November 25th, 2020

Laying It Out: Non-stop hits, never their fault

By Medicine Hat News Opinion on October 24, 2020.

You know it’s a big news day when the premier is isolating because one of his cabinet ministers has COVID and the story ends up on page 5.

But, such is the life of a layout editor living in present-day Alberta – you don’t know what each day will bring, you just know it’ll be bananas. And when the premier’s plan is to simply ride this virus’s second wave, it’d honestly be a bigger story if no one in his caucus ever caught it.

So you can understand our reluctance to redo the front page when we heard that Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard tested positive and Premier Jason Kenney was heading to the basement to be alone for a while. Especially when the news surfaces on the same day that leaked information regarding both medication and school curriculum sheds further scathing light on the kind of Alberta the United Conservatives are seeking.

And in a province where we’ll pay for health care and teach scripture to children, I can only assume the Alberta our government seeks is 1950s Oklahoma.

As revealed in the News this week, Alberta Health Services has been planning to save a cool $2.3 million by making certain hospital and clinical out patients fund their own medication. And while AHS says it would only include “non-urgent” medications, the definition is left to interpretation and there is already indication the move would affect Crohn’s, cancer, palliative and LTC patients.

I’m not a doctor, but if you’re in a life-long battle with your digestive tract, or facing possible or imminent death, maybe we shouldn’t split hairs over 0.01 per cent of the $20.6-billion health-care budget. Honestly, of the list of affected patients, the ones with diarrhea for life have it the easiest. Are we seriously suggesting that any medication they require could ever be “non-urgent”?

This is where I would really love to say that this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, but unfortunately this is 2020 Alberta and so it wasn’t even the dumbest thing we heard Wednesday.

That honour, of course, goes to the UCP’s handpicked panel of school curriculum advisers, whose advice for shaping the way we teach children from Kindergarten to Grade 4 borders on the insane. The least ridiculous ideas include teaching feudalism, Chinese dynasties and Homer’s Odyssey in Grades 2 and 3, or teaching Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso to kids in Grade 1.

Some of the more entirely awful ideas, however, include omitting any teaching about residential schools until Grade 9, removing all talk about “equity” – the one about fair treatment, not the one about owning stuff – and teaching public students creationist scripture as poetry.

Obviously, critiques came fast and plentiful, but since certain columnists in Alberta seem to cite only those they can tie to the NDP, I’ll just focus on the gentleman from Indiana University Bloomington who told longtime reporter Janet French that implementing these ideas would make the province a “laughingstock.”

“It just showed no familiarity with how children think and learn,” said Keith Barton, a professor and specialist in social studies curriculum. “And it certainly showed no familiarity with the past 30 or 40 years of research theorizing about what history and social studies education should look like.”

He went on to describe the overall list of recommendations as “utter nonsense.”

Education experts like Barton are saying this new curriculum would be regressive, racist and flown in the face of all supported research. Um, no kidding.

To her credit, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says residential schools will be taught somewhere in K-6, and said that the panel’s recommendations were simply advice. A day earlier her press secretary, Colin Aitchison, reflected a similar stance when he pointed out that the panel makes no final decisions and that the government was under no obligation to adopt any of it.

But how, exactly, does that absolve the UCP from responsibility? As stated above, the panel was hand picked for this task, and when its members were widely criticized, everyone from Aitchison to LaGrange to Kenney touted the expertise of each member. You don’t get to do that and then distance yourselves when the panel does exactly what critics told you it would.

Maybe that’s my point this week. No matter what the issue is, and no matter how deeply responsible the UCP is, it will consistently attempt to remove itself from fault of any kind.

“Who? Us? Noooo… of course not.”

We didn’t cost jobs. That was Ottawa and COVID.

We didn’t close Medicine Hat’s maternity clinic. That was AHS and Primary Care.

We didn’t suggest teaching kids this crap. That was the advisory panel.

Meanwhile, everyone with the Internet knows tens of thousands of jobs have been axed by the UCP (930 more this week), the government determines the budgets for health-care providers, and panels are the only tangible thing they’ve “created” in 18 months.

The world is vocally leaving Alberta behind and our government’s strategy always revolves around fighting, hiding or shifting blame. A PC premier once told Albertans to “look in the mirror” and became the first in his party to lose an election in 44 years.

The UCP points the mirror in every direction but its own. If these folks refuse to ever flip it around, maybe we should just show them the door.

Scott Schmidt is the layout editor for the Medicine Hat News. Contact him by email at sschmidt@medicinehatnews.com

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