Allow me to put on my cynical hat for just a second to analyze the recent legislative flip-flop by the Alberta Government.  I’d like to investigate why it is wrong to paint the narrative of this picture as anything other than shameless pandering to the people of Alberta.

We’ll let the Edmonton Journal set the stage:

“EDMONTON – In a stunning about-face, the Progressive Conservative government Tuesday passed a new law making the approval of gay-straight alliances mandatory in Alberta schools, a move celebrated as a leap forward for human rights in the province.”

This is good news.  I’m all for more support systems for people who are often marginalized and bullied within the school system.  I have no contention with the actual passing of this bill.

“Education Minister Gordon Dirks tabled a surprise amendment to the government’s Bill 10 on the first day of the spring session.  Dirks said he spent months consulting with Albertans since Premier Jim Prentice put the legislation on hold in December. Some of those moments were very moving moments as you heard students telling their stories of being bullied, discriminated against, feeling suicidal, even attempting (it),” Dirks said. When that happens and you have those kinds of intimate, frank conversations with students, it goes from your head to your heart.”

I’m going to call bullshit right here.  This is the same government that is dismissively slashing the funding to the Child and Youth Advocate of Alberta.  You know, the people responsible for the welfare of children in Alberta, and also tasked with inquiring into why so many children are dying when they become wards of the state.  Let’s get the money quote here on the supposed benevolence of your government –

  “Afterwards, Progressive Conservative MLA Genia Leskiw was asked by reporters why there is money available for the Auditor General but not the child and youth advocate.  […] She said she doesn’t believe the advocate’s office “sharpened their pencils as sharp as they could have.”

First it is “Look in the mirror” and now we have “sharpening their pencils...”  The duplicity and arrogance of this Tory government is quite appalling.

Of course slashing the budget of the Youth Advocate has nothing to do with said advocates’ involvement in bad PR tidbits like this:

The Alberta government has dramatically under-reported the number of child welfare deaths over the past decade, undermining public accountability and thwarting efforts at prevention and reform. A six-month Edmonton Journal-Calgary Herald investigation found 145 foster children have died since 1999, nearly triple the 56 deaths revealed in government annual reports over the same period.”

Yep, they (The CYA) had better start manning the pencil sharpeners, stat!  Clearly, they lost their funding because of the glaring inefficiencies in their department…

Ah, but let us return to the sunny and fresh idea that we have democracy and our leaders listen closely to the peons people who elected them.

 “Passage of the law Tuesday all but took the issue off the table weeks before Prentice is expected to call a spring election. This is a case of a government responding to what they are hearing from the citizens of the province, including — I would emphasize — young people, who have had a significant say in this, who have moved me, and who have moved the minister,” Prentice said. “

WOW! Watch our keen government action; responding with adroit swiftness to issues that, to the government, have no meaning outside of the opportunity for some beneficial PR on the embarrassing social conservative front (hey look at us, we are not completely regressive ftw!).

Citizens of the province have been demanding more royalties from oil companies.

Citizens of this province have been demanding an end to the environmental chaos being sown in the Tar Sands region.

Citizens of this province have been demanding a fair and progressive tax structure.

Citizens of this province have been demanding prudent use of oil revenue and the establishment of a fund that would benefit all Albertans.

Citizens of this province have been demanding a rational plan of action to facilitate the ‘boomer bump’ in demand for medical services.

On these issues dear friends – there are no fucks to give – because these all involve diminishing the status of the moneyed few that help our elected officials ‘properly’ govern this fine province.  So, hoi-poli, revel in your amazing victory and in making the government really “listen” to your concerns, especially you, younger Albertans.

Meanwhile, back at the Child Advocate office:

“Last May the government expanded the responsibilities of the advocate’s office, effectively doubling the number of child death reviews that need to be done each year, Graff said.  In July, the committee agreed to increase Graff’s budget, “so there was acknowledgement that the additional work demanded additional resources,” he said.  This is an absolute example to do more as a result of legislative amendment and then with the decision yesterday being provided with less resources to do it.

Graff [Alberta’s CYA] is worried they may have to reduce their workload.

“The very best we can do is delay some of investigations,” he said. “We wouldn’t want to be making decision about whether or not they’re ever done based on dollars.”

Yes, I believe we should celebrate the GSA ruling, but realize that this small victory and frame it in a context of a government that will “listen” only when the perceived cost of doing said thing, is politically expedient.

Alberta CYA

Del Graff, Alberta’s CYA looking sombre in as he contemplates getting more work *and* less funds.

[Source: #1, #2, #3]

[Source:Edmonton Journal #1, #2]