Backing Eggen’s attack on the Catholic schools, she finds herself factually misinformed
The landslide victory of Jason Kenney in the leadership contest for the new United Conservative Party has wide implications for Alberta and for Canada, a fact that will begin unfolding rapidly over the next few months. But it also has similarly wide implications for Alberta’s NDP government and its inner politics. Two developments in that sphere over the week of the Tory leadership contest are noteworthy. In both of them Premier Rachel Notley got badly smacked.
The first was her decision to intervene in the new party’s leadership campaign. Two days before the voting began– the timing could not be accidental — she gave an interview to the CBC. In it she endorsed her education minister, David Eggen in prohibiting the Catholic schools from teaching Catholic doctrine in their sex-education course. They were proposing, she said, to allow a Catholic husband to rape his wife. She and her government would stand four-square against this and prohibit the Catholic curriculum from being taught in the Catholic schools.
But then, ooops! This was not what the curriculum had proposed. A segment of it dealt with several aspects of marriage. Consent, specifically the definition of it, was one. There were others — the duty to have children, the duties of chastity, the need for mutual love and responsibility of husband for wife and wife for husband. “In good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, I will honour you all the days of my life,” says the marriage service. The premier fumbled for an answer. Well that stuff’s all very well, she said, but “consent to sex” is more important than these other things.
It is? Could she actually have meant this? More important than care during illness, more important than sexual loyalty, more important than finding work, more important than livelihood itself? How was she so misinformed on this? Did she not realize that her department of education has become sex-obsessed, and can apparently think of nothing else?
Now look what they have done. They have somehow dragged the premier and government into the old “no means no” conflict between male and female. Does no always mean no? Sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it means maybe, sometimes it means, not yet. And once (in my own experience) when I heard “no,” and decided to be chivalrous and concede, what did I hear next? “Give up pretty easily, don’t you.|”
Think of it this way. We now have something further to thank our NDP government for. Where couples used to have two pillows, he on one and she on the other, with the yes versus no conflict under heated consideration, suddenly a third party arises between them. It’s the minister of education, giving us his decision on the matter. Do you remember the good old days when the state had no business in the bedrooms of the nation. Not any more. In Alberta, anyway, you can’t keep them out.
Then there’s the other implication for the NDP. The premier worked hard to identify Jason Kenney with the proposed Catholic curriculum. Without hesitation Kenney came sweeping back on her. “It’s not for me or the premier to dictate to the Catholic education system how it teaches Catholic values,” he said. “In this case the Catholic school system has a constitutional right to be Catholic, and I would ask our premier to respect the Constitution and those rights. I wish she would stop picking fights with school boards and educators who are simply doing their best to live out their mandate.”
She had no further comment, It was her first
head-to-head confrontation with the new Conservative leader, and she lost badly. Something else was becoming clear. Having given free reign to Eggen, she’s now stuck with him. If she shuffles him into another portfolio, his appointment to Education will be seen as a major strategic error. And that will be just fine with the Tories. Eggen’s the easiest target they’ve got.
Furthermore, there may be a third conclusion that can be drawn from the Kenney victory. The premier attacked Kenney on the grounds of his social conservatism. The assault failed, Kenney got nearly two votes for every vote that went to Brian Jean, a clearly declared anti-social conservative. Kenney is very cleverly making the controversy over the government’s sex-ed experimentations into a clash between gay rights and parental rights, which it in fact is. If he succeeds– and Eggen helps him every time he opens his mouth — that alone could doom the NDP government.
Ted Byfield was founder and publisher of Alberta Report news magazine, general editor of Alberta in the Twentieth Century. a 12-volume history of the province, and general editor of The Christians: Their First Two Thousand Years, a 12-volume history of Christianity. His column on education appears in The Christians.com, a web journal. He has recently authored two little books on modern pedagogy: Why History Matters and The Revolution Nobody Covered. You can order both copies here.