Gone downhill

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Sometimes, it’s worth looking at behaviour in other jurisdictions to get an idea of whether someone here is just going too far. And sometimes, when you do, you discover that we’re accepting political behaviour that is considered downright offensive in other spheres.

Take politics and government news releases. In Alberta, there’s a growing storm about Premier Alison Redford’s Tories issuing political news releases on government letterhead. The problem? There should be clear separation between a political party and its work as a government — the two are not the same. What sparked the issue is that recently, the Tories have started issuing government news releases that directly attack their political rivals.

Here’s what AlbertaDiary.ca had to say about that behaviour: “But the issue here is that by sending its media release out on government stationery, Ms. Redford’s Progressive Conservative Party blurs the line between the party and the government and oversteps the traditional limits on what’s properly a partisan party activity and what’s an official government act.”

Another news release was the subject of a CBC News story because of this sentence: “While the opposition focused on an agenda of unprecedented personal attacks, Premier Redford and the government caucus remained focused on the issues that matter to Albertans,” the news release states.

The CBC story quoted Wilfrid Laurier University political scientist Simon Kiss, an expert in political communications, as saying, “I think it’s pretty inappropriate for government resources and government staff to be including partisan attacks in public communications.”

The CBC story also says, “Kiss said he has never seen another ruling party — provincial or federal — use a government news release to criticize the opposition.”

Well, clearly Kiss has never dealt with the provincial government in this province, where government news releases attacking the opposition — essentially using government staff and resources to support political attacks — are a regular occurrence.

Here’s a quote from Education Minister Clyde Jackman from a government news release issued last Wednesday: “While I appreciate the role of the Official Opposition, the constant barrage of pointless negativity and ill-informed commentary is difficult to tolerate when you know some people could conceivably accept it as fact.”

On the same day, cabinet member Darin King issued this political attack, also as an official government news release: “The NDP is against development of our resources, they are against diversification and they are against the jobs that come with it.”

A news release from last Tuesday started like this: “In response to inaccurate and misleading statements made in the House of Assembly today by the third party about government’s commitment to rural regions, the Honourable Keith Hutchings, Minister of Innovation, Business and Rural Development, pointed to the fact that the provincial government continues to advance and invest in initiatives that strengthen rural regions through its business and economic development programs.”

It certainly muddies the water between politics and governance — and that’s just over two days.

The head of Alberta’s NDP, Brian Mason, told the CBC the misuse of government resources shows how much the Albertan political climate has gotten worse: “And quite frankly it has deteriorated considerably since Alison Redford won the leadership. She doesn’t seem to respect the normal bounds between government and politics. … And now the government itself is using taxpayers’ money for political purposes to attack the opposition.”

Well, if that’s a clear sign of deterioration, what are we living with here?

Organizations: CBC News, Progressive Conservative Party, NDP Wilfrid Laurier University Rural Development

Geographic location: Alberta

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Recent comments

  • Herb Morrison
    March 21, 2013 - 08:57

    Mr. Burke. Apology accepted. You are correct in saying that you and I will obviously not agree on this issue. Despite the fact that we disagree, I do appreciate the fact that our debate is conducted with a high degree of mutual personal respect.

  • Colin Burke
    March 21, 2013 - 08:28

    I'm sorry, Mr. Morrison, I did mistake your meaning. I have read again the comment to which I had referred and now I see that you meant that appointing women to preach his word would simply have prevented the word of Christ from being preached. Good point. However, I would like to read your opinion on my suggestion that if anyone ought to do another's will, the one who does it ought to be a man, leaving women free to follow their own more or less arbitrary choices when these are not clearly wrong, and simply to be themselves rather than another's servant or representative. (Men ought chiefly to serve or represent their women, as men who take the feminist position against that "sexist" view mostly represent the wrong women -- to the latter's ultimate detriment.) I will, though, be content with the implication that silence gives consent; we cannot possibly hope in this milieu to have everyone express all agreement in those matters on which we do agree. Thank you for pointing out my error.

  • Herb Morrison
    March 20, 2013 - 15:36

    Mr. Burke. I have not contradicted myself. Jesus did reject sexism, as I proved to you with documentation from Scripture. Jesus did not choose men to do God's work because He was shared the sexist mentality prevalent in the male-dominated sociey in which he lived. Perhaps Jesus chose male Apostles because was interested in promoting gender-equality. I did not state that Jesus chose male Apostles because he was bowing to social pressure to do so. Please feel free to quote me at any time but kindly refrain from misquoting me. Furthermore any suggestion that you can predict what my responses may or may not be is an insult to my intelligence.

  • Colin Burke
    March 20, 2013 - 11:16

    Mr. Morrison, first you said Christ roundly rejected the sexism prevalent in the society of his time, and more recently you say he selected men to preach for him only because he was governed by it. Well, which was it? And please don't say that if he had done what the people of his time deemed going too far in rejecting such sexism, those sexists would have crucified him.

  • Herb Morrison
    March 20, 2013 - 08:52

    Mr. Burke, all Christians, regardless of gender are call to bring the good news of the Gospel to those around us, primarilly by living our lives in accordance with the principles of Christianity. I believe that because Christ lived in a male-dominated Society He chose men to spread the word because, within the Jewishculture into which Jesus was born and raised, it was contrary to accepted Social protocall for a woman to speak to a man in public. The exclusion of women when it comes to preaching and teaching the Word of God was a result of the discrimminatory Social attitude of the day which is still all too prevalent in contemporary Society, which attempts to relegate women to a position of second class status im some ateas of life within our Society. Such an attitude, whether displayed by a Christian Church in particular or within Society in general is, in my opinion, not Divinely inspired.

  • Colin Burke
    March 19, 2013 - 20:08

    Mr. Morrison, you make a good point, but I believe that even here a proper distinction will reinforce the one I made. Christ did indeed send the Samaritan woman to others, but it seems to me he sent her to bring those others to himself. Similarly, after his resurrection, he sent Mary Magdalen to his other disciples, but that was to tell them he was coming to them. When he wanted someone to teach on his behalf where he himself would not be present, it appears to me that he chose men to do that. This appears to me to reinforce the "sexist" position that when humans are obliged to act on behalf of others, it ought to be the male humans who do so, while women ought primarily, within the limits of morality, to be free to serve their own personal purposes almost exclusively. It appears to me also that people who oppose such sexism want no one to be free from service to commercial employers, perhaps because if women are allowed to retain such freedom, men will learn to aspire to it.

  • Harvey
    March 19, 2013 - 12:23

    Harperite arrogance is really beginning to to come to the fore in this prov gov't of clowns.Why should I believe that distortion of facts come only from opp. Parties. Two years ago I was a strong advocate of the P.C. Gov't. Not any more.

  • Stanley T. Fredricks
    March 19, 2013 - 12:11

    @sealcove - Based on your steady stream of inane comments, it is very likely that you are either a government backbencher or a political assistant. We know of course from the Telegram reports and leaks from your own party that you and your kind have quotas to fill when it comes to deflecting criticism of the government. As such, the cost to the taxpayer would be well in excess of anything CBC might have spent on this story. The big difference of course is that the CBC is doing the job it is mandated to do; not so elected government members and their minions who use taxpayer resources for partisan political purposes. One final point, if you're intent on hiding behind a pseudonym, please don't abscond with the name of a fine community, the majority residents of which no doubt wouldn't give underhanded politicians the time of day.

  • david
    March 19, 2013 - 11:25

    "Kiss said he has never seen another ruling party — provincial or federal — use a government news release to criticize the opposition." Goes to show how "well-read" some university scholars are. How can you purport to be an expert in political science when you are not even conscious of the longstanding political circus, and the incredible research opprtunities in both political science and public psychology that it presents, going on in a province in your own country? It's world class.

  • saelcove
    March 19, 2013 - 11:00

    CBC enough said and how much did that story cost the tax payer

  • Cyril Rogers
    March 19, 2013 - 10:41

    This apple is rotten at the core and, in both Newfoundland and Alberta, it starts at the top. Nothing is ever going to change and it will only get worse as long as we don't have a method of holding them accountable. An election every four years, in which only 55-60% of the eligible voters participate, is not going to cut it. That may very well be the fault of the electorate but it seems that it has become worse in recent years;. however, a look back in history shows how corrupt politics can be and thus bolsters the argument for electoral reform.

  • Herb Morrison
    March 19, 2013 - 10:19

    Mr. Burke. For your information, Jesus Christ Himself repeatedly taught by example, that the sexist attutide, similar to your ownn, which was so prevalent in the male- dominated society in which Christ lived was and remains inappropriate at best. Christ recruited the Samaritan woman at the well to carry His message to her people. Either the fact that this person, whom Christ encountered, was a Samaritan or the fact that this person was a woman, would have seen her looked upon by the people of the society in which she lived as either a second-class citizen or an outcast. Furthermore, Scripture records that during an encounter with a Syrophoenecian woman, she bested Jesus, who had referred to her as a dog. . If you refuse to accept Jesus assertion that sexism is wrong, far be it for me or any other mere mortal to attempt to convince you of the error of your ways.

  • Eli
    March 19, 2013 - 09:42

    The way I see it our provincial government assures therer's enough carrots dangled under the noses of the intelligentia to keep 'em quet. In our tiny corner of the world, Newfoundland & Labrador contractors, lawyers, doctors, and any other employer will stay buttron lipped for fear of opening a Purple File. Our conduct is shameful. The Jackmans, Kings, Kents et al should be villified rather than respected in their communities.

  • Colin Burke
    March 19, 2013 - 09:21

    Is it really pure coincidence that both these governments which are failing to make the proper kind of distinctions between the personal and the objective are being bossed by women? (I invite anyone tempted to respond knee-jerkily that such comments are "sexist" to define sexism and explain why it is wrong and to how that definition and explanation render the comment irrelevant.)

  • Vote denied
    March 19, 2013 - 09:03

    The Tory MHA's here do that kind of stuff because they don't want to be held accountable for anything. Its the same in question peroid. I guess thats it when our elected officials have sat on their hands for so long and have no answers to their less than poor management skills. Just another embarrassment of government and lack of respect to the taxpayers, people who can talk the talk but can't walk the walk. Like a coat tail. And if you don't believe it...ask steve kent. When you hear it, you'll know. You'll think, This sure do sound like Bs and Do they think Im actually that stupid. Im sayin yes!

  • wavy
    March 19, 2013 - 07:47

    Excellent article and definitely food for thought. It all has to do with standards and our level of acceptance. Comparing political jurisdictions across Canada to Newfoundland is not unlike visiting various grocers when travelling "up along" to compare the quality of their produce to that of "back home". In both cases, comparatively speaking, the end products in this province often leave little to be desired and has one questioning why we put up with such poor quality and low standards in Newfoundland.