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Political Interference: it's the future the right-wing believes they deserve
When people think others are getting ahead by cheating the system, they are more willing to accept that cheating the system is how you get ahead, and open to supporting the practice.
I had many enjoyable classes in university but one of the ones that always stands out as my most favourite was practical logic.
This class was amazing; we learned about logical fallacies, how arguments are built, and how to identify the veracity of premises used to come to a given or — in far too many instances in politics — a desired conclusion.
Conversely, this understanding offers me the opportunity to be perpetually aggrieved at a reliance on false premises, poorly-constructed arguments, and the sheer volume of which involve logical fallacies.
Lots of people have ‘a Bible’ — their go to resource that had a profound impact on the way they understand the world; this is mine.
To put it simply, people can convince us of things simply by seeming to make sense. They can appeal to our emotions, a fear of missing out, wanting to belong to the “in-group”, etc. When that person also holds a position of authority, by virtue of their title or their influence over us, the impact is even greater.
This came to mind while I was constructing my byline because it contains circular logic (we’ll get to the reason in a moment).
A lot of people in Alberta expected Danielle Smith to face consequences over her attempted interference in the justice system. Even Danielle Smith, in her previous career of being a talk show host, once expected leaders who attempted to interfere in the administration of justice would face consequences.
This is a key factor in the validity of the first part of my byline; “when people think others are getting ahead by cheating the system”.
After the incident with Trudeau and his Minister of Justice and Solicitor General — Jody Wilson-Raybould — in 2019, when the ethics commissioner found that the Prime Minister had “violated the Conflict of Interest Act by trying to influence then-justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and get her to overrule a decision to not grant a deferred prosecution agreement to Quebec-based engineering firm SNC-Lavalin”, conservatives thought he would face the consequence of losing the election — but he did not.
Instead, Trudeau was not forced to resign and Canadians rewarded him with a minority government in 2021.
All of these things are true. Correlation, however, does not equate to causation, but that’s an entirely different post.
The logical argument then, in its simplest form is “if a and b, then c”: if Trudeau can interfere in the administration of justice and still be re-elected, then Canadians don’t care about ethics.
Most people would probably say that’s a big leap (it is). Others would add that it’s missing context (it is that, as well). Still others might add that the conclusion is over-simplified.
Each of those premises are true. Trudeau was found to have attempted to interfere in the justice system and Trudeau was re-elected.
In its simplest conclusion, ethics are not something that Canadians take to the ballot box (except when they annihilated the PC government in 1993, and when they tossed out the Liberals in 2006 — but, you know, not this specific time that matters to the argument being put forth).
Those instances tell us that ethics are, actually, important to Canadians and that the conclusion above is false but that’s getting far into the weeds of reality and making people think that maybe it’s not as simple as it looks.
The point is that false conclusions can easily be drawn from true premises and this is why we are where are.
“Whataboutism” (when someone responds to a statement with “what about” someone else who did something similar or supposedly similar) lends support for my argument here.
“If Z did it, and (presumably) got your vote, then why are you complaining that X is doing it and expecting me to vote differently?”
It is really a telling interpretation.
To the “whataboutist”, the criticism can be waved away because they believe the critic lacks the same principles, and have equally valid reasons for continuing to support the person who is being criticized.
Again, it’s simplified because unfortunately that’s how most people justify anything they think — simply — it makes sense to them.
It also helps if they have other beliefs that inform how they view the world, like, say, a belief that the justice system should be run by people who have a similar ideological bent as yourself.
The logic here is (if a+b then c), “if I’m ‘tough on crime’, I want justices who are also ‘tough on crime’ because they will be ‘tough’ on criminals”.
Smith, of course, is one of those people.
So, when she recently lamented the loss of a “conservative voice” on the Supreme Court, she did so because she believes that being informed by a particular ideology will allow justices to interpret the law in a way that will be acceptable to those who share the ideology, even if they don’t share the legal education or expertise.
At this point, let me to share that I just want to throw my hands up in the air and scream “that’s not how anything works!” and walk away. Soldiering on, however.
I like the idea that our justice system is, and those who preside over it are, non-partisan. Even so, we’ve had our share of questionable people, and decisions, that are not tied to political affiliation but have a clear lack of understanding of people (most likely based on experience and a barrier to empathy that arises from that experience and lack thereof).
Laws are typically created by people who think “if I wouldn’t do that, others wouldn’t either”. Again, simple logic but simple logic that is based on really impractical logic.
Do you know what keeps most people from breaking laws? The punishment would cause them to lose something they hold in high regard — familial or social respect, social standing, freedom, money, etc. To people with something to lose, the deterrent is that you could lose it, and for a majority of people, it’s more than enough.
It doesn’t match the reality of too many people who commit crimes though and is treated more leniently when those who do “lose their way” are “like us”.
In any case, the impetus for this post was neither of these things. Instead, it was an offer of employment being rescinded by Alberta Health Services.
When Jason Kenney was almost Premier, Ed Whittingham, the former head of Pembina Institute, resigned from an appointment to the Alberta Energy Regulator before Kenney could fire him.
One could probably argue that the appointment itself was political but the decision to step down came after a very public smear campaign against Whittingham by Kenney and crew.
With precedent set, Smith did something similar with Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw during the UCP’s leadership race in 2022, saying she would remove Hinshaw if she was successful in winning the leadership and becoming Alberta’s defacto premier.
So, just after the 2023 election, on June 1, when it was leaked that Dr. Deena Hinshaw was to be working in a part-time role under another department at Alberta Health Services, it felt like much ado about nothing.
Then, AHS made a public statement saying that Dr. Hinshaw was not an employee.
Now, the Indigenous Wellness Core team lead, Dr. Esther Tailfeathers, has resigned and disclosed that Dr. Hinshaw was selected by the group, an offer was made and accepted, and an anticipated start date of June 5, 2023 was in place — until it wasn’t.
We have been spoiled into thinking that our public service exists to maintain continuity and reasonableness in the absence of politically-motivated direction. We have been lulled by privilege into believing the ludicrous complaints and accusations were simply political theatre when they were actually promises to tear down the barrier between political aspirations and public service.
Unfortunately, I can now see that the belief that “the other side is getting away with it” has manifested into “now it’s our turn”.
It was an underlying theme with Kenney after they wrested power from the NDP’s “accidental government” but it is a single-focus with Smith because, as the fringe element, they’ve been on the outside far longer and they truly believe that it’s time to take back Alberta — to something it’s never been before.