Alberta’s schools are set to re-open only a few weeks from now but we don’t appear to be getting any closer to a safe plan from the provincial government.
Mounting pressure from parents for more protective action against coronavirus has pushed education minister Adriana LaGrange to relent and require masks in schools. But the change has come so late that the provincial government didn’t have the time to openly procure these masks from the many potential local producers. Instead, the bulk of the masks are being ordered (at apparently no bulk discount! great deal!) from the American corporation Old Navy, with the remainder coming from a Red Deer company owned by a major UCP and LaGrange donor.
Where the education file is concerned the UCP government appears much more focused on fulfilling their campaign promise to throw out and restart the curriculum review that the Notley government had been working on. During the election, UCP candidates painted a picture of classrooms ruled by leftist bias, where children were being indoctrinated to hate ‘traditional Canadian culture’ and the fossil fuel industry. That effort continues apace. When asked by journalists for examples of political bias in the proposed curriculum, Minister LaGrange could provide none; but LaGrange and the various UCP press secretaries and spokespeople have instead shopped around misleading anecdotes like this multiple choice quiz the Minister has been complaining about for over ten months (a quiz which was completely in line with the former curriculum designed by the PCs.)
If you didn’t catch LaGrange’s press conference on the curriculum review last week--it was absolutely bizarre. David Climenhaga has a good summary on his blog. For a validator the Minister invited a former superintendent, Angus McBeath, to give a presentation that I can only describe as Abe-Simpsonian. After a long digression about how young people these days don’t appreciate their service jobs enough, Mr. McBeath assured viewers that Alberta’s new curriculum would teach students to read and do mathematics (the old one didn’t?) and would produce the type of person who you’d be happy to sell you a used car.
Carla Peck, a professor of elementary education at the University of Alberta, has written a thorough summary of the changes the UCP are making that you can read here. After sifting through the UCP complaints and proposals, I’m struggling to find much of substance that the UCP are changing at all. Ongoing work is certainly being thrown out, but it's not being replaced with much. At the end of the day, I'd call it just a performance: the UCP invented a fictional problem (leftist bias and ideological indoctrination in schools), convinced their base that the problem existed and was urgent, and are now flailing to appear as though they’re actually addressing it. Believers in the idea that the NDP were indoctrinating children may be impressed by LaGrange and McBeath’s vague promises. The rest of us, I think, would prefer to see the Minister focus on the looming, and perhaps at this point inevitable, COVID-19 second wave in our schools.
Alberta’s Bill 30, which eased restrictions on privatized healthcare here in the province, is already bearing results as the Kenney government has announced the construction of a $200+ million private orthopedic hospital in Edmonton. The facility will be the largest private surgical facility in Alberta’s history. The project is reminiscent of Calgary’s Health Resources Centre, another experiment with privatization, which provided (allegedly) mediocre services for a while before veering into bankruptcy and leaving the public to clean up millions of dollars in debt. I have my doubts that this facility, under the inept oversight of Tyler Shandro, will be any less of a boondoggle.
Workers at Alberta’s Safeways were poised to strike but pickets appear to have been averted, as UFCW 401 has secured a new contract that 90% of the union voted to approve. Folks who are showing up and risking their health in this pandemic to make sure our families are fed deserve safety and fair compensation so here’s hoping this contract gets them a bit more of both!
The mutual aid project Camp Pekiwewin is still going strong in Edmonton despite antagonism from police and no support from city council. A bit under 200 unhoused folks (recent estimates put Edmonton’s unhoused population in the realm of about 2000 people total) are presently staying at the camp. A coalition of local activist groups are maintaining safety and peace there, and need a lot of both volunteer and material help. If you’d like to contribute, you can find more information about the camp on their Instagram, which appears to be their main communications channel. As Keith Gerein wisely wrote for the Journal last week, the city and the province both have no excuse for inaction on homelessness, especially in the middle of this pandemic.
After months of investigation the Edmonton Police Service has come to the conclusion that defacing a statue of Nazi is not a hate crime. Solid detective work, gentlemen! The statue, which sits outside Edmonton’s Ukrainian Youth Unity Complex, is of Roman Shukheyvych--a commander of the Nazi Nachtigall Batallion and later the 201st Schutzmannschaft Battalion, German military units implicated in the slaughter of Jews and Poles during the Second World War--and is not Edmonton’s only monument to a Nazi. A cenotaph at St. Michael’s cemetery also commemorates the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS.
- UCP meddling in public sector pension plans is already hitting some Albertans hard, reports CityNews in Edmonton. One Edmonton woman has seen the value of her pension cut nearly in half. Meanwhile, AIMCO, the agency to which the UCP have handed control of many of these pensions, continues bumbling into scandals. On the Progress Report blog this week Jeremy Appel dives into the story of Razor Energy--AIMCO lent this oil and gas company a whopping $45 million; the company turned around and give $30 million of it directly to its shareholders but is now telling AIMCO that it can’t afford to make its interest payments on the loan. Razor is sitting on over $250 million of environmental liabilities that are likely to be dumped on the public when they go out of business.
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