Although Thanksgiving is usually a time for Canadians to reflect on the things that they're thankful for and to express gratitude, this year it feels different. And some of our political leaders seem to have forgotten what it means to be thankful that we pay their salaries with our taxes. Instead, they want to attack and discredit anyone who doesn't agree with the way they run the government.
Take, for example, Alberta health minister Tyler Shandro. Given the controversy he has stirred up over the past few months, you would think he would be a bit more humble about his place in Cabinet and as an elected official. However, recently he has been accused of lying to the legislature on how many rural doctors are leaving the province. He has also allegedly been confrontational with various individuals, both at the local level and in the legislature. This is on top of the fact that the ministry is looking at cuts to AISH, privatization of hospital services, and that it has bullied physicians at the bargaining table. Even the usually friendly Postmedia chain, Edmonton Journal, has published an editorial calling for his resignation.
Alberta's Attack Dogs
Of course, Tyler Shandro isn't the only one attacking private citizens, nor is he the most prolific. The premier's director of issues management, Matt Wolf, has been actively going after anyone deemed a public nuisance by the UCP government. Case in point: His lengthy Twitter battles with physicians-turned-activists, Wing Kar Li and Jillian Ratti. Wolf made no bones about his disdain for Dr. Ratti, pointing out that she was a "failed NDP candidate" when she posted a profanity-laden video on social media last year, in frustration with the UCP government's attack on doctors in Alberta. But apparently, he didn't stop there.
He also went after the communications director for SOS Alberta, Dr. Wing Kar Li, after she publicly criticized the government for a potential conflict of interest that Tyler Shandro had in benefiting personally from a private health clinic. Remember Vital Partners Inc? The internet does.
Instead of dealing with the issue as is ostensibly part of his job, Matt Wolf chose to attack Wing Li personally, alleging that she is "smearing" the good name of Tyler Shandro's wife. This is part of a larger pattern of his MO, which is to go after the person themselves rather than address the issue. Again, he is a paid employee of the Alberta government, using his government account, paid for by Alberta taxpayers. He is using that public money to denigrate and quash dissenting opinions and criticisms.
(Un)Grateful Government Officials
For all of the tirades and tantrums that his ministers and staffers love to go on, it seems that by far, Jason Kenney himself is arguably the worst purveyor of political demagoguery. Whether he's belittling the opposition parties in the legislature, denigrating women with out of touch pedantic statements, or attacking unions and physicians, the premier wields a lot of influence with his views. And this is not a new issue for Jason Kenney. Ever since he was an MP federally, he has constantly used personal attacks to discredit the position of his political opponents. Remember this exchange between James Bezan and the former federal defense minister, Harjit Sajan?
Now the heckling itself is inaudible, but the Parliamentary Secretary for the PM, Kevin Lamoureaux, rose on a point of order to ask Jason Kenney to apologize for his "english-to-english" heckling of Harjit Sajan. To the surprise of no one, Kenney refused. Then there was this recording of Kenney, now as UCP leader ahead of the 2019 election, mocking an NDP candidate to get some laughs out of a sympathetic crowd.
But perhaps the most disgusting comments coming from Jason Kenney have been centred around unions, people with disabilities, and people who are homeless and/or suffering from addiction. There are many examples I could mention, but here are just a few of the most egregious cases. When the city of Lethbridge was slated to close the province's busiest safe-injection site, the premier characterized them as "NDP drug sites", citing a report from a medical expert who then released a statement the next day criticizing the Premier for conflating her report with a political party's social views, and Kenney's 'virtue-signaling how bad the NDP is.'
More recently, the premier has been focusing his attacks on public sector unions and healthcare systems. For instance, just a couple of weeks ago he said that his government was looking into eligibility requirements for AISH payments in Alberta, and then went on to say that when the policy was originally drafted, it was meant to provide coverage to 'the severely handicapped'. When people on social media called out the Premier for his choice of words, guess who was right there to defend his dear leader?
Yup, you guessed it, the very same Matt Wolf. You've gotta admire his consistency, if nothing else. But let's get back to Mr. Kenney, shall we? As we all know, he has a special hate-on for all things NDP. Whether it's safe-injection sites, or social activists, or physicians, he loves to label anyone criticizing him as being part of the NDP. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that he would lump in the Alberta Federation of Labour into the mix as well. Earlier this week, they posted a list of UCP-friendly businesses so that Albertans would know who was supporting the policies of Jason Kenney's government, in case they wanted to boycott said businesses. This was his response:
Whether it's politicians or their staffers, one thing is clear: The UCP hates being criticized for what it's doing while in government. Since they can't defend their actions, they attack and discredit their critics instead. You can't get much more cowardly than that. Meanwhile, the social fabric of Alberta is being ripped apart, piece by piece, so that the rich can get richer and turn the rest of us against one another. But the fight is not over, not by a long shot. As long as we are paying their salaries, we can hold them to account for their actions, at the ballot box and at the steps of the legislature. It's up to us to hold their feet to the fire. Maybe if enough us speak up and speak out, they'll remember to be more thankful when the time comes.
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