexist stereotypes interfere with the ability of women (and the non cisgender, non heterosexual members of our communities) to fully and confidently participate in political life. I am only able to personally address how it affects heterosexual women, but I know that other communities suffer the same type of ill effects.

Let me tell me what is NOT wrong with this poster and get that out of the way. Reaching out to people and creating community is very constructive. Calling people together to participate in the democratic politic process is admirable. And in my personal opinion, pie is the ultimate dessert – nothing beats a fresh apple pie with a good homemade crust.

What’s WRONG with this poster?

It is pretty clearly an invitation to men. Which, in and of itself, is perfectly acceptable. It can be acceptable to target specific audiences if you are addressing issues and concerns specific to that audience. For instance, is acceptable to exclude teenagers from a conversation about seniors housing …

… UNLESS that info is being handed out at a political rally during an election. I will explain that later.  The acceptability of the exclusion is negated by the tone and underlying message of the information that goes along with the invitation.

It is an invitation to men married to women. It passively discourages single men and men married to other men by painting a specific picture of who should attend. Not overtly, but covertly and passively, the call to participation looks straight married men in the eye while avoiding the gaze of everyone else. If it was direct and stated that it was a meeting for straight married men to discuss some concern exclusive to straight married men then it would be better. However, politics are in no way exclusive to straight married men, nor should they be.

Then there’s the ‘Bring your wife’s pie’ part. That is truly insidious. So much is between the lines of that text. Have your wife make a pie for you to bring along, it’s OK as the man of the house you are entitled to use her labour for your own gain. Of course she makes it, women cook, you couldn’t bake your own pie as you are too busy farming and calving and doing man stuff. It also somehow manages to neglect to include the wife in the meeting, almost as if it too manly for her; this politcking is man stuff. Bring her pie with you and learn important political man stuff and then go home and share your new knowledge with the little woman. It harkens back to a dark time for gender relations that we really should not be nostalgic for.

The poster doesn’t leave open the door for anything outside the straight male marriage in which the man does man stuff (like politics) and the woman bakes pies. I admit, it doesn’t close the door on it either, but it is intimidating to see one section of our population ushered through a door while we are left to open the door for ourselves (because they legally can’t actually keep us out). The poster paints a very narrow view of society that serves to exclude people who don’t fit that mould. AND THAT is not appropriate during an election campaign.

Everything about and all the information pertaining to policy, platforms, plans and intentions should be be made as broadly available as possible during an election. During the democratic process there is no room for the politics of exclusion.

During an election  not only do people get to do what our society grants them the legal and moral right to do – choose for themselves how they live, who they love, how they work and what they believe in – they get to decide who they will vote into office to make decisions about how free they are to continue doing those very things. There can be no exclusion at any point in the democratic process.

This isn’t like not letting men in the women’s change room. This isn’t like having men only baseball teams. This is the very core of how we currently define and continue to evolve ourselves and our society.

The world has changed. The world is changing. To have open, inclusive and accountable government we must start with an open, inclusive and accountable democratic process.

gender pie chart

I hope I’ve made my point. This may be my fastest blog yet.

For fun, watch this video of the much respected Peter Lougheed if no other reason that looking back at it is creepy and feels wrong for reasons that are difficult to put a finger on exactly. That is how our kids are going to look at the above poster.

WATCHhttp://www.cbc.ca/archives/entry/peter-lougheeds-go-go-campaign

It’s subtle, but watch the men greet him at the door and the women stay inside the threshhold. At 1:15 he meets ‘Martha and Henry’. After the greeting Martha immediately goes back into the home and leaves the politics to the men  …  I don’t even know where to start on the go-go dancers at the end…

Liars and tories and White Elephants OHMY!

So, I got a little reprieve today* because some social media driven public outrage forced my employer to back away from a really, really bad policy. My wings are slightly less clipped.

With in 30 minutes of the writ being dropped here in Alberta I received an email reminding me of the code of conduct for Alberta Government employees and outlining restrictions to my political involvement.

I first noted that I am not allowed to solicit donations. Which, to be honest, I am not sure is 100% justifiable. I see no reason why as a low/mid level public servant I could not fundraise for a cause I support. Ostensibly I am sure the reason is potential conflict of interest. However for the record I feel that the potential for perceived conflict of interest for the average government employee on their personal time and not acting on behalf of government doesn’t stand up to the reasonable person test. Unless I wore a badge declaring myself to be a public servant no one has any way of knowing who I work for. Even if they did know who I worked for, they know its election time and I think most people understand that public servants are enfranchised. What the conflict is in a public servant having an independent political opinion during an election I do not know. Certainly there is less possibility of conflict of interest in the public servant scenario than there is for a politician/elected member of government accepting or soliciting donations. Afterall, I don’t influence government policy, but they do. No one who donated to me would be currying favour, the same can not be said of those who donate in the other scenario.

ANYWAY…I was OK with no soliciting donations because it doesn’t impair my ability to volunteer based on my personal conscience.

I then noted in the email (but no where in the actual code of conduct) that I was advised that I should inform my supervisor if I am volunteering with an election campaign. This gave me pause. Before I elaborate on why I paused, I will further add that a few days later I was advised that not only should I inform my supervisor of any volunteer involvement on my personal time, but that I should also inform my deputy minister.

I immediately saw three problems:

  1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms grants me freedom of conscience
  2. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms grants me freedom of association
  3. There is both federal and provincial legislation giving me individual right to privacy

Now, I am not going to say I am in any way an expert, but I am capable of reasoning things through. I know that 1 & 2 are fundamental rights. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set outlined in it subject only to reasonable limits under law that can be justified.

Freedom of conscience is the freedom to have, hold and act upon beliefs. That covers political beliefs. [1]

Freedom of association also incorporates opinion, thought, belief, expression, conscience, religion, communication and peaceful assembly. That covers political party membership and activity.

I have the Charter right, regardless of who my employer is, to hold and act upon my own beliefs, to associate myself with others who hold similar beliefs, to have my own opinions, and to communicate and act upon those personal opinions. If it is my fundamental right, then what justification is there for having me report on matters of conscience and association? Most importantly, what justification is there for having me report to people in a position of authority over me who I have actual and real reason to perceive as having actual and real conflict of interest with regard to my personal beliefs?

Given that there is no possibility any member of upper management in the Alberta public service right now did become management during the reign of the PC government, I would not be unreasonable to suspect my boss may be a PC supporter. It would be reasonable for me to wonder if he/she would bear my non-PC association in mind when I apply for my next promotion. That is a real potential conflict of interest.

That’s 1 & 2 in brief. What about 3?

Again, I am no expert but I am interested in privacy as a legal concept and I have a year of course work on privacy legislation informing my opinions. The main point I took away from my course work was that the key to privacy is balance. Members of a group should give up privacy only in return for a tangible benefit to society, and the two competing interests (individual and social) must be weighed carefully.

I will leave it to you to look through Canada and Alberta’s privacy legislation, but I assure you that your employers right to infringe upon your privacy ends where your personal life begins unless they can prove a significant social benefit to eroding your privacy. [2] [3] [4]

There is a white elephant in the room. I will lay odds this policy was drafted by some upper level bureaucrat, but that still shines a light on a systemic problem. One party has been in place for four and a half decades. The entire bureaucracy has risen through the ranks under their thumb, and this inane policy just shows how horribly acclimated the bureaucracy is to the way the PC party has chosen to govern. The PC party has chosen to govern by repressing dissent, by portraying dissenting voices as ‘left-wing nut’s’ and ‘extremists’… by making sure everyone knows they are either with them or against them.

My reprieve came as knights in shining armour.  My beloved CBC, my beloved social media. It took only a couple hours of outrage for the errant policy to be rescinded. This was a victory. However, this arrogant sense of entitlement to the erosion of freedom to express dissenting opinion or support accountability was only a drop in the bucket, Alberta. Don’t leave the protection of progressive values to the media and twitter.

This is your power, Alberta, your infrequently exercised power. If you speak out, if you let it be known that your vote is not guaranteed, you can hold government accountable for what they do. If anyone tells you that you have no power to make progress a reality they are liars. Remember that on May 5. You decide how you will be ruled, which means in the end you make the rules. Unless, of course, you don’t vote.

[1]  http://rmcla.ca/blog/?p=252

[2] https://www.priv.gc.ca/information/index_e.asp

[3] https://www.priv.gc.ca/leg_c/r_o_a_e.asp

[4] https://www.priv.gc.ca/resource/fs-fi/02_05_d_15_e.asp

[5] http://www.servicealberta.ca/foip/legislation/foip-act.cfm

 * Written Tuesday night, scheduled for publication Wednesday morning…I write too slow…mostly because every 20 minutes or so one of my boys wanders into my office to ask what I am doing and I end up on my soapbox spewing political homilies…my poor boys