By Greg Price
Prior to the Taber municipal election, every single candidate for both mayor and council were featured in The Taber Times in which they got a voice for what their various platforms were and how they would engage with the public.
‘My door is always open, stop me in the street if you have a concern, I will be the voice for everyone of Taber,’ were common refrains from many of the candidates in how they would be there ‘for the people.’
Yet, before council even had a chance to officially be sworn in on Oct. 23, already many did not follow the creed that helped get them elected. I’m referring to a chain letter from the Taber Equality Alliance that was issued to both mayoral candidates and every single one of the 11 people vying for a council seat. It was a letter that was issued nine days prior to the final polls opening, inquiring about the candidate’s views on issues the TEA found important so that they could make a more informed vote. It was no different than if a senior sat down with a candidate over a cup of coffee or a chat after church.
Yet, four of the current seven members on council did not bother to give a reply which could have taken all of 10 or 15 minutes to craft a response… and that action I find disturbing.
Disturbing, because I know full well had it been a letter from an organization like the Taber Chamber of Commerce inquiring about solutions to job creation/downtown/low-cost housing, or Communities In Bloom asking candidates about town beautification, the response rate would have likely been 100 per cent.
But no, this is the TEA where there are gay/transgendered people involved, and their allies, and the controversy surrounding the Pride Flag, that had it stolen once and burned the second time under the laughable guise of ‘flag protocol’ and ‘everyone being equal’ with actions by vandals proving otherwise.
It’s ironic that some current members on council decided not to touch the issue with a 10-foot pole.
This is not a witch hunt in shaming certain individuals, but more about the actions of a collective, as in the end, it is the majority of votes on council that decides the future course of the town. And it seems as some on council are embarking on its new four-year journey, already one group of people are being left behind in getting their voices heard.
None of the candidates were required to give the answers the TEA wanted to hear, and some of them didn’t in their response, but they afforded the TEA a response nevertheless in addressing their concerns and should be commended for it — as it is an action that anyone who holds public office should be making a priority. For those who did not, it certainly doesn’t look good for optics when you campaign on the promise you represent every person in Taber and not just the powerful, and yet one group was not worth 10 minutes of your time.
Asking if you are an ally, or about the Pride Flag issue, is not going to go away simply because one chooses to ignore it.
Paraphrasing one councillor I talked to before the election who received the TEA letter, and decided not to respond, he said he didn’t like how the issue divided the town. There have always been social movements that have divided people.
Would there have been any forward movement with slavery, women’s rights, segregation, etc. had we taken this attitude of ‘don’t rock the boat’?
“What if someone asks to raise a Nazi flag? What if they want to raise a Pro-Life or Pro-Choice flag on town land?” is a question I’m often asked about the issue.
If the first comparison that comes to mind towards a group of people that were born a certain way is a fan club of Hitler and years of ideology that includes denying the Holocaust ever happened, then maybe you are tipping your hat already in how you view people that you claim are ‘equal’ if you are equating gay people with Nazis. Pro-Life or Pro-Choice is an ideology one grows into and even at that, the town has already gone down that slippery slope with having Pro-Life engraved benches in the cemetery that are on town-owned land. So, if you are worried about ideologies being on town-owned land, then council already has an issue to deal with.
“It’s against the Bible” is another common refrain I hear from others. If one chooses to take a literal interpretation of one’s Bible, I can bring anyone into my office and within an hour’s worth of research, show dozens of actions said person is doing that is against the Bible. The pick-and-choose style some use in their scripture I find baffling in how one channels their disdain.
“We’re all equal, why do they need a parade/flag?” Going out of one’s way to mask yourself while stealing and burning flags, mentioning in a crowd at an interdenominational church service that God is taking back the rainbow while pointing at the flag pole, hearing frequent insults in the community I travel in of ‘that’s gay’ or ‘faggot,’ having councillors going out of their way to have their vote recorded on ‘flag’ issues does not really scream equal to me. It also shows why a flag is needed in the first place to show where people can gather for but a brief time in a safe and welcoming place, be you a member of the LGBTQ+, an ally or just someone who may admittedly be uncomfortable with the community in question, but wants to learn more about their neighbour in expanding their horizons.
We have special days already for many things, including the Irish (St. Patrick’s Day) and Germans (Oktoberfest). We have special days for Christians (Christmas) and even vegetables (Cornfest) and slick romance marketing campaigns (Valentine’s Day).
Yet, fly a flag in behind a building for a few days that no one would likely notice unless you told them it was there, and have a day of fellowship of music, food, company and heart-felt testimonials of the persecution some have faced with homophobia, and some people lose their minds of being disenfranchised all of the sudden.
We celebrate diversity in so many different ways already and yet this is frowned upon.
“Where is my Straight Pride Day?” I hear as another argument. We heterosexuals have those days every day, they are called Sunday to Saturday. They are being able to travel anywhere in the world without being killed or beaten to an inch of our lives for being straight. We are able to kiss our partner or hold their hand in the park without the audible snickers or children getting their eyes shielded. We don’t have derogatory slurs based on our sexual orientation. We have our questions answered by all members on council, not just three.
I don’t know about you, but I’m certainly not feeling left out just because a sub-group of people that affects me in no way, shape, or form of how I conduct my heterosexual life wants to be brave enough to have a special day/week set aside to not be ashamed of who they are, despite a prevailing attitude towards the opposite, judging by reaction to Taber’s first Pride event by some. We have so much diversity in this town, why not celebrate it by setting aside the flag pole on the southwest corner of the Administration Building for that diversity? Have a bunch of Dutch people get together and fly their flag while we have a day learning about their customs and sharing in their delicacies among master chefs. Do the same for the Filipino, Aboriginal or Mennonite or any other born demographic as we understand and celebrate our differences as we live together in this community in harmony. All while still keeping the flag protocol in front of the Administration Building.
But, somehow if we want to have that greater understanding of the gay community through a Pride Flag day in a 365-day year, and all of the sudden, it is ‘shoving it down our throats’ or weak platitudes of everyone being ‘equal’ while at the same time a shame that a ‘few bad apples’ in Taber steal or burn flags. Meanwhile, the good apples cannot even spend 10 minutes to answer someone’s questions to feel like they are part of the community too.
Hopefully, the silence by many on council is not speaking volumes of how one segment of society will be treated for the next four years, both by council and the public as well.