Progress Report Newsletter #222: Referendum theatre

After months of ‘work’--and then weeks of being kept out of the hands of the public--Alberta’s ‘Fair Deal’ Panel report was finally released by the UCP government last week.

As expected the panel is advising the UCP to do basically everything the UCP already said they want to do. Money well spent!

Despite the panel admitting that six in ten Albertans they polled don’t want the Alberta government taking over people’s pensions, and despite town halls across the province being stacked with opposers, the panel is recommending that Kenney take your CPP and put it under the control of notorious money-losers AIMCO.

The 68-page report advises the UCP to enact a long list of policies that the UCP already wanted to enact, like the creation of a provincial police force. But the most impactful might ironically be the proposal to hold a referendum on equalization.

I say ironic because a referendum on equalization doesn’t actually do anything, at least where equalization itself is concerned. As the report authors themselves admit, because equalization is a federal policy, at best a provincial referendum only puts “moral obligation” on the federal government to negotiate. Not legal obligation. The feds can simply say “no,” and probably will.

It’s what happens around the referendum that will be important. First, the referendum will coincide with municipal elections across the province--putting a ‘red meat’ issue for conservatives on the ballot that will drive conservative voters to the polls. And we know how much the UCP would like to take over some city councils.

Second, thanks to legislation the UCP just brought in this week, the referendum will be an absolute free-for-all for rich donors. The new bill raises the maximum that third-party advertisers can spend during this referendum up to a massive $500,000 (the cap was previously $150,000.) If the legislation is passed as it currently stands, advertisers will be able to spend up to $350,000 without even declaring their donors.

And that’s on top of the Government of Alberta funds and resources that the UCP will be able to throw behind their side of the referendum. That’s public money being spent to court conservative voters for a phony stunt that even the government’s own panel admits won’t achieve a thing. Cooking up an illusionary issue to manipulate the electorate, sneak big money into politics, and divert public funds to campaigning for conservatives: there’s really nothing to call it but corruption.

EPSB SRO motion partially defeated

Tuesday evening the Edmonton Public School Board trustees debated the issue of SROs, or school resource officers--a.k.a. cops in schools. Throughout the afternoon they were presented with evidence and stories of trauma from folks who had been harmed by the SRO program.

Two proposals were before the board: first, fully review the program, which has never been seriously reviewed at all since its creation in 1979; and second, to suspend the program until the review was complete. While the board did vote in favor of the review, the vote to suspend the program was deadlocked. Trustees Cheryl Johner, Michelle Draper, Sherry Adams and Trisha Estrabrooks voted to keep cops in schools. Arguing in favor of the program, Johner bizarrely asserted that SROs were necessary to protect students from refugees, an argument that we can only describe as deeply and offensively racist.


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