Who gets muzzled next by unconstitutional Redford Government laws? Environmentalists?

Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk, in motorcycle sidecar, gives the order to go after a pesky trade unionist’s blog. But look out! Alison Redford’s Alberta Thought Police may already have their eyes on you! Actual Redford cabinet ministers may not appear exactly as illustrated. Then again, new uniforms for cabinet and caucus may already be on order.

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?

Environmentalists?

Quite possibly.

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 “libeling” 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 Ms. 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 Rabble.ca.

8 Comments on "Who gets muzzled next by unconstitutional Redford Government laws? Environmentalists?"

  1. Sam Gunsch says:

    See one news article with Redford’s views on consulting with or listening to the public excerpted below:

    Based on this article and other disdainful comments Redfords made about “protestors” it appears to me that Redford’s views are on record, re free speech and the legitimacy of citizens vs corporations and their loyal subjects supporting economic interests as opposed to democratic consideration of the common good.

    The article fortunately also cites some opposition leader still concerned with democracy, commenting on Redford’s smears of citizen dissent.

    ===================
    Pipeline hearings will take too long, Redford says

    As hearings began Tuesday on the divisive Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, Premier Alison Redford said she has significant concerns about the lengthy and laborious regulatory process.
    By Edmonton JournalJanuary 11, 2012

    http://www.canada.com/story_print.html?id=0b7453be-c78f-4e4e-abfd-59496f8194d0&sponsor=

    Hearings by the National Energy Board underway in Kitimat, B.C., are expected to last 18 months because of the sheer volume of submissions.

    “I have been disappointed with the approach that the panel has taken with respect to how they define people that can be adversely affected by the decisions,” Redford said in a Tuesday interview.

    “They’ve taken a very wide interpretation of that definition, and I think it’s allowed for the sort of hearing agenda that we’re seeing, which is a year-and-a-half of meetings with 4,100 people and 10-minute submissions. Do we get a good result from that? I don’t know,” Redford said.

    She said she agrees with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, who have criticized “foreign interests” and “radical” environmental groups that they claim are attempting to stack the hearings and derail the project.

    As critics and opponents face off on the energy development, Harper and Oliver – as well as Redford – found themselves under fire for complaining about the NEB process.

    Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason said the three politicians are trying to “smear many people with legitimate concerns” and attempting to sway the process through intimidation.

    “I think she’s off the wall,” he said of Redford’s remarks. “She wants to predetermine the outcome by determining who is allowed to speak and by trying to discredit people who hold views different from her own.”

    ===========
    As can be seen, Redford favors Alberta’s and now Harper’s corporatist governance system where citizens who ahve concerns about anything aside from promoting the economic agendas favored by the world’s corporations, ought to button their lips and know their place as secondary participants behind those vested corporate interests. And accept that they can’t participate in hearings unless they live on the pipeline right of way.

    We had an election you know. You’ve had your democracy quota until next time. Between elections, authoritarian corporatism is how we do it here in AB and Canda. Get with the corporatist program.

    Regarding that elected leader of the opposition: of course in AB he would be in opposition, because he has failed to get with the corporatist program. And relative to the views on governance in Redford’s PCs and the corporate towers, he naively continues to advocate for an actual representative democratic governance system by, in this case, reminding Redford that legitimacy in a democracy resides with the citizens, not the Redford’s PC’s and their co-governing partners, the vested corporate interests.

    Sam Gunsch

  2. Expat Albertan says:

    This just sickens me. It is Alberta’s own version of Quebec’s regressive religious symbols law. Of course, the.Conservative fellow-travellers over at places like the National Post are screaming at the top of their lungs about what’s happening in Quebec City, but do you think there is even a word spoken about what they are doing in Edmonton? And to think I thought Alison Redford might just be a breath of fresh air from my home province…plus ca change.

    Keep up the good work, Dave. Canadians need to know about this!

  3. K. Larsen says:

    Your confidence that the Alberta government may run up against legal rulings in Federal court based on the Constitution may no longer be entirely realistic.

    In 2006 the Federal Minister of Agriculture issued a gag order to the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) when it was run by a farmer-elected Board of Directors. The CWB was entirely funded by farmers’ money just like the assets of private companies and unions are controlled and funded by their shareholders or members.

    The Courts upheld that gag order in 2008. They have also upheld the outright theft by Ottawa of the CWB’s assets without any compensation to farmers even after acknowledging that the CWB was built and operated entirely with farmers’ money.

    The legal precedents for the elimination of free speech and private property have already been set. The old saying “first they came for … and I said nothing” applies here.

  4. Jack Vilbrunt says:

    Who should get muzzled is the author of this column. What an extremist rag!

    • Expat Albertan says:

      And yet, you still read it.

    • Mr. Vibrunt is yet another pseudonym of the pseudonymous “Joe Albertan,” a notorious Internet troll who has been banned from this site. He slipped this one past me, and I thought I’d let it stand to demonstrate just how idiotic some Alberta social conservatives are, a reminder to readers that is useful from time to time.

Trackbacks for this post

  1. Who's next in line for Premier Redford's bullying? | The Alberta Way
  2. Threats to Academic Freedom (and the Public Interest) in Alberta | Academicalism

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