While the U.S. burns and COVID-19 spreads, Alberta's legislators discuss a provincial parole board, money for gun advocates and the cultural significance of rodeos

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Image: Government of Alberta/Flickr

The great republic to our south is in flames, led by an American Nero and seemingly teetering on the brink of martial law. At the same moment, the world is convulsed by an entirely new disease, the first truly global pandemic in history.

So what are Premier Jason Kenney and his United Conservative Party government up to here in Alberta?

Well, yesterday they were talking about setting up a provincial parole board, an idea so lacking in utility it has to be seen as right-wing virtue signalling on a grandstand-show scale.

Plus, these proponents of the quaint complaint "there's only one taxpayer" apparently want to give taxpayers' money to gun nuts so they can sue the federal government over the country's new gun control regulations -- an idea that surely deserves a blunt Anglo Saxon retort.

Oh, and the Alberta legislature has declared rodeo a culturally distinctive activity, sort of like the tea ceremony in Japan or bullfighting in Spain, except Spaniards have mostly rejected it as needlessly cruel, culturally significant or not.

Well, last Thursday the UCP demonstrated its deep contempt for the rule of law by passing obviously unconstitutional legislation banning peaceful protest in the province -- if it's inconvenient for pipeline builders, meat-packers or anyone on the UCP donors list, anyway. By comparison, at least yesterday's announcements have a degree of comedic value.

Kenney's parole bill -- Bill 18, the Corrections (Alberta Parole Board) Amendment Act -- will increase costs to taxpayers when it's passed by the UCP majority in the house.

It has political utility only as long as enough Albertans don't understand the difference between the Canadian and U.S. justice systems to ensure there's herd immunity against facts. In other words, Kenney is counting on Albertans not understanding and not finding out that an Alberta parole board is never going to have jurisdiction over any sentence longer than two years.

Like the parole boards of Ontario and Quebec, the only two provinces with such institutions, it will only be able to make "parole decisions for applicants serving a sentence of less than two years in a provincial correctional institution."

So the millions in additional costs that we'll have to bear for this little exercise in symbolic sovereignty-association will deliver only a counterfeit impression that Premier Kenney is tough on crime, plus a few more minor sinecures to which UCP loyalists can be appointed.

And never mind that most of the members of the current Parole Board of Canada were put there by Stephen Harper's Conservative government -- you know, the one in which Kenney served so loyally for so long.

As for tax support for lawsuits frivolously argued by gun "rights" advocates steeped in constitutionally irrelevant National Rifle Association codswallop, that idea can be tied to the UCP's promise to its base to create a provincial chief firearms officer to subvert federal gun control law.

Oh, wait. Kenney told an interviewer that "by appointing an Alberta chief firearms officer we believe we can have somebody, while obviously committed to upholding the law, will do so in a way that focuses enforcement on criminal misuse of firearms rather than regulatory harassment of safe, legal law-abiding farmers in God's country." (Emphasis added, and Kenney really said that bit about God's country, and somehow I don't think he was talking about the scenery.)

As long as readers understand that the phrase "obviously committed to upholding the law" is a dog whistle meaning the opposite, the intention of the premier's comment should be clear.

It was while discussing that plan on a right-wing radio program in Calgary that Kenney raised the idea of subsidizing citizen lawsuits against the federal government.

Finally, as for rodeo, I suppose yesterday's otherwise meaningless declaration of the legislature will be a big help when Kenney's fatuous "fair deal" panel recommends sovereignty-association for Alberta on the grounds we're a distinct society, seeing as we have rodeo.

The motion by Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright MLA Garth Rowswell read as follows: "Be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly urge the government to recognize the cultural importance of rodeo and its related agricultural events."

It was passed unanimously, which means it was even supported by NDP Opposition members in the house.

Well, I guess we've all joined Alberta’s irony-free family now. No one's going to accuse the NDP of calling anyone around here Canada's embarrassing cousins ever again!

Presumably if you're embarrassed, that means you're not Albertan!

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions at The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on his blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Image: Government of Alberta/Flickr

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