Friday, June 19, 2009

Alberta: Where It's AOKIYAAC

(* AOKIYAC - It's All Okay If You Are A Conservative *)

So, I see that Iris Evans has issued a sort-of apology:

The comments were "certainly targeted at financial literacy and not at people who had to work out of the home and be away from the children. It wasn't. And if they inadvertently, or if the way it's been reported, offends somebody, I do apologize," Iris Evans told CBC News on Wednesday evening.

"But it was never with the intent to slam parenting as people do when they have children in alternative care or in daycare. It was an intent to point out the importance of the early years in teaching skills to children whether it's behavioural issues or financial literacy."

First off, that isn't an apology, it's an attempt at a dodge. Iris screwed up, embarrassed the government and is now trying the "I was taken out of context" excuse, along with a conditional statement of apology. Sorry, not good enough, Iris.

Second, going back to her original comments, it's pretty hard to see how her explanation does anything to substantively mitigate the underlying message of what she said:

"They've understood perfectly well that when you're raising children, you don't both go off to work and leave them for somebody else to raise," Evans said. "This is not a statement against daycare. It's a statement about their belief in the importance of raising children properly."

She also said a lack of education is ruining the upbringing of some children and leading to mental illness and crime.

"The huge failure of Canadians is not to educate the children properly, and then why should we be surprised when they have mental illnesses or commit dreadful crimes?" she said. "We've really got to focus on that properly, and it should be financial literacy as well as anything else."

I just can't parse this collection of assumptions and assertions without it turning into nothing more than yet another dog whistle to the so-called 'family values' crowd that continues to argue that women who have children shouldn't be working - and if they are, that any problems in their families are "all their fault".

Among other points in here, she is essentially inferring that mental health issues are directly related to problems within the family unit. This is arguably false on many, many fronts, and coming from somebody with her background in health care, she should know better. There are many, many causes for various mental health issues, and it is beyond irresponsible to blame parents for those problems - by inference or otherwise.

Similarly, I don't buy the claim that implied about youth crime either. There are many factors that can cause youth to turn to crime. While parental neglect can be a cause, it is beyond irresponsible to assume that it is a necessary precondition. Blanket "blame the parents" comments reflect sloppy thinking on the minister's part.

She is claiming that her comments are about "financial education", and yet it is so painfully clear from the content of what she said that financial matters are at best secondary clauses in the core message of her statements. At the core of it all is the same romanticized view of family that is often used to oppose gay marriage, abortion, sex education and whatnot. Sorry, but the era when families could routinely afford to live on one income while the other parent stayed at home is long past. At most it is a romanticized ideal now, and the romanticization has quietly omitted all of the reasons why it had to change.

Limp, half-baked apologies are not what we need from this government and its ministers. But then again, we have a minister in charge of health care who has no health care background and a finance minister who used to be a nurse - not exactly the kind of stellar qualifications that would get them senior executive posts in any kind of corporation looking after similar responsibilities!

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