Tag Archives: Deborah Drever

Worth watching: Alberta MLA on gender-based online harassment

These are hateful comments. They are nasty, gender-based and demeaning. They are not constructive and it’s no wonder why so many women fear choosing politics as a career,” said Calgary-Bow MLA Deborah Drever on the floor of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly yesterday.

Ms. Drever’s Members’ Statement followed comments last week from Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips about online harassment directed at women politicians. “I have no idea why women might think twice about entering politics,” Phillips tweeted on May 25, 2016.

Premier Rachel Notley and other female cabinet ministers in Alberta have been the target of vicious online attacks and threats since the New Democratic Party formed government in May 2015. For the first time in our province’s history, the majority of Alberta’s cabinet ministers are women.

Here is the entire text of Ms. Drever’s statement from Hansard:

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In the last year there has been a growing awareness of online gender-based violence. Hundreds of thousands of women face online harassment because of who they are and what they say. Women sports journalists and broadcasters, provincial and federal cabinet ministers, even our own Premier have been trolled online with hateful messages and name-calling due to their gender and public profile.

Mr. Speaker, as you and others in the House already know, shortly after I was elected, I experienced hate messages that were explicitly sexist and subject to taunting and online harassment because I am a woman. In May 2015, after forming our government with near gender parity in our caucus, an individual posted publicly on Twitter using the ableg hashtag, “Pretty confident things’ll run smooth with so many broads’ ladyshipping over the #ableg. Aren’t you? Guys? Don’t you want broads mitigating?”

Another example is a comment directed at a federal female MP: “What a C you next Tuesday. Like seriously just go back to your house and run your car in your garage while you think of another anti oil campaign to attend.”

Mr. Speaker, these are hateful comments. They’re nasty, gender-based, and demeaning. They are not constructive, and it’s no wonder so many women fear choosing politics as their career. In no way do they provide a constructive conversation on policy or political action.

For many women things often escalate further. Name-calling, violent messages, rape, sexual assault, and even the threat of targeting family members are sent through online threats to feminists regularly. The practice has become so common that the process of reporting these has become second nature. The intersections of harassment get even more intense for women of
colour, queer women, indigenous women, and women living with disabilities. They are targeted even more intensely, and the
language used to attack them is almost unrepeatable. Online communities are working to stand up against gender based attacks online.

Mr. Speaker, as a woman in politics I stand with all women who have experienced gender-based harassment. You are not alone in your struggle. I encourage all members of this Assembly to respect us and treat us with dignity and equality.
Thank you. [Standing ovation]

Alberta MLAs to watch in 2016: Sarah Hoffman, Nathan Cooper, Deborah Drever, Greg Clark, Sandra Jansen, Deron Bilous, Danielle Larivee, Richard Starke, Shannon Phillips, and Prasad Panda.

A Rookie Crew: Eleven Alberta MLAs to watch in 2016

The past few years in Alberta politics have reminded us that politics can be an extraordinarily unpredictable and forecasting the future can be a very tricky business for political pundits. Aside from the obvious choices of Premier Rachel Notley, Finance Minister Joe Ceci and Wildrose leader Brian Jean, here is a list of eleven Alberta MLAs worth watching in 2016.

Deron Bilous (Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview): As Economic Development and Trade Minister, Deron Bilous faces the challenge of proving the government’s job creation plan can work as the provincial economy faces declining international oil prices.

Greg Clark (Calgary-Elbow): As leader of the one MLA Alberta Party opposition, Greg Clark is punching above his weight in getting media attention and working hard to position himself as a moderate conservative alternative to the NDP and Wildrose Parties. He was also the only opposition MLA to propose an alternative budget and climate change plan in 2015.

Nathan Cooper (Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills): With a detailed knowledge of Assembly rules and procedure, Official Opposition House Leader Nathan Cooper will prove to be a valuable asset to the rookie Wildrose Caucus.

Deborah Drever (Calgary-Bow): Elected as a New Democrat and sent into legislative exile as an Independent after embarrassing social media posts were reported, she has been the target of relentless personal attacks by Wildrose MLAs and anonymous internet trolls. She has redeemed herself as a well-spoken representative and shepherded her first private members’ bill – Bill 204 – to unanimous approval in the Legislature. Expect Ms. Drever to be invited to rejoin the NDP caucus in 2016.

Derek Fildebrandt (Strathmore-Brooks): Probably the most high profile Wildrose MLA, Derek Fildebrandt is the loudest critic of the NDP government. But his hyper-partisan outbursts, including an embarassing fight with a Globe & Mail reporter and an angry tweet directed at the Assembly Speaker, are not necessarily the kind of attention his MLA colleagues are pleased to receive. Can he tone down the rhetoric and offer reasonable solutions and alternatives in 2016?

Sarah Hoffman (Edmonton-Glenora): As Health and Seniors Minister, Sarah Hoffman is well-spoken and smart as a fox. She can explain complex issues and spar with the opposition with ease. She is a contender for strongest member of Rachel Notley’s cabinet, and I place her in the “future Premier material” category.

Sandra Jansen (Calgary-North West): Sandra Jansen is the voice of the moderate wing of the Progressive Conservative Party. She has publicly clashed with interim leader Ric McIver over his decision to endorse the federal Conservatives, and with Wildrose supporters over her decision to endorse Liberal candidates in the 2015 federal election. Her record as a vocal opponent of a merger with the Wildrose would make her a candidate to watch in her party’s next leadership race.

Danielle Larivee (Lesser Slave Lake): Appointed to cabinet as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Service Alberta in a fall shuffle, Danielle Larivee has proven herself as a tough and well-spoken advocate. As one of the government’s point-people for the fumbled Bill 6 Farm Safety Bill, she demonstrated her toughness. A Registered Nurse, she is also co-chair of the government’s review of mental health services, which is expected to be released early in 2016.

Prasad Panda (Calgary-Foothills): When he won a Sept. 2015 by-election in Jim Prentice’s former constituency, he became the Wildrose Party’s only MLA from Calgary. He has been quite quiet since his win, but Mr. Panda’s performance as MLA over the coming years could determine how far his rural-based party might expand its presence in Alberta’s largest city.

Shannon Phillips (Lethbridge West): Smart, passionate and a fierce partisan, Shannon Phillips impressed many with her calm and cool delivery of Alberta’s climate change plan ahead of the Paris Climate Change conference in Nov. 2015. As Environment and Parks Minister, she helped bring together oil industry leaders and environmental groups to endorse the province’s plan. Selling the plan and its carbon tax to Albertans over the next year will be a serious test of Ms. Phillips’ political skills.

Richard Starke (Vermilion-Lloydminster): As a critic of Bill 6, Richard Starke took a more reasoned approach to criticizing the farm safety law and avoided the hysterical and negative reactions characteristic of his counterparts in the Official Opposition caucus. One of two remaining rural PC MLAs, he is said to be interested in making a bid for his party’s leadership.

Young Alberta MLA Under 30 Politics 2016

The Under 30s: Jon Carson, Michael Connolly, Estefania Cortes-Vargas, Thomas Dang, Trevor Horne, Anam Kazim, Stephanie McLean, and Graham Sucha.

The Under 30s: Another result of the massive turnover in the legislature last year was a significant drop in the average age of Alberta’s MLAs, from 53 to 40 years old. Among the newly elected younger MLAs are a handful who are under thirty-years old (including Ms. Drever, who is noted above).

While it is not uncommon to have one to two under-30s elected to the Assembly from time to time, I cannot remember a time when so many were elected at once. It is a refreshing change, as younger Albertans bring a very different perspective than the typical older, greyer elected representative.

There could be future cabinet ministers or party leaders in this group, so in 2016, I will be keeping an eye on Edmonton-Meadowlark MLA Jon CarsonCalgary-Hawkwood MLA Michael Connolly, Sherwood Park-Strathcona MLA Estefania Cortes-VargasEdmonton-Southwest MLA Thomas Dang, Spruce Grove-St. Albert MLA Trevor HorneCalgary-Glenmore MLA Anam KazimCalgary-Varsity MLA Stephanie McLean, and Calgary-Shaw MLA Graham Sucha.


Compare this list of Alberta MLAs to watch to previous lists from 2015 and 2014.

Thousands of Albertans packed the Legislature Grounds to watch Premier Rachel Notley and the NDP cabinet be sworn-in.

What new laws did Alberta’s NDP Government pass in 2015?

The fall session of the Alberta Legislature ended last week and MLAs will now spend the next few weeks working in their constituencies until the Assembly returns in early 2016. The Assembly passed nine pieces of legislation introduced by Alberta’s New Democratic Party government in its first full session of the Legislature since it formed government.

The first four bills introduced by the government reflected key promises made by Rachel Notley‘s NDP during the 2015 election. One private members bill, introduced by Independent Calgary-Bow MLA Deborah Drever, was passed by the Assembly (a rare feat for opposition MLAs).

Here is a quick look at the ten bills that were passed by MLAs since the NDP formed government in 2015:

Kathleen Ganley NDP Calgary Buffalo

Kathleen Ganley

Bill 1: An Act to Renew Democracy in Alberta

Introduced by Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley, Bill 1 banned corporate and union donations to provincial political parties in Alberta. The bill received royal assent on June 29, 2015, but was made retroactive on June 15, 2015. This new law was a major blow to the Progressive Conservative Party, which had become accustomed to relying heavily on corporate donations to fund their campaigns and operations. The ban was not extended to municipal elections.

Bill 2: An Act to Restore Fairness to Public Revenue

Introduced by Finance Minister Joe Ceci, Bill 2 eliminated Alberta’s 10 percent flat tax and introduced a progressive taxation system with five rates of personal income tax up to 15 percent for income above $300,000. Bill 2 also increased Alberta’s corporate tax rate from 10 percent to 12 percent, bringing our province in line with Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Despite the increase, tax rates in Alberta still remain lower than what existed during much of the time Ralph Klein served as Premier.

Joe Ceci Calgary NDP

Joe Ceci

Bill 3: Appropriation (Interim Supply) Act, 2015

Introduced by Mr. Ceci, Bill 3 reversed funding cuts made to education, health care, and human services by the PC government before the May 5, 2015 election.

Bill 4: An Act to Implement Various Tax Measures and to Enact the Fiscal Planning and Transparency Act

Introduced by Mr. Ceci, Bill 4 repealed and replaced the Fiscal Management Act and introduced requirements in a Fiscal Planning and Transparency Act, which include presenting government finances in a three-year fiscal plan and the establishment of a new debt cap based on a debt-to-GDP ratio of 15 percent.

Bill 5: Public Sector Compensation Transparency Act 

Introduced by Ms. Ganley, Bill 5 expanded the “sunshine list” to include employees of public agencies, boards, commissions, post-secondary institutions and health service entities whose earnings are more than $125,000 annually. This is a continuation of work already done by the previous PC government and has been criticized by supporters of the NDP as “bad policy.”

Lori Sigurdson NDP

Lori Sigurdson

Bill 6: Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act

Introduced by Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour Minister Lori Sigurdson, Bill 6 introduced occupational health and safety and mandatory Workers’ Compensation Board coverage for employees of farming operations. Alberta is currently the only province in Canada without OH&S laws and employment standards coverage for farm and ranch workers. Amid protests by farmers and ranchers, the government introduced amendments to exempt farm and ranch owners and their families from the bill. This was undoubtably the most controversial legislation passed by the NDP government in 2015.

Bill 7: Alberta Human Rights Amendment Act, 2015

Introduced by Ms. Ganley, Bill 7 amended the Alberta Human Rights Act to add gender identity and gender expression as expressly prohibited grounds of discrimination.

David Eggen

David Eggen

Bill 8: Public Education Collective Bargaining Act

Introduced by Education Minister David Eggen, Bill 8 restructures collective bargaining between teachers, school boards and the government. The bill initially would have had the government be the sole party negotiating with the Alberta Teachers’ Association on matters that should be bargained centrally versus locally but an amendment to the bill allowed a new employer bargaining association to negotiate with the ATA to decide.

Bill 9: Appropriation Act, 2015

Introduced by Mr. Ceci, Bill 9 provides budget funding authority to the Government of Alberta and the Legislative Assembly for the 2015-16 fiscal year.

Deborah Drever MLA Calgary Bow

Deborah Drever

Bill 204: Residential Tenancies (Safer Spaces for Victims of Domestic Violence) Amendment Act, 2015

Introduced by Ms. Drever, Bill 204 amended the Residential Tenancies Act to allow victims of domestic violence to end their housing leases early and without penalty in order to leave unsafe home environments. Lethbridge-East MLA Maria Fitzpatrick bravely stood in the legislature to share a powerful story about her personal experiences with domestic violence.

Worth Watching: MLA Maria Fitzpatrick’s powerful speech about domestic violence

Lethbridge-East MLA Maria Fitzpatrick stood in the legislature this week to share a powerful story about her personal experiences with domestic violence. During her speech, the first-term MLA described the experiences of violence, abuse and death threats that she and her children faced from her ex-husband.

(Video via Press Progress)

Alberta MLAs have been debating a bill introduced by Deborah Drever, the Independent MLA for Calgary-Bow, that would make it easier for victims of domestic violence to flee abuse by breaking rental leases early and without penalty. Bill 204: Residential Tenancies (Safer Spaces for Victims of Domestic Violence) Amendment Act, 2015 passed second reading in the Assembly on  Nov. 16, 2015.

Brent Rathgeber Edmonton MP

Federal Election Digest | Alberta Edition

While most Albertans are enjoying the last few weeks of summer, here are some of the more interesting and bizarre news stories from the federal election campaign trail in our province:

Independent Rathgeber: Conservative leader Stephen Harper’s “only ethical barometer is not getting caught,” according to Independent Member of Parliament Brent Rathgeber. The former Conservative MP and Progressive Conservative MLA tweeted his criticism of Mr. Harper, who is campaigning in the midst of the trial of former Conservative Senator Mike Duffy. In another blog post, Mr. Rathgeber explains why he is running as an Independent candidate in the new St. Albert-Edmonton riding.

Two new riding-level polls: The Lead Now group commissioned Environics to conduct polls in a handful of swing ridings across Canada, including two in Alberta. The poll shows NDP candidate Janis Irwin with 16 point lead over Conservative Kerry Diotte in Edmonton-Griesbach and Conservative Joan Crockatt with a 12 point lead over Liberal Kent Hehr in Calgary-Centre.

Crockatt Drops Out of Pride Parade: Ms. Crockatt will not participate in this year’s Calgary Pride Parade after an online campaign highlighted her opposition to a parliamentary bill that would have protected the rights of transgender Canadians.

NDP Protest: Syed Hyder Ali and his supporters wore “Justice for Syed” stickers to protest his exclusion from the Edmonton-Wetaskiwin NDP nomination contest. Ali’s non-inclusion on the ballot was due to his Facebook posts accusing the State of Israel of committing war crimes, reports the Leduc Representative. He told the Representative that the posts and characterization of Israel’s actions were based on an Amnesty International report about the 2014 invasion of Gaza.

Strong Opinions: An Edmonton activist is protesting the decision by an R.C.M.P officer to issue a traffic fine for having a giant “Fuck Harper” sign in the back window of his vehicle.

Toronto Star columnist comes to Alberta: Toronto Star national affairs columnist Tim Harper wrote a column on NDP chances and the political climate in Alberta.

Social Media claims another victim: Liberal Ala Buzreba withdrew her candidacy in Calgary-Nose Hill after the media reported on controversial tweets published when she was a teenager. Ms. Buzreba’s sister stepped up and explained what no media reported did, the context of these tweets. In other news, it seems that political candidates in Alberta did we not learn much from the media storm around Calgary-Bow MLA Deborah Drever‘s youthful social media indiscretions.

Wildrose MLA Jason Nixon faces an expulsion motion from the students’ union he used to lead.

Wildrose MLA Jason Nixon faces expulsion motion from students’ union

While the mainstream media has spent an inordinate amount of time focusing on the social media indiscretions of Calgary-Bow MLA Deborah Drever, newly elected Wildrose Party MLA Jason Nixon faces an expulsion motion from members of an organization he used to lead.

According to the student newspaper The Voice Magazine, members of the Athabasca University Students’ Union brought forward a motion at their May 27, 2015 annual general meeting to have former president and Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre MLA Mr. Nixon expelled from the organization.

Mr. Nixon was president of the students’ union from April 2014 until his resignation shortly after the May 2015 provincial election.

The student newspaper reported motions to expel Mr. Nixon and other leading members of the students’ council were made in response to allegations that the council violated its own bylaws when making changes to the elections policy without issuing the required notice to members, failing to give email notice of the AGM, and interfering in the student newspaper by removing the April 17, 2015 issue of The Voice from its website without the managing editor’s consent.

The autonomously operating student newspaper published an article in its April 17 issue alleging that the students’ council had voted to significantly increase student executive salaries in the final months of the 2014/2015 fiscal year. An article in that issue described Mr. Nixon as being “the highest paid Student Executive in Alberta.”

A blog posted published on the AUSU website from Vice-President External Shawna Wasylyshyn, who is currently serving as (Acting) Editor in Chief of The Voice and (Acting) President of AUSU, claims the April 17 issue was removed because of a legal complaint received about one of the articles.

The individual chairing the AGM ruled the motion to expel Mr. Nixon out of order and that members at the meeting could only make recommendations to the students’ council. The motion to recommend Mr. Nixon’s expulsion from the organization was passed.

Politicians with embarrassing Facebook photos? Get used to it.

Since Alberta’s provincial election on May 5, Calgary-Bow MLA-elect Deborah Drever has been the target of much criticism over some photos posted on Facebook from before she was a candidate. Working towards a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology at Mount Royal University, it is unlikely Ms. Drever, 26, believed she would actually be elected as the NDP candidate in the long-time PC Party-held constituency.

While many conservatives on social media, many of them anonymous, have aimed their frustration with the NDP’s historic win at Ms. Drever, it is important for level-headed Albertans to keep these photos in perspective. In the context of the recent election and the government that was just tossed out of office, Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid might have said it best in one tweet last week:

In the years ahead, it will be hard to expect Canadians younger than 35 not to have had any sort of embarrassing photo posted on social media. It is just what happens when you are in high school or university: sometimes you do dumb things and they end up on the internet.

For the incoming generation of young politicians, “do you have any embarrassing photos on Facebook?” could be the new “have you ever smoked marijuana?” that the senior generations will ask. The future candidates will try to deny it, but they will all know that somewhere, on someones Facebook page, Instagram account or iPhone, there are embarrassing photos from that halloween kegger or university pub crawl that could one day become public.

It does not mean we are an irresponsible generation, it is the burden we bear for living in such a technologically connected society.

Had mobile phones and social networks been around in 1980, I am sure there would be many embarrassing photos of young Brian Jean, Jim Prentice, Ric McIverRachel Notley and Stephen Harper floating around for all the internet to see. But due to the limitations of film photography in the 1970s and 1980s, these photos are not easily accessible through a Google Image search.

But that does not mean some photos have not made it online. Would anyone argue that Peter Mackay is unfit to be Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada because he was photographed guzzling from a beer bong when he was 20-years old?

Ms. Drever probably should have removed these photos before she ran as an election candidate, a conclusion she would have made soon after the photos were discovered and the personal attacks on her began. It was a hard lesson to learn but an important one for the group of energetic young NDP MLAs to be aware of. Conservatives still bitter from their first electoral defeat in 44 years will be searching for any opportunity to undermine the new government’s credibility.

Now as the elected MLA for Calgary-Bow, Ms. Drever has an opportunity to disappoint her critics and prove to her constituents, including the 5,680 who voted for her, that she will work hard and be a responsible and fair voice for in the Legislative Assembly.

As for the rest of us, we should stop getting excited about politicians with embarrassing Facebook photos, because I can guarantee that it will be lot more common in the years to come.