EDMONTON – In the wake of weeks of fiery sittings in the Alberta Legislature, and a recent ruling regarding Premier Alison Redford and allegations from Opposition parties she misled the House, a meme entitled “Zwoz Rulings” is making quite the splash online.
“Seeing what was unfolding in the legislature over the last week or so, it just seemed appropriate that once Gene Zwozdesky made his ruling, and on the surface it did look sort of blatantly partisan … It just sort of naturally led into the notion of making fun of somebody who is making – what everyone else is thinking – an unfair ruling, and it was just something ripe for ridicule,” explains the man behind the #ZwozRulings hashtag, Edmonton author and playwright Marty Chan.
In an interview with Global News on November 16, Speaker Gene Zwozdesky addressed the question of impartiality.
“As Speaker you have to be impartial, you have to be fair,” he said.
Before becoming Speaker, Zwozdesky served as an MLA for 19 years, 14 of those as a PC member. He said he doesn’t find it difficult to separate his history with the PC party and his role as Speaker.
“Not at all… When you walk into that chamber, every MLA before you is equal. You’re equal in front of the law, and de facto, the legislative assembly is a court, and you’re sitting at the head of that court, and your job is to be impartial, to ensure respect for the dignity and the decorum of the House, and to ensure that all members deliver on the oath that they took, and that was to uphold the rules and regulations and procedures and practices that governed this House and many others like it for centuries.”
Still, on Monday, Opposition parties expressed outrage after the Speaker forbid them during question period from asking questions relating to a patronage scandal plaguing Premier Alison Redford.
While documents show Robert Hawkes’ firm was Redford’s preference during her term as justice minister in 2010, Zwozdesky noted on Monday that the deal wasn’t finalized until after she left the post in June 2011.
As a result, he ruled that she did not deliberately mislead the House about her role in awarding the government contract.
The Wildrose is accusing Zwozdesky of displaying “pre-meditated partisanship.”
“This government has made a complete mockery of this House, and they continue to do so,” said Wildrose House leader, Rob Anderson. “What happens in there is not democracy, and I think everybody knows it.
“Albertans deserve better,” said NDP MLA Rachel Notley, who has also been finding the situation very frustrating. “Albertans deserve a premier who will clearly and honestly answer questions about decisions she makes.”
It’s that frustration that Chan says is fueling the popularity of the #ZwozRulings hashtag.
“I think there’s just a lot of anger,” he says. “I think that’s Twitter fuel.”
“If there are enough angry people, that’s when hashtags take off. You certainly see that when you see some of the federal memes take off, like “Tell Vic Everything.” A lot of people were upset and angry about what Vic Toews was doing. I think there are a lot of people that are angry with what’s happening in the legislature right now, which is why I think this particular hashtag took off.”
While he hasn’t seen a PC MLA use the hashtag, Chan says members of all the Opposition parties have been using it.
“It’s being embraced by people on the far right, and also on the left. I’ve seen people from the Liberal party, people from the Wildrose, people from the NDP have really sort of embraced it,” he adds. “In some ways, I think it’s a way just for everyone to vent.”
Still, Chan, who’s also a children’s book author, says the meme is a light-hearted one.
“You try to make it silly enough that people can get it without it getting too personal,” he explains.
“Someone said ‘George Lazenby is the best Bond ever’… I don’t laugh often, but that one made me laugh.”
Global News contacted the office of the Speaker of the House for comment, but requests for Mr. Zwozdesky’s reaction to the meme so far have not been returned.