By Medicine Hat News Opinion on January 11, 2020.
All eyes on me, and I don’t know what to say. Typical.
If I didn’t suffer from crippling anxiety every time more than a dozen people are looking at me, I would probably be using this space this week to thank the United Conservatives.
What they have given the Medicine Hat News in a little less than a month, I probably couldn’t have obtained over the next three years. Instead of the modest readership growth this space had been earning, the government’s fixation on my colleague, this newspaper and myself has attracted focus on our little operation from across the country.
While I appreciate the attention and extremely flattering comments and emails I have been receiving, I’m a full-time layout editor at a small newspaper who squeezes in time to write this column when I probably should be spending time with my family. I am committed and dedicated to bringing you this voice – in fact I’m about as motivated as I’ve ever been – but I’m hindered by the limitations of other responsibilities and the fact the News doesn’t exactly have Globe and Mail access to everything that goes on.
And that’s why this entire situation is so bizarre. We have a little more than 8,000 print subscriptions and, until recently, had barely any reach online.
Yet a baker’s dozen columns into this, I seem to have the government’s full attention, as evidenced this week with the UCP’s second submission of an op-ed in response to something we have published. I have zero intentions of playing a back-and-forth war of words with every government department that can’t handle criticism, so I’m not going to go through Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz’s piece point by point.
What I will say is it said absolutely nothing in relation to anything I have actually written, other than to offer a silly claim that I personally attacked her. With all due respect, Ms. Schulz, you’re a cabinet minister. If you’re taking the things I have said as “personal” attacks, you’re in the wrong business.
I do not accept your ridiculous straw man arguments as an official response to the things I have written and asked. It seems, once again, the UCP retort ignores the point as it offers up generic nothings I could have pre-written before you hit send.
At best, your work showed the continuous desire of your government to distract from the real point, as did Tom Olsen’s submission before it that was supposed to address Jeremy Appel’s work and never once did.
The News will gladly offer your government space to write as many op-eds as you wish, but what does it say about you that following a now-viral column where I said truth doesn’t need the talking-point version of an elected official who doesn’t answer questions directly, you submitted your own talking-point version of the truth and neglected to address a single question I posed?
The truth is not yours to construct. Answer the questions you’re asked, or get out of the way – this column is neither for you nor about you. This column is for the people not only tired of skewed crap from their elected officials, but other columnists who’d rather write about beards and bellybuttons than do any meaningful work.
This column is for people who are dying for someone, anyone, to offer them a perspective that isn’t funnelled through this garbage notion of economy first, people second. It’s for the people that understand that the collective good is their good – for those who get that your health is my health, that your education enhances mine, and that children who aren’t treated like an inconvenient expense provide immeasurable residual benefits and, therefore, pay for themselves.
And since the day I started writing it, all your government has done is shown to be afraid of it. Afraid that I’m striking a nerve with people who have craved a voice they’ve only ever been told to keep quiet. Afraid that I see through this “shock and awe” way of governing and know where it came from. Afraid that some of the hundreds of emails I have received have come from UCP voters who see through it, too. And most of all, they’re afraid that I know how to use research and journalism to present my case and I just happen to have the platform of a 135-year-old daily newspaper to do it from.
They’re deathly afraid of where this will all lead. And they should be.
PS – To all those who have reached out with words of hope, gratitude and encouragement, there were so many I couldn’t reply to them all. Just know that I feel your support and am beyond appreciative of all the kind messages. This is your province too, and you deserve a voice.
Scott Schmidt is the layout editor at the Medicine Hat News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. All opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the News’ editorial board.