People who make their living in the sphere of public comment — journalists, politicians, poets and stand-up comics — need to be reminded from time to time that expressing a minority opinion is not a crime. At least not yet.
The way Alberta Finance Minister Iris Evans’ comments on the best way to “properly” raise a child resonated across the country, you’d think Canada had a thought police force.
Evans was subjected to a week’s worth of invective.
But the way Tory MLA Doug Elniski escaped virtually unharmed, after a far more egregious string of comments, makes you think the thought police are on an extended break.
When a government MLA posts a blog entry, titled Grad Speeches, telling young girls to smile more in order to be attractive to men, and that social equality isn’t real, and comments how the women at a bikini car wash look cold, what springs to your mind?
What do you think should happen to an elected official who says that, publicly?
Not long before, he posted a Twitter thread at the Edmonton’s Pride Parade June 13 saying he was surrounded by “bumping and grinding lesbians.”
“That guy has size-14 stilettos,” he added.
Gee, that’s gotta be big stilettos, Doug. Thanks for pointing it out.
He did this for all the world so see. You’d think it would start a forest fire of outrage. Not so much.
Again, given the storm around Evans and her comments on family values, what does that say about Alberta’s tolerance for sexism in government?
Elniski got a very stern talking-to from Premier Ed Stelmach, but he still gets to keep his paid jobs as deputy chair of the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund Committee and as co-chair of the Alberta Forestry Research Institute.
He apologized for his comments, which is understandable, since the premier himself ordered him to.
He took the blog posting down, which is also understandable, since only a total idiot would keep it out there.
And he told reporters how, as a husband and father of three grown daughters, he got his “anatomy chewed” pretty good at home. Which shows he still doesn’t get it.
His comments – and our reaction to them – reflect very poorly on our province. Especially our reaction to them.
A female politician gets raked over the coals for suggesting it’s best if a parent (usually the mother) stays home to raise the children “properly.”
A male politician gives advice to girls on how to please men, and tells them they can find Equal as a sweetener at Starbucks — and botches his forced apology . . . and what?
This stuff didn’t happen as much under Ralph Klein.
There was a strict rule about government members’ comments being vetted through his public information office.
Besides, Klein himself was good for a verbal blunder or two on a regular basis, anyway.
But that was before Facebook and Twitter. These days, any form of inanity can be fertilized by the touch of a button.
Alberta is better off knowing how connected (or otherwise) its government members really are, when they are out of the reach of the official censor.
We don’t need thought police when we are allowed to think for ourselves. And the judgement we pass when the truth comes out says as much about us, as it says about the comments.
Minority views (especially mine) are not a crime. But Alberta needs to wake up and notice the world is watching. Or, acknowledge that we just don’t care.
Greg Neiman is an Advocate editor.