Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Why we have Bill 44 - the WHOLE story.

While my post a few days ago was my emotional reaction to Bill 44 and the no-longer progressive Conservatives, I have had some time to reflect more on this issue from a logistical and political point of view. I have also benefited from some crucial background information from Paula Simons and Ken Chapman. As I started collecting great bits of information, the pieces all started to fit together and the big picture became much more clearer. Today, I hope to portray the whole ugly story as it looks from my point-of-view.

This story starts in the spring of 2006. Then premier Ralph Klein, subject of a regular leadership review from the PC party, receives a 55% approval rating and subsequently announces his retirement. In the race to replace him, Ed Stelmach won by being the second choice of most party members in the deeply divisive race between frontrunners Jim Dinning and Ted Morton. Since then, Ted Morton has not declared the amount of money raised or spent on his leadership campaign nor has he disbanded his campaign team.

Ted Morton believes that there exists an agenda "represented primarily by the gender feminists and gay rights movement--that target the natural family as public enemy number one." Furthermore, he believes that "according to the feminist-gay gospel, the great evils of this world are sexism and homophobia, and their breeding ground is the traditional family." In order to combat this conspiracy, he feels that "we must make enlightened family policy a cornerstone of the democratic state." And, we do this by "persuad(ing) our governments to require a 'family impact' statement for every new policy or law that is being considered." He says:

Before legislation is voted on, there should be an investigation and
written report that assesses its impact--positive, negative or neutral--on the
following aspects of family life:
  • Family income
  • Family stability
  • Family safety
  • Parental rights and responsibilities--especially the right to educate their
    children in the moral and spiritual traditions of their choice.

I don't want to paint the picture that this is all Ted Morton's doing, because he is not alone. There are many social conservatives in the party, who worry about the gay-feminist agenda. Their biggest fear stems from the case of Chamberlain v. Surrey School District which was decided on by the Supreme Court of Canada in June of 2002. In this decision the Supreme Court ruled that Surrey SD was wrong in not allowing a teacher to use children’s books portraying same sex parents in his classroom. The court ruled that the board relied too heavily on religious reasoning to make its decision:

The overarching concern motivating the Board to decide as it did was accommodation of the moral and religious belief of some parents that homosexuality is wrong, which led them to object to their children being exposed to story books in which same-sex parented families appear. The Board allowed itself to be decisively influenced by certain parents’ unwillingness to countenance an opposed point of view and a different way of life. Pedagogical policy shaped by such beliefs cannot be secular or non-sectarian within the meaning of the School Act. The Board reached its decision in a way that was so clearly contrary to an obligation set out in its constitutive statute as to be not just unreasonable but illegal. As a result, the decision amounts to a breach of statute, is patently unreasonable, and should be quashed.
There is an important distinction to be made between the Alberta education system and the BC system - a distinction that relied heavily in the Supreme Court's decision. The BC School Act has a clause on secularism in public schools (a very good policy in my mind), whereas the closest thing in Alberta is a clause on diversity in shared values (see section 3).

So, when Minister Blackett moved to introduce amendments enshrining equality for homosexuals in human rights legislation, the so-cons seized the opportunity to bring in so called "enlightened family policy." The result is that instead of having a secular education system where teachers and students can have objective discussions on religion, sexuality and sexual orientation - we will have teachers interrupting and muzzling conversations for fear of appearing before a human rights tribunal.

The question lingered for me: how is it that these so-cons were able to convince Stelmach and the rest of caucus to introduce and fight for this so-called parent right provision? Well the answer to that lies in the first paragraph of this post. Stelmach is up for a regular leadership review in November. With Morton's campaign team still in operation and, I suspect, money left in the bank, Stelmach is fearful that his content supporters will stay him and Morton will bring out his supporters in droves. A coup could be in the works. If you are Stelmach, you either appease him or open yourself up to being overthrown - and if Morton can't do it within the party, he can always leave and take his supporters over to the Wildrose Alliance. Unfortunately, this means that sensible progressives in the PC party are left carrying the burden of Morton's back room politicking.

As I alluded to in my previous post, Albertans don't need a sleazy back room tradeoff to bring in equal rights for gays and we should be apalled by this move. This issue specifically, but more generally the issue of the PCs promoting social conservative policies needs to be the next campaign issue - I know a lot of PC supporters who do not appreciate this fundamentalist social policy.


kenchapman said...

Thnks for the BC case reference - that puts other missing pieces and lose ends of what the PC Caucus was "thinking" when the approved this draconian law in Bill 44

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