How does a corporate lawyer working in Alberta’s energy sector get tagged as a communist by those who believe the Conservatives in all their true-blue iterations are the natural ruling party in Alberta?
I blame it on Ed Stelmach.
My blog, The Soapbox, was born in 2010 out of frustration with the former premier and his predecessors, who hobbled our public services by convincing us that if we took care of the economy (read: the energy sector), the economy would take care of us. We couldn’t ask corporations to pay more in taxes or royalties when they were making record profits, these Conservatives told us, because we’d kill the golden goose. And we couldn’t ask them to pay more when times were tough because, well, times were tough.
They painted us into a corner. I wanted to know why, so I wrote my MLA, the opposition MLAs and my local paper asking for answers. The only people who responded were opposition MLAs. And nothing changed.
So I joined the blogosphere. It took a while to get the tone right—no one wants to read turgid legal prose—but eventually I found my voice. Readers responded. They suggested ideas and sent me background materials. They also corrected my math and fixed my spelling, for which I am eternally grateful.
With the help of my IT specialist (my daughter), who keeps me from having a flaming meltdown every time WordPress issues an update, the blog has been running for 10 years. It has led to media interviews, writing assignments and my fair share of trolls.
The Soapbox strives to reinforce an important message: Citizens who live in a democracy must have a voice in how they are governed. To have a voice, citizens must first understand what their government is doing and why.
Citizens must have a voice. To do so we must first understand what our government is doing—and why.
For example, unlike past governments, the Kenney government swamps us with a tsunami of legislation. It is difficult to keep up, let alone to understand what they’re doing. Mr. Kenney has said, by way of explaining his approach to legislating, “speed creates its own momentum.” It also creates confusion, which is ideal if you’re trying to slip something by the electorate.
That’s where the blog comes in. The more the Kenney government muddies the waters, the harder I strive to provide clarity. I ask: What is the purpose of this legislation? What problem is it trying to solve? Is it a real problem or a pretend problem? I pay particular attention when Mr. Kenney speaks, because he is a master at using bombast to obscure flawed policies.
Mr. Kenney, for example, passed legislation allowing corporations to own hospitals and employ doctors, ostensibly to provide “choice” and reduce wait times. The best research, however, shows privatization reduces wait times only for those who can afford to pay and increases wait times for everyone else. The legislation doesn’t create “choice”; it creates a two-tier healthcare system.
Blogging serves another function. Readers comment on posts, share ideas and amplify the message. We become better informed and more powerful. We know we can’t toss the Kenney government out of office before 2023, but we can slow it down.
Anyone who cares about the public good is an activist at heart. Speak up! Make yourself heard. Blog, start a Facebook group, attend a rally, join one of the many interest groups springing up across the province or plant a Defend Alberta Parks sign on your lawn. Be a part of the democratic process. Alberta will become a better place if you do.
And, just for the record, I am not now nor have I ever been a member of a communist party. But I will admit to squashing chocolate bonbons to find the ones with the squishy pink centres.
Calgary’s Susan Wright blogs on Alberta politics at susanonthesoapbox.com.