September 25th, 2021

Laying It Out: Speak now or forever regret your silence

By Medicine Hat News Opinion on February 15, 2020.

Premier Jason Kenney and the United Conservatives aren’t listening, so you’re going to have to speak up.

It doesn’t look like any amount of war room embarrassment, hits to employment, protests from nurses, or cuts no one asked for is going to cause this government to backtrack. As chaotic as it often looks, a calculated plan is in place and these growing-but-still-small pockets of citizen dissension are not going to force their hand.

From Kenney’s perspective, and with the career to back it up, if you’re going to get anything done you pick your side and get after it – you don’t piddle around trying to please people.

In that respect, I give full credit to the premier and his cabinet for their willingness to ignore opposition, ignore critics in the media, ignore unions and ignore any idea of losing votes as they plow through with their agenda. Hey, it might be backhanded, but it’s a compliment nonetheless.

Governing is about making choices, it’s about taking a stance, and long before he won the election, Kenney chose corporate profits and settled into an immovable battle position to protect them.

He knows exactly what he wants to do at all times, believes to his core in what he’s doing (and who he’s doing it for) and is utterly unafraid to push forward with the plan even if things go wrong – and boy have they ever. He’d let history judge him as the man who dismantled Alberta before he’d deviate from this market fundamentalist mission he’s on.

He expresses pride in plunging popularity and makes jokes about “Greta’s boat” when questioned over personal spending of public dollars. He doesn’t care what people think about UCP plans or actions, and he cares even less if they know it.

And yet, while the disinterest is obvious, the government continues to offer up the notion that it’s not only listening to citizens and experts, but actually following through on their wishes. Panels rigged from the beginning, a curriculum review that omits current teachers and scientists, parents given three days notice for an open house that the minister who announced it doesn’t actually attend – all for the illusion of consultation.

The whole thing seems odd on the surface – a government that twists itself to look like it’s listening while openly admitting it doesn’t mind if you hate its decisions. But, like anything else the UCP has done or will do in the future, the contradictory actions serve a purpose.

All over Alberta are people who lead organizations, programs, businesses or institutions whose compliance with government decisions is needed in order to keep citizen or employee unrest at a minimum, and any fear of repercussion locks that into place. If people at the top are quiet and play nice it muffles the voices of those underneath, and that keeps dissension low and unorganized, which is the entire point.

Children’s programming directors afraid they’ll be cut off completely if they come out against slashed funding and daunting application processes. Post-secondary presidents who think they’ll lose any voice they had if they criticize a funding model that ignores the purpose of a broad education. Mayors and reeves who worry even more expense will be downloaded to their jurisdiction if they push back against grant removal, or less infrastructure money, or orphaned gas wells.

The list goes on.

But if parents, or teachers, or professors, or employees can’t get their concerns out the door without the people who supposedly protect their interests rolling over with a “Please, sir, may I have some more,” it gives the UCP full freedom to ignore them.

To the detriment of collective good, there seems to be a province-wide mindset that if the heads of organizations, or school boards, or post-secondary institutions, or childhood education programs, etc., etc., etc. don’t smile and nod their way through it all, there might be a loss in funding, or a cancelled program, or a bout of layoffs to follow.

Except, the loss of funding and the cancelled program and the bout of layoffs are coming regardless, and no amount of quiet resolve is going to change the mind of the guy pulling the strings. And since that stay-quiet-and-hope approach won’t have any bearing on the outcome, what’s the point in wasting the one chance you had to speak up?

The UCP majority government, despite what it says, does not actually have free reign for four years – at least, it isn’t supposed to – yet Kenney’s unabashed, hard-hitting approach to austerity dismisses that as policy decisions steamroll Albertans struggling to keep up. The sheer speed makes opposition extremely difficult, but throw in a stack of complicit leaders who hope compliancy will cause the bombs to hit less hard or land somewhere else, and standing up to it is next to impossible.

This is not to say no one in these positions is happy with the UCP’s direction or welcoming the cuts and changes being thrust upon their organizations, but I know for a fact there are plenty that aren’t. And if those people are going to simply sit still through all this then no one will ever know the difference.

I understand that speaking out can feel pointless when the government brags about complaints like they’re points on a scoreboard, but when the plan is to chop, slash and gut the very thing you’re supposed to protect, a voluntary muzzling is nothing more than a signed permission slip.

Silence might be easier, but easy is getting you nowhere.

Scott Schmidt is the layout editor at the Medicine Hat News. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @shmitzysays. All opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the News’ editorial board

Share this story:
Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Les Landry
Les Landry
1 year ago

I really wish this article was fiction as I’m sure someone from the UCP will claim, but it isn’t.
This government isn’t doing it slash and burn policy cutting with any thought or precision. They are not using a scalpel, they are using a chainsaw and they do not care who gets caught in the meat grinder.
I just read in today’s paper that our “Award-Winning” Core has lost its funding because of this government’s twisted and sick attitude towards people including children with disabilities.
Where’s MLA Drew Barnes on this? Maybe if he curbed his complaining about Ottawa and stopped feeding the Trudeau anger machine to distract everyone from what they’re really doing to our community and started doing the job he was elected to do. Where is the invisible Brooks-Medicine Hat MLA Glasgo? We haven’t heard too much from her “church carbon tax” gaff. How about trying to get over that and do the job you were elected to do.
Hatters are having everything pulled out from under your feet and the lack of action from our MLAs is very questionable. I have friends with families that work in the Hospital’s laundry. I’m impacted by the crap they’ve done with AISH and now we’re witnessing their continuing attitude towards people with disabilities as they cut services to children with disabilities using the CORE programs.
Think about the 33 families that are impacted by the closer of CORE and more importantly think of Minister Sawhney’s advice to the parents of their children being cared for by CORE. She said, “The provincial government says the solution for parents affected by the cancellation of CORE Association’s children’s program is to contact their child’s caseworker.”
Let me ask, “Are you really better off than you were a short ten months ago?”
It’s like I said in my Feb 10th “Letter to the Editor” … “Let me ask: When will you be concerned? Only when they come for you? When you can’t insure your car? Because let me remind you, we are already at that point and it will only get worse.”
Your car insurance is obvious, what until your property taxes go up because of the UCP cuts to the municipalities. And the UCP already have their talking points on that, “If Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat or any other town only knew how to budget, you wouldn’t be in this situation.”
It’s only a matter of time they burn you, and then it will be too late. Start contacting Barnes and Glasgo and tell them that you expect them to stand up for our workers whether they work in the Hospital laundry or if it’s the community’s children with disabilities.
Tell them enough is enough and if this continues, remind them we vote them out just as easy as we voted them in. It’s time they started working for us and not Kenney’s hidden agenda, even if it’s coming from Harper.

1 year ago

Education is in trouble.
Looking at Alberta’s history under Conservatives they cut the funding for universities back to 1958 levels. They have never recovered. This drives tuition up so it is out of reach for most Albertans, not just some.

They took advise they could not grow “big business” because they could not graduate enough degrees. That is what brought that about.

Next phase was to cut support for university entrance cutting advanced algebra and calculus from the courses. So, extra money had to be spent for our family and others to get the necessary touting in place so our kids could move ahead.

The high school councilors were telling kids who hit the local education wall they would make better nurses than doctors. This happened to my girl.

Next having Dummed down the High School courses they started the same thing Kenny is doing now. Fund schools based on their academic standing. Schools to get the money put a smart kid in with a group of 4 average or less. The other three sat on their tails while the bright ones carried the load and did the homework. Anything to get the averages up! But they weren’t finished yet.

They reduced the high school mark requirements for trade schools. They dropped them from 80% down to 60% and generations were graduated that couldn’t sign their name properly. I warned people about the LDS education system and why they should stay clear of it.

Yet, the same thing is going on under the Kenny Kingdom. Parents should get very involved in their kids’ education and the system.

The travesty didn’t end there! Alberta put out adds throughout the US and around the world for managers (degree jobs) and these people were hired directly into Canada with little or no background checks.

And, people who supported this kind of thinking ruled the day. In the same era, Oil Companies brought in 1000 rig workers at discount wages to work Alberta’s conventional oil fields. Busted, they put a small army of lawyers into the patch to fix citizenship papers for these people. Oil explained it was better for them to used trained people out of Oklahoma than train Canadian kids from scratch.

1 year ago

Scott Schmidt Thank you for saying what needs to be said and speaking for many of us who feel our voices are just getting lost in the black hole of the UCP agenda- they ARE NOT listening to Albertans, their constituents. I have written my MLA, and various ministers. I have even asked for the Premier’s resignation due to the fact that people voted for him and the UCP party based on their campaign promises and these promises have now been proven to be outright lies. Please know that we are paying attention to your column and you have an army of supporters behind you. Keep up the amazing work you are doing!

1 year ago

Amazing thought. If you don’t have courage to speak against lie then you should keep silence.