Bill 44: Human Rights Citizenship and Multiculturalism Amendment Act

the bill 44 debate lives on(line).

Mack Male has compiled an impressive collection of the Twitter activity that happened during the Bill 44 debates last year in the Alberta Legislative Assembly. Mack has archived a spreadsheet of the activity and a word-cloud of the content (as seen above). In May 2009, Ken Chapman wrote a great blog post on the effect that the online debate on Bill 44 had on citizen engagement in Alberta. I know many people who left the PC party after Bill 44 was passed into law. Many of them are now involved in Reboot Alberta.

With the Speech from the Throne this afternoon and regular sittings of the Assembly beginning next week, MLAs may have another controversial legislative session ahead of them.

Bill 44: Human Rights Citizenship and Multiculturalism Amendment Act

warning: political fires burn faster, hotter, and more toxic than ever before.

Forgive me if I thought this sub-line on a recent GOA media release was a warning to Alberta PC supporters about the dangers of Bill 44

Today’s fires burn faster, hotter and more toxic than ever before. Preventing them has never been more important

Bill 44: Human Rights Citizenship and Multiculturalism Amendment Act Ed Stelmach

outrage over bill 44? nothing the summer bbq circuit can’t resolve.

They currently occupy 71 out of the 83 seats on the floor of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly, but the first Legislative session of 2009 was been a rough ride for the gigantic Progressive Conservatives caucus. While some good was accomplished during this session, it was largely overshadowed by a deficit budget, visions of Northumberland, controversial land reform legislation, and Bill 44.

Amidst the nasty hyper-partisanship that defined this Legislative Session, the current occupants of the Government benches will sleep well knowing that the hot summer months are just around the corner.

While this week’s passage of Bill 44 (which included sections allowing parents to pull their kids from classroom discussions on religion, sexuality and sexual orientation) was met with vocal opposition by many Albertans (including members of the United Church, School Trustees, the Alberta Teachers’ Association), I agree with Grant MacEwan Community College Professor Chaldeans Mensah that there will likely be no long-term political consequences for the Ed Stelmach-led PCs:

“The Tories, with all their problems, are still a formidable force.”

As regular Albertans tune even further out of politics for the summer and PC MLAs return to their constituencies to host a flurry of BBQ fundraisers and Shot-Gun Started Golf Tournaments, the summer months will provide them time to mend any Bill 44 induced political strains that may have emerged among their rank and file supporters.

The debate around Bill 44 reminds me of the Bill 11 debates that occurred nine years ago (which is around the same time I began paying attention to provincial politics). While MLAs debated Bill 11 and health care privatization, thousands of Albertans from across the province spent weeks demonstrating their disapproval in front of the Legislature. Many of them vowed that Bill 11 would help end the PCs political dominance, but less than a year later they would witness the massive PC election sweep of 2001 that knocked the opposition Liberals and NDP down to a combined total of 9 MLAs.

Liberal and NDP MLAs can take some solace that they succeeded in shaking the giant PC caucus over the past four months, but opposition attacks fell far from inflicting permanent damage to the long-governing party. While the PCs stumbled through the first half of their 38th year in government, neither the Liberals nor NDP were able to convincingly present themselves as a positive alternative and viable government-in-waiting. Instead, both parties joined in with negative partisan attacks and further deep-rooted themselves in the trenches as a reactive and rump partisan opposition.

While this likely makes some Government MLAs feel optimistic about their political futures, engaged citizens outside the increasingly depopulating world of party politics should be dismayed at the damage caused by the negative and hyper-partisan ‘Ottawa-style’ politics witnessed daily during this session.

Mensah may be right in predicting Bill 44s lack of direct political consequences for the PCs, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be long-term consequences for democracy in Alberta. Less than 40% of Albertans participated in the March 2008 election, and as our politics continue to evolve into closed-minded and negative hyper-partisanship, those of us without a party membership card in our wallets should be asking how we can reclaim our politics and stop the turnout from dropping even lower in 2012?

Bill 44: Human Rights Citizenship and Multiculturalism Amendment Act Lindsay Blackett

will bill 44 lead to increased citizen engagement or cynicism?.

LindsayBlackett: is amazed at the continued fearmongering by the opposition, intelligent people who read the bill can see through it.

While Culture Minister Lindsay Blackett used his Twitter feed to deem all Albertans opposed to his Bill 44 as unintelligent, Alberta’s 72 Progressive Conservative MLAs performed an Academy Award deserving reenactment of Jean Chretien‘s Federal Liberals by voting the Party line even after being promised a “free vote.”

Outnumbered 7 to 1, Alberta’s eleven opposition MLAs presented reasoned arguments last night while debating against sections of Bill 44 which would allow parents to pull their kids from classroom discussions on religion, sexuality and sexual orientation. Special kudos should be given to Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman, who tabled 84 letters voicing opposition from Alberta High School students and presented some of last night’s most solid arguments against the controversial sections of Bill 44.

Arguably for the first time, online social media created through networks like Twitter and Facebook played a substantial role in facilitating debate opposing legislation in the Alberta Legislature. While social media has allowed Alberta citizens outside the extreme minority that populate the official partisan and political realm to engage in debate and information sharing about Bill 44, only time will tell whether this action will lead to sustained increased citizen involvement, or if the lack of response from our distant traditional institution of a Legislative Assembly will add to the already prevalent culture of cynicism and distrust of the political process in our province.

Bill 44: Human Rights Citizenship and Multiculturalism Amendment Act

more on bill 44.

Blogger and PC Party member John Winslow (aka @sirthinks) is also opposing Bill 44 and has posted to his blog a letter in opposition to sections of the Bill which he sent to his MLA, Thomas Lukaszuk.

Bill 44: Human Rights Citizenship and Multiculturalism Amendment Act

bill 44 goes to third reading tomorrow.

After a wonderful weekend ‘stay-cation‘ in Banff, I was surprised to see the Students Against Bill 44 Facebook group that I linked to (and tweeted about) on Friday has exploded from 140 members to over 1,200 in 3 days. Bill 44 is scheduled for third reading in the Legislature tomorrow evening.

The organizers of ‘Students Against Bill 44‘ have asked Albertans opposed to Bill 44 to email letters voicing their opposition to be tabled in Legislature tomorrow before the vote. Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman ( ) has volunteered to table the letters in the Assembly. Here is a copy of the form letter posted on the facebook group:

Dear Ms. Laurie Blakeman:

As students in a multicultural society, we have learnt to tolerate and embrace different identities, and as a result have expanded our overall cultural horizons. This bill will hinder our learning about diversified groups in our country; thus, attempting to restrict the adults of tomorrow by cutting us off from the issues of today. We cannot let the government take away our emerging global perspectives and ideas about our world. If the Alberta Government is so concerned about human rights, they should not be facilitating hatred and bigotry by censoring the Alberta curriculum. Students have rights too. We have the right to learn in an open-minded, compassionate and tolerant environment. Not one that allows for intolerance and ignorance. Bill 44 has the power to deplete student’s rights to learn and their ability to become well suited to meet the adversities and diversities that occur in everyday life.

In conclusion, I request that this letter be tabled, in order to preserve my thoughts about this bill.

In order for your letters to be tabled before the final vote on Bill 44, they will need to be emailed before 12 noon tomorrow. You should also cc your MLA (find your MLA here).

Bill 44: Human Rights Citizenship and Multiculturalism Amendment Act Dave Hancock Ed Stelmach Lindsay Blackett

albertans need to exercise citizenship against bill 44.

Does the education opt-out clause in Bill 44 make you proud to be an Albertan?

If you’re among the growing number of Albertans concerned about the negative impact that Bill 44 could have on our education system, please contact your MLA and let them know (if you don’t know who your MLA is, you can check here). I would also encourage Albertans to contact the Premier, and the two cabinet ministers who have been the strongest public defenders of Bill 44:

Premier Ed Stelmach
MLA Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville
Phone: 780-632-6840
Fax: 780-632-6888

Lindsay Blackett, Minister of Culture & Community Spirit
MLA Calgary-North West
Phone: 403-216-5444
Fax: 403-216-5442

Dave Hancock, Minister of Education
MLA Edmonton-Whitemud
Phone: 780-413-5970
Fax: 780-413-5971

The Legislative Assembly is not sitting this week and MLAs from across Alberta will be in their hometowns meeting with constituents. Don’t miss this opportunity to make your voice heard.

Bill 44: Human Rights Citizenship and Multiculturalism Amendment Act Dave Hancock Ed Stelmach Lindsay Blackett

bill 44 to end with charter private schools?

With Premier Ed Stelmach spending the week in Switzerland, it appears that Education Minister Dave Hancock and Culture Minister Lindsay Blackett have been left in charge of defending the controversial recent amendments to Bill 44: Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Amendment Act, 2009.

Someone much smarter than I recent suggested a scenario that could end the current controversy over Bill 44. This scenario would see the PC caucus pull the evolution clause from the Bill and implement either education tax opt-outs for parents sending their kids to Charter Private Schools or provide government funding for Charter Private Schools as a ‘compromise.