When the first images of the Haitian earthquake came across our television screens, Albertans were quick to respond to the tragedy. Support came in many forms: financial, medical supplies, food, blankets — a lengthy list of items needed in such cases. Albertans are generous in such situations for we believe that individuals who are injured, suddenly homeless or in otherwise dangerous situations deserve our help. However, such help is apparently reserved for people outside our borders; fellow Canadians for some strange reason, are not eligible.
Case in point, is our own province. Like most Canadian provinces, Alberta requires shelters for battered women — women fleeing their homes, usually with their children if they have them, to escape the mental and physical violence from “the man of the house.” Like the Haitian sufferers, these women are homeless, often injured and in very dangerous situations. Unlike the Haitian victims, they are apparently not eligible for support. Last year more than 17,000 women were turned away from shelters in Alberta because the shelters were already full. When turned away, they often end up going back to their homes because they have nowhere else to go. I think you can imagine the horrific violence that occurs when they do return home. Yet you won’t see any actors on TV asking for money, you won’t hear rock stars urging you to help, no telethons, no concerts, no campaigns, in fact, nothing at all. It has often been said that the true measure of any society is how it provides for its most disadvantaged members. If this is the yardstick, Alberta measures very poorly indeed.
While we are apparently not prepared to spend money to help those in our midst who so dearly need our help, we are prepared to spend big money trying to fight world opinion about the environmental problems associated with the development of Alberta’s tarsands. A recent newspaper article mentioned that provincial cabinet minister Ron Liepert is set to spend money and wage war against environmental groups and other world media who are portraying our tarsands as an environmental disaster. You might remember Liepert from last autumn when he so bravely served as health minister for this province. Because of that tenure, Liepert would appear to be an excellent choice in this new war against environmentalists and world media. If you recall the middle of the H1N1 vaccination fiasco, when Alberta came dangerously close to riots in the streets, the brave minister called a press conference to proudly proclaim that the program was off to a wonderful start and vastly exceeding their initial expectations.
While I would have thought the photographs showing thousands of square miles of Alberta northern wilderness torn to shreds and polluted beyond belief would be difficult to overcome, the minister’s demonstrated ability to totally disregard reality and declare victory with a straight face makes him the ideal choice for this campaign. In fact, his strategy reminds me of the advice Senator J. William Fulbright gave to then President Lyndon Johnson regarding the war in Vietnam: “Why don’t we just declare we won and then go home?”
The theme song Brian McLeod has written for this campaign, Peace Through Petroleum, has not yet been officially accepted by the minister.