Ask almost any Albertan what they feel about censorship, and regardless of their political affiliation, they will tell you that protecting rights of free speech and free expression is a mandatory expectation of their elected governments; and so it should be.
In a healthy democracy, all persons should be given the utmost freedom to express their opinions and feelings without fear or intimidation.
Only when the words expressed directly threaten the safety and liberties of another should censorship of a person’s speech be permitted at all.
Unfortunately, as with almost every true principle, the right to free speech has been twisted by the liberal left (in this case the provincial Progressive Conservatives) into something completely inappropriate.
The only thing more troubling has been the shameless hypocrisy with which they have done so.
Just over a week ago, it was learned that the PC government had granted some environmental extremists $50,000 to create a movie entitled Dirty Oil. This is, at least to any rational thinking Albertan, a wholly inappropriate use of Albertan’s tax dollars for several reasons.
Firstly, why is a government, which claims to be conservative, picking winners and losers by handing out direct grants to certain filmmakers while denying others? The government’s job is to level the playing field by making Alberta competitive for all film productions – not just the one’s it deems fit.
Secondly, how on Earth are such grants considered spending priorities when the Province is running a record $7.6 billion deficit and while real needs, such as new schools for Airdrie, continue to go unaddressed?
And finally, why are we spending tens of millions of dollars on advertisements around the world touting our environmental stewardship of the oilsands while simultaneously shoveling cash to those who want to shut them down? Does that not seem the least bit counterproductive?
Mistakes happen of course, we all understand that. I naively expected the premier and his beleaguered Minister of Culture to simply apologize, end the program and move on. Instead, they decided to defend the program saying that they needed to give Dirty Oil the money because they didn’t want to be accused of censorship. Brilliant gentleman…just brilliant.
After hearing this explanation, I actually felt the need to look up the word censorship in the dictionary just to be sure I wasn’t losing my mind.
Webster’s definition is pretty straightforward; to censor is “to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable.”
It would seem that the premier and Minister Blackett are using a different dictionary which defines censorship as “a government’s refusal to grant taxpayer money to any Joe Schmo who wants to write a propaganda piece attacking the livelihoods and futures of the very taxpayers funding the propaganda.”
This fall, I will be sure to remind the PCs in the Legislature that the right of free speech does not mean the right to taxpayer money to fund one’s free speech.
Although their censorship excuse is clearly wrongheaded, it might hold at least a kernel of sincerity if only the PCs had any shred of credibility or track record as defenders of free speech against the evils of censorship. Alas, they have absolutely none.
This government has been practicing and promoting censorship for so long that even hearing them utter the words free speech is enough to give me and every other Albertan first-degree whiplash.
This is the same government that kicked out Guy Boutilier from caucus for accusing, then Health Minister Liepert, of not fulfilling a campaign promise to build a seniors’ care centre in Fort McMurray. This is the same leadership group that refuses to lift a finger to protect Albertan’s free speech rights from an out-of-control Human Rights Tribunal. Ironically, there were enough votes in the PC Caucus (I was in it at the time) who wanted to fix the problem until the premier stepped in, cut off debate and refused to hold a vote on the matter; in effect defending censorship with more censorship.
These are the same PCs who feel necessary to threaten the Wildrose Alliance with sanction if we continue to quote our leader, Danielle Smith, in our press releases; the same group that has insisted I take down these very articles from off my website for being too ‘partisan’; who continue to bully and scare those working for the government who happen to support our Party; and who, while I was still in the Caucus, threatened my position within government if I didn’t stop speaking out about the issues that my constituents were concerned about.
I’m glad the government now says they understand that censorship is a bad thing.
However, rather than proving their love of free speech by doling out your money to propagandist filmmakers, perhaps they should save us the cost and just start looking in the mirror a bit more.