Jim Prentice is right about one thing; playing political games isn't going to get things advanced in Alberta.
But the way to solve it is not to play more political games.
He accuses the Alberta Liberals of pitting Albertans' beliefs against each other.
Then he turns around and does the same.
It's the one flaw Laurie Blakeman's private member's bill has; it talks about too much, and does pit one topic against another. If you believe GSAs should be supported, but also believe in parents rights, then Blakeman's Bill 202 isn't for you. The Wildrose ammendment is.
To be clear, Blakeman's bill is for me. I highly recommend you read my last blog to understand why, because it is also a good backgrounder for this blog. And as an Alberta Party supporter, I support good ideas, regardless of source.
Prentice wants to "show leadership and build consensus", but if his new bill, the Unwritten Bill, does all he suggests it will, he is not doing that.
Blakeman put her bill together based on principle, not based on political gamesmanship. She believes in safety for students at school in a world beyond discrimination. She believes in public education for every child, regardless of beliefs.
This is not a game for her. This is getting to the core of human rights for her.
Prentice hasn't stated what he believes, except that he thinks "the vast majority of Albertans" share the same beliefs. Well Mr. Prentice, if your party represents that vast majority, that must make me part of the minority. Can I get exempted in your new Unwritten Bill?
Prentice is putting the Unwritten Bill together for the purposes of usurping the conversation. The Unwritten Bill is touted to provide for safety for students at school in a world where discrimination is decided upon by school boards or the legal system. The Unwritten Bill is touted to give the opportunity for students to be exempted from learning certain knowledge, skills or attitudes.
Children should no have to fight for their rights. According to the Unwritten Bill, if kids are blocked from having a GSA or any other club that promotes a safe and caring learning environment, those kids must go to court. A government that sets up a system where children aren't guaranteed their rights to begin with is no representative of me.
There are two issues at play here that Prentice is ignoring and Blakeman is trying to respect.
Issue #1: MLAs bring forward motions and bills that represent the values of their constituents, most easily identified by the policies of the party they represent. This doesn't bode well for people like Kerry Towle or Ian Donovan, but it explains Blakeman's actions wonderfully.
Floor-crossing is a thorny issue, because a floor-crosser would, morally, need to provide evidence that their constituents did indeed want their MLA to cross the floor. The best evidence for such a decision would be to seek that mandate from their constituents again. Towle and Donovan, to my knowledge, have not done that.
But for Prentice to suggest that Blakeman is doing anything other than representing her constituents is ridiculous. It would be likened to a pot shouting "black kettle" while pointing at a red espresso machine.
Issue #2: It seems both the PCs and the Wildrose have no intention of offering any level of professionalism to teachers. You see, a professional teacher must adhere to a "duty ethic", much like doctors, which is roughly translated to "do no harm". Schools, by extension, must meet that same duty ethic.
Blocking knowledge amounts to harm done. This includes the differences similarities between evolution and divine creation, human sexuality, and what happens when you mix primary colours, among many other pieces of knowledge.
Blocking the development of skill amounts to harm done. This includes how to use logic to deduce, how to recognize bigotry and resolve conflict, and how to dribble a basketball, among many other skills.
Blocking the development of attitudes that will allow you to serve in your community amounts to harm done. This includes work ethic, how to respect the background of every individual (regardless of belief), and involvement in the democratic process.
So any legislation that permits the blocking of knowledge, skill or attitude development permits harm being done. Therefore teachers have no chance of remaining professional. What other aspects of teacher professionalism will the PC or Wildrose parties block?
If the Unwritten Bill is really going to give the opportunity for some kids to be exempted from certain knowledge, skills or attitudes, at what point do we bother with having a curriculum at all? Why don't we just ask the local parents what the curriculum should include? Who needs educational professionals at all?
If parents want to exclude kids from certain conversations at school, then don't use public school. Find a private school that will teach what you want it to teach. Public education must adhere to the duty ethic, and if you aren't willing to allow that to happen, find a private option.
Prentice's Unwritten Bill, if it does as it says, won't protect the rights of students. It will amount to harm being done. As I said before, every parent, teacher and student should but upset about that.
So I could talk about the floor crossing and the embattled Wildrose Party today, but I've got a better idea.
Let's talk policy.
The Wildrose-proposed amendments to Bill 202 make absolutely no sense to me.
The first time I heard about Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) from a political perspective was from Danielle Smith, leader of the Wildrose Party.
It was during a scheduled meeting with her immediately after the Wildrose voted against protecting their existence in schools. She sought out my opinion as a Catholic school teacher about them.
My response was that any initiative that promotes respect and dignity for every person is an initiative that any Christian should want to get behind. I also suggested that at no time could I fathom a faith-based school saying "no" to a group of kids who want to take that initiative on themselves.
A Christian school (Catholic or not) should want to encourage the teaching that every child is made in the image of God. A Christian school should also encourage the teaching that we are to love one another as we love God. A Christian school should also encourage the teaching that the only judgement that truly matters is the one by God, and even if someone makes a poor decision, they are still a child of God and eligible for His forgiveness. A Christian school should also encourage that we fight for the right of every individual to be treated with respect and dignity, regardless of circumstance.
My school teaches that. I have been given stories of other faith-based schools that don't, but I'm convinced that most faith-based schools teach that.
So when the Wildrose presents amendments to Laurie Blakeman's Bill 202 suggesting that such initiatives should not be forced upon faith-based schools, I ask "why not?"
If a Christian school is really worried about the term "Gay-Straight Alliance", then it's likely they already have an issue with acceptance among students in their school. It's such a school that may need a GSA the most. And if students in the school are comfortable enough, or brave enough, with even suggesting its existence then the school needs to embrace it.
Nothing in a Christian school is unteachable. In fact, in order for faith to truly develop, it must be challenged. By questioning one's faith, that faith can become stronger. By that very point, in a Christian school everything must be taught, especially the tools students need to strengthen their own convictions and faith. In that way they can understand the facts as they exist, and cultivate a belief system around those facts. The one thing that is most destructive to faith is a lack of action in it. By not challenging your faith, you take no action in it.
So what the Wildrose is in effect asking Christian schools to do is not allow their kids to challenge their faith, and therefore not grow in their faith. That should upset the parents of those kids, as well as any faith leader they interact with.
I further don't understand why the Wildrose seems to be so adamant about making teachers inform parents of conversations about sexuality, sexual health and religion. If the spirit of this is to simply keep parents informed, that is an expectation of teachers anyway, so the legislation is redundant.
However, if the spirit of this is to give parents the opportunity to limit their kids education, why not force teachers to also send a note home if they are discussing gender inequality, race or evolution? If a parent is prejudiced against the First Nations, why not afford them the opportunity to exclude their kids from instruction about them? If a parent truly believes that the role of a female is to be a servant to their male partner, why not afford them the opportunity to exclude their kids from instruction that promotes the authority of women? If a parent is prejudiced against the First Nations, why not afford them the opportunity to exclude their kids from instruction about them, or even moreso simply force a school to put their kids in classes with no First Nations students? If a parent doesn't believe in the scientifically proven concept of evolution, why not afford them to exclude their kids from such instruction (which would basically take them out of every Science class ever).
Eventually we'll see notes being sent home before discussing with students appropriate attire, and kids being removed from school because parents don't believe in sparkly clothing.
At which point, why doesn't the Wildrose just suggest an amendment that befits "ALL" issues Alberta students might be subjected to. They seemed to be rather content with that definition at their most recent AGM.
Then teachers will be forced under the Alberta Human Rights Act to send a letter to parents before each and every class. What else would the Wildrose like to see micromanaged?
The issues the Wildrose have to face right now have absolutely nothing to do with who jumps ship when. It has everything to do with their actions. And as they recently touted, their actions speak louder than their words.