Banning free speech no insurance for PCs

Election fervor is in the air with many signs, billboards lining up the streets and the main junctions around the town and the county and candidates preparing for debates in the forthcoming forums in several communities.

Voters are reminded by candidates and the media not to neglect their civic responsibilities and asked to prepare to vote by keeping informed on who stands where with regard to issues facing the communities.

The municipal elections that will be taking place in less than two weeks constitute one component of the system of government that has been the trademark of the tradition of democratic governance throughout the world for decades.

Isn’t it unfortunate that the democratic process is on the brink of one its most fundamental manifestations like election at one level while it is just about being choked at another?

What is referred to here is last week’s vote in a committee of the provincial legislature.

On Thursday, Sept. 28, Members’ Services Committee of the provincial legislature voted against provision of full caucus funding to Wildrose Alliance (WA), the newly emerging right-wing political force, clearly perceived as the major threat by the Progressive Conservatives (PC) and their leader, Premier Ed Stelmach in the next election.

Needless to say, it was the dominant voice of seven PC MLAs in the committee that left the WA without the proper caucus funding which is enjoyed even by the New Democratic Party, that has half the number of MLAs that the WA has.

While depriving a legitimately formed and functioning parliamentary group of the funding it is entitled to is ugly politics in itself, the committee also ordered WA MLAs not to quote Danielle Smith as the leader of the party in their legislative activities.

That is, in simplest terms, banning free speech, an attitude that can by no means be accepted in an institution which claims to be democratic.

If Danielle Smith is the leader of a duly registered and recognized political party, regardless of whether she is inside or outside the legislature, she has the right to be heard anywhere and everywhere.

The Members’ Services Committee, by becoming a part of that inadmissible travesty of democratic process, have only shown disrespect to the main principles of the very body that allow them the privileges they enjoy as MLAs.

(The minutes of the meeting where one can read the ridiculously unfounded arguments in favor of the ban are available at http://www.assembly.ab.ca/net/index.ms&section=doc&fid=26)

If Progressive Conservatives believe that they will be able to thwart the political threat coming from the Wildrose Alliance by imposing such restrictions, they should think again.

Because the main threat to this PC government is only their own ineptitude.

— Mustafa Eric

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