Category Archives: Don Getty

Don Getty Ray Martin Laurence Decore Alberta Family Day Debate

Alberta’s Great Family Day Debate of 1989.

The annual Family Day long-weekend is something that many Albertans look forward to. The many Albertans who take for granted the holiday on the third Monday of February may be surprised to know that the idea of creating Family Day was incredibly controversial when it was first introduced in 1989. It may be his greatest legacy as Premier, but when Don Getty introduced the Family Day Act on June 1, 1989, it generated some intense debate on the floor of the Legislative Assembly. Here are some quotes from the debate, care of Hansard:

Kurt Gesell MLA Alberta

Kurt Gesell

June 5, 1989
Laurence Decore (Liberal MLA Edmonton-Glengarry): “It seems to me that when your province is in difficulty, when you know that you’re going to be experiencing the lowest economic growth rate in Canada, something should be brought forward to excite and energize and stimulate Albertans. The family day Act doesn’t do that.”

June 6, 1989
Kurt Gesell (PC MLA Clover Bar): “The promise of the throne speech of love of family, home, community, and province facilitates these choices. The family day Act is an excellent start, and forms part of the measures stressing the importance of Alberta families. I want to applaud our Premier for the introduction of this initiative.”

June 7, 1989

Don-Tannas-Alberta MLA

Don Tannas

Don Tannas (PC MLA Highwood): “Government alone cannot create a true family day. It can merely provide the opportunity for others to make it a family time, and therefore it is an important step to bring focus to the fundamental importance of the family, through family day. Many of our Christian denominations emphasize having at least one day a week devoted to family activities. A family day once a year provides an ideal opportunity for all families to focus on themselves, to look at reconciling their differences, to take joy in their common ancestry, to participate in shared activities, and to focus on all the members of their extended family on a day other than a family funeral. No, Mr. Speaker, a government cannot do it by itself. Family day must grow in the hearts and minds of all Albertans, and I’m proud that this government has taken this important step.”

Norm-Weiss-Alberta-MLA

Norm Weiss

June 8, 1989
Ray Martin (NDP MLA Edmonton-Norwood): “I’ll stand up in the Legislature and give them credit if it’s anything close to what we’re doing in Bill 201. I point out that just like your so-called family day, Mr. Speaker — I recall them running that Bill down, but then for once they did the right thing and brought it in, the midwinter holiday. So I’m hopeful after the eighth try that they might take a look at a Bill like that. Again, government members, if you don’t understand the problem and you think everything’s okay, you’re just not listening to the public.”

June 19, 1989
Norm Weiss (PC MLA Fort McMurray): “I hope we’d see such things as family cards for family days, as we see for Valentine Day and Father’s Day and Mother’s Day and instances like that.”

Bettie-Hewes-Alberta-MLA

Bettie Hewes

Bettie Hewes (Liberal MLA Edmonton-Gold Bar): “We still are beset with runaways, with dropouts, with an increase in teenage pregnancy. Yet it doesn’t seem to me our Family Day will in any way help those problems that are a consistent source of stress in family life in Alberta and an increasing source of stress. Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier and the members of the Legislature what Family Day will do to alleviate the need for respite for young families who’ve been encouraged to keep mentally or physically handicapped children at home.” … “This government’s commitment to strengthen family life has yet to materialize. With regret, Mr. Speaker, this particular family Act doesn’t accomplish it in any way.”

Derek-Fox-Alberta-MLA

Derek Fox

Derek Fox (NDP MLA Vegreville): “It’s not enough to pay lip service to the family in Alberta, just to say, “Well, we love the family; therefore, everything’s going to be wonderful for families in Alberta” or “We’re going to name a holiday Family Day, and everything will be wonder- ful for families in Alberta.””

Don Getty (PC MLA Stettler): “The members opposite from the Liberal and ND parties are surely a hesitant, fearful, timid group, unable to bring themselves to look at something in a positive way. I guess they’ve been in the opposition that long that they just can’t turn around their minds in a positive, thoughtful way and think of the kinds of things they could have raised to support Family Day and talk about the exciting things that will happen in the future in Alberta on Family Day. Instead we heard a series of complaints and fears, and that’s really sad.”

“We will have this thinking of Family Day, thinking of the importance of the family. Both the NDP and the Liberal members said: will people participate; will they actually get together as families? Their view is: force them to; use state control in some way. Force litem to. Make it the law that you’ve got to get together. Now, what kind of nonsense is that? Surely that’s the kind of centralist, socialist thinking that is so wrong and the reason why they’re where they are, Mr. Speaker.”

Marie-Laing-Alberta-MLA

Marie Laing

Marie Laing (NDP MLA Edmonton-Avonmore): “…all too often the member of that family that is forced to work is the mother or the woman, because they are employed in the retail trade. So we have to say: what kind of a Family Day do you have when the mother has to be at work and cannot be with her family?”

August 10, 1989
Mr. Weiss: “…the proposed amendment, as introduced by the hon member, certainly would create chaos. She went on to say, and I quote how would it help battered women, those sexually abused? I would like to say to all hon members of the Assembly that I really don’t know. Does any body know? But maybe just the reality of knowing one day has been designated as Family Day will shock both sides of a broken family into the realities that there are problems in this world, and as a realist we don’t run from them, we try and work towards improving them and bettering them from all sides It’s not just “empty rhetoric” as quoted by the hon member.”

Mr. Decore: “It is that not everybody is allowed to celebrate the holiday. The moms and the dads and the grandmothers and the grandfathers and the uncles and the aunts and the children aren’t able, many of them, to come back to that family unit to participate in that Family Day. Therefore, the Act isn’t fair; it isn’t fair to the thousands of people who must work.”

Bob-Hawkesworth-Alberta-MLA

Bob Hawkesworth

Bob Hawkesworth (NDP MLA Calgary-Mountain View): “…it’s really a shame to me that they would miss the real opportunity that this Bill could provide to create a genuine Family Day, not just some bogus, poor substitute for something that we once had once a week in this province. It’s a shame to me and a tragedy to me that this government over the years has failed to act in this important way. I think it’s highly regrettable. Here is some small
way that they could rectify an injustice.”

August 15, 1989
Mr. Getty: “…the hon. Member for Edmonton-Centre [editor’s note: the MLA at the time was William Roberts] has such a hesitant, fearful, timid view of the capacity of the people of Alberta that he would want in some way to pass legislation that forces people to do certain things. It’s the socialist, state-control thought, and it’s wrong. It has been wrong in the past, and it’s wrong now. You have to have faith in the people of the province that they will develop this family day, that they will work. The government merely provides the framework; it’s the people who do it. It’s not people against their employers. Surely they’re all the people of Alberta. They work together, and together they’re going to develop family day. I know that someday in the future that poor, timid, hesitant Edmonton-Centre MLA, wherever he will be in those days, probably . . . Well, no, I won’t even speculate, because we’d probably have to help him to the food bank.”

February 1, 1990
Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid wrote about the first Family Day: “The premier failed to consider a few realities of modern family life – little things like children, work, school and day care. These matters refuse to vanish just because the couch potatoes in the legislature want another holiday and the premier waves his wand.”

the top 3 alberta political moments of the decade.

The masses have spoken and after 1628 total votes from this blog’s readers, the top political moments of Alberta’s past decade have been chosen. After being chosen from the final group of ten, these three moments made it to the top of the list:

3) 2001: Premier Ralph Klein‘s visit to the Herb Jamieson Centre in Edmonton. Long-known for his enjoyment of alcoholic beverages, Premier Klein’s late night visit that night changed how many Albertans viewed the Premier’s vice. Shelter residents claimed after Premier Klein and his chauffeur stopped in front of the Men’s shelter, the Premier began slurring, swearing, and yelling at the men to get jobs. Witnesses told reporters that Premier Klein then threw money at them. In a statement released soon afterward Premier Klein publicly apologized and declared that he would quit drinking.

2) 2004: Premier Ralph Klein declaring Alberta fiscally debt free, making our province the first debt-free province in a decade would have been my choice for the most important political moment of the decade in Alberta politics. When Premier Klein stood up at his Calgary Stampede breakfast and declared Alberta to be debt free, a major political narrative came to an end this province.

Aiming to defeat the deficit and debt saved the PCs from being unseated by the Liberals in the 1993 election after Laurence Decore used his infamous debt clock to highlight the growing debt and fiscal meanderings of Premier Don Getty‘s administration. This defining narrative changed the landscape of Alberta politics, contributing to the decimation of the NDP in 1993 and the marginalization of the post-Decore Liberal Party. It was the defining theme in Alberta politics in the 1990s and early 2000s. Since Alberta was declared debt free, the PCs now led by Premier Ed Stelmach have struggled to create a compelling narrative for being in government.

If I were to wager, in 30 to 40 years, this moment will be front and centre in Alberta’s history textbooks. As the Chief of Staff to the President of Daveberta wrote in an earlier post, “the language of our elections and our politics is shaped around deficits and spending in a way that isn’t present in other politics.”

1) 2008: While too early to estimate in my opinion, democracy and the readers of this blog have chosen Linda Duncan‘s election victory in Edmonton-Strathcona as Alberta’s top political moment of the decade.

After placing a commanding second in the 2006 election, Duncan challenged the Conservative Party hegemony in Alberta by unseating backbench Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer and becoming the second-ever NDP MP from Alberta in 2008. Duncan’s campaign had momentum from the moment the writ was dropped and drew significant volunteer support from across Edmonton and across party-lines. Duncan also became the first non-PC/Reform/Alliance/Conservative MP to represent Edmonton-Strathcona since Liberal MP Hu Harries was elected in 1968 and the first non-Conservative MP elected in Alberta since 2004.

Since becoming the Federal NDP environment critic in the House of Commons, Duncan has brought a very unique voice to federal politics in Alberta as a vocal critic of current environmental practices in Alberta’s oil sands, a proponent of National Hockey Day, a member of the Canadian delegation at the COP15 Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, and as the only Alberta MP to vote against abolishing Canada’s federal gun registry. The lawyer and former Chief of Enforcement for Environment Canada recently released a new book (which is sure to be a Christmas hit) “A Legal Guide to Aboriginal Drinking Water: A Prairie Perspective.” The video below was filmed during Duncan’s 2008 election campaign:

what’s going to happen at the pc leadership review?

Barring a stealth insurgency campaign, I anticipate that around 85% of Progressive Conservative convention delegates will support Premier Ed Stelmach in the leadership review vote this weekend. Why so high, you ask? Because this is a vote by dedicated partisans from Alberta’s PC Party. Premier Stelmach has his detractors, but I expect that the kind of party members who would pay hundreds of dollars to spend two days in Red Deer will predictably rally around the PC Party brand.

Seeking to revive fond memories a past era, the slogan chosen for this convention was also the PCs 1979 election slogan. Now… more than ever, which was chosen thirty years ago over the wrath tempting 79 in ’79, is meant to remind party faithful of the glory days and to put aside their feelings about more recent political baggage. 

With at least two or three years until the next election, Premier Stelmach has at least twelve months to pull his party’s support up again before he faces the kind of internal opposition that forced Don Getty into retirement. Similar to Getty’s time in office, Premier Stelmach is governing during an economic slowdown under the shadow of a popular predecessor. Getty’s administration was marred with scandals and internal dissent and so far, Premier Stelmach has demonstrated an ability to avoid taking personal responsibility for his government’s missteps. Getty retired in 1992 as Laurence Decore‘s Liberals were riding a wave of discontent that mirrored the rise of the Reform Party on the federal stage. While they are currently rising in recent polls, it remains to be seen whether Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Alliance can sustain their support until the next election. It also remains to be seen whether David Swann can re-energize the Liberals to take advantage of a potential split on the political right.

Also uncertain is who would contest a 2010 leadership race if PC delegates voted to sack the Premier. Ted Morton, Brett WilsonJim Prentice, Dave Hancock, Jonathan Denis, Ray DanylukAlison Redford, and Doug Horner are names that I have heard bandied around, but it is too soon to tell who is actually prepared to step up to the plate.

Billed as a policy convention, a quick look at the policy booklet reveals a fairly dry agenda for debate. It is likely that the liveliest excitement of the weekend may come from outside the convention where the AUPEthe Friends of Medicare, and other public sector groups are busing hundreds of supporters from around the province to a huge Stop the Cuts rally only blocks away from the convention.

On Saturday night, PC archetypes will herald the convention as a success of the grassroots, but I expect that little will change after the convention concludes. Regardless of potential icebergs on the political horizon, a strong showing of support in the leadership review will certainly solidify the resolve of Premier Stelmach and his supporters that they are steering their party, and the Government of Albertans, in the right direction. “Rearrange the deck chairs…

Recommended Reading: 
Alex Abboud: State of Alberta: At a Crossroads
Calgary Grit: This week in Alberta – All good things…
Ken Chapman: Is Alberta about to enter an empire illusion stage politically?
Chris Labossiere: Run up the middle… to right of centre
Duncan Wojtaszek: Red Deer
Live Gov: PC AGM