Tag Archives: Bob Barnetson

Put some Alberta Politics under the Christmas tree

Looking for that special gift for the political junkie in your family? Or maybe you’re searching for a good book to read by an open fire on a cold winter night? If so, here are a few Alberta politics books that might look good under your Christmas tree this year:

Where the Bodies Lie

Mark Lisac
NeWest Press
$20.95 at Audreys Books

An enjoyable mix of politics and intrigue make this fictional murder mystery a must-read for political watchers in Alberta. “Lisac’s backdrop may be the political scene, but his story is in the heart of his main characters, their flaws and aspirations. He is an elegant and efficient writer and sets lovely scenes and characters, creating a murder mystery with twists and engaging characters,” wrote Samantha Power in Vue Weekly.

 

Notley Nation: How Alberta’s Political Upheaval Swept the Country

Sydney Sharpe and Don Braid
Dundurn Press
$19.99 at Audreys Books

Calgary author Sydney Sharpe and Postmedia columnist Don Braid look at how decades of one-party rule, right-wing discontent and a growing progressive streak in Alberta led to the election of Rachel Notley’s NDP in our province’s historic 2015 election.

 

Farm Workers in Western Canada: Injustices and Activism

Editors: Shirley McDonald, Bob Barnetson
University of Alberta Press
$29.95 at Audreys Books (by special order)

This book was launched today, so I have not yet had a chance to read it. Here is the description from U of A Press:

Bill 6, the government of Alberta’s contentious farm workers’ safety legislation, sparked public debate as no other legislation has done in recent years. The Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act provides a right to work safely and a compensation system for those killed or injured at work, similar to other provinces.

In nine essays, contributors to Farm Workers in Western Canada place this legislation in context. They look at the origins, work conditions, and precarious lives of farm workers in terms of larger historical forces such as colonialism, land rights, and racism. They also examine how the rights and privileges of farm workers, including seasonal and temporary foreign workers, conflict with those of their employers, and reveal the barriers many face by being excluded from most statutory employment laws, sometimes in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

 

Grant Notley: The Social Conscience of Alberta

Howard Leeson
University of Alberta Press
$24.95 at Audreys Books

Written by his former executive assistant, this biography provides a look into the compelling life story of Grant Notley, the father of Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, who led the NDP from 1968 until his death in 1984. His passion for our province and social democratic politics is a refreshing reminder of a level of respect that used to exist among political opponents and adversaries in our province.

 

Thin Power
Andy Marshall
Friesen Press
$16.99

Thin Power is the unauthorized biography of former mayor of Calgary, Rod Sykes, featuring the achievements and bitter controversies of his eight-year term ending in 1977. David Climenhaga wrote a review of the book over at AlbertaPolitics.ca.

 

The Tar Sands: Syncrude and the Politics of Oil

Larry Pratt
Hurtig Press

Hard to find but worth the read, this 1976 book provides a thorough background background to the politics and economics that led to the creation of the Syncrude project and development of the Athabasca oil sands. A review by ActiveHistory.ca describes the book as an essential text on the history of Alberta’s tar sands. Used copies can be found on amazon.com.

And from south of the border:

Whistlestop

John Dickerson
Hachette Book Group
$39.00 at Audreys Books (by special order)

A compendium of John Dickerson’s favourite moments from US Presidential election history. The host of Face the Nation on CBS News and columnist for Slate Magazine does an excellent job translating stories from his popular Whistlestop podcast into this fun to read political history book.

 

(This post was inspired by Stephen Maher’s piece over at iPolitics.ca

Bill 45 deserved to die. Kudos to Prentice for killing it.

One year ago, the PC Party was on verge of meltdown as Alison Redford resigned as leader and Premier. Since then, the political landscape has shifted so dramatically that the only significant thing that remains the same is the PC Party is still in government and will almost certainly extend its 44 year reign in the upcoming spring election.

Alberta Legislature Building Alison Redford

Thousands of Albertans protested the Redford Government’s anti-labour laws in November 2013.

Jim Prentice is being praised as a saviour by conservatives for turning around his party’s electoral fortunes, but he is no magician. Like each of his predecessors over the past 44 years, Mr. Prentice’s goal is to ensure the PC Party remains in government. And also like these predecessors, he is succeeding.

Most of Mr. Prentice’s success has been based on his ability to reverse many of Ms. Redford’s most unpopular decisions. And this week, with an election expected to be called soon, he announced the government would repeal the unpopular Bill 45: Public Sector Services Continuation Act.

Dave Hancock MLA Edmonton-Whitemud

Dave Hancock

Introduced into the Assembly by former minister Dave Hancock, the unnecessary and probably unconstitutional Bill 45 was part of Ms. Redford’s attack on public sector workers. The bill was passed with the support of 33 PC MLAs and one Wildrose MLA in December 2013 but was never proclaimed into law (five Wildrose MLAs, two New Democrats and one Liberal voted against it). If made into law, it would have significantly increased the fines for public sector strikes and made it illegal for any person to publicly suggest that government employees take job action.

The bill also appeared to give significant powers to the Minister of Human Services to issue fines to government employees if there has even been a hint of discussion about an illegal strike or strike threat.

Robin Campbell Alberta Finance Yellowhead

Robin Campbell

When the bill was passed in December 2013, one constitutional law expert told the National Post it was “ripe for challenge” to the Supreme Court of Canada. Athabasca University professor Bob Barnetson suggested that because free speech is protected by Section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it is unlikely that these sections Bill 45 would survive a challenge to the Supreme Court of Canada (court challenges had already been launched by United Nurses of Alberta and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees).

Killing Bill 45 is only one step in repairing the government’s damaged relationship with its front-line workers. Five months ago, Mr. Prentice said he found low morale and high turnover in the public service “shocking.” But with Finance Minister Robin Campbell warning of 9 percent across the board funding cuts in next week’s provincial budget, it is difficult to see how Mr. Prentice plans to change this situation.

It remains embarrassing that so many of our elected officials supported this bill, but today Mr. Prentice deserves some kudos for committing to repeal Bill 45.


Wildrose Leadership Candidates

Wildrose Party leadership candidates Brian Jean, Linda Osinchuk and Drew Barnes.

Wildrose Party leadership candidates Drew Barnes, Brian Jean and Linda Osinchuk will be guests on the next AbVote Google Hangout on Tuesday, March 24, 2015. Tune in to abvote.ca at 7:00 p.m. and ask questions to the candidates using the #abvote hashtag on Twitter.

PC MLAs vote for Bill 45, but law limiting free speech is ripe for a constitutional challenge

Despite a united front from opposition parties, days of large protests by public sector unions, and calls by constitutional experts that the law would be ripe for a Supreme Court challenge, 33 of Premier Alison Redford‘s Progressive Conservative MLAs voted tonight in favour of passing Bill 45: Public Sector Services Continuation Act into law. Eight opposition MLAs were present in the Assembly to vote against the bill’s passage in third reading.

As I wrote earlier this week, under sections 4(4) and 18(d) of Bill 45, any “person” who suggests that public sector employees strike or threaten to strike could be fined $500 and prosecuted within one year. The bill vaguely defines a “person” as someone who is not a government employee or trade union official, meaning that the $500 fine and prosecution could arguably apply to newspaper reporters, columnists, bloggers, or just ordinary Albertans who publicly suggest that unionized government employees participate in an illegal strike or consider taking illegal strike action.

The addition of the term”strike threat,” a new concept introduced in this bill, is both vague and open to interpretation and it is not unimaginable that the government could use the clause to punish public sector unions in the event of conflict or disagreement.

Once Bill 45 receives Royal Assent from Lieutenant Governor Donald Ethell, it will become law in Alberta. But, as one constitutional law expert told the National Post, this law is “ripe for challenge” to the Supreme Court of Canada. Athabasca University professor Bob Barnetson suggests that because free speech is protected by Section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it is unlikely that these sections Bill 45 would survive a challenge to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Albertans can now expect that the Redford Government will be forced to spend significant public dollars defending this unjust and irresponsible law in the courts.

Threatening to strike in Alberta? Under Bill 45, that’s a paddlin.

Jasper Beardly explains the Redford Government’s Bill 45: “Threatening to strike? That’s a paddlin’. Talking about going on strike? That’s a paddlin’.”

In their rush to pass anti-labour laws that would force the province’s largest union into a new contract and increase penalties public sector unions that enter illegal strikes, could Premier Alison Redford‘s Government also be infringing on the free speech rights of ordinary Albertans?

Athabasca University professor Bob Barnetson, in a recent blog post, expressed concern about many of the “chilling” aspects of Bill 45: Public Sector Services Continuation Act, including an issue of free speech.

Section 4(4): “No person shall counsel a person to contravene subsection (1) or (2) or impede or impair a person from refusing to contravene subsection (1) or (2).

Section 18(d): in the case of a person to whom or an organization to which none of the clauses (a), (b), or (c) applies, to a fine of $500 each day or partial days on whihc the offence occurs or continues.

Alberta Legislature Building Alison Redford

More than 700 Albertans gathered outside the Legislative Assembly to protest the Redford Government’s anti-labour laws.

According to Bill 45, any “person” who suggests that public sector employees strike or threaten to strike could be fined $500 and prosecuted within one year. The bill vaguely defines a “person” as someone who is not a government employee or trade union official, meaning that the $500 fine and prosecution could arguably apply to newspaper reporters, columnists, bloggers, or just ordinary Albertans who publicly suggest that unionized government employees participate in an illegal strike or consider taking illegal strike action.

The addition of the term”strike threat,” a new concept introduced in this bill, is both vague and open to interpretation and it is not unimaginable that the government could use the clause to punish public sector unions in the event of conflict or disagreement.

Dr. Barnetson suggests that because free speech is protected by Section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it is unlikely that these sections the Redford Government’s Bill 45 would survive a challenge to the Supreme Court of Canada. Why would the government introduce a law that they must know is vulnerable to a constitutional challenge?

16(1) If the Minister or a delegate appointed under the regulations is of the opinion that an employee has contravened section 4(1), (2) or (4), the Minister or delegate may, by notice in writing served on the employee, require the employee to pay to the Crown an administrative penalty in the amount determined in accordance with this section and the regulations and set out in the notice.

Section 16(1) of Bill 45, appears give significant powers to the Minister of Human Services  to issue fines to government employees if there has even been a hint of discussion about an illegal strike or strike threat. The prohibitions in this bill are vague, subjective, and place Alberta’s public servants in a position where their freedom of speech is limited.

If Bill 45 becomes law, could the Minister of Human Services issue a fine to a government employee for posting a comment on his or her personal Twitter account or Facebook page that is perceived as a “strike threat?”

If passed into law, Bill 45 would apply to employees of the provincial government and its agencies, Alberta Health Services employees and employees in approved hospitals, employees of ambulance operators, Non-academic staff in post-secondary institutions, and firefighters.

When Bill 45 was initially introduced, Human Services Minister Dave Hancock made clear that he wanted the Assembly to pass this bill in a short 48 hour period, making it law by the weekend. Facing two days of large protests outside the Legislature Building, the Redford Government has abandoned its plans to ram the bill through in 48 hours, opting instead to begin debate on the bill in the Assembly early next week.