Chasing political storms for this week’s Irrational Report for March 28-April 3, 2021

This post originally appeared in my weekly newsletter, “The MacPherson Missive.” Subscribe for free at: https://jodymacpherson.substack.com/

The week started off with an ominous 100km/hour windstorm, which led to a wildfire near Lethbridge, accompanied by a snow squall.

The resulting chaos left trucks tipped over, blowing smoke and snow on Alberta highways and a 50-70 car pile-up on the Trans-Canada highway near Brooks.

But even that was nothing compared to the storm that was about to hit with the release of the UCP government’s new K-6 curriculum.

In about one week, the Facebook group opposed to the new curriculum has more than 29,000 members, an original logo (war room take note) and plans for protests next week.

By comparison, it has taken more than six months for the Facebook group opposed to coal mining in the Eastern Slopes to reach 36,000 members. Their fierce opposition led to the reversal of a decision to rescind the 1976 Coal Policy. Many are hoping there will be a revoking of this curriculum too.

In an act of what can only be characterized as extreme hubris, Jason Kenney said on Wednesday at a press conference, ““I’m very happy to see widespread endorsements of this curriculum.” It was jaw-dropping.

Maybe he was thinking fondly about the endorsement from Jordan Peterson, the controversial Canadian psychology professor who was described by the New York Times in this way:

“Jordan Peterson fills huge lecture halls and tells his audiences there’s no shame in looking backward to a model of how the world should be arranged. Look back to the 1950s, he says — and back even further. He tells his audiences that they are smart. He is bringing them knowledge, yes, but it is knowledge that they already know and feel in their bones. He casts this as ancient wisdom, delivered through religious allegories and fairy tales which contain truth, he says, that modern society has forgotten.”

New York Times

Sounds like a good match for the “new” Alberta curriculum which many experts have called backwards and regressive. Peterson had disappeared from public view in early 2020 due to a medical issue and according to an article in the Atlantic, he’s now out of rehab and about to release a new book.

Raised in Fairview, Alberta, Peterson has become a minor celebrity, with a cult-like following of mostly young men rejecting feminism. Many of his followers are known as “Incels,” or what the Southern Poverty Law Center calls “part of the online male supremacist ecosystem.” Peterson’s beliefs are bizarre and hateful towards women and LGBTQ2S people.

“In Mr. Peterson’s world, order is masculine. Chaos is feminine. And if an overdose of femininity is our new poison, Mr. Peterson knows the cure.”

New York Times

Peterson describes male violence against women as an inevitability. He connected the 2018 terrorist attack in Toronto when a man drove his van into a crowd, killing 10 people — to a lack of sexual partners.

“He was angry at God because women were rejecting him,” Mr. Peterson says of the Toronto killer. “The cure for that is enforced monogamy. That’s actually why monogamy emerges.”

New York Times

Yes, you heard that right. Peterson believes that society needs to work to make sure men are married and in monogamous relationships. Women’s role is to provide that sexual satisfaction for men, in order to prevent violence.

It’s chilling. Now you know why women believe that Kenney and the UCP are engaged in a war on women.

Peterson’s endorsement was later removed from social media but the moment is indelibly etched in the minds of many. You can’t unsee that post, as they say.

What is clear is that the curriculum proposal is rife with plagiarism. And teachers are definitely experts in detecting plagiarism.

If only the politicians would get their meddling hands out of the creation of the curriculum and actually consult with teachers. There has been no consultation with teachers yet. The Alberta Teachers Association is launching its own independent round of consultation.

In the meantime, the government is editing the description of the curriculum on its website, on the fly, creating more confusion and distrust.

If only this was just a brief, passing storm. Unfortunately, there is every reason to believe they have no intention of backing down.

In fact, Jason Kenney appeared to give us all the middle finger with  the odd addition of his grandfather as a key figure in jazz music, despite most academics disagreeing with the assessment of his significance in comparison to others. It’s just his little gift to Albertans.

Given all of the experts sharing their overwhelmingly negative opinions of the proposed new curriculum, there’s now a growing list of school districts across the province who are simply opting out of even piloting the curriculum.

The massive outrage about the curriculum from conservatives and non-conservatives alike is looking like the dark stormclouds over Calgary on Monday as March “lioned out” in spectacular fashion.

So, what else was the government up to this week? A lot. There were 27 official news releases, six on Monday alone. The flurry of announcements over the last week included five releases about the COVID-19 pandemic, but despite the rapidly rising cases, there was no rolling back to stricter public health orders.

Despite having active cases reach their highest level in months, the government decided to wait to impose restrictions until after the long Easter weekend, a time when many people are gathering in groups and may be less vigilant about physically distancing.

Covid Loves an opportunity to spread in these types of gatherings. We all thought this character was parody. The decision to delay potentially lifesaving measures suggests, however, that the Covid head character is perhaps a projection of their own attitude and an indication the government just isn’t taking this pandemic seriously.

Kenney was admitting there will be no consequences for churches like GraceLife which continue to hold large services in violation of public health orders and showing a total lack of care for people’s well being. Frustration was growing as other faith leaders pleaded with the Christian church to reconsider and reflect on its defiance of the rules.

Kenney was also publicly rejecting the Zero-COVID approach which is advocated by doctors and is gaining attention as research out of France now shows it is the best way to protect both “lives and livelihoods.”

And today, Dr. Deena Hinshaw warned there was a concerning outbreak of the Brazil variant but provided few details, which led to an angry and fearful response on social media. Parents wanted to know the source of the outbreak and whether to send their kids back to school.

While anger was mounting on other fronts this week, a number of disturbing stories were mostly flying under the radar (this sentence could just be copied and pasted into EVERY issue of this newsletter).

  • Thanks to changes in workers compensation and under the guise of cutting red tape, major changes took effect on April 1, including the elimination of an employer’s legal obligation to rehire and accommodate an injured worker.
  • First Nations were caught off guard when the rural policing initiative allowing fish and wildlife officers to be called in by RCMP as first responders was launched without consultation with them.
  • The Alberta Federation of Labour called for a public inquiry as internal Alberta Agriculture documents show the UCP government and health officials prioritized the continued operation of the Cargill meat-packing plant over worker safety even as infection rates skyrocketed. 
  • Members of Calgary’s Green Line committee heard the transit expansion will not begin in 2021 as the City works through plan issues with the province.

One thing that didn’t fly at all this week was the tentative agreement between the provincial government and Alberta’s doctors. Fifty three per cent of those who voted on the deal rejected it.

With the failure of the deal, many were calling for the resignation of Health Minister Tyler Shandro, or at the very least, a cabinet shuffle. One doctor has said it’s the first “no” to a negotiated contract in 20 years. She chalked it up to broken trust.

The government’s announcement of Clare’s Law taking effect on April 1st received very little recognition. People who feel they are at risk of domestic violence can safely and confidentially apply for a disclosure to find out if their intimate partner has a history of domestic violence. Alberta has the fourth highest rate of domestic abuse in Canada. It’s a much-needed service but when you’ve shown so little interest in helping women and your idea of a good person to endorse the school curriculum is Jordan Peterson, the hypocrisy is pretty blatant.

***********************************

This is the part of the newsletter where I transition from the disappointment that is our Alberta government and update you on cycling news to cheer myself (and hopefully you) up.

With the COVID-19 third wave possibly upon us, it helps to think about how the pandemic may help us reimagine the future. As a city dweller, I can see many positive changes have come from forced distancing, including a renewed appreciation of outdoor spaces.

“Speaking recently about the future of cities, renowned Ghanaian-British architect Sir David Adjaye asserted that high-quality public space “has now become the treasure that people are completely addicted to. If you took for granted a park, now you realize that it’s a very important part of the quality of life [in] cities.”

Fast Company

Also, in the news this week is how important it is NOT to focus as much on electric vehicles as a solution to reducing emissions. In fact, it may actually be slowing down the process.

Instead, we need to focus on moving away from carbon-intensive infrastructure. New research shows urban residents who switched from driving to cycling for just one trip per day reduced their carbon footprint by about half a tonne of CO₂ over the course of a year, saving the equivalent emissions of a one-way flight from London to New York.

“Nearly half of the fall in daily carbon emissions during global lockdowns in 2020 came from reductions in transport emissions. The pandemic forced countries around the world to adapt to reduce the spread of the virus. In the UK, walking and cycling have been the big winners, with a 20% rise in people walking regularly, and cycling levels increasing by 9% on weekdays and 58% on weekends compared to pre-pandemic levels. This is despite cycle commuters being very likely to work from home.”

Resilience.org

Go on now. Stop doomscrolling and get out there for a walk or bike ride. I’ll see you on the bike paths!

Jody MacPherson is a professional communicator, commuting cyclist (currently working from home), and definitely doesn’t endorse the draft K-6 curriculum.

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