Popular Posts

Monday, April 30, 2012

Audit Hijinks

The Feds announced today that they are cutting out internal auditors in four regional development agencies and giving that responsibility to another department already facing a shrinking budget.  According to PSAC, the union representing the auditors, this will make losing, rather than saving, taxpayer money more likely. Apparently, the government doesn't need to audit itself, what with it being so transparent and all. We shouldn't worry our pretty little heads about what they are doing. We shouldn't worry about Bev Oda living large in London or the F-35s. They've got it all under control. 

Generally, I wouldn't pay much attention to this particular news item, except that in the Federal Budget, the Cons promised to add $8M to the budget to do another kind of audit, a kind of audit that they feel is way more important than looking over their own shoulders. They're spending an extra $8M to audit - wait for it - charities. They want to make sure that Canadian charities don't exceed the 10% rule, that is, that they don't spend more than 10% of their budget on anything that smacks of politics or advocacy.

The 10% rule has always left charities in the unenviable position of being able to treat the symptoms of whatever ill they are designed to address but not the cause. So a charity can give coats to needy families in the winter or send their children to camp, but they can do little, if anything, about why they are living in poverty in the first place. According to a diplomatically phrased advisory on Charity Village, "While Finance Minister Jim Flaherty stressed there are no changes to the actual rules relating to charities, there will be serious adjustments surrounding enforcement. "Quite frankly, we've had a lot of complaints and concerns expressed by Canadians that when they give money to charities they expect the money to be used for the charity's purposes, not for political or other purposes," Flaherty said Thursday. Flaherty also alleges that there is foreign money floating around too that is worrisome. Maybe this is the same money Joe Oliver was so concerned about, the gajillions of dollars being used to undermine Canadian industry.

There has been plenty reported already about charities who feel this particular $8M is directed at them because, frankly, they've been too effective at highlighting things the Cons don't want brought to our attention. David Suzuki has stepped down from the board of his own foundation because of concerns that his personal advocacy work will be counted against the Foundation. This is yet another not so subtle way of squashing dissent in this country. There's nothing like an audit to waste the time of the very limited staff at your favourite charity, get them bogged down in endless paperwork and utterly subjective evaluations of what constitutes political action and what doesn't, instead of doing the good work they are established to do.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the Cons won't be auditing the Fraser Institute (yes, it's true - you get a charitable receipt when donating to the Fraser Institute) but will more likely be auditing the Suzuki Foundation and various progressive organizations across Canada. Let's all keep an eye on what happens to all the sexual health organizations. Any guesses?

Friday, April 27, 2012

My Canada includes Women's Rights

Today I am grateful for all of the Canadian women and men who have stood up for women's rights and affirmed my right to bodily autonomy, security of the person, affirmed my right to express my own conscience and control my own destiny. Thank you to all who spoke in the House of Commons against Woodworth's regressive motion. Thank you to Niki Ashton who connected her words so eloquently to the work of her feminist fore-mothers. Thank you to Hedy Fry who managed to demonstrate the absurdity of the motion while assassinating the government's record. Thank you to Francoise Boivin for your passion. Thank you to Gordon O'Connor, Conservative Whip, who clearly stated all the failings of the motion and affirmed that Canadians do not want to go back in time. Thank you to all of you who were so eloquent and passionate.

I have always been against debating abortion. Human rights are not up for debate. But here we were, fighting the most regressive and misogynist forces in our country, debating. Although part of me wanted to block out the spectacle and wished MPs would stand in the House, refuse to speak and even turn their backs, I have to admit I watched intently and was moved by what was said. A few times, I was moved to tears. To hear my values stated in our House of Commons was powerful for me. As my American ally Charlotte Taft reminded me, we have to engage when our rights are threatened. But I'm glad I didn't waste a lot of energy "debating" the antis over the years, whose minds will never change, and had the energy to get fully involved when it counted. I've also always said, as activists, we have to be smart about where to put our energy.

This does not mean I am grateful the debate happened or that I am in any way pleased that Mr. Harper allowed it to go forward. There is no reason to put women or any group of people in a position in which they feel threatened and unsafe, in which they feel their rights may be taken away. Women my age and older often complain that young women take their rights for granted. Why shouldn't they? Why shouldn't all of us? To a very large extent, we should be secure in our rights, secure in this country, secure that our government isn't plotting against us. I fault Mr. Harper for putting so many Canadians in a position where they are insecure and feeling unsafe. And it is not just women. Dissenting groups beyond Status of Women Canada feel the chill, especially environmental groups. I will continue to fight for a Canada in which progressives are heard and our agenda is mainstream.

This Motion 312 business isn't over. There will be another hour of debate, and I won't be relieved until this next incursion on our rights is voted down. But I am grateful, grateful to our MPs who spoke on our behalf and grateful to all of our allies.

Happening on the heels of the defeat of the Wildrose in Alberta, I feel doubly happy. My Canada is a Canada in which I am respected and in which I feel safe and my daughter is safe. I am grateful. I belong here.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

An American Perspective on Pro-Choice Strategy for M-312

A couple of days ago, I was doing an interview with Julie Lalonde and she asked me how I would respond to people who say our activism over M-312 is over the top considering most people think it will never pass. I replied that I wondered what our American sisters would say about their early activism on personhood bills and early incursions on what has turned out to be a full scale war on women. I wondered what advice they would give us. After the interview, I decided to actually ask this question of an American ally, Charlotte Taft. Charlotte Taft is the Director of the Abortion Care Network, an organization for independent providers and abortion care allies. In her long history with reproductive justice she has been a consultant and counselor with Imagine, and was the director of Routh St. Clinic in Dallas TX.  This is what she said.

On What's Happening in the United States now:

Taft wonders why those creating all the anti-choice legislation in the US are "so intent on robbing women of any semblance of adult authority." She goes on to say, "My observation is that if the Republican Taliban has its way only corporations and fertilized eggs will be recognized as people with any rights!"

On "Relax, it will never pass":

Taft says, "'It will never pass' is a dangerous conversation. In this country all that had to happen was that a radical group (I won't call them conservatives because they are not) got elected in enough numbers in enough different states that they were able to dominate the legislative agendas. Absolutely unbelievable things have passed! I can't even keep the states straight--but we now have legislation on the books that protects from lawsuits doctors who lie to their patients about potential fetal abnormalities if the doctor thinks the woman might choose abortion. We have legislation in more than one state that currently requires clinic staffs and physicians to lie to patients about issues such as connection between abortion and breast cancer. We have had legislation passed that required any woman seeking an abortion to first be 'counseled' in an anti-abortion fake clinic. The list goes on. All of these are pieces of legislation that could never possibly have passed in the 21st century. And they did."

I read this as a clear validation of throwing everything we have at every single incursion, no matter how small, into our rights. We all have to understand that the US is a cautionary tale for us.

On Personhood Legislation:

With personhood bills passing all over the US, many of us felt that Mississipi's rejection of a personhood bill was a great win. However, Taft says, "In Mississippi the so-called 'personhood' legislation was defeated largely because a few women who were able to have children because of in vitro fertilization got very active and publicly told their stories. There was other opposition to the legislation, but I really think it was those stories that defeated the bill. In a few other states they are now putting forward similar legislation that somehow has a waiver of humanity for in vitro fertilization. That makes no sense, but it doesn't mean they might not get away with it. Apparently in this country there is no requirement for legislation to be either Constitutional or even to make a shred of sense. We have legislators arguing for anti choice legislation on the grounds that they raise livestock and this is how they deal with pregnant cows or pigs. I KID YOU NOT! I can't even choose a century that it seems we have slid into."

Again, this is good information because it indicates the lack of logic that goes into their perspective. They are doing this to end abortion, not because they are concerned about fetal personhood. If they were concerned about fetal personhood, they would be consistent. The fact that they are now trying to make exceptions to personhood so the IVF industry doesn't end reveals personhood bills for what they really are - an attack on women's rights, not a protection of the embryo/fetus.

On Nature and Biology:

Taft is always excellent on reminding us how these personhood bills fly in the face of nature itself and how personhood arguments appear ridiculous when looked at in terms of how bodies actually work. She says, "Since I've always been told that only about 40% of fertilized eggs ever implant in the wall of the uterus, it is clear that god, or nature, or biology is the greatest abortionist of them all. The personhood people have not explained whether women would have to hold monthly funerals for their sanitary products in case a corpse is residing among the cotton. Will the 17 1/2 year olds be able to vote and drink because their personhood started at conception and not birth?  You can only imagine a million more ridiculous issues that would be created. But sadly, I think in the right state it could pass."

This is said with humour, but the dark side of her comments is clear. I wonder, if Woodworth gets his way and the fetus is a person, does it get to vote? If so, does the woman incubator (because that is all she will be) get to be the vessel through which the embryo vote is expressed? Will she use her arm to mark an x on behalf of the fully personed embryo? Or will Woodworth steal the embryo vote, and count all unborn persons as votes for himself because women can't be trusted? Can embryos only vote "OfStephen"?

On the Radical Handmaids:

Taft says, "I love the Radical Handmaids!!!  We MUST have humor along with our outrage. This is a war on women--not a war with women. After all, we are unarmed!"

I always say what the anti-choice don't have is a sense of humour and they can't handle it when faced with it. Humour brings life to our activism and keeps us energized. And the hats are fabulous. 

My sincere thanks to Charlotte Taft for her words of wisdom. We can all benefit from them and feel energized to keep up this fight.

I also want to put a plug in here for Niki Ashton, whose words in the House literally brought tears to my eyes. You can see it here. (If you do not speak French, keep listening. Ashton is bilingual and her second remarks are in English.) Niki, you are a rockstar, and that CONman who responded to you was too smug for words. Clearly, Parliament is a game to him and he doesn't give a crap about the issue. As Justice Minister, you'd expect him to understand that women's rights are at stake here, but I see nothing to indicate he cares. We've all gotta know that Harper and the Harperettes approve of this motion. My fingers are crossed for today.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Woodworth's Misogyny

To Stephen Woodworth and your cabal of fetus fetishists. (Who are they? Check out this video at Creekside and also check out the full list of anti-choice MPs at ARCC.)

Why do you hate women? Why are you and your anachronistic patriarchal cabal trying to force your opinions up my vagina? Why are you forcing Parliament to waste time on a question that has been settled for decades? Give it up, man. It's over. If you get your way, this issue will end up in the Supreme Court and be struck down AGAIN as it has been every time it has been presented since Morgentaler.  Why is my Parliament wasting its time and my money debating a motion that is premised on the denial of women's most basic human rights, the denial of my daughter's most basic human rights, the denial of MY most basic human rights?

Why can't you see the evidence in front of your eyes, and know that denying a woman the right to an abortion only results in driving the procedure underground and bringing harm to women. Are you trying to find ways to harm us? Why do you deny the science and the surveys and the studies and the irrefutable evidence that criminalizing abortion does nothing to reduce its incidence? How can you be so blind to fact?

Why are potential people, clumps of cells no bigger than a few milimeters, more important to you than actual women?

If I can't control my body, I am not free. I will not be enslaved. I will not be enslaved to you and your failing, desperate, patriarchal, misogynist ideology of control and colonization. You don't get to decide what I do with my body. Only I get to decide that.

You would never allow another to control your body, to take away your most basic rights. But this is just women we're talking about here, so you don't care. You feel we can't be trusted. You feel you know what is best for us, that you can make blanket statements about what's right and wrong in our lives without knowing us, without knowing the intricate, intimate details of how we have to live our lives every day, balance our relationships and our budgets and our families. You think none of this matters. You think you know what's best for us. You think you can intervene in our relationship with our Gods and our consciences. You can't. You don't have the right.

When my Parliament uses its power and energy to deny my rights and the rights of half the Canadian population, I am outraged. Outraged. Why do you think it is reasonable to demand that another person give over control of their body to YOU and people who think like you? You know that petition you are sending around, the one that you're putting up in publicly funded schools and having Catholic school children sign, the one that shows a woman's pregnant belly and cuts off her head? I've got to hand it to you. The symbolism is perfect. Your petitions' graphics, let alone the content, show you don't care about women, don't care about me. You've broken that woman into parts, objectified her, made her pornographic. The woman in that picture is nothing but an incubator to you. My daughter is nothing but an incubator to you. I am nothing but an incubator to you.

Why are you obsessed with women's bodies? What is wrong with you? Why can't you go about your business and leave me alone? Don't you have better things to do? Couldn't you dedicate yourself to solving climate change (if you believe in it), or finding people jobs, or building housing for people in poverty, or making sure everyone in Canada eats tonight? No, instead, you are dedicating yourself to your woman-hating agenda. And I have to wonder, what happened to you? Did someone hurt you when you were little and ruin your sense of eroticism and any possibility you have of enjoying a healthy sexual relationship? Did someone convince you sex was a chore done only to procreate? Do you think that clinging to patriarchy is the only way you can be powerful? What happened to you that you are willing to trample the rights of women?

The patriarchy wants to control women in reproduction, always has, always will. It's the ultimate tool of oppression and coercion against women. Isn't it time to find a way to live as equals? How many more generations will we have to wait until people like you are gone?

You do not have the right to impose your values on me. I have values, and they are just as strong and important and vital to me as yours are to you. The difference between you and me is I'll never try to shove mine up another woman's vagina, or down another man's throat. Believe what you want. It's a free country, and I'm pro-choice. I support your right to believe any stupid thing you want to believe. But I'll never support your efforts to force others to abide by your twisted, erotophobic, anti-sex, misogynist, patriarchal bundle of human-rights affronting crap that your motion represents.

You are waking a sleeping giant. Women are not things for you to possess and command. You are about to find out, we are warriors.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What to Expect While You're Expecting Motion 312

Lots of people have asked me what this “Motion 312” business is about, and I realize I tend to write this blog as though everyone already knows. So here is my Motion 312 Adviser, also known as “What to Expect While You’re Expecting Motion 312.”

Background: The Big Picture - What is Motion 312?
The motion is a question raised by MP StephenWoodworth, a real piece of anti-choice work. In his motion, he asks Parliament to strike a committee to study whether or not the fetus (or in his words, “the child”) is human. His intentions with this motion are clear to all of us; he wants the fetus declared a person so that abortions will be criminalized along with any women having them. For a full discussion of all the arguments against this motion, please look at the wonderful Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC) site here. To put it in a nutshell, there is one argument that moves me the most. When fetuses are persons, women are not. Two persons cannot exist in one body and both have rights. This means that if the fetus is given personhood, the woman who carries it loses personhood. Not to put too fine a point on it, the woman will be considered only in terms of her capacity as incubator.

In Canada, we may be fortunate to have the word "persons" so strongly associated with women's rights, something that is not shared by our American sisters. The Famous Five famously ensured that women in Canada were considered persons under the law, and that changed everything for us. As persons, we are entitled to everything a man is entitled to, including security of the person. Most women understand we cannot give that away.

I did an interview for a local Calgary paper about Motion 312. You can hear the audio here, if you are interested. Stephanie Grey and Wendy Lowe, also interviewed, are both anti-choicers. Listen if you feel like getting angry. (caution: trigger warning) Bruce Foster is the final interviewee. If the writer of the piece asked Bruce Foster on to balance out the perspective, it might have been nice if Foster had been a little more clear on whether he thought women had rights. Apparently, his role was to give a political perspective. But I do appreciate his point that this will go where most private members' bills go, which is nowhere, and that it will die on the order paper.

The specifics:

To understand Motion M-312and the discussion that follows, it’s probably a good idea to read it first, so here it is in full.

"That a special committee of the House be appointed and directed to review the declaration in Subsection 223(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada which states that a child becomes a human being only at the moment of complete birth and to answer the questions hereinafter set forth;

"that the membership of the special committee consist of twelve members which shall include seven members from the government party, four members from the Official Opposition and one member from the Liberal Party, provided that the Chair shall be from the government party; that the members to serve on the said committee be appointed by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and the membership report of the special committee be presented to the House no later than 20 sitting days after the adoption of this motion;

"that substitutions to the membership of the special committee be allowed, if required, in the manner provided by Standing Order 114(2);

"that the special committee have all the powers of a Standing Committee as provided in the Standing Orders; and

"that the special committee present its final report to the House of Commons within 10 months after the adoption of this motion with answers to the following questions,

" (i) what medical evidence exists to demonstrate that a child is or is not a human being before the moment of complete birth?,

" (ii) is the preponderance of medical evidence consistent with the declaration in Subsection 223(1) that a child is only a human being at the moment of complete birth?,

" (iii) what are the legal impact and consequences of Subsection 223(1) on the fundamental human rights of a child before the moment of complete birth?,

" (iv) what are the options available to Parliament in the exercise of its legislative authority in accordance with the Constitution and decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada to affirm, amend, or replace Subsection 223(1)?

For the record, Standing Order 114(2) is about substitution of committee members.

What is the Process?

On April 26, the House will have its first hour of debate on this motion. The first speaker will have 20 minutes with 10 minutes for questions and answers. The government gets the most time here, so there won’t be much time for opposing MPs to speak. So far, I understand that Francoise Boivin, Jean Crowder and Ruth-Ellen Brosseau plan to speak against motion. There may not be time for any others. We cannot, as citizens opposed to this motion, think that many opposition party members and pro-choice members will be given time to say their peace on this issue. Debate is severely limited. However, opposition party members can have 60 seconds to say something in the 15 minutes before question period every day. They could get up every day to present paper petitions, could read off names of individuals who signed the online petition, or just mention the online petition and say that it is growing every day. If you have an opposition member as your MP, it would be a good idea to ask them to raise this issue on your behalf in this short time they have available to them.

The second hour of debate will be scheduled for some time in June or perhaps September. The thinking is that if Stephen Harper is truly embarrassed by this motion, it will be pushed back. My own thought is that the outcome of the Alberta election makes a difference here. Now that the Wildrose Party (a party closely aligned with old Reformers and present day federal Conservatives) has been soundly defeated, Harper has to realize there is still massive opposition to a regressive social agenda, even in Alberta. He has to see that this motion will still alienate the vast majority of Canadians. I think that if Wildrose had won, Harper would have been more inclined to let the M-312 play out and try to appease his base. But as Bruce Foster notes in the audio interview mentioned above, Harper also knows abortion is the third rail of politics. Better to leave it alone.

After the second hour of debate, there will be a vote, and the House will decide if this “Women Can’t Be Trusted Motion” will pass, and a committee will be struck to investigate when “a child” as the motion puts it, becomes a “human being.”

Then What?

At this point, if it gets this far, it is important to take note of the membership of the committee as outlined in the motion. Membership of the committee must be established within twenty days of the committee being struck. Looking back at the text of the motion, we can see how membership will be weighted towards anti-choice Conservatives. The Vice-Chair must be from opposition, but there are anti-choice opposition members. This will be something to watch for. If an anti-choice opposition member is chosen, there is really not much hope. (addendum: April 25. The NDP caucus is unanimously opposed to M 312)  The Chair (a Conservative) will not vote unless there is a tie, but again we can assume the chair will be anti-choice. It is quite reasonable to challenge the validity of this committee because of the bias inherent in its membership.

How will we know what the committee is doing?

In the past, committee proceedings were often public, and sometimes even broadcast on CPAC, and committee proceedings get put on the web. However, these days, increasingly, committees meet “in-camera,” which is interesting considering the Conservatives claim to be all about transparency.

Further, it is highly likely that people who speak to the committee will only be allowed to speak on the motion itself. The motion is carefully worded to exclude any mention of the woman carrying the fetus. For example, the questions ask the legal impact on “the child” and its human rights, but not on the woman and hers. Also, it asks only about medical evidence. There is no debate about whether medically, the fetus is human. It has human DNA. Case closed. The real question in terms of abortion is if the fetus is a person in legal terms. These are two significantly different issues, and Motion 312 only deals with the first. In other words, the Committee can deny witnesses who wish to speak about the legal issues, because it’s not part of the motion. Witnesses may only be permitted to speak to what medically identifies the fetus as human.

Also, we have no way of knowing who will be called to speak at the committee and give evidence. Again, this evidence will likely be limited to the motion itself, and witnesses who wish to speak about the woman carrying the pregnancy or the legal aspects of personhood may be excluded. Under these circumstances, it is unlikely the committee will find anything they don’t want to find.

Pro-Choice advocates will definitely not speak to the motion if they don’t ask to speak, so it is important that we do ask to submit briefs anyway, even if we expect our requests to be denied. The process for doing so is outlined here. Although I would like to agree with my optimistic fellow blogger at “Fat and Not Afraid” that pro-choice voices will be heard, I am less optimistic. I think this committee, if it is struck, is not going to be transparent and won’t hear the excellent arguments put forward against the motion by allies like ARCC.

To understand what happens to Motion 312 after the committee finishes its "work" and presents its findings, it is probably most instructive to look at the anti-choice’s perspective outlined on this website. (caution: another trigger warning.) If you don't want to go there, which I totally understand, ARCC summarizes their plan in this way. The anti-choice will "bring forward the biology of fetal development as 'scientific evidence' that zygotes, embryos and fetuses are human beings from conception and deserve legal protection. However, this would subordinate women to their fetuses and eliminate many rights and legal protections for pregnant women."

I hope this brings some clarity to the process and explains the myriad reasons for concern. Again, there is plenty of action in the coming days against this motion. Get involved however you can, and don't worry that you have blown it if you don't have something ready for the 26th. All of our actions must continue throughout this process, and certainly to the second hour of debate.

The Abortion Monologues is available as an ebook on Smashwords and through Kindle, Kobo, iBooks or any of your other favourite formats. There are a very few paper copies left for sale, which can be purchased by going back to the website. This will be the last print run.

Monday, April 23, 2012

My faith in humanity is restored

Wow. Sigh of relief. Never in a million years would I have thought I'd be clapping/singing/dancing happy over a PC majority. But I am. My faith in humanity is restored, particularly my faith in Albertans.

It's not all good news. The barbarians are past the gate, and they have 17 seats in the legislature now.  I'll be watching one in particular, our old nemesis Link Byfield. I'm thinking of implementing a Missing Link Watch on the site, (knuckle dragging graphics TBA) but I also threatened to do that once with anti-choice MP Trost and nothing came of it. Too boring.

My most sincere and heartfelt thanks to all the bloggers out there who exposed the truth. Also, my most sincere and heartfelt thanks to all the readers who know that social media is independent media.

I'm going to go have my first good night's sleep in weeks. Tomorrow, I'll be blogging about M-312. Stay tuned for What to Expect When You're Expecting M-312.

Until then, breathe easy Alberta.

Some Blogger.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Think Twice, Vote Once

People say when you vote, you exercise your power. I see it slightly differently. I think when you vote, you give away a piece of your power. You decide who to give it to, and that is a bit of power. But the person you vote for gets to wield your power for much longer than the few minutes you are behind the cardboard, marking your "x." I'd like to say the person you vote for will use this new power you've given them on your behalf, but that's not always true. That's why you have to try hard to understand who you are giving this piece of yourself to. You have to make sure they will use it in a way that represents you, in a way you would use it if you still had it.

There's this book I really like called "Bowling Alone" by Robert D. Putnam. It explains social change in America and the collapse of community and how in the past, people used to belong to organizations in the community, the PTA, and bowling leagues, organizations that knitted together our social fabric. To completely simplify Putnam's gorgeous argument, this doesn't happen as much anymore. Now we're bowling alone with our Wii in the basement. We're not connected. And when we're not connected, we start thinking more about our own individual needs and less about the needs of our neighbours. In this circumstance, it is no wonder that libertarian ideals creep insidiously into our governments. I enjoyed the book when Putnam was talking about the United States. I could observe the argument with the cool logic that distance provides. Now it's personal. Now it's about where I live, about my home. Now I'm sitting with the book in my hands reading it in a new way.

I keep saying, Albertans want change, but is Wildrose the change they really want? I can't believe the polls. I thought I was living in a place where people cared about each other, where human rights were respected, where homophobia and racism and other plagues of ignorance were, for the most part, in the past. Occasional outbursts were becoming fewer and farther between. I feel disappointed and disheartened. I feel I have been out of step, living in an idea of community that was only that - an idea. The Alberta I thought I lived in, the one that was moving forward, seems to be a myth.

It's been tempting for me to walk to the solitary Wildrose sign in my immediate vicinity, knock on the door and say, "Really? Explain your thinking to me," and try to engage in a discussion. This is how convinced I am that my neighbours share a commitment to and deep respect for their fellow Albertans. I haven't done it yet. I'm glad because today I talked to their next door neighbour who was raking her yard in this beautiful sunshine and, of course, we started talking about the election. She tilted her head towards the neighbour's yard and their Wildrose sign and said, "I should have known they'd be Wildrosers. When they moved in, we were having work done on the foundation and she said, 'Who is the wop doing your work?' I didn't even know her name yet and she's using words like wop with me. They're a lost cause." Good to know. But still, in other neighbourhoods where Wildrose signs are more plentiful, I find it hard to believe that all those people behind all those front doors are true believers in the firewall, use words I haven't heard since Archie Bunker, and would like to see gay people burn in the lake of fire. But tomorrow I will have to face reality. Either this province is the place I thought it was, or it's not.

A few days ago at my local coffee shop, the owner asked "What's the word?" as he always does. It's his catch phrase. I said, "Apparently, it's okay to be a climate change denier again." He laughed out loud, but then looked around nervously. He doesn't want to piss off any customers. Once he saw the coast was clear, he said, "I can't believe this is happening." We commiserated. Someone else piped in and said, "At this point, Danielle Smith could be an axe-murderer, and voters would say the victim probably deserved it." I have another friend who joked that since Danielle Smith says that climate change isn't real, the rising temperature must be caused by all the gays burning in the lake of fire. It's not funny so much as it is sad that in 2011, someone is giving us material for jokes like this. (If you want some good ones, go on twitter and search the #wildroserumours. Hilarious. Pathetic. Scary. Disappointing.) If they win, we'll be giving John Stewart material for years.

Think hard about who you are giving your power to, who you are giving your vote to. I know if you're reading this blog, you are not inclined to vote Wildrose anyway. Make it your business to change a mind today.

For the record, here are Daveberta's endorsements. I'm lucky to live in one of the ridings he mentions.  For the rest of you, think twice because you only get to vote once.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Link Byfield - Future Cabinet Minister?

Here's an excellent blog post about Link Byfield, and some of the other Wildrose candidates who have hit the news lately. Link Byfield's history has not been fully exhumed yet as it has here, (maybe this is the "Missing Link" - sorry, couldn't resist) and this is worth the read. Please, pass it around, and thanks to A. Picazo for doing the work. Picazo mentions the internet has been "cleansed" of much information about Byfield. Yup. I've seen this myself about a few other issues I've investigated during this election and it scares me. That's why it's so important that independent bloggers and writers dig this stuff up and keep the history known and knowable. So, thanks A. Picazo. You've done us all a great service.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Alberta's Choice

Let's face it. Wildrose, a party billing itself as "change" in Alberta, does not represent change at all. With the most regressive members of the Progressive Conservatives among its ranks (with the notable exception of Ted Morton, who remains an albatross for the PCs) they can hardly make the claim that they will bring change. This is a place for Conservatives who don't think the Progressive Conservatives are conservative enough. The PCs, on the other hand, are also looking to capture the change narrative with the new Alison Redford broom sweeping clean. But they are still the PCs. As a new website points out through the use of a fun quiz (I do love a good quiz)they really are not that much different than their disaffected country cousins in the Wildrose. Six of one, half a dozen of the other, as my mother always says.

Or are the PCs and Wildrose incredibly different? Can Alison Redford lead the party to a truly progressive vision of conservatism? If anyone can, it is probably her. One thing we do know is how the PCs have dealt with their own members who make the kinds of crazy statements noted in the quiz above. They've never let them get the upper hand. That's something. Not much, but something. Redford has specifically reached out to a more progressive voter, both in her leadership campaign and now in the election campaign. I don't think it's purely a crass grab at power. I think she knows she needs progressives on the inside to sway her party. Wildrose, on the other hand, is reaching out to the least progressive voters. That is a significant difference.

But having said that, I think it is naive for the progressive voter to expect that because we voted PC that the party will suddenly reflect our core values. Change like that doesn't happen in an election period or a year or even a term. 

I just saw this video urging for strategic voting that kind of made me laugh and kind of made me sad. To be fair, Smith doesn't think the Flintstones is real, (I don't think) but the fact that this kind of rhetoric is part of our election makes me so disheartened I want to crawl under my bed. This is where the Wildrose perspective has brought us.  And I understand the point the strategic voters are making.

So, how to vote? Look at your local candidate? Good idea. What does she or he believe? Is he or she a Hunsperger or a Leech? Try not to make eye contact and back away. You have to do some asking around, some digging. There is still time.

How about looking at the leaders? Good idea too. The leaders in this day and age really do set the agenda. Once in power, unfortunately, our local representatives are expected to tow the party line. That's the price of being in a party. We've seen enough of the leaders in this campaign to help us decide.

Here are two different takes on strategic voting, one from Daveberta who points out that we are also voting for the opposition in the upcoming election. Do we want a right wing party as opposition to a righter wing party? Or do we want a progressive counter balance? Good question, Dave. And then there is the other Dave, Dave Climenhaga, an unabashed ND calling for an ND vote. He makes some good points. Don't forget to visit Change Alberta too, and see what their take on your riding is.

I'm still on the anybody but Wildrose bandwagon. Hope to see you there on the 23rd.

I just noticed a charming blogger misnamed my blog on her charming post about Alberta Politics and called this space "The Alberta Monologues." And oh, so it has become. Sorry to my regular readers. I'll get on track again soon.

The Abortion Monologues is available in e-book format at Smashwords and on Kindle, Kobo, iBooks and any of your other favourites.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Wildrose: adding racism to sexism and homophobia

Recent developments continue to show the Wildrose for who they really are. In spite of the $1000 promised to candidates who can keep their mouths shut, those crazy candidates just can't help themselves. Today, we have a Wildrose candidate, Ron Leech in Calgary-Greenway, attributing his success to being white. Way to go. As of this moment, the link to this article in the Calgary Herald is mysteriously "broken" and the Page Is Not Found, so I'm clipping it from when I had it, just to prove it was there.

The article read, "A day after an Edmonton-based Wildrose candidate came under fire for controversial religious views, a Calgary-based candidate with the party found himself in the headlines for on-air comments suggesting his chances of victory were better than his non-white rivals."
Here it is in Metro, with the quote from the candidate taken from a radio interview on the weekend. "I think as a Caucasian I have an advantage," Leech said. "When different community leaders such as a Sikh leader or a Muslim leader speak, they really speak to their own people in many ways. As a Caucasian, I believe that I can to all the community." Oh, yes. The White Folks are Normative, don't you know. White, being Normal, means White is the Voice, the Voice of All. It's hard to know where to go with this without ranting, so I will let you rant on your own in your own homes.

The other candidate the now vanished Calgary Herald article is referring to is the Heinous Hunsperger, of course, who, on his blog said some of the most offensive things I've read in years about homosexuality. Read about it at Daveberta, who includes the text of the Hunsperger blog (also, mysteriously vanished now from its original site.) I guess he won't be getting his thousand bucks either. Again, I just don't know where to go with this without ranting. Rant away to your friends, please.
The worst offender of all might be Danielle Smith herself. Apparently, Smith isn't convinced that climate change is real. No thousand bucks for Danielle either. The "faux"gressive and self-described pro-choice and pro-gay rights wannabe leader hasn't condemned any of the statements made by her candidates. Draw your own conclusions.
Welcome to Alberta in 1950 everyone. Welcome to the future. Think Twice. Vote Once.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Are You A Wildrose Supporter? Take the Quiz.

Wildrose is making headway because Albertans want change. But I can't help wondering if Wildrose is the change Albertans want. So I'm doing my own vote compass. (If you haven't done the actual vote compass yet, do so). This questionnaire reflects specific issues that have arisen during the campaign. The desire to punish the Progressive Conservatives is strong. But are Albertans who say they will vote Wildrose actually believers in their policy? Take this 13 Question Quiz (because 13 is lucky) and check the links to see if your beliefs really match those of the party and some of its candidates.

1. Do you believe that social issues should be decided by referendum?
a) yes b) no

Wildrose suggests that "social issues like abortion" could go to citizen initiated referendum (See pg. 51). This sounds democratic, but can lead to real difficulties, as has been the case in California ballot initiatives. Wildrose says that all referendum initiatives will have to pass a review by the courts saying that they are legal and would not violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, all anyone seeking a referendum has to do is to suggest Alberta invoke the notwishstanding clause in order to get around the Charter. Some, including Alison Redford, who is also a lawyer, suggest that government by referendum is merely a way for those who disagree with court decisions to get around them. Critics express concerns that government by referendum is cumbersome. Other critics say it opens up social policy to special interest groups, as Rick Mercer so brilliantly pointed out in his famous Doris/Stockwell Day skit. Those with the most money (or in Rick's case, the most humour) will win, not necessarily those who are in compliance with human rights legislation observed in the rest of Canada. I suggest anyone who wants to govern by referendum is interested in power, but not in the hard work of actually governing. They will throw all of those tough decisions back to the voter. If you believe that we elect our representatives to do the hard work of representing us and making policy, and that it is the role of government to govern, you might not be a Wildrose supporter.

2. Do you believe that "conscience rights" should supersede human rights enabling public servants like marriage commissioners to deny marriage to gay and lesbian couples?
a) yes b) no.

Wildrose's vision of conscience rights is discriminatory"Conscience rights" means that public servants like marriage commissioners can deny marriage to gay and lesbian couples. Marriage commissioners are a public option for those seeking legal marriage but not necessarily a religious marriage. No one has ever said that religious institutions must go against their own beliefs.  Freedom of religion is already protected under the Charter. Wildrose policy would lead us into the past. My own belief is that if a marriage commissioner can't do their job for all members of the public, they should not be a marriage commissioner.

3. Do you believe the Alberta Human Rights Commission should be dismantled, along with its work in education and advocacy?
a) yes b) no

Read this link, from the University of Calgary Faculy of Law blog for a scathing critique of the Wildrose position on Human Rights.

4. Do you believe pharmacists should be allowed to deny birth control and emergency contraception to customers?
a) yes b) no

"Conscience rights" gives pharmacists this option. In many Alberta towns, there is only one pharmacy. This would leave many women without options and timely access to emergency contraception such as Plan B.

5. Do you believe Doctors should be able to refuse to refer patients for medically necessary services that they disagree with, like abortion?
a) yes b) no

"Conscience rights" means doctors could do just that. Some people argue that doctors shouldn't be forced to perform abortions if they don't want to. No doctor is currently forced to perform abortions against their will.  This is a red herring and fear mongering by the Wildrose. No doctor is trained in everything, and doctors who perform abortions seek out the training to do so. Any doctor performing abortions does so voluntarily. What conscience rights means is that doctors who are anti-choice can refuse to refer women for medically necessary services, or send them to anti-choice places like Pregnancy Care Centres where they will not get the help they are asking for.

6. Would you like to have a referendum on whether abortion should be de-funded or de-listed in Alberta, or any aspect of abortion? 
a) yes b) no

If you're sick of hearing about abortion in the news now, a referendum will only make things worse. Regular readers of this blog know I get bored repeating the same arguments over and over again. Read the case against delisting or defunding here. The whole "I don't support it so I don't want to pay for it argument" is problematic on many levels. What if I'm not keen on war? I guess I can hold back my taxes that go to the military then. Well, it doesn't work like that. All of us pay for stuff we don't use, and sometimes don't even agree with. Our investment in each other through programs supported by our taxes is one of the only pieces of evidence that we have that we care about each other and are willing to work towards collective goals. It's why the streetlights are on at night and the traffic signals work.

7. Do you believe that there should be more privatization of health care in Alberta?
a) yes b) no

Liberals claim that approximately 30% of AHC is already privatized. This will only increase under a Wildrose government, as their policy documents describe (see page 31 and onwards).  Key supporters of the Wildrose are also key proponents of privatized medicine. As a person who has had cancer, I can tell you how important publicly funded health care is. I've seen a lot of the system, and it works. I would be dead, broke or both today if I lived in the United States where health care is private. Rather than increase privatization, I'd like to see an increased investment in public health care like dental care for children and drugs for cancer patients. No one should be denied health care because they can't afford it. But hey, that's just me, and it's my blog.

8. Are you aware of Danielle Smith's elected history, her disastrous ten months on the Calgary School Board? Are you aware that her past statements conflict with recent assurances that she is personally pro-choice and supportive of gay rights? (I know, this was two questions, but they are related.)
a) yes  b) no

Danielle Smith has little elected history, (a grand total of ten months) and what little she does have has been chronicled here on this blog and by Daveberta. Warren Kinsella has also published a few of her choice quotes from the past, indicating what her thoughts really are on social issues. Yes, they were compiled by Kinsella, a liberal, but they were spoken by Smith, and that's what matters.These must be examined carefully by all voters.

9. Are you aware of the backgrounds of Wildrose candidates like Allan Hunsperger, Link Byfield, Ron Leech and John Carpay, and do you agree with their beliefs? 
a) yes b) no

10. Do you believe Alberta should adopt "firewall" strategies and isolate itself in Confederation by opting out of the Canada Pension Plan, and creating its own immigration policy?
a) yes b) no

The Wildrose platform (p 79-82) revives what has been called the "Firewall" vision of Alberta, based on a letter written and signed by many current Wildrose supporters which suggested Alberta be more isolationist. The Wildrose platform suggests Alberta opt out of Canada Pension and create an Alberta only pension plan. It suggests we create our own immigration policy, again opting out of the Canadian vision, our own police force instead of the RCMP, and that we opt out of environmental legislation that might impact Alberta business. My own opinion is in other provinces, this kind of talk would be called separatism. I'm a firm believer in federalism and that Canada is stronger when we all work together.

11. Do you believe Alberta, as a wealthy and resource rich province, should not support poorer provinces through transfer payments and we should keep our wealth to ourselves?
a) yes b) no

Wildrose policy suggests we need to "aggressively address the issue of interprovincial wealth transfer," because currently, as Canada's richest province, Alberta gives more than it gets. Transfer payments are intended to ensure all Canadians have equal access to social services regardless of where they live. Wildrose does not believe Alberta should help its neighbours. This is unlikely to make us welcome in a national conversation.

12. Do you think climate change is unproven?
a) yes b) no

Danielle Smith isn't sure she believes in climate change.  If you answered yes, you've found your party and Smith is your gal to lead you against science and logic.

13. Is punishing the Progressive Conservatives worth voting for people whose policies you don't know or disagree with?
a) yes b) no

If you answer yes to any of these questions, maybe Wildrose is your zone. If you answer no, I urge you to think twice about giving them your vote. Anybody but Wildrose.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Personhood Motion 312 Action Alert

As you all are aware, Motion 312, the "Women Can't Be Trusted" motion, is going for debate in the House April 26. Here is some vital information you can share via twitter and facebook, or through any means you have to get the word out.

ARCC's action alert page lists a whole host of activities. First of all, sign the petition.

I've done that, and I'll let you know what else I've done regarding these alerts. My knitting is on its way to Ottawa already via the Womb Swarm Parliament group listed in the action. As you can see, I'm a terrible knitter, but who cares? Go on to their site to see some great knitted uteri from people who know what they are doing. But as far as my effort goes, it's the thought that counts, and I love the zipper. The piece is titled "Keep Out" and the materials are yarn, metal zipper, cotton thread, wooden BBQ skewer, poster board and sharpie. I knitted this with the Revolutionary Knitters one night here in Calgary, and I'm just happy they exist.

I've been Telling Anti-Choice MPs Everything, a great effort that makes over-sharing useful. They have the 411 on my menopausal menstrual inconsistencies, my last mammogram, and so on. I've joined forces with the Radical Handmaids in spirit, even though I can't be physically present for their actions.

And, how can you not love the outfits. I have spread the word (oh, have I spread the word) and I am a member of Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, supporting their actions with cold hard cash.

Here in Alberta, we're fighting a war on a dual front, as are our sisters in New Brunswick and PEI. This is what it's going to be like all over Canada if the radical right get to move their anti-woman agenda forward.

We have to remember our best weapon, and that's humour. The anti-choice folks aren't funny. So create your actions and move your point of view forward.

And here is the funniest thing I've ever seen about personhood bills. See The Daily Show on Personhood. It's the best.
The Abortion Monologues is available as an e-book at Smashwords and via your favourite e-book distributors like Kobo, Kindle and iBooks. Check it out. Print copies are still available back at the website via paypal until they run out. This is the last print run.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Anybody but Wildrose.

I can get pretty riled up about politics. Especially when my rights are on the line, when the rights of my daughter are on the line and the rights of all women are on the line. I get riled up when the rights of all of LGBTI folks are jeopardized. All of you who have been reading this blog for the past ten days know the score. If this is your first hit, please, read back over the last few posts. The Wildrose position on abortion broke here, and besides Daveberta, I'm the only one I know of to really talk about Danielle Smith's disastrous history on the Calgary Public School Board, her only elected experience to date. Smith showed herself to be unresponsive, even undemocratic.

It's hard for me to believe that in my home province of Alberta, my fellow Albertans are willing to sell off human rights for a lousy three hundred bucks from the Wildrose. I have to hope this is all just a bad dream.

Letters from people concerned about Wildrose keep coming in to me, as though I can stop them. I want to tell you all, your job now is not to preach to the converted. It is to preach to those people you don't usually talk to, the Wildrose supporters and those leaning in that direction. Don't waste your time talking to the true believers, although it is sometimes fun to drop anti-Wildrose materials at houses with Wildrose signs. You have to remember, they actually want a return to 1950s style values. They believe the crap they are selling. You have to speak to the moderates, moderates like most Albertans. Don't be afraid to offend. This is a democracy and this is an election period. You have to risk offence to change a mind, but this can always be done with civility.

I understand the desire to punish the PCs, to send them a message that they have blown it. I understand that Alison Redford's message that she is a new broom sweeping clean is met with skepticism. I was a fierce opponent of Bill 44. I get it. And I'm not a PC. But I've said it before and I'll say it again. The most out of touch members of her party moved to the Wildrose.

The enemy of my enemy is not my friend, goes the old saying. And as I've said before on this blog, if you had told me a year ago I would publish a sentence that claims the best way to change Alberta is to vote PC, I would have told you that you were insane. If you can't stomach a PC vote, vote Liberal, vote ND, vote Alberta Party, vote Green or Evergreen or whatever those folks are calling themselves now. They need some encouragement. I urge everyone who is against the regressive agenda of Wildrose to vote anyone but Wildrose. Look at the Change Alberta site if you want to see the lay of the land and which progressive candidates might win in your riding.

When you talk to people, do mention the things that matter to you, conscience rights, reproductive rights, government by referendum. Tell them about Smith's disastrous history on the school board, the only political experience she has. But don't forget the bigger picture. The Wildrose platform is isolationist. They don't like transfer payments and say Alberta gives more than it gets. They don't seem to understand the purpose of transfer payments, which is for richer parts of Canada to contribute to the social safety net so that all Canadians can benefit equally. They are Libertarians, interested only in looking out for number one. They are old Firewallers from the Reform days. They want Alberta to have its own immigration policy and pension plan, opting out of national plans and opportunities to build a nation. They want to bring in legislation that will mean federal rules on the environment will not apply here. Read the platform. It's all there.

[Addendum: And here is some more ammunition from Warren Kinsella, who has quoted Danielle Smith on a host of issues that reveal her true conscience. Check it out].
Do what you can. There is only a week left. I thank you for all of your letters, and I am grateful to know my efforts are appreciated, but I urge you to spend your energy now talking to people whose votes you can change.


Friday, April 13, 2012

Wildrose canvasser reported saying, "You can't kill government from the outside"

Since blogging about the Wildrose position on abortion and conscience rights and writing the three part history of Danielle Smith's disastrous ten months on the Calgary School Board, I have received many notes from people who remember that time and want to share their memories, and also from a few who have deep concerns about Wildrose. This little note came in yesterday:

"Two folks from Wildrose came to the door a couple of days ago, door knocking. 

I was about to go out so couldn't chat to them, but wish I had had time. I did say that I didn't think anyone who is Libertarian has any business in government, too cognitively dissonant to be believed. His answer was, 'You can't kill government from the outside.' Pretty succinct."

And pretty scary.

Nice that someone finally stated the goal of Wildrose so clearly.

Smith's stint on the Calgary Board of Education Board of Trustees can in no way be construed as a time that was constructive for public education. I've got to say, her comments on education in last night's leaders debate made my blood boil. I wanted someone to say, "If you care about public school so much, explain your record as a public school Trustee, a record that was so lousy, you got canned." But no one did. Redford almost got the chance. Smith was busy explaining her experience, or lack thereof, and Redford mentioned the School Board. Unfortunately, time was up and she couldn't continue. I always thought Smith's actions indicated she wanted to kill public education, not help it.

Now we have her supporters going door to door saying "You can't kill government from the outside." 

What else does anyone need to know?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Progressive Conservative Party on Abortion

For the Record, the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada has not answered my three questions on abortion. (Neither have the Liberals or New Democrats.) I doubt they will, and really, who can blame them. But they are speaking about it in the media. But since I started this storm, I feel compelled to at least try to get information from other parties out there. Right now, all I can do is glean from the media and report.

This is what Alison Redford had to say about abortion and conscience rights this morning on CBC’s the Current.

Anna Maria Tremonti asked Redford about the Wildrose stance on abortion and conscience rights. (Start at 7:17 if you are listening to the clip above)
Redford: “I think Albertans are shocked to hear that that’s come back into the discussion. You know these are issues that were decided in Canada twenty years ago and I think Albertans are very proud of who we are as a community. It was very unsettling for me to hear this come up last week from that party as a legitimate policy position and I was just as disappointed to hear that the party itself would go further with respect to citizen referenda which really, I think, is something that concerns Albertans. It’s not where we, I don’t believe, should go. My sense from speaking to Albertans is that these are discussions that are incredibly divisive. Of course people should have their own personal beliefs, but when you start to talk about conscience rights it’s a very slippery slope. It upsets me that we seem to think, or that they seem to think,  that this is something Albertans want to talk about and quite frankly I think for a lot of Albertans it’s a little embarrassing for people in the rest of Canada to think that Albertans are still debating these as serious issues.

Tremonti:  You have spent years working in human rights and constitutional law. Does the concept of conscience rights even have a chance of going anywhere? Is it a red herring?

Redford: What I see this as is a legal construct that is brought forward by people with certain political beliefs when they don’t like the decisions that the courts have made.  Now, that’s a fairly technical legal argument, and I don’t think that we get very far by turning this into a debate between lawyers. But we’ve certainly seen in Alberta in the last couple of days commentary from legal scholars from our own University of Calgary saying that this stuff just doesn’t make sense.  It doesn’t reflect the reality of the law in Canada, of the Courts in Canada, of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Okey dokey. Or is that okie dokie? 
I still want to know what you'll do to improve access to abortion services in the north and rural Alberta, but I'm feeling pretty confident you have no plans to de-list or to pose any fundamental challenge to a woman's right to choose or to make access to services worse. Also, in comparison to Wildrose and Danielle Smith's approach to this is in the media, this is very sane. No narrative of persecution here. I point this out to support my own contention that abortion only becomes an issue when you say something dumb about it.
I don't want to be a bummer or anything, but I feel compelled to mention that PC party is the party that brought in Bill 44. Would someone please ask whether or not they plan to repeal this? A watchful eye is definitely necessary here too.
I'm not going to get into health care funding generally and various positions on privatizing delivery. That wouldn't be fair because I didn't do it with the other parties. But if you're interested, it's something to find out about.
As a final note, I just want to point out that at the end of the interview, Tremonti notes that Danielle Smith had been invited to the interview but declined.
I'll try to find something just as concise from the Liberals and New Democrats too, and get that posted sometime soon. They're not getting as much media, so it's a little more difficult. So much for the liberal media bias claimed by Ms Smith.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Smith's Risky History (Part 3) Government Smith Style

This is the third of a three part series about Danielle Smith’s history as a School Board Trustee. This one has the least to do with reproductive rights and is completely off the regular topic of this blog, but in terms of the Alberta Provincial Election, it is probably the most vital. It’s about governance. I can already feel you glazing over.

An issue like conscience rights is something people can wrap their heads around and something they care about with passion. An issue like abortion is like an explosion. Abortion is what I call a “deaf” word, like cancer. People hear it and they go deaf. Although my original questions to all the parties were about abortion, the response from Wildrose made the issue much bigger. It became about using referenda to decide social issues. It became about democracy. It became about governance.

As in my other two posts, Smith’s disastrous history on the School Board gives us some vital information about her. This history matters. On to Part Three.

Part Three: Government Smith Style

As everyone knows, Smith’s only elected political experience is her ten months on the School Board.
I have often wondered why Smith never spoke out against the government's decision to dismiss a democratically elected board. I can't find any evidence of it in the media, and I don't remember her speaking out at the time. For someone saying she's all about democratic rights, it makes me wonder about her definition of democracy, just like I wonder about her definition of pro-choice and pro-gay. Maybe this is another thing she talks a good line on but does nothing about. Other Trustees vilified the government and called the tactic anti-democratic. If the public elected the Board, and the public was sick of them, the public should have been given the opportunity to get rid of them in the next election. Or better yet, someone on the Board could have shown some leadership and found a way through the divisions. No one did. The Chair at the time did not. Smith certainly did not. She was obstructionist, to say the least. I'm not interested in what blame is to be shared among the other Trustees. Smith is the only one of them vying to lead the province right now. Instead of showing leadership, instead of being productive and moving public education forward, she helped tear it apart in Calgary. Having Big Daddy Oberg come in and send the bad girls to their rooms was something almost everyone had an opinion about. Yet, when it happened, Smith was quiet. So was Anderson. Smith did not speak up for democracy.

[addendum April 15. After everyone was fired, Alberta Report said that Lyle Oberg had asked Smith and Anderson to run again which would seem to indicate they were in agreement on many things. Today, Oberg is a key advisor of Smith's, and Oberg just opened a five star private hospital in BC. Neither has a commitment to keeping public education or public health care public.]

The operating budget of the CBE back then was roughly $700,000. That’s not much compared to the provincial budget. And Smith wasn’t keen on getting into the details of it. As I mentioned in Part Two, Jennifer Pollock confirms that Smith and Peggy Anderson took a political stance not to participate in budget meetings. This was part of a broader philosophy about governance and what they felt the role of a Trustee was. Again this tells us something about Smith's style of governing. As a Libertarian, Smith believes there should be less government. Anything that makes less government is justifiable in and of itself. This would include non-participation in budget processes. As a Libertarian, she can say she believes anything. She says she is pro-choice, (See Part One for questions about that) but government shouldn't pay for abortion. But the thing is, Libertarians don't believe government should pay for anything. They don't like taxation. Leave it all to the individual.

In these circumstances, what would happen to public school?

Smith was an enthusiastic supporter of something called the “Carver Model” of governance. (Again, I feel your eyes glazing over, but try to stick with me. I’m getting to the point, honestly.) Right after I was elected, the new Trustees were sent to a weekend of presentations on "How to be a Trustee." I was happy at the time to have any guidance at all. I didn’t know until later it was an indoctrination into how administration wanted us to behave and the Carver Model. I soon learned the job really wasn't what I thought it was, or what it had ever been in the past. It had changed. I thought I had been elected to represent constituents on matters of public education. With the Board moving to the Carver model, I was wrong.

Under Carver, the Board creates policies and something called “Ends statements” that say what the goals of the organization are, but stays out of the details of how to get there. You can see why administrators would approve of this model. They have no elected representatives looking at the gory details of how they do things, the gory details like budget line items. As long as they work within broadly defined policy and meet the Ends Statements, it’s all good.  

The Carver model was not designed for use with an elected political body. (I feel you yawning, try to stay with me. This is the part that matters.) It needed to be creatively adapted so that the Board could still do its job as elected officials and achieve goals Smith and others wanted, like less micro-managing by Trustees, a goal that I shared in some respects. We have to trust, to some extent, that administrators know what they are doing. But this has to be balanced against having enough knowledge and input to be accountable to constituents, both in reporting back to them and carrying out their will. Smith was against any kind of creative adaptation to this model and wanted it used in its most orthodox way.

It might be hard to believe, but this topic was a hot one among Trustees, and could not have been more boring, less understood, or less cared about by Calgarians. I had no idea when I became a Trustee that I would be spending my time on implementing this new governance model. But the adoption of the Carver model changed everything about the way the board worked and how it related to both CBE administration and citizens. What has never been made clear to citizens, even to this day, is that Trustees don't function anymore as representatives of their constituents. They are not someone parents can call and get help from beyond the Trustees acting as receptionists and referring calls to the appropriate administrative person. I think that the adoption of the Carver model is the reason that now, the Trustees have handed over financial decision making power to Administration and try to limit public input on the school system.

And this is how Smith wanted it. As we all know, the devil is in the details, and most of us looking at a fiasco like the “no meet committee” would agree that the person in charge should have had an eye on that. It’s pretty hard to be accountable to the electorate otherwise. I have never met a person who does not think their elected representative should be accountable to them. This is an issue that goes to the heart of the nature of democracy.

Smith says she wanted to join the CBE board of Trustees in part because she felt the Board had been unresponsive to parents. Yet, she was solidly behind a governance model that could only result in less responsiveness. In the article by Maurice Tougas about Smith’s leadership potential mentioned in Part One, Pollock notes that Smith has a history, one that I can personally vouch for, of not showing any interest in constituent issues she didn't agree with. A lot of people lost faith in the capacity of the School Board to represent them. And once that happens, people start to ask why we even have one. That can only help Libertarians achieve less government.

In the Tougas article, Pollock says that, “Smith went her own way as a trustee.” Smith took “the unusual stand of advocating school closings, suggesting up to 30 schools should be closed.” Danielle Smith and I have met only once that I remember, and I'm sure she wouldn't remember it. It was while she was a Trustee. She was visiting my daughter's elementary school, one of the 30 schools she wanted to close. The other parents and I joked that she walked around it with the eyes of a real estate agent. Remember, Smith had also run on her support for charter schools. In Calgary, closed public schools often get leased to charter schools and sometimes private schools. It's a pretty good deal for them. I've never been convinced it's a good deal for public schools. Finding buildings is a pretty significant way to support Charter Schools. If she was talking to parents, she wasn't talking to us about saving our school.

I quit my job as Trustee a few months before the end of my term, stressed out and ill, disillusioned and disappointed at everything I had learned while I was there. I was often alone in my opinions, but the divisions among Board members when I was there never came close to what happened on the Board Smith was part of. We were divided, but civil. I quit when I realized my job was not to be the representative of the people who elected me, even though they thought it was. I quit when I realized I could no longer support what the Board was doing. My job was to be the yes-woman, and I couldn't do it anymore. I felt like a hypocrite. I couldn’t pretend I was a representative of my constituents when the board had basically eliminated any capacity for that, as far as I was concerned. I couldn’t pretend that what I was doing had anything to do with democracy. I was criticized for my decision, but not by many. Most people understood. I made sure my resignation was close enough to the next election that it wouldn't trigger a by-election. I didn't want it to cost the taxpayers money. And I also knew that there was not a single vote result between my departure and the end of the term for this Board that would have been altered by my presence. By that time, votes were generally going 5-2 or 6-1. The school closure issue was finished and we were moving into summer. To me, what would have been worse for Calgary Public was another divisive, bickering board. I wouldn't be that person. Calgary didn't need that again. Sometimes it's better to walk away.

That’s the end of this series. I hope you found it instructive. I've told this story from my perspective and the interpretations I've given are mine alone. I wish I could find my freaking glasses. Sorry about any typos. Apparently I've called Daveberta a bogger instead of a blogger. Sorry Dave. At least I didn't call him a bugger. I correct my mistakes when I find them. In other words, no one's perfect. I don't expect anyone, elected or otherwise, to be perfect. I do expect some integrity. I just want everyone to understand the history of this school board so they can decide for themselves if Wildrose represents their values, and if they think Ms Smith can represent them well. Like I've said, if the best indicator of future performance is past performance, everyone is entitled to know what I know. Blogs can be useful for that. 

Part One is here
Part Two is here

The Abortion Monologues is available as an e-book on Smashwords