Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Vote for the Future - Alberta Votes 2019, part 7

I have three kids, all adults now.

Over the years my millennial kids brought home their friends. Their average friends, their lactose intolerant friends, their allergic-to-darn-near-everything friends, their vegan friends, their First Nation friends, their Muslim friends, their refugee friends, their athletic friends, their clumsy friends, their socially awkward friends, their deaf friends, their gay friends, their trans friends, their diabetic friends, their funny friends, their sad friends, their body-image-challenged friends, their shy friends, their boisterous friends, their modest friends, their "bite-me-bitch" friends, their friends who talk freely about their mental illness, their friends who are putting up a brave front, their friends with physical challenges, their friends with developmental challenges, their hipster friends, their musician friends, their nerdy friends... and they are all just kids.

They have their differences, but... they are all just young people finding their way in the world. They are all, every one of them, incredibly valuable human beings. I would go all Mama Bear for any one of them.

They are kids. They are our future as a society..so it makes me really angry to see any political party try to reduce the value of any of these shining young people for political gain. The UCP is not our friend. Please think long & hard about your vote. Don't vote for marginalization. Vote for the future.

GSAs, Homophobia, and the Alberta Election: Alberta Votes 2019, part 6

Warning: long rant. But please, read to the end. Important bit at the end...
The UCP will reverse Bill 24 if elected in Alberta April 16.
Bill 24 does a couple of things:
1) It makes it mandatory for any school to set up a GSA (Gay Straight Alliance Club) if students request one, and
2) It forbids school staff and administrators from notifying parents if their child joins the GSA.
Some Albertan parents are outraged about this. They feel it treads on their parental right to know what their child is doing at school. Which may sound legitimate on the surface. However, would these same parents really want a phone call from a teacher if their child joined the chess club, or the basketball team, or the yearbook committee? Probably not. No, the parents who are outraged by this appear to feel that there is something "dangerous" or maybe morally suspect about their child joining a group that supports LGBTQ youth. You don't have to be queer to join, btw. You can be a straight ally and join to be part of a supportive community. A community which is especially important to a kid who feels unsafe coming out to their own family.
Some schools (private religious and Catholic School Board schools) have objected to being forced to allow GSAs if students want them, and this bill forces them to provide one. If Bill 24 is rescinded these schools may very well decide to contact the parents of all students who have been involved in GSAs in their schools.
It is important to note that kids attending these schools are somewhat more likely to have parents who would reject them for being queer or friendly to queers.
30% of homeless youth in Canada are homeless because their parents either threw them out or made their life hell simply because they were LGBTQ. These kids (and they are just kids) then go into the terrifying world of life on the street. Some get involved in the sex trade to survive. Some get addicted to drugs. Some are beaten for who they are. Or any combination of the above.
There has been some considerable outrage about this UCP stance. Notably, conservative radio host, Charles Adler, took UCP leader Jason Kenney to task over this in an interview last week 
And yet, many Albertans now attack Adler as a "fake" conservative.
Albertans have been quoted in interviews and articles, like this one, saying they don't care about the LGBTQ community because it doesn't affect them.
I honestly don't know how to make people understand that they should care about their fellow humans. About kids who are struggling to survive, for goodness sake!
Who are these people? Where is their moral compass?
The UCP and its supporters argue that parents are kind and caring and need to be included in the discussion if their child thinks they might be gay/trans/etc. and Bill 24 forcibly and wrongfully excludes parents from this important issue in their child's life.
Well, NO. If a kid feels unsafe coming out to their parents, it is no one's business to out them and put them in danger. Even if the parents are prepared to be way more understanding and accepting than the child believes they will be, it is still no one's right but the child's to make that decision. Because children are not property. They are human beings.
Parents can surprise in their love and willingness to be accepting. But parents can also be cruel and judgmental and violent. No one has the right to make a kid face an uncertain and dangerous reaction against their will.
The child in question probably has a much better idea of how their parents will react than a teacher or school administrator. They could be wrong, but it should be their own decision to make.
I suspect, given how often I hear how "LGBTQ issues don't affect me, so why would that influence my vote?" and "parents are loving and caring and they should have full knowledge of their children's inner lives so they can help", that a significant number of Alberta voters don't know, or don't know they know, anyone from the queer community, so the issue becomes abstract in their minds. It is much easier to feel animosity or indifference to conceptual strangers than it does when one sees actual people with real names and faces. Here are 6 LGBTQ+ youth from NYC. And a request. If anyone out there reading this has a story to tell about GSAs or about coming out to their family or being outed, please, if you feel safe, put it out there. Let Albertans know that the LGBTQ+ community is real people facing tough issues, and as deserving of compassion and inclusion and protection as anyone else.
Literally, lives are depending on people understanding this and incorporating it into their voting decision.

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Integrity and the UCP - a rant - Alberta Votes 2019, part 5

I find it curious that I hear so many Albertans say that they are not sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, and full of hatred. They say, "It is not fair to paint all conservatives with the same brush! Just because so many UCP candidates have said and done all these sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, and hateful things, including the leader, Jason Kenney, it isn't fair to characterise the whole party that way!"

Oh, no?

How do you feel about election fraud, identity theft, money laundering...?

"Well that's bad, but nothing has been proven. And anyway, if Kenney's team cheated, it doesn't matter because he would have won the leadership anyway. It's just a matter of making it a really big win."


"Nothing has been proven, and anyway, Kenney wouldn't have known anything about it. He has said so."


"The more moderates will keep Kenney in line."

Sure. That has worked so well with Trump and Ford, hasn't it?

So, if you recognise that the UCP is basically run by sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic haters who also cheat, who are you going to vote for?

"Well, um... the UCP."

So, you're not sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic and filled with hate, and you personally would not commit election fraud, but you're OK with all that?

"You don't understand! We have to vote conservative. The commies have been destroying the province!"


I shake my head in bewilderment. These are, presumably, not stupid people. They have seen the reports that Kenney made back-room deals with car dealers, promising to reduce consumer protection regulations. That, potentially, will make the roads less safe for all of us, but it's A-OK because those car dealers deserve to make more money.

The UCP platform is a carefully worded thing. Let's break it down.

The UCP voted against increasing RCMP presence in rural areas, and then while unvieling their "tough on crime" platform, cited crime statistics from while the PCs were in power to back up their claim that there was a "rural crime wave" because of the NDP. They want to explore a "Repeat Offenders Policy", which sounds an awful lot like a ramp-up to an American style three-strikes-and-you're-out policy.

Meanwhile, crime in Alberta has decreased since the NDP introduced their law enforcement policies in early 2018.

The UCP wants to make special exceptions in the law for people living in rural areas. They want it to be ok to "defend your property" (aka shoot tresspassers) if you are in a rural area. They also want stiffer penalties for offenders who commit crimes in a rural area.

Can you say "pandering for rural votes"?

The UCP's platform also contains an all-out war on workers. They are offering a tiered minimum wage plan that will see people who are young or "of lower human capital" earn less for the same work. It feels reminiscent of the TFW plan.

"But, my kid is looking for work. He will have a better chance of getting a job if the employer can pay him less!"

Do you even hear the words coming out of your mouth?

You seriously want your kid to be exploited? That's fantastic. Good luck to your kid.

The UCP will make it so employers can pay out for overtime banked hours at a non-overtime rate. So, instead of paying time and half for overtime, they get to pay straight time.

The time and a half for overtime rule is in place pretty well across Canada. Well, now in Ontario, Ford is going to scrap that too. Ford and Kenney are working off the same playbook. But the policy is in place for a reason. It is meant as a deterrent, so employers don't take advantage of workers and force them to work a lot of overtime. It is meant to help workers have some kind of work-life balance.  Getting rid of the incentive to not have employees work unreasonable hours rolls back workers rights by decades, by the standards of most provinces. It's a race to the bottom, folks. Do you want to work all the time? Because if employers don't have to pay time and half, they can make employees work and work and work. And if the workers refuse, they will see their regular hours cut or, even worse, they could be out of a job.

One big truth of unfettered employer/employee relationships is, without government regulations protecting workers, employers can always find someone more desperate, someone who will work for less money and less time off. This is Great Depression stuff. Industrial Revolution stuff.

They want to repeal Bill 6, which put in place protections for agricultural workers, which brought Alberta up to par with the other provinces. Apparently, agricultural workers don't deserve protection, in the eyes of the UCP.

The UCP says they will cut corporate taxes and corporate red tape (code for reducing regulations that protect workers, consumers, and the environment).

The UCP will repeal the carbon tax. Never mind that this will cause the federal carbon tax to come into effect.

"Oh, but Jason Kenney is committed to fighting the federal tax in court!"

And what will that cost? Alberta taxpayers are going to make a bunch of lawyers really rich doing that. You know that right? And they won't win. It's like taking your money and putting it in a fire pit and setting it alight. But, you know, you do you...

The UCP are going to repeal Bill 24, that protects kids who join GSAs from being reported to their parents.

"But, parents have a right to know what our kids are doing at school!"

Do you need a phone call if your child joins the chess club? Or the yearbook committee? Or the basketball team? No? So why do you need a call if your child joins a GSA? Is it because you think there's something wrong with that? If you think there is something troubling or bad about your child participating in a GSA, that is exactly why Bill 24 is necessary.

Additionally, the UCP will halt the rewriting of curriculum and re-introduce 50% provincial exams for graduation. In short, a return to the classroom of the 1950s.  Also, encourage people to take their children out of the public school system and put them in private schools, charter schools, or home schooling. Because we can't have our precious progeny rubbing elbows with people we don't like.

"No. It's not like that! We send our kids to charter schools because the education standard is higher."

Why is that, do you suppose? Could it be because the funds being diverted to charter schools from public schools are starving the public system, providing less opportunity for kids from less affluent families who cannot manage to send their children to private or charter schools?

And, honestly, while there are valid reasons for home-schooling, such as isolated location, health concerns, bullying... Simply not wanting your offspring exposed to different people and viewpoints is not one of them. Eventually these kids will be adults. They will be released into the general population. If you have kept them from experiencing diversity and planted your own beliefs and biases in their heads, how are the rest of us to cope with them? And also, if you have only a high school diploma or less, what on earth makes you imagine you can do a better job teaching them than people who have been trained to educate?

Health care. The UCP appears ready to open the door to private medicine in Alberta. Which is a stepping stone to full-on US-style medicine. This is vastly more expensive and excludes people without the means to pay for it.

If you are wealthy, the US health care system is lovely. If you are poor and you get seriously sick, you will probably die. Even people who have insurance have told me they had an accident or got sick and then had to fight their insurance company to cover it. And once it goes to court, you aren't really getting that much back after the lawyers are paid. People in the US are using GoFundMe to pay for cancer treatments and other health conditions. Is that really what people want?

"I just feel that I should have the right to decide if I pay for my health care myself. If I can afford it, why shouldn't I get put to the top of the list?"

I honestly have no way to explain to people why they should feel compassion and empathy. It seems so unnatural to me to not feel for people who are less fortunate or facing difficult challenges. I don't even know how to begin to explain why other people should matter. Why we should be our brother's keeper. How we are all in this together, this thing called life. Shouldn't we work together for things to get better for everyone? How can that be bad?

There is so much more. I will do a detailed breakdown of the UCP platform, and the platforms of the other parties, over the  next while.

I am just so infuriated and bewildered. I haven't even begun to delve into the sketchy stuff around the UCP leadership campaign. How can you think of voting for someone being investigated for election fraud? I mean, one investigation, you can reasonably make an argument for "innocent until proven guilty". But multiple investigations? Really?

"Well, it doesn't matter because he was going to win anyway. Besides, the NDP commies are destroying the province."

So, corruption is ok with you?

"No! That traitor Turdough should be charged with treason!"

I think you do not understand the meaning of "treason".

Anyway, I am fed up. People are hell-bent on voting against their own best interests, believing that they are doing the best thing for themselves and their families.

People are prepared to vote for a candidate and a party that they say doesn't represent their views.

So.. is it willful blindness? Or secret agreement with all the sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, and hateful pronouncements from UPC candidates?

I don't get it. I just don't. The Albertans I know are, by and large, very nice, decent-seeming people. So, I am having a big problem getting my head around the disconnect. That nice, decent people could decide the best thing they could do for their province is vote in a government that demonstrates through its platform that it only cares about the wealthy and business owners. That it doesn't care about equipping our children, Alberta's future, with the best learning methodologies. That feels, somehow, that the wealthy are deserving of better health care than the poor.  That stands behind candidates who have expressed sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, and hate-filled views. What are they thinking?

"It will be fine. The moderates in the party will control the out-of-control leader."

Sure. What could go wrong? (Spoilers: check out what Doug Ford is doing in Ontario. Check out what Trump is doing in the US."Moderates" were going to control them too)

I could argue myself blue in the face trying to explain that the Alberta NDP is not a communist party. They aren't even very socialist. They are more centrist. Albertans, of course, will not believe that. This is because their frame of reference is skewed right. Four decades of right-wing rule will do that. It's like in the US. Their starting point is so far to the right that Americans who saw themselves as progressive viewed Harper as suspiciously left-leaning.

The bottom line is, if you really feel you are not sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic and full of hate, how can you vote for a party that attracts and supports so many that are all those things?

"But... pipelines! Jobs!"

What about children, vulnerable populations, the elderly, the environment?

"The moderates in the UCP will make sure it's ok."

Just keep telling yourself that. You do realise Kenney can't do any more than Notley has to make the pipeline happen, don't you? He can't do anything about a carbon tax either, and isn't a made-in-Alberta and provincially controlled carbon tax better than one imposed by Ottawa? The job situation in Alberta is heavily influenced by external forces which Kenney has no magic to control. The world is gravitating away from fossil fuels. Automation and off-shore cheap labour are taking jobs out of the province. We need to diversify our economy, not double down on a dying industry.

But, you know... Go ahead and put a party in power that is going to be seriously hard on women, the LGBTQ+ community, the elderly, the sick, the poor, those of "lower human capital", the young, people of colour... If you look at Ontario under Ford you can see what that future looks like. But, if it's ok with you...

Make a man premier who is under RCMP investigation for corruption in the form of election fraud, money-laundering, and identity theft. What could go wrong?

After all, it's between you and your conscience. Because you aren't sexist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, and full of hate.

Monday, 1 April 2019

Integrity and Alberta Politics - Should a Cheater Win? - Alberta Votes 2019, part 3 (part 2, revised)

There's an old adage, "Cheaters never win." It likely exists to discourage people from cheating, suggesting karma will get them, or their misdeeds will ultimately revealed. But in this 2019 election, we have one party running whose leader and/or campaign team may very well have cheated their way to control of the largest conservative party, the UCP. 

The allegations brought forward by those in the know are that:

a) Kenney and his team set up a "Kamikaze" or dark horse candidate. This candidate was to attack Kenney's primary rival, Brian Jean, saying things that Kenney, himself, could not during the leadership campaign without appearing to be too nasty. Then the kamikaze candidate would withdraw from the race and throw his support behind Kenney. The Kenney team provided speaking notes, advertising materials, etc. for this opposing candidate.

b) This candidate, Jeff Calloway, needed funding to run for the leadership and this funding was arranged through "irregular" means.

c) Not content with surreptitiously undermining his main opponent, it is alleged that Kenney's team sold many, many memberships to people. Then, instead of submitting these memberships with real emails attached, offshore servers were used to generate email addresses that would be under the control of team Kenney. Many members complained they had not received their codes for voting in the online leadership race. Allegedly, this was because the codes were sent to team Kenney, who then operated kiosks in warehouses to process votes for Kenney using VPN technology (this hides a computers real identity and subverts the coding which prevents multiple votes from a single person), racking up Kenney's vote count.

CBC News searched for registration data using DomainTools and confirmed that dozens of email addresses attached to UCP members were all purchased by anonymous sources in the lead-up to the UCP leadership vote, between Sept. 20 and Oct. 13, 2017.

Albertans have been overwhelmed this past week with a deluge of controversy and scandal from the UCP. With candidates dropping out because of racist, transphobic, and misogynist views, the return of proposed legislation to out LGBTQ kids in school GSAs, impossible promises to "opt out" of equalization payments, and so on, some may have lost sight of the first big scandal.

It strongly appears that Jason Kenney cheated in the leadership election back in 2017. Not just in one way, the identity theft and fake votes, but also with the kamikaze campaign of Jeff Callaway. And the question remains, can someone who cheated to become leader of a party then become Premier of the province?

Some will say that he would have won anyway, that the cheating only increased the margin of his win. But that's not really the point, is it? Shouldn't our elected officials be held to a very high level of integrity? Shouldn't being a cheat disqualify someone from holding such an important office?

I know, the investigation is still underway. And it likely will not conclude before the election. Also, Kenney has been at this political game a long time. It's all he's ever really done. He learned from Harper. He no doubt has plausible deniability built into this scenario. He will say, if it is proven that these acts of cheating happened, that he didn't know. That it was over-zealous campaign staffers. That no one told him.

But just as it was impossible for thinking people to believe that a micromanaging control freak like Harper had no idea about Nigel Wright paying off Mike Duffy's fines, it is impossible to imagine Kenney had no clue of all the machinations that seem to have gone on in the leadership race.

I referred to politics as a game. But it is not. Some politicians conduct themselves as though it was, but their actions have very real consequences for real people. If Kenney wins and changes the rules about GSAs, it is almost certain kids will suffer. Some will probably die. If Kenney makes health care less accessible to the poor, people will suffer. Some may die, and some may go into crushing debt. If the UCP wins and rolls back worker and consumer protection, people will suffer. Some may die. If the UCP wins and cuts the environmental programs in Alberta, everyone will suffer.

It's not a game. And we need to be very, very careful when we choose the party that will form the next government of Alberta.

Integrity and Alberta Politics: the Kamikaze/above the law edition - Alberta Votes 2019 part 5

They were just talking on the radio news about how Jeff Calloway's lawyer is going to try to get an injunction today (April 1) to stop the investigations into irregular funding around the kamikaze campaign during the UCP leadership race. And all I can think is "The unmitigated gall of these people!" They say there is no urgency to the investigation, and people should be left alone during the campaign. NO! There is extreme urgency BECAUSE of the campaign.

Albertans have right to know if the leader of one of the major parties and his team have been up to unethical and illegal things BEFORE we decide who to vote for. They seem to think they are above the law. That a Kenney win eclipses any moral or legal considerations.

But it is the legal and moral considerations that should be front and centre here. Quite apart from his "make the rich richer and to hell with everyone else" platform, can we trust Kenney?

I seem to recall backroom deals with car dealerships to suppress consumer protection and stop sales of certain kinds of inexpensive cars.

Then there is the proposed sell-off of crown land. Who would benefit from this? Not First Nations. In fact, apart from car dealers, we don't know who has paid to play with Kenney because he has not released his donor list.

The people who are backing Kenney's campaign are not looking for the UCP to do things that benefit regular Albertans. They want to roll back worker protections and wages, reduce the regulations that keep up safe, and ignore climate change so they can become even richer. In what possible universe does any of this improve life for average Albertans?

Looking at the UCP platform one can get an idea of who has been giving money to their campaign. Oil and gas, of course, private insurers, private schools, anti-choice groups like the Wilberforce Project and RightNow, possibly large-scale agribusiness, car dealers, and the UCP "tough on crime" agenda has me wondering if someone in the business of building and running prisons hasn't paid for a bit of Jason's attention. But, of course, we don't know, do we?

We do know Kenney is being investigated for claiming a secondary housing allowance for while he allegedly lived in his Mom's basement in a retirement community that doesn't allow sublets. His leadership campaign is under investigation. Some of his candidates and campaign team are under investigation for financial issues as well as the alleged identity theft and fake votes using VPNs and offshore servers. Then there is the kamikaze campaign ploy...

There is so much shade over the UCP campaign right now. And Callaway has the nerve to suggest this should all be swept under the rug? Albertans need to know what's been going on. This election is about integrity. Who do you trust?