Lindsay Blackett is not a very good liar
I like Lindsay Blackett. Unlike the other 82 members of the Alberta Legislature, he has been a vocal champion of freedom of speech, and he's called BS on the counterfeit "human right" not to be offended. The fact that he just happens to be the cabinet minister in charge of the human rights commission was perfect. And the fact that he's black is even more perfect -- about 100% of the advocates of these fake human rights happen to be middle-aged guilty white liberals who look pretty much like Barbara Hall.
Earlier this year, Blackett made some very bold pledges to reform Alberta's HRC, to bring it into accord with Alberta sensibilities. That is: no more cases about hurt feelings.
So I was truly sad to see Blackett blackballed by his own premier yesterday.
Here's Rick Bell's perspicacious assessment of things, in today's Calgary Sun. I really don't want to leave out any of it:
In Alberta, if you've survived the swine flu, you still can't hurt anyone's feelings...
Yesterday, Lindsay Blackett, the province's main man on human rights, sounds like he's had almost as bad a day as a Calgary Flames fan, which he is.
You see, the one right he pushed with passion is freedom of speech and such a central democratic idea is shot down by Tory MLAs.
Lindsay wanted to change the law so the province's human rights commission wouldn't play censor when someone decides they're offended by the opinion of someone else.
Even though he brings forward the recommendation with common-sense reasoning it is given the thumbs-down. Lindsay loses and the stench of an oppressive political correctness remains.
Yes, quite a few Tory MLAs do not want us to have freedom of speech. They want people to have the right to take other people to the human rights commission whenever individuals think what someone says is likely to expose them to hatred or contempt, whatever that means.
A couple months ago, Lindsay tells the Sun the human rights commission should stick to fighting discrimination in housing and access to services and jobs.
The commission's job shouldn't be refereeing debates. People should have the ability to say what they think and others can argue for the thoughts they have.
Lindsay figured there would be no problem. This was Democracy 101.
There was a problem.
"There was no consensus. I can have my opinion but, when it comes to caucus, the caucus decision goes forward," says Lindsay, of the caucus of his Tory colleagues and their thumbs-down.
Does he still believe what he said he believed?
"I believe in what caucus believes. To say anything else would be divisive. I once wanted a new pair of skates, but I didn't get them. We don't have time to sit and mope," says a man who has coached Timbits hockey.
"We'll take the best of what we have and move on. It's still better than what we had."
Sad. Very sad.
Premier Ed, Lindsay's boss, tells us what goes down in a read-between-the-lines way.
The provincial Tories felt standing pat "did provide protection and ..."
Now read on, read on.
"I'm just happy with the fact we have a very diverse caucus, people from so many different backgrounds and it's the right decision."
So ... connect the dots ... the Tory MLAs "from so many different backgrounds" kibosh free speech.
Let them stand up and reveal themselves. They won't. They will hide behind the closed doors of Toryland.
So will those groups who bellyached to the MLAs against the change because they don't understand what Canadian freedoms are supposed to be about.
What we get instead is mealy-mouthed mumbo-jumbo where Alberta "will balance freedom of speech with our responsibility to others." What the hell does that mean?
Changing the law "could have serious consequences" and "recognizing the responsibilities that come with freedom of expression is also important." Huh?
Total unadulterated bull but this is what you get when the provincial Tories harbour Conservatives of convenience, opportunists wearing the party colours to score a spot on the winning team and more than willing to kowtow to the whiners. Funny thing. The one thing Lindsay doesn't propose, parental rights, is approved with flying colours.
...And Premier Ed predicts a "considerable amount of debate" on human rights.
Ironic. Lots of debate. No suprise. The legislature is the one place where you can hurt someone else's feelings.
How sad. The one bright light for freedom in the Alberta caucus, the one honest man, was tasked with doing the media circuit to cover for Premier Ed Stelmach's authoritarian streak. In both his interview with Bell, and his radio interview with Rob Breakenridge, he came across as obviously conflicted -- obviously not believing a word he was saying.
Of course he doesn't. He was doing his partisan duty: lying for his premier. Lindsay Blackett doesn't believe in censorship. But he's pretending he does, because Stelmach ordered him to say so. It truly sounds awful to hear a man go through with such a mission. It's terrible to watch someone torch his own self-respect to please some political boss. It's awful to watch -- I can only imagine how awful it feels.
I was tough on Stelmach, because he deserves it. It's one thing to do nothing about HRCs -- like the federal Conservatives. I can even understand it, if I disagree with it -- it's inertia. But to actually say you're going to reform something, and to make it worse, as Stelmach has done? Appalling.
I was tough on Blackett only in this way: when someone is so obviously humiliated by his premier, should he really participate in his own abnegation? Isn't this the textbook example of where one ought to resign on principle?
But things got even more interesting after the interview was over. Two senior Tory organizers called me afterwards to tell me how Stelmach had handled Blackett was exactly how he has handled any other Tory MLA who has criticized Stelmach's disastrous Chavez-style attack on the oil industry -- the royalty scheme that has driven tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars into Saskatchewan.
It's not that Stelmach just can't handle dissent -- political parties have to have some discipline. But this isn't dissent. It's mere debate -- merely having other opinions.
I won't bore my readers with the petty intrigues of Stelmach's premiership. But it was interesting and depressing to learn that Blackett, and his love for free speech, was merely the latest roadkill on Stelmach's disastrous reign.