Right now, there are three things that truly concern me about the party that looks like the most likely to wind up running this province after April 23rd. I fear that people are either not aware of what a Wildrose government would really stand for, or they don’t understand the repercussions of these three issues, so I thought I would put forward my thoughts on these topics here and hopefully open some eyes, or at least engage in some conversation about what I consider to be three very real problems with the Wildrose.
I’m going to start with Conscience Rights, because I view them as the Wildrose’s most ugly policy-that’s-not-a-policy. If you search the Wildrose web site for the word “conscience”, you get two links. The first is to a speech made by Danielle Smith presented last October at the Calgary Leader’s Dinner Speech entitled It’s Time for Alberta to Lead Again, and a press release entitled Wildrose demands government respect democracy on caucus funding. The latter only uses the word conscience when asking MLAs to vote based on theirs on this particular issue. The former uses it in reference to section two of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Finding references on their web site has proven difficult, and yet searching google for Wildrose conscience rights brings up all kinds of information. This article from the Edmonton Journal in particular drew my attention, citing comments by Danielle Smith, the party leader, as well as their own policies. Conscience rights should be granted, according to Smith, to health care workers and marriage commissioners.
Now, one might wonder what issues of conscience might impact health care workers or marriage commissioners where their conscience would preclude their duty as public servants. The only answer I can come up with is granting public servants the ability to not do their jobs based on their personal opinions. That doesn’t sit well with me. It smacks of allowing religion and opinion to enter into the public space. Many believe, for example, that a marriage commissioner should have the legal right to say, “I am sorry, but I won’t perform gay marriages,” but that is a public servant discriminating against someone on the basis of their sexuality.
It is interesting that it they talk of limiting this right to these two particular fields. To allow teachers, for example, the right to do the same would mean allowing a teacher who does not want to teach the facts of evolution to do so, but it would also mean that a teacher who believes that the Holocaust was a myth would not be required to teach a historically accurate viewpoint of World War 2.
These are back door policies to ensure that right wing Christians never have to do what they don’t want to do. You’re a Pro-Life doctor and don’t want to give an abortion? Well, forget the rights of your patient, your world view is more important. The trouble is, you have a job to do. Your job is not to inflict your personal faith and ideologies on the masses, but this “conscience rights” crap would allow you to do just that.
I’m not sure I entirely understand why the Wildrose want to scrap the Human Rights Commission. I’ve never heard complaints about the HRC that I felt to be valid, though I’m by no means in the know on a lot of what goes on there, and it’s entirely possible that I am not aware of the reality of the HRC. However, in the policy statement by the Wildrose about this topic, they specifically identify religious and right wing social commentators. I find it difficult, as such, to see this as anything less than a group of right wing religious politicians doing what they can to protect their right wing religious friends, the people who sing their praises loudest.
Replacing the HRC with a Human Rights Division of the Provincial Court of Alberta? Well, my immediate thought is that the court system is already frustrating, adding to their load doesn’t seem to be a good plan. The courts are already bogged down with cases, both legitimate and otherwise, and increasing their scope doesn’t seem to be a good way to see results.
As well, we’re back to the issue of income disparity. The claim, of course, is that financial aid would be set up to help low earning Albertans to ensure that they are able to engage in valid human rights claims. Well, that’s all well and good for the bottom and the top, but what about the middle? How much financial aid would your typical poor-but-not-broke family like mine get when it came time to argue for their human rights? Because of my income (which, in this case, does not take into account the gigantic amount of money I spend on child and spousal support), I do not presently qualify for legal aid. If I were to be involved in a law suit, it would probably bankrupt me. Let’s pretend that someone did something to attack my human rights, would I be quick to fight for my rights?
No. I’d suck it up and I’d deal with it. And I think most people in my situation would do the same. Is that really the kind of policy we want to see?
If there are legitimate problems with the HRC, then those should clearly be addressed. But throwing out the baby with the bathwater is always a mistake. If there is a real problem with frivolous complaints to the HRC, then perhaps the appropriate thing to do would be to grant the commission the ability to levy fines at their discretion? I would want to see how many of those complaints were found to be frivolous, and how many were legitimate decisions awarded in favor of the defendant?
One of the things I like about provincial politics is that, at least here in Canada, we consider abortion to be a federal issue. That means it’s not on the table. Abortion is an exceptionally effective example of the politics of distraction, getting people riled up about an issue that has no real bearing on anything. Oh, I get that the Anti-Choice people think that this is the single most important issue in the history of ever, but they’re wrong. A provincial election should be about the how of running a province. Abortion, now that it has been determined that the aforementioned section of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is intended to protect the choice of women, is not an issue. It’s legal, so get over it.
There is an Anti-Choice group that was harassing all of the candidates in this election, insisting that they fill out a survey on the topic. Wildrose chose to post their response online, which has since been replaced with this statement by Smith insisting that they will not be delisting it. The original response was not really one way or t’other on the topic, but implied that the Wildrose would want to put these issues to a citizen-initiated referendum.
If I’m not mistaken, this is legitimate. From what I’ve heard and seen, the Wildrose had no intention of announcing themselves as the Anti-Choice candidate. The sneak within me may conjecture that they did this to garner appeal from the religious right, but the reality is that I think the damage done by having to pull back from that statement in the eyes of the religious right probably makes this a legitimate mistake.
Still, the buzz is out there. Out door knocking with the candidate I support in the upcoming election (Kevin Woron from Calgary-Hawkwood for the Alberta Party), we were greeted by a voter the other night. He was clearly Conservative, and I think that he was intrigued by the Alberta Party’s fiscally Conservative message. But something troubled him. He fudged around a little bit before finally saying it, but he then asked outright what Kevin would do about delisting abortions.
Kevin responded by saying that it was not an issue. Abortions are a federal matter, and that the Alberta Party had no official position on the matter. The guy wouldn’t let up, so Kevin explained that the Alberta Party requirement for any issue that was new business would be that he hold town halls with his constituents to determine what they wanted him to say. Whether it matched his opinion or not, he would be obliged to vote with his riding’s consensus.
Naturally, this didn’t mean a thing to the guy. What he really wanted was to say, “So, are you Pro-Life or a violent, bloodthirsty atheist who drinks the blood of aborted fetuses in secret black masses to Satan?” It didn’t matter to this schmuck that Kevin had outright said his personal beliefs didn’t matter, the guy absolutely wanted to hear whether or not Kevin would let poor little fetusbabies be killed. This became the lynch pin for whom he would support.
And the topic isn’t even a provincial one.
Now, allow me to remind you for the record that I am not saying that the official policy of the Wildrose is to remove public financial support for non-emergency abortions. They have no official policy on this matter. The only match when one searches for abortion on their web site is Smith’s response that they have no policy on the topic. But I also think it’s fair to say that if they did have a policy, that would be it. I believe they would strongly encourage those concerned right wing Christian citizens to create those citizen initiatives, especially if they held a majority government. But this is my opinion.
I’m against this. A woman’s body is her own. I’ve commented on that here at length in the past, and right this minute I don’t feel like continuing on the topic. Delisting the service from coverage by our public health insurance would not make it illegal to have an abortion, just financially impossible for poor people. The word “non-emergency” in this context has always bothered me. Yes, there is a difference between a situation where a life is at stake and a situation where a life is unwanted, and that’s an important decision. But an unwanted pregnancy is still extremely time-sensitive. Abortions are not like trips to Disneyland, you can’t just save up the money over a year or two. You have a window of a handful of weeks to make the decision, pay for it, and get it done. We accept, as a society, that an abortion is a woman’s choice. Pricing that choice out of the ballpark is a disgusting attempt to backdoor the practice.
So this may not be policy, but I dare say it’s what they would like to see happen.
The Wildrose has done a fantastic job of slinging mud and getting attention, largely thanks to a media who has strongly supported them. Their campaign has been a mixture of interesting politics (some of which I agree with, some I don’t) and information management. I believe that all three of these issues to one degree or another are bad for Alberta, and the Wildrose supports them to one degree or another. And that concerns me greatly.