Alberta Politics
Opposition leader Rachel Notley, on the steps of the Alberta Legislature Building yesterday (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Being kicked out of the Legislature means never having to say you’re sorry

Posted on November 21, 2019, 2:31 am
8 mins

Apparently, being kicked out of the Alberta Legislature means never having to say you’re sorry!

Judging by the smile on her face yesterday morning as a crowd of more than 800 Registered Nurses furious at the prospect of having their pay cut substantially by Premier Jason Kenney’s hard-right government roared its approval, being exiled from the Legislature looks like a liberating experience for Rachel Notley.

Some of the nurses protesting their treatment by Alberta’s UCP Government at the Legislature yesterday morning (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Footloose and fancy free — for the moment, anyway — Ms. Notley can say what she thinks, over and over again if she pleases.

Saying it yesterday out in the cold sunshine on the steps of the Legislature Building, the Opposition leader looked the happiest she’s seemed since the NDP lost the general election last April to Mr. Kenney’s United Conservative Party.

With Mr. Kenney’s government mired in a genuine scandal of its own making — firing Election Commissioner Lorne Gibson by legislative fiat while he was in the midst of an embarrassing investigation into what appears to have been widespread barefaced cheating by Mr. Kenney’s supporters during his 2017 UCP leadership campaign — Ms. Notley pounded the premier on a wide range of policy issues.

She ranged from Mr. Kenney’s firing of Mr. Gibson, to his government’s “$4.7-billion no jobs corporate handout,” to the assertion the life-long politician “is the last man on earth you want messing with your pension,” to the undeniable fact it will be nurses who must pick up the slack when the UCP’s health care cuts take hold.

Alberta Legislative Speaker Nathan Cooper (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“And your reward? If all goes according to plan, for doing your part for Alberta, you get a 5-per-cent wage cut! That’s what this premier is pushing for!”

“While he flies around on private planes, you work harder,” Ms. Notley said. “While his staff stay in luxury hotels in London with champagne bars and vitamin-C showers, you have to take a pay cut. And while he gives away $4.7 billion dollars to big corporations, you lose control of your pension!”

“And if conditions get so bad that you or your patients feel they need to call the Health Advocate’s Office — you know who picks up the phone? The former president of the United Conservative Party!”

Well, if Ms. Notley won’t be allowed back in the Legislature anyway by Speaker Nathan Cooper until she apologizes to Government House Leader Jason Nixon for calling him a liar in the House, she can focus on attacking the government’s startling recent record as forcefully as she likes, without having one hand tied behind her back by the rules of Parliamentary decorum.

Congressman Davy Crockett, as imagined at the Alamo Memorial, San Antonio, Texas (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Mr. Nixon’s fib — implying Bill 22, the Reform of Agencies, Boards and Commissions and Government Enterprises Act, doesn’t mean Mr. Gibson is being fired, just because it eliminates his job — nevertheless by tradition can’t be called a lie inside the House.

When Ms. Notley wouldn’t apologize and withdraw the statement on Tuesday, though, out she went.

But when the time comes for her to return, of course, she will only need to apologize once.

No wonder Mr. Kenney — whose motto seems to be, “when the going gets tough, the tough get out of town” — has been holed up in Texas, leaving his cabinet and caucus to distract from the growing opprobrium it faces over his use of Bill 22 to put an end to Mr. Gibson’s aggressive efforts to enforce the law.

Soon-to-be-fired Election Commissioner Lorne Gibson (Photo: Office of the Election Commissioner).

Despite a stream of announcements — including Bill 26, Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen’s blatantly unconstitutional effort to ban unions on factory farms otherwise known as the Farm Freedom and Safety Act — the UCP hasn’t had much success yet making the smell of something rotten go away.

Mr. Kenney is due back in Alberta tomorrow. The way things have been going, he might want to take an extra day or two to soak up the sunshine in the Lone Star State, where he’s been living Davy Crockett’s famous aphorism: “You may all go to hell and I will go to Texas.”

That was a political story too, although in the famous 19th Century American frontiersman and legislator’s case, he’d just lost an election.

Defeated in his bid for re-election in 1835, the Tennessee congressman was reported to have said: “I told the people of my district that I would serve them as faithfully as I had done; but if not, they might go to hell, and I would go to Texas.”

He did. His Texas itinerary, alas, ended in tears on March 6, 1836, at the Alamo.

Government House Leader Jason Nixon. (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Well, never mind the American history lesson. Back to Ms. Notley:

“The Speaker kicked me out of the House for refusing to apologize for calling out the government house leader for lying,” she told the nurses. “He said they were not firing an officer of the Legislature. The words were in black and white right in front of him and this issue is too important to fudge.

“All of us have to tell the truth, in every corner, about what this government is doing.

“I refused to apologize for standing up for the truth, for what is right and true, and for the very democratic principles we hold most dear.

“So I’ll keep telling it like it is. If this premier wants to do an end run around our democracy, if he wants to shut down investigations into his party’s corruption, all while cutting our health care, cutting your hours, cutting your wages, and stealing your pensions, I will call him out for being the corrupt premier he is! For exercising the most unconscionable abuse of power in the history of this province and this country …”

Well, perhaps Ms. Notley is channelling the hero of the Alamo a bit herself.

As Davy Crockett also said, a little less famously: Be sure that you are right, and then go ahead.”

8 Comments to: Being kicked out of the Legislature means never having to say you’re sorry

  1. Chris Kozak

    November 21st, 2019

    I’m 46 years old, and even though I’ve been interested in politics pretty much all my life, I don’t have the context to go back to Manning to know if this current provincial leadership is the worst in history.

    Okay. I spent five minutes researching, and it’s pretty clear – Kenney has torn a hole through the fabric of Albertan political trust.

    Is there such a thing as impeachment of a Premier?

    Reply
    • Bruce Turton

      November 21st, 2019

      Only if you can convince about 20% of Albertans who voted UCP that they have been had and were mistaken and want recalls. Sorry, but this neoliberal con game with lots of austerity for those who do not support the UCP will go on for too long. And the planned take-over of the sums of $$$ in the pensions of teachers, nurses, and whomever else, will at least be used as collateral by the UCP bunch to warrant less risky investments from the oil types from everywhere. Of course, this bunch could actually use some of that pension $$$ for upgrading their flights to anywhere, among a host of other things. Sorry to be a pessimist, but when one looks at reality, one can go to that end of the spectrum very easily. As long as the UCP goons can convince their voters that they are only doing what is needed to reduce the deficit, they will succeed.

      Reply
      • Scotty on Denman

        November 21st, 2019

        I can’t find any legislation in Alberta for electoral recall—that is, recall of an MLA decided by electoral means. Anybody may petition authorities that an MLA was elected improperly: if warranted, the determination is made by trial, not by electoral means.

        Here in BC we have a Citizens’ Initiative Act which features propositions (procedure for putting a proposition on a ballot of some kind, a special plebiscite or referendum, or included on a general election ballot), petitions (by weight of signatories), and “Recall” (if at least 40% of the number of voters who voted in the previous riding election vote for Recall, the subject MLA must resign his or her seat and a by-election is called to fill the vacancy).

        About thirty Recalls have been exercised in BC but not a single MLA has been Recalled by constituents’ votes—either the threshold wasn’t met, the Initiative was abandoned, or—as in one case—the subject MLA resigned before the Recall came to a vote, rendering it moot. (That BC Liberal MLA might have been forced by his party to resign rather than have Recall legitimized and perhaps encourage voters to resort to it more often if he’d become the first example of a successful Recall campaign.)

        One infamous BC Petition was actually successful: an identical Petition—the “Anti-HST Petition” (Harmonized Sales Tax) was permitted limited time concurrently in each and every provincial riding, as per CI statute, and at least 10% of the number of voters who voted in each riding in the previous election signed the Petition, meeting the statuary threshold in each and every riding—legally forcing the BC Liberal government which had passed the HST legislation to act. It had a choice of repealing the statute in the Assembly (after which it could have, if it wanted or dared, re-introduce even the exact same bill, passing it with its parliamentary majority) or deciding the matter by province-wide referendum: it chose the latter—although, probably trying to look conciliatory after provoking the controversy in the first place, then-premier Gordon Campbell unilaterally reduced the super-majority threshold required in the CI statute to a simple, >50% majority threshold. Nobody complained.

        As it happened, Campbell was forced to step down by caucus revolt over the controversy before the Referendum was held; the HST was eventually rejected by a majority of BC voters at-large despite numerous voting irregularities throughout the process designed to frustrate the anti-HST faction. (Campbell fired the long-serving Chief Electoral Officer, replacing him with an “Acting” Chief unilaterally instead of by the usual all-party consensus, who had to be forced by the courts to reveal the Petition results and who didn’t have to explain why the margin of difference between the victorious “No” side and the “yes” side was suspiciously more like the near even, partisan dichotomy of BC instead of the much wider margin the two sides had been consistently polling up to the Referendum—because it was conducted by mail-in ballot where fraud and veracity problems cannot be detected.

        The supreme irony was that the Anti-HST Sponsor was none other than former BC premier Bill Vander Zalm who’d himself been forced to resign in disgrace by his own Socred caucus nearly two decades earlier—the CI proposal having been legislated onto the general election ballot as a referendum by the Socred government hoping to thereby regain electoral support it’d lost, partly because of Vander Zalm’s political scandals. Voters enthusiastically approved the CI proposal (which bound the new government to draft and pass CI legislation forthwith) and, just as enthusiastically, rejected the long-governing Socreds who were nearly wiped out, Mike Harcourt’s NDP winning a majority and Gordon Wilson’s newly resurrected Liberal Party of BC forming the Loyal Opposition (the Socred party soon evaporated and is now just a memory). After two decades out of the limelight, former Socred premier, “The Zalm”, had finally been vindicated: British Columbians hated the HST across party lines, and hailed the man they’d once vilified.

        The frustrating dearth of Recalls in BC —zero-for-thirty—has long provoked criticism and demands for reform or fine-tuning of the CI statute, despite that single, successful, high profile and very consequential Anti-HST Initiative: the very first time in 800 years of Commonwealth parliamentary history that a legislated tax had been repealed by force of popular measure—a precedent which ensures that somewhere, sometime, Gordon Campbell’s name will be cursed for having set the precedent by some future, beset politicians trying to impose an unpopular tax.

        The CI statute doesn’t have as accessible a proposition option as, say, California where they’re relatively easy to get on the general ballot and are binding on elected governments—even precluding discretionary implementation or increase of taxes to pay for essential services and infrastructure, effectively handcuffing budgeteers. The drafters of the BC CI law were quite aware of the California example—and therefore reticent to draft a similarly potent feature. In the rarest of bipartisanship in notoriously polarized BC, the all-party committee agreed the mandatory legislation shouldn’t make it too easy for voters to overturn regular elections— with wholehearted unanimity, naturally.

        It appears “citizens’ initiative” in Alberta can only “recall” an MLA if charges of electoral wrongdoing can be proved in court, not because a certain proportion of voters want the MLA recalled for whatever reason like here in BC. It’s unlikely the UCP government—or any government anywhere, for that matter—would voluntarily agree to draft and pass a CI statute, one with at least some level of effectiveness: despite claims to the contrary, elected politicians don’t really want to be held to such close account. Remember the CI proposal in BC only got onto the general election ballot for totally self-interested reasons: the Socreds were desperately trying to stay in power and to improve their flagging popularity by offering the CI ‘cookie.’ Nobody had been asking for it, but since it got onto the ballot by surprise they embraced it enthusiastically regardless.

        Now, if the UCP really wanted to have a meaningful referendum, instead of useless, money-wasting referenda on totally symbolic issues like separation and federal equalization funding, it could ask Albertans if they want a real Citizens’ Initiative law. There are plenty of CI models to examine and perhaps incorporate into an Alberta-made law.

        Too optimistic? Too bad y’all ain’t got Recall!

        Reply
      • Farmer Dave

        November 21st, 2019

        This is a perfect example how 70% of Alberta voters see politics. A caller called into a radio talk show and was complaining why the NDP were making an issue over the investigation into the UCP leadership vote and how it was all a waste of time and needless cost to taxpayers. When radio talk show host asked the caller if the NDP did the same thing as the UCP did would he be supporting the NDP and the caller said absolutely not, the NDP should be investigated over this type of issue. This is the type of voter Alberta is dealing with and Albertans are crying over western alienation? Albertans have created these Canada wide issues themselves. And it should be noted that most of Southern Alberta and all of Saskatchewan are known as Canada’s bible belt were problems are festered by the political extreme right wing.

        Reply
  2. Dave

    November 21st, 2019

    Apparently, Texas is showing signs of not being as reliably right wing as it used to be, so it may not be the safest place now for Kenney to go to try escape all the political storms he has created here. Part of the problem there, I understand is all the abuse Trump heaps on Latinos, of which there is an increasing number of in Texas. If you disregard or treat enough minorities badly, it can eventually add up to majority of people who you have offended or lost their votes.

    There is a lesson for Mr. Kenney here, which I suspect he is likely inclined to disregard because he has fairly rigid ideas about what he wants to do. Unlike his mentor Mr. Harper, who voters were also rightfully suspicious of and so only got minority governments on his first several attempts, Mr. Kenney has a majority from the start and so can pretty much do as he pleases. Mr. Harper had to put water in his wine for a while, for his government to survive, and found out that was not always so bad and how he could make it work. Mr. Kenney has not had to learn those lessons yet and it may come to him the hard way in the next election. I can see he may end up being his own worst enemy.

    I think the UCP as a whole also learned the wrong lessons from the last election. I believe they think that now the right is united, they are invincible. This is actually that same sort of arrogance that did in the PC’s. I had expected the UCP to have a bit more humility for at least a few years. So it seems they UCP continues to talk about the NDP being an accidental government, which I don’t necessarily agree with, but even if it is the Conservatives should remember, if they are bad or very careless drivers of the government, more than one (of what they would call) accident can happen.

    Reply
  3. Just Me

    November 21st, 2019

    Calling Jason Nixon a liar is just calling out what everyone already knows. Worse, apologising for calling him a liar will only embolden him to lie even more. This 6 ft. 6 + goon is Kenney’s best boy; because when Kenney decides Scheer job is more to his liking, it’s Nixon who gets to be premier. There’s likely not going to be a leadership contest. They’ll just hand the mantle to Nixon, then wear it into the next election. It’s not like they’re going to pick a permanent leader right before an election.

    But all things considered…

    Jason Nixon

    David Legg-Knight

    Jamie Huckabay

    Jamie Huckabay

    Kenney sure likes them tall…really tall.

    Reply
  4. tom in ontario

    November 21st, 2019

    DJC’s photo of the Premier and supporters is excellent, showing real people concerned about what’s happening to Alberta, unlike posed shots of UCPers, their faces contorted as if they’ve got broom handles stuck up their arses.

    Reply
  5. Murphy

    November 22nd, 2019

    Considering that the odious Kenney was a non-entity in Alberta provincial politics in 2015, it is certainly a remarkable thing that he is now the most overtly fascist premier since Manning Sr. The kamikaze-candidate is a tried and true Republican move, with Nixon’s people having apparently funded Julian Bond to split the black vote from McGovern, and Shrub’s people operating Al Sharpton’s run in order to hobble Howard Dean. I simply do not believe that the ignorant little copromorph Kenney came up with the Callaway scheme on his own.

    “Stone, who going back to his class elections in high school has been a proponent of recruiting patsy candidates to split the other guy’s support, remembers suggesting to Cohn that if they could figure out a way to make John Anderson the Liberal Party nominee in New York, with Jimmy Carter picking up the Democratic nod, Reagan might win the state in a three-way race. “Roy says, ‘Let me look into it.’” Cohn then told him, “’You need to go visit this lawyer’—a lawyer who shall remain nameless—‘and see what his number is.’ I said, ‘Roy, I don’t understand.’ Roy says, ‘How much cash he wants, dumbfuck.’” Stone balked when he found out the guy wanted $125,000 in cash to grease the skids, and Cohn wanted to know what the problem was. Stone told him he didn’t have $125,000, and Cohn said, “That’s not the problem. How does he want it?””
    https://pando.com/2015/08/11/behind-scenes-donald-trump-roger-stone-show/

    Reply

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