Now that the Redford Government's unconstitutional attack on free collective bargaining and free speech is in full swing, we have to ask ourselves who’s next?
I mean, who else would they like to shut up right now as much as they want to muzzle those pesky public sector unions -- which are always noisily defending public services Alberta Premier Alison Redford's government would really prefer to privatize?
Environmentalists, after all, have a similar habit of arguing against pipelines to all points of the compass and minimal controls on the expensive-to-implement environmental protections hated by petroleum companies run by the Koch Brothers and other generous donors to "conservative" causes of their ilk!
But legislation like Alberta Bills 45 and 46 are part of a broader pattern elsewhere in Canada and throughout the increasingly undemocratic nations of the industrialized West to criminalize dissent of any kind.
Why do you think the Redford Government also recently proposed to throw elected Alberta mayors and municipal councillors in jail if they didn't immediately or at any point knuckle under to the government's planned approach to regional government?
If you think this government, having added the offence of Thoughtcrime to the books, is going to stop at just one, it is said here you are hopelessly naïve. Anyone who protests anything to do with the various Alberta and federal Petroleum Parties' agenda of austerity (meaning forced poverty and redistribution of wealth upward) or the swift and thoughtless resource exploitation is at risk of falling victim to laws like we saw passed Wednesday and yesterday in the Legislature.
So I'm not kidding when I say that when the Redford Government made it illegal on Wednesday for any Albertan to argue that civil servants and health care workers should sometimes strike, even if such a strike happens to be against the law, they'll be thinking of ways to muzzle environmentalists and shut down all forms of public protest next.
Maybe they'll introduce a northern version of U.S. "food libel" laws, which make it easy for processed food corporations in 13 states to sue critics for "libelling" their unhealthy products through the exercise of free expression, say by suggesting that inspection standards at a certain meat processing plant may not be up to snuff or that there might be dangers for consumers in the consumption of genetically modified food, too much salt or too much sugar.
The Wikipedia notes that many of these laws -- like garden-variety defamation laws in Canada -- place the burden of proof on the defendant, not on the deep-pocketed corporation claiming to have been wronged or inconvenienced.
Or perhaps the Redford Government will try to make it possible for pipeline companies to sue individual British Columbians who speak up against the environmental dangers of running a pipeline from northern Alberta to the B.C. coast -- dangers that, of course, the Alberta and federal governments pretend don't even exist.
Undoubtedly the thought of making it a crime, say punishable by a fine of $500 a day to utter the words "global warming" aloud, sets their dark little neoliberal hearts aflutter.
Or perhaps they'll pass a western Canadian version of the now-defeated Charest Government's Bill 78 last year, which criminalized constitutionally protected protest in the guise of suppressing vandalism. Throw in some huge Spanish-style fines and CCTV cameras in kitchen aids stores and you can lock down most forms of democratic dissent pretty tightly.
Or maybe our government will make it illegal for land owners and property rights advocates to claim they're not being properly compensated or allege there may be health threats from corporations who want to build electrical power lines or drill gas wells on their property.
Preposterous? Many of us might have thought so before Wednesday night and the wee hours of yesterday morning, when the Alberta government moved to gag bloggers, journalists and ordinary citizens who might be tempted to suggest an illegal strike might be the only way for public employees to resolve a situation -- say, unsafe conditions in a new provincial jail that management ignored and refused to correct. (Not that anything like that would ever happen in Alberta!)
Up to now, efforts by conservative politicians and their media echo chamber to silence their environmental opposition has focused on hysterical accusations that the environmentalists' campaigns are funded by green foreign devils.
As an aside, I must say it beats the hell outta me why it's OK for a federal environment minister to declare jihad on foreign environmentalists and suggest they have no business intervening in Canadian affairs by buying ads arguing against pipelines, but it's just fine for the same Conservative government to spend $24 million of our money in the United States intervening in American affairs by buying advertising in favour of pipelines.
Go figure, eh? Maybe it's because they take free speech a little more seriously south of the Medicine Line than we do here in Alberta and you've got to play by local rules.
I'm sure a "free speech advocate" like the Sun News Network’s Ezra Levant would be happy to explain the ethical underpinnings of this puzzlement.
Regardless, getting back to the matter at hand, now that Redford's regime has imposed one unconstitutional limit on free speech they find inconvenient, don't count on it that her brain trust won't try the same stunt again … with you.
When they do, just remember where you heard it first!
This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.
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