Pruned Bush: Confessions of a Wilted Wild Rose
A crisis of conscience is a terrible thing to waste. When faced with one, no amount of avoidance, no amount of rationalization, and no amount of vodka will wash it away. I know this because I spent a fair amount of time wallowing in all of those things (including the vodka) over the course of this past weekend.
As anyone who follows me on Twitter or is privy to my Facebook wall knows, I’ve been a staunch and vocal supporter of the Wildrose Party of Alberta during the current election. I attended the Wildrose Leader’s Dinner – a fundraiser for the party – and had the opportunity to listen to their leader, Danielle Smith, speak.
Smith spoke of the rights of the individual, and as a Libertarian leaning woman who has become increasingly appalled at the attempts of both provincial and federal governments to infringe upon rights granted to every citizen of this country, rights protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights, what she had to say spoke to me.
Smith spoke of the politically engineered divide between Calgary and Edmonton – the ongoing and somewhat strange “North vs. South Cold War” (my words, not hers) in this province and how playing into it left us weakened and susceptible to politicians who would use it for their own nefarious purposes. Having grown up on the west coast and experienced none of the rivalry between Victoria and Vancouver that I’ve seen between Calgary and Edmonton, I’ve never really understood the rivalry. My family spends a great deal of time in Sylvan Lake during the summer – a geographic and somewhat ideological midpoint (I like to call it the “Redneck Riviera”) between Edmonton and Calgary, where North and South live together peacefully despite the melee of differing NHL propaganda in local business windows. When Smith stated that it’s all fine and dandy for us to poke fun at each other’s hockey teams (although this year, why bother, they both pretty much sucked) but we need to reexamine the way we attack each other’s regions, I enthusiastically applauded.
Smith spoke of 40 years of conservative rule in this province that has resulted in a government that no longer works for the people, expecting the people to work instead for it. A government that is vain, arrogant, complacent and does what it wants because it truly believes we will accept it as we always have. A government that has destroyed healthcare. A government that cares not for seniors. A government beholden to special interest groups. She spoke of balanced budgets and equalization payments that kept Albertans struggling while benefitting other regions of Canada and how that is unfair to the taxpaying citizens of this province.
Smith said “It’s time for change, Alberta!” and I couldn’t agree more with that statement and the emotion behind it.
There is no denying Smith is one hell of a smart human being. Her intellect is immediately apparent in conversation, and in her speeches. In fact, Smith is often so far ahead of everyone in the room that I found myself struggling to keep up with her, and that’s not an easy thing for me to admit, being as vain as I am about being a “smart broad” myself. Smith can leave one feeling …. intellectually winded. And I enjoy that feeling. It challenges me. It causes me to think. It causes me to explore. I’m easily seduced by that feeling (just ask my husband – it’s how he won me over).
All of that being said, the reputation of the Wildrose Party as a hodgepodge of extreme right wing zealots had not gone unnoticed by me. Those same followers on Twitter and the Facebook friends who have witnessed my support of the Wildrose Party also know me to be a staunch supporter of “gay rights” as “human rights”, and a die hard feminist. Gay rights are especially near and dear to my heart. I am a self described “Gay Rights Warrior” and believe very strongly in equality for all.
As a result of this, I directly asked those I was seated with at the Wildrose Leader’s Dinner about the party’s position on gay rights. Unanimously, the response from those I spoke with was that members of the Wildrose don’t take issue with “gay rights” and are focused on other matters that need to be dealt with given that we live in a country where gays can marry, are protected as equals under the law. Further, as a Libertarian leaning, grass roots party, they believed in the rights of the individual.
As an LGBTQ supporter, this answer satisfied me, if only somewhat. Although I would have liked to have heard that Wildrose is a staunch support of equality for all, I was satisfied that the party wasn’t a right wing extremist group that would cause damage to my LGBTQ family.
So… imagine my surprise this past Saturday morning when I awoke to find a link to this article detailing the Wildrose Party of Alberta’s stand on Conscience Rights in my inbox (thank you, @Frostiblack, for providing the article).
For those who don’t understand the concept of “Conscience Rights”, the simplest explanation is that conscience rights would allow a doctor to refuse to write a prescription for contraceptives based on his Judeo-Christian ethics, refuse treatment to someone based on their sexual orientation, or race, or differing creed, or anyone of a thousand different reasons only that doctor knows about.
Conscience rights allow doctors to ignore the oath they took when they became doctors. Conscience rights allow lawyers to ignore the oath they took to uphold the law, above all else, when they stood before the Bar to be admitted, thus allowing them to refuse to act on behalf of someone of a different race.
Conscience rights allow marriage commissioners to refuse to marry same sex couples, despite the fact that those same commissioners are given powers by a government that acknowledges the rights of gays to marry.
Conscience rights allow pharmacists to refuse to fill certain prescriptions. Conscience rights would allow me, if I were a doctor, to deny treatment to a Christian, based on the fact that I’m an atheist.
Conscience rights allow doctors to refuse to perform or recommend fertility treatments.
Yeah… you kinda see the irony there, right?
So, how does the Wildrose Party rationalize their stand on conscience rights? In the interest of fairness, and because I really wanted to believe this was little more than media spin on a non-issue, I began inquiring of Wildrose supporters (and one candidate who, surprisingly enough, has requested I not publish their name) the reasoning behind this “conscience rights” agenda. I was really hoping for something that would convince me all was well. I was really hoping for something that would keep me faithful to the party, to Danielle Smith, to the vision of a new Alberta.
“Doctors took an oath to save lives, not destroy them.”
Holy sweetcheesecurds. Seriously? I suppose this is meant to speak to the issue of abortion. But the problem with this argument is that no doctor in this province, nay, in this nation, is required to perform an abortion. In fact, abortions in the province of Alberta are performed at specialized clinics and doctors and nurses choose whether or not to work in them. If the Wildrose Party of Alberta wants to argue public funding of abortions in this province, I understand that, but this “not destroy lives” counterargument is ridiculous and without any validity given that doctors aren’t required to perform abortions.
“Catholic doctors should not be required to write a prescription for birth control.”
First of all, this statement goes against the oath all doctors take. If they weren’t prepared to take that oath, they should have never become doctors. Yes, it is that simple. And I daresay none of those same “Catholic doctors” take issue with writing prescriptions for Viagra or Cialis. All good to enable men to impregnate their wives, all bad to allow women the right to control their own reproductive organs. Welcome to the 1950’s. Excuse me for a moment. I need to kick off my Prada heels, get impregnated and go bake a cake.
“No doctor should be forced to perform a sex change operation.”
Oh… the idiocy of this statement is …. no words. No doctor IS required to perform a “sex change” operation. It’s a field of specialty for doctors. By the way, your referring to it as a “sex change” operation further goes to prove just how out of touch and ignorant you are. Read a book or even an internet article. Follow Chaz Bono on Twitter. Do anything but please, get educated! (It’s called “gender reassignment”. Learn it. Use it. “Sex Change” is an offensive term, right up there with “fag” and “dyke”).
“Well, should a Catholic Priest be required to marry a gay couple?”
Of course not. I support separation of church and state. I don’t believe forcing religious institutions to marry gay couples benefits anyone. But the truth of the matter is I don’t know a single gay couple (and I gotta tell ya, I know A LOT of gay couples) that would go to the Catholic church to perform their marriage ceremony. So… what is your point here? No one is forcing any church to perform gay marriages.
“Marriage Commissioners should not be required to marry gay couples.”
Hell yes they should be.
Marriage Commissioners are granted powers by the laws of this province, by the laws of this country. In this country, there is no “gay marriage”. There is simply “marriage”. No couple ends up with a “gay certificate of marriage”. Marriage is a legally binding contract, subject to the laws of this country, the Family Law Act and the Divorce Act of the Court of Queen’s Bench. And guess what, the court doesn’t care if you’re gay or straight – the same laws apply to all married couples. If marriage commissioners aren’t willing to honor the laws of this country that granted them the power to marry, they aren’t worthy of marrying anyone.
And, finally, my favorite counterargument presented to defend the ideology of “Conscience Rights”:
“THEY (oh, how I LOVE the use of the word ‘they’ in this context) can always go somewhere else for access to THEIR healthcare, or for THEIR marriages.”
In fact, one supporter suggested that the queers just get themselves a queer commissioner and all will be right with the world.
And Rosa Parks could have just walked home.
Harvey Milk could have stayed in the closet.
Gloria Steinhem could’ve stayed in her kitchen and baked cookies.
Millicent Fawcett could’ve sat silently while her husband and his cohorts discussed politics.
Martin Luther King Jr. could’ve dreamed about drinking from a “blacks only” water fountain for the rest of his life.
While discussing this issue on Twitter, the following comments were made by a devout Catholic, who has asked to remain anonymous:
As a Catholic, I see 2 points of view. 1) The misunderstanding of faith and teaching to deny a person to be treated w/dignity..and 2) the real pain that someone of faith may endure deep inside doing something they don’t agree with, like abortion. Seldom are issues b/w. What is wrong is denying anyone the human dignity they deserve, which outweigh all moral options.
There, my friends, is truth.
Conscience rights are not about civil liberties. They are not about freedom of speech. They are not about the rights of the individual. Conscience rights are a Libertarian bridge too far. Conscience rights are a form of legalized discrimination – a bitter pill to swallow even if one professes to be a Libertarian. And I can’t swallow that.
In conversations with my family over the past two days, many questions came up. Was I willing to look the fool by publicly declaring that I can’t, in “good conscience”, support this party after having so staunchly supported it on both Twitter and Facebook, and to my family and friends? Was I willing to say “hey, Wildrose, I’m outta here!” publicly and risk offending my friends, people I dearly care about? After all, I could just shut the hell up, no longer support the party on Twitter and Facebook, tell my family and friends I’ve had a change of heart and quietly vote for somebody else.
My 18 year old son, in all his emo, basement dwelling wisdom, said one thing that told me I needed to do what is right:
“Mom, don’t be another brick in the wall. The wall against equality for all.”
(A personal note to my son: Harley, I’m so proud of you. Thank you for reminding me of who I am, who I raised you to be when I most needed to be reminded of it.)
So… let the flames fan around me. I can take it. I’m far more willing to stand corrected than stand in hypocrisy. I’m far more willing to be called a “flip flopper” than I am to be called on professing to support gay rights and women’s rights while supporting a party that obviously has no respect for either. I may be a lot of things – self righteous, loud, abrasive, offensive – I own those less than admirable traits and I rarely make apologies for them.
But damn it, I’m no hypocrite.
Danielle Smith, I think you are a brilliant woman. I think you have a vision of government in Alberta that I could support. You are intelligent, savvy, bold, fiery… all of the things I admire. I applaud you for those traits. I’ve great respect for you and I say this in all sincerity. But my “conscience” dictates that I can’t support “Conscience Rights” and therefore, I can no longer support the Wildrose Party of Alberta.
Consider this “true” Alberta “Wild Rose” pruned from the WRP bush.
Note: The Wildrose Party’s policy on Conscience Rights appears at Health, B-17 HERE.
And in Danielle Smith’s own words:
The Wildrose is committed to the restoration and preservation of property rights, the improvement of Alberta’s Human Rights Commissions, and better protections for freedom of speech, and freedom of expression. As well, the Wildrose will ensure conscience rights for marriage commissioners and health professionals. This would ensure the protection of personal expression for individuals, while also ensuring that personal beliefs are respected for all Albertans. (source)