KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Many years ago, when I lived in Edmonton, a mid-level bureaucrat friend told me any decent province must be at loggerheads with feds. That means the party in power in the province better not be the same as the one in Ottawa.
I thought about my friend’s observation when the Tories won a majority government in Nova Scotia the other day. Every province but one now stands to the right of the federal Liberals. We can see the right-wing blather of the biggest and most populous– Ontario and Québec. Just remember Ontario’s Doug Ford closing all the kiddie playgrounds and getting the police to mindlessly enforce Covid restrictions and fines. Ford had to climb down from both.
There was Québec’s CAQ (Coalition Avenir Québec) passing Bill 21, a law against wearing religious symbols if people work as doctors, nurses or even bus drivers. Of course Bill 21 mainly targeted Muslim women in public-facing government jobs who wear the Hijab or Niqab—though Premier François Legault denied women were the focus.
But if we look at the western provinces with conservative leaders, we see where the future is really headed. And it’s bleak.
Take Manitoba, for example. Every year, Premier Brian Pallister spends nearly two months in his Costa Rica luxury home; the rest of the time he’s in his $2 million dollar 9,000 square foot house in Winnipeg – in a city in which most real estate (up to recently) was valued at under $300,000.
Though he has the lowest approval rating of all premiers, recently he won some accolades from his buddies when he complained that real “Manitobans” (read: whites) were having to go to the “back of the line” because Indigenous people were getting their anti-Covid vaccines first. He offended First Nations and Metis people when he called the dispute about night hunting a “race war”. Relations further deteriorated when Pallister also cancelled a $67.5 million pay out to secure the Manitoba Metis Federation’s support for hydroelectric developments.
Most recently, Pallister was pressured to apologize for saying that people (settlers) who came to Canada before and after it became a country did not come to destroy but to build. After that gaff, he said he won’t be running in the 2023 provincial election.
What of Premier Scott Moe of the Saskatchewan Party? He was merely ticketed for failing to come to a complete stop and driving without due care when he killed a mother of two in 1997. He can’t explain, why for nearly 25 years, he never bothered to apologize to Joanne Balog’s family. Since then, he’s been charged several times for drunk driving.
Moe’s response to the cold-blooded 2016 murder of a young Indigenous man Colten by white settler farmer Gerald Stanley was to pass the Trespass to Property Act – which demands anyone to ask permission from a farmer before wandering onto the farmer’s land! Last May, Premier Moe did not bother to stop — or discourage– Maxime Bernier and his Canadian Nationalist Party which broke public health rules of 10 person gatherings (Bernier had more than 100). Bernier’s Saskatoon event featured anti-maskers flying the pro-Nazi flag (below).
Moving west, we have Premier Jason Kenney – who has a long experience in right wing federal and provincial politics. A Tory MP and cabinet minister in Stephen Harper’s government for years, there is little daylight between the former Alberta Tories and the United Conservative Party (UCP), which Kenney now leads. First the party promises to make Alberta – call it Alabama north – the first right-to-work province. No worker can be forced to be represented by a union, or to pay union dues. 53% of UCP members agree that medical care must be privatized. To that end, Kenney’s government declared it was cutting 11,000 jobs in health care – many to be contracted out to the lowest bidder in the private sector.
Hospital admissions and deaths skyrocketed during the second and third wave of the Pandemic, when Kenney arbitrarily got rid of Covid restrictions as he stressed that trusting “personal responsibility” was better than the “indiscriminate damage” of health constraints for the whole population.
Of course no assessment of Kenney’s pro-fascist power (he had promised an Alberta only police force) and privilege are complete without noting his antipathy toward LGTBQ community: he banned PRIDE celebrations in 2019; he got rid of GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) groups in Alberta’s high schools; he’s avowedly anti-choice when it comes to women’s rights to abortions. Alberta introduced Bill 207, what critics call the Abandoning Patients Act, which would have allowed doctors and other health practitioners not to treat anyone for any personal reason or moral consideration. Fortunately, it didn’t pass second reading.
In electing Tory Tim Houston, has Nova Scotia joined the club of right-wing, tin-pot premiers in this country?
Judy Haiven is on the steering committee of Equity Watch, an organization that fights discrimination, bullying and racism in the workplace. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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