Sad and angry about the irrational reactions to events of March 14-21, 2021
This post originally appeared in my weekly newsletter, “The Missive” on Aug.15, 2021. Subscribe for free at: https://jodymacpherson.substack.com/ or access background info and special content with a paid subscription.
It has been another week of Jason Kenney defending the war room’s attempt to censor a children’s cartoon and many are realizing it may be an intentional distraction away from failures on another front.
Here’s how the week unfolded with a fresh set irrational actions by Jason Kenney and the UCP government. There were 21 official news releases, including six releases about the COVID-19 pandemic and no official statement from the Premier when a young woman was stabbed to death while at school in Alberta.
Again, a quote retweet is not good enough.
A new report by the Canadian Femicide Observatory finds that “on average–a woman or girl suffered a violent death every 2.5 days in Canada in 2020.”
This tragedy may be connected to a larger trend of rising violence since the pandemic. Women, LGBTQ2S and BIPOC are almost always the victims. Men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators. It’s an unspoken fact that needs to be addressed.
I won’t hold my breath with this government.
So, about the reason the Premier may want to distract us – the economic shocker of the week – an extraordinary announcement of a proposed $16B takeover of Shaw by Rogers. Dwayne Winseck, professor and director, Canadian Media Concentration Research Project at Carleton University, told BNN Bloomberg the deal “would set Canada’s competitive landscape back by a decade.”
The Alberta government responded with a lengthy statement claiming the announcement would be “good news” for Alberta’s economy. The promise of 1,800 new jobs for the province was met with a lot of skepticism. Mergers tend to result in job losses and decrease competition leading to higher prices for consumers. There was a lot of head-scratching about the UCP’s muted response. This is normally a pretty scrappy government, but they came across as downright docile on this one.
This week, we witnessed a series of events, with the reaction raising questions about whether the UCP government is actually serious about creating jobs or attempting a real recovery plan for Alberta.
More bad news from Cenovus was revealed this week. The company has recently acquired Husky and there were expectations of layoffs. Still, the breaking story of more than 1,000 job losses as employees were informed virtually on March 16, was tough and the threat of more layoffs unrelenting:
Cenovus is one of the oil and gas companies given huge tax breaks by the Kenney government’s so-called “Job Creation Tax Cut.”
The NDP called for an emergency debate on jobs, which was blocked by the UCP who claimed it wasn’t all that bad. And another controversy erupted on social media when the Premier tried to quell concerns by inflating the number of jobs promised by IT consulting firm Infosys.
Then, the bank owned by the Alberta government, ATB came out with its economic forecast this week predicting a “K-shaped recovery” which looks good for high-wage earners but not so good for those with lower incomes.
Low-income earners struggling before the pandemic are likely to face few employment opportunities — and even chronic unemployment — due to jobs that won’t return and with emergency government relief programs winding down, according to the CBC News story.
Kenney doesn’t seem to care as much about Alberta or Albertans, as he does about a much deeper and heartfelt mission embodied politically by the International Democratic Union (IDU) – individualism, the institution of the family, self-help, private property and the market economy as the best way to create wealth and material prosperity.
The IDU is led by Stephen Harper, whose son, Ben, is now on the Alberta government’s payroll as an advisor. Harper’s influence over Alberta’s Premier is well-known. Morally, Kenney is also guided by his Catholic faith, but the underlying tenets of IDU conservatism can be seen in so many of the UCP government’s policies and actions.
For those who were looking for a way out of this nightmare, however remote, all hopes of recalling UCP MLA’s were dashed this week with the cheerful announcement of recall legislation that promises to make it pretty much impossible.
Another “promise kept” was the message being pushed out by conservative Twitter with definite flashbacks to Trump. It didn’t seem to matter that the legislation was dumb and the idea even dumber (sorry, but it’s true). Without proper oversight and limits on ad spending, recall is a recipe for disaster. And neither of those two things are a strength of this government.
On the vaccine front, confusion reigned as information about how and where to get vaccinated changed multiple times in the past week. Details kept shifting and some appointments have to be booked through 811 (Astra Zeneca) and others are booked online. At least one air transport of vaccines was delayed for what appeared to be mechanical reasons and of course, Kenney took the opportunity to blame Trudeau.
There were also questions about who was excluded in the early phases and some groups lobbied for inclusion in the next phase.
To top off the week, Finance Minister Travis Toews accused the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) of not putting Albertans first. This followed the UNA’s desire to proceed with their contract negotiations as their agreement expired a year ago. The Health Minister has already announced a tentative deal with physicians, so why not negotiate with the nurses also? Toews claimed this was somehow selfish of them.
With nurses on the front line risking their lives every day for thankful Albertans, the minister seemed out of touch and perhaps even out of his mind to make such an assertion.
Speaking of being out of their minds, the anti-mask demonstrations continued with a large and reportedly violent protest at Prince’s Island Park in downtown Calgary yesterday. Churches are also openly flouting public health orders, even though some high-profile pastors have been jailed, and rightly so.
My personal observation is that mask compliance and physical distancing is decreasing as the weather warms. 17th Avenue SW in Calgary is packed these days. You’d hardly know there is a pandemic in the popular entertainment district.
Yet, local physician-activists are raising alarms again about the rate of transmission, which is up above 1.1 again across most of the province.
With the government considering lifting restrictions again, despite its own cautionary reports coming from Dr. Deena Hinshaw, there doesn’t seem to be much faith in the phased reopening plan the government has created. It could be that the plan is based on lagging indicators rather than leading indicators. The result is that the government’s plan is always playing “catch up” with reality and potentially reacting with measures that will do more harm to an emerging situation.
Of course, while everyone was popping popcorn and watching the Bigfoot Family movie, a few things slipped by with little attention. One of them was the fact the government quietly revised its expense policy. Even though per diem rates for government employees are set quite low, there wasn’t a strict limit.
Then, along came Alberta’s supervised consumption services review committee exceeding their travel, meal and accommodations budget by more than $10,000. Members of the committee expensed a $97.02 bill for a “special” with creme brûlée and wine, $64.61 for prime rib and wine and $19.85 for an avocado toast and a coffee. The alcohol was later removed, but only after the receipts were submitted.
I guess the request to use taxpayer dollars “prudently and responsibly” with a focus on accountability and transparency wasn’t clearly understood by the committee members or the Minister’s office, who seem to lack a moral compass. I’m reminded of Aloha-gate, when Premier Kenney said the offenders weren’t to blame because he wasn’t clear enough in his instructions.
Minister Jason Luan’s office found these the crème brulee, prime rib and $20 avocado toast (?) weren’t a policy violation so they decided to update the rules to make them more specific. Presumably, we’re still on the hook for those expenses but the Minister’s press secretary wouldn’t confirm or deny. They also refused to release the details of the audit though so we may never know the full extent of the committee’s shenanigans at taxpayer expense.
The government may have also wanted their new Invest Alberta slogan and imagery to slip by unnoticed.
The over-punctuated, underwhelming, all caps attempt at word play, set against a beautiful mountain top is likely to spin off some new graphics. One thing for sure is that it will set off the thousands of anti-coal activists fighting to ensure the government isn’t removing the beautiful mountain tops in the Eastern Slopes. Way to poke the bear, issue “managers.”
But, I hate ending on a sour note every week, so thought this would be a good opportunity to fit in some more biking news, which is almost always good.
E-bike growth is continuing at historic levels and despite supply chain problems, the expectation is that demand will continue to be strong.
Let’s wrap-up this week’s Irrational Report, with a trailer for a new film called, “Together We Cycle” available for streaming now via the Bicycle Film Festival until April 4.
Jody MacPherson is a professional communicator, commuting cyclist (currently working from home), and may have over-punctuated on occasion but definitely avoids ALL-CAPS.