September 25th, 2020

Budget explanations disappoint

By Letter to the Editor on November 2, 2019.

I looked forward to the end of the provincial election campaign. Perhaps, I hoped, the partisan hype, bluster, and political spin would die down a bit. Maybe with a budget and detailed legislative proposals we would enjoy more rational, respectful and fact-based discussion.

Naive, of course. Recent statements by representatives of our new UCP government have dashed my hopes. Reasonable questions continue to be treated with disdain and personal attacks. Mystifying explanations, and blatant disregard for fact are still the order of the day.

Consider, for just one example, claims made by Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer in a recorded news conference on Oct. 29.

Did a large majority of Albertans really vote UCP, as Schweitzer vehemently proclaimed?

Does the election result – however it is interpreted – mean a government is justified in treating questions about specific policy proposals with personal attacks and misinformation? That’s what Schweitzer did, but it’s not my understanding of responsible governance.

Consider the facts reported by Elections Alberta. 64% of eligible voters actually cast a ballot in last April’s election and 54.9% of those voted for UCP candidates.

So, 54.9% (UCP voters) of 64% (of the eligible voters who voted) means 35% of all eligible voters supported UCP.

True enough that the UCP won 72% of the seats in the legislature. But that’s not the same as 72% support, regardless of what our justice minister, or anyone else, wants us to believe.

OK, it’s just a number. Perhaps Schweitzer “misspoke.” Perhaps he made an incorrect calculation based on the “new math” in a school formerly known as “public.”

It’s even possible that the minister was attempting to deploy the “reality distortion field” made famous by Apple founder Steve Jobs. Under the field’s influence, it was said, normally rational people abandoned all scepticism and became incapable of logical thought.

Whatever the explanation, the fact remains. Only a minority of Albertans actually supported the UCP in the last provincial election.

To ignore this reality and denigrate citizens who question government policy, as Schweitzer did, goes against a basic principle of democracy. Any elected government – majority or minority – is responsible to all citizens, not only its supporters. To speak and act otherwise is the sort of arrogance that Albertans neither appreciate nor deserve, no matter what their political allegiance.

David Gue

Medicine Hat

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