Saturday, March 25, 2017

So ... You Think Silence Is An Answer?

There are a number of Jason Kenney's supporters running around with the mistaken belief that because Kenney refuses to answer questions about his Social Conservative (SoCon) beliefs is somehow an endorsement that he will be benign on those issues should he ever become Alberta's Premier.

Like the CPC policy change last year where they "progressively" agreed not to talk about gay marriage in the party platform any more, we have to recognize that silence is not a neutral position.  With most politicians, there is exactly one time that they will be silent on an issue:  when they know that what they would say carries a high political price.

Overtly social conservative issues don't fly in Alberta these days.  There are plenty who wish they would, but one only has to look back to the 2012 election when candidate Rev. Hunsperger's infamous "Lake of Fire" blog post became public to see this.  Then Wildrose Party (WRP) leader Danielle Smith tried desperately to 'duck-and-weave' on the subject, but Albertans didn't buy it.  In a matter of a week or so, WildRose went from being positioned to oust the long reigning PCs to being an also-ran. Albertans - especially in urban areas - withdrew their support from the WRP so fast it stunned both politicians and strategists alike.

Let me clear - Kenney is nobody's fool.  He knows that his socially conservative beliefs aren't exactly electable material.  If he gets hung with them, then his political goose is cooked.  His one hope is to cloak himself in the mantle of "free enterprise" and "fiscal conservatism".  As long as he can avoid being held accountable for his SoCon beliefs, he thinks he can have it both ways.  Appeal to Alberta's long held "free enterprise spirit" and at the same time be revered as a political hero by the religious right (which is strong in rural Alberta).

Fortunately for us, the Internet has a long memory, and it will be difficult for Kenney to entirely avoid the reality that his past has wrought.  Kenney got his start in politics as a pro-life advocate in his undergraduate days:



If this were merely a "youthful moment", I'd be willing to let it go.  But it isn't.  Through the 1990s, Kenney spent much of his time on the 'pro-life rubber chicken circuit', and became quite a sought after speaker.  Unfortunately, even a relatively young Kenney seemed to understand that his track record in this area could bite him.  As a result, it is next to impossible to find transcripts of his speeches, or indeed, any record of what he outside of brief mentions in organization newsletters.

However, it is these speaking engagements which are a large part of what got him such an effusive endorsement from Campaign Life Coalition:



This same record also shows us a consistent record of Kenney voting dutifully on SoCon lines over the course of his career as an MP.  However, we also have to pay attention to his other activities too.  For example, he became a "co-chair" of the renewed "Pro Life Caucus" in 1998.  This is a group which was (and still is) very secretive about both its membership and its activities.  Mentions of it a few and far between.  But searching on The Interim's website, it doesn't take long to find that Kenney and this caucus were quite active.  

If one doesn't dig too hard, it's easy to believe that once Kenney became a cabinet minister, he ceased to be engaged in these matters.  Yet, his name is frequently mentioned in organization articles about events like the Association for Reformed Political Action (ARPA)'s "God and Government" events.  

These are the things Kenney is refusing to speak about.  He won't tell us what he believes will make for good government.  As transgender Albertans learned in 2009, a politician who isn't talking about these things openly may well be plotting something really horrible.  

There are a myriad of ways for Kenney to attack SoCon issues.  If you are transgender, he can revisit Liepert's actions and yank funding - and he'd get away with it as part of an "austerity" package.  We'll be told to "share the pain".  When Harper was first elected in 2006, the first things his government did (and Kenney was at the table), were overt attacks on women and minorities.  Make no mistake, I would expect Kenney to repeat this same approach were he to ever become Premier. 

You're a woman who is sexually active?  Abortion and birth control access will be on his list.  Attacks could range from going after funding to requiring doctors to provide letters, a return to the "therapeutic abortion review panels" of the 60s and other procedurally oriented attacks.  One only needs to look at some of the crazy stuff that the Republicans have tried to impose - including required vaginal ultrasound procedures before an abortion is permitted.  Contraception can be attack in a myriad of ways, including restricting access to certain "licensed" providers.  (e.g. behind the counter at the pharmacy type of stuff).  

As for issues like marriage, it may be "the law of the land", but that doesn't stop Kenney from rewriting the rules around marriage licenses in Alberta to make it more difficult for LGBTQ couples to access.  Anything from "review processes" to simply underfunding the licensing.

I don't live in the halls of government, and _I_ can figure out how Kenney might proceed.  Someone more familiar with the apparatus of government like Mr. Kenney can no doubt come up with a dozen tools I haven't thought of.  This is why silence is not "neutral", nor should we trust the use of silence. 

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