Progress Alberta Report #221

Your weekly update on Alberta politics for June 16, 2020

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Inspired by the protests against the murder of George Floyd, and inflamed by numerous reports of police brutality in Canada against Black and Indigenous people, the movement to radically change the nature of policing in Canada continues to grow.

Most of our coverage to date has been about how this movement is fighting tor change at the municipal level. But what about the provincial government?

To date the public-facing position of the UCP has mostly been one of disengagement. No member of cabinet has engaged with the discourse other than a few perfunctory, hollow posts about racism being bad. No UCP MLAs have shown up to engage with any of the major Black Lives Matter demonstrations.

Behind the scenes, though, the government is taking action–in exactly the opposite direction that protestors are demanding. Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer is bringing in changes to the Victims of Crime Act that will allow him to raid the Victims of Crime Fund and divert that money to police budgets. The UCP are seeking to duplicate the parole board, creating one controlled by the Alberta government that Kenney says will keep more people in prison. They’ve also pushed for more RCMP policing in rural communities, but aren’t funding any of it–forcing those communities to cut their own program spending to pay for more cops.

And no discussion about anti-racist protests and the push for reduced policing in Alberta would be complete without mentioning ‘Bill 1,’ the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act. It’s a draconian anti-protestor bill that, had it been in effect weeks ago, would have criminalized the Black Lives Matter marches in Calgary. Analysis from University of Calgary Faculty of Law members finds that the legislation is almost certainly an unconstitutional attack on civil rights. Arthur Noskey, Grand Chief of the Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta, says the legislation is racially targeted against Indigenous people.

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Edmonton public hearings on police funding

In response to Black Lives Matter Edmonton’s massive letter campaign, which calls for funding to be diverted away from the Edmonton Police Service and towards social programs and community organizations, city council is in the midst of public hearings that are expected to stretch through the rest of this week. Municipal politics connoisseur Troy Pavlek has set up a live stream online where you can watch the hearings and chat with other viewers.

I’ve been following the hearings closely and I’m deeply skeptical of Edmonton city council’s actual level of engagement with this issue. Councillors Aaron Paquette and Andrew Knack have been interacting genuinely, respecting the speakers, and seem open to considering proposals. I can’t say the same for the rest of council, or of the mayor, who have spent a large amount of the hearings wasting the time of speakers with inane and belligerent counter-questioning.

For more on the hearings, I would recommend following one of the several Edmonton Twitter users who are live-tweeting or critiquing the process, for example Jeff Samsonow or Bashir Mohamed.

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  • UFCW 401, which represents workers at Alberta’s Safeways, is on the verge of a province-wide strike. The strike vote will be held next week, after which you can expect pickets to go up immediately. I urge you not to cross these picket lines. If you can, support the workers by walking the line with them. Safeways in Alberta are owned by Sobeys–and the Sobeys are staffed by non-unionized workers–so don’t go to the Sobeys, either; a good substitute if there’s one in your town would be Superstore.

That’s all for this week. Please share our newsletter with any friends or family who you think would like political news and commentary from a progressive point of view. If someone forwarded this newsletter to you, you can sign up for it here. If you would like to support our ongoing work, please consider donating to help us keep going.

Jim Storrie

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