Another face-palming type of day as the far-right Wild Rose party attacks a Ukrainian Education minister for criticizing a disparaging comparison of the Holodomor:
The angry exchange erupted during a debate on the government’s new land-use law, Bill 19, when Wildrose critic Paul Hinman referenced the genocide in his remarks.
“We just had a commemoration of the Holodomor (genocide) of the starvation of Europe, and that wasn’t because of bad weather or not (being) able to produce,” Hinman said. “That was evil, corrupt government confiscating property from the people and trying to destroy a region which the government was having trouble controlling.
“Many of the acts that were taken in Europe during (the Second World War) and other times were very much brutal acts that didn’t respect property rights, and there are many areas in these (Alberta government) bills that have no respect for property rights.”
That set off Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk, who called for Hinman to be censured by the Speaker, saying the opposition MLA was trivializing one of the worst atrocities in human history.
“It was a very important historical event that killed thousands upon thousands, millions of people, including many relatives of Albertans,” Lukaszuk said.
“He’s comparing the policies we’re passing in the legislature right now to Stalin’s genocide in Ukraine. If this isn’t reaching a new bottom for the Wildrose, I don’t know what is. This is disgusting.”
Regardless of how you feel about Alberta’s land-use policy, it is completely unprofessional and offensive to trivialize the Holodomor as an attack point in provincial politics. This sort of ignorance does nothing but enhance the century-old tensions between the Ukrainian and Anglo-Saxon communities of the Praries.
Don’t be afraid to let Paul Hinman what you think about his remarks about the Holodomor, and note the special toll-free number to dial first. While no postage is required to write to federal politicians, it is required for these provincial ones.
Coming to Hinman’s aide was fellow Wild Rose member and MLA Rob Anderson:
“I would ask that member (Lukaszuk) to take his remarks back and apologize for insinuating such absolute stupidity, because that’s what it was. It was a stupid comment.”
Who later made this comment, according to Lukaszuk:
@RAndersonMLA #ableg #wrp #abgov Rob, Paul Hinman just said to me “You come from communism. You know about that”. Still denying?
This isn’t the first time Alberta’s politicians have shamefully used the Holodomor to further their own political agenda, two years ago NDP leader Brad Wilson made the same despicable comparison.
“I sincerely apologize if anybody would think that I would ever trivialize any of these atrocities in history,” Hinman said. “I have absolutely no intentions of that. … I did not in any way intend to correlate the two when I was talking about property rights.”
Is Bill 19 perfect? No. But frankly, concerted opposition from all the opposition parties, and the public, has made it better. That kind of debate is important and healthy – and in this case, it has led to significant and important improvements to protect the legal rights of property holders.
But the bill – which allows the government to assemble land for public projects like ring roads and water reservoirs – can in no sane way be compared to the forced collectivization of land in the U.S.S.R or Hitler’s seizure of the property of German Jews. The Redford government isn’t plotting an ethnic genocide – it’s trying to make sensible plans for future public infrastructure which while serve all Albertans. Any time a government expropriates private land for the “greater” public good, it’s unfair to individual landowners. That’s why it’s essential that the law provide landowners fair compensation and adequate legal recourse. But political hyperbole that in any way attempts to conflate straightforward, essential land use planning with the techniques employed by two of human history’s most evil butchers is insulting to the memory of the millions who died – and to the intelligence of today’s Albertans.
The Wildrose Party is quite right to raise serious questions about the weaknesses in Bill 19. Individual property rights are an important part of our democratic political tradition. I don’t like to see any legislation that would allow the state to run roughshod over civil liberties or the right to own and sell personal property. But if we want a province that has roads, and power lines and high speed railways and environmental preserves, we do need to give the government the right to assemble land for sound public policy reasons – provided that individual landowners are fairly compensated, and that the government’s plans are made with reasonable and open consultation, in the best community interest.