Wildrose Party’s half-hearted apology to Ontario premier doesn’t mean much

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PHOTOS: Wildrose Party Finance Critic and chief Legislative greeter Derek Fildebrandt, demonstrating a typical attitude. Below: Shocked and appalled critics Naheed Nenshi, mayor of Calgary, David Swann, Alberta Liberal leader, Greg Clark, Alberta Party leader, and Brian Mason, Government House Leader.

Thanks to the Wildrose Party, the phrase “Alberta welcome” may enter the popular lexicon of offensive behaviour along with terms like “Liverpool kiss.”

A Liverpool kiss is a vicious head butt, usually delivered to the bridge of the victim’s nose. An Alberta welcome, I guess, happens when a dignitary visits the provincial Legislature and is jeered and insulted by hostile members of the Opposition party because … because what?

NenshiBecause Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne had a public disagreement with Stephen Harper, the Wildrose Party’s greatest hero, that may have contributed to his defeat in last fall’s federal election? Because she appeared at a news conference with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and the Wildrosers feared it would make Alberta’s NDP Government look good? Because she’s a Liberal?

Or because the Wildrose Party wants Premier Notley’s efforts to get a pipeline through Ontario to fail, and the Alberta economy to suffer accordingly, so it can argue in 2019 the NDP Government is a flop?

If so, what better way to help that failure along than by attacking the premier of a province that, as the Calgary Herald’s political columnist noted yesterday, “was extremely generous during the Fort McMurray fire, sending firefighters, equipment and money”? Premier Wynne herself, added Don Braid, “was helpful and sympathetic.”

Whatever. The Wildrose Opposition’s infantile behaviour on the floor of the Legislature was embarrassing enough to not just make the reliably pro-Wildrose Calgary Herald uncomfortable – a bit rich, given all the work Postmedia has done to bring Donald Trump style politics to Alberta – but even elicit a half-hearted apology from the Wildrose bench.

The apology did not come from Wildrose Finance Critic Derek Fildebrandt, the Wild Rose Hip Tea Party’s main mouthpiece for Thursday’s Trumpian incivility, of course, or from Wildrose Leader Brian Jean.

SwannIndeed, what else could we expect from Mr. Fildebrandt, a young man who is the former president of an Ontario campus club calling itself the Reagan-Goldwater Society? (Ronald Reagan was the U.S. President whose 1981 tax cuts for the rich set the stage for today’s huge income disparities and began the erosion of the U.S. middle class. Barry Goldwater was the Republican Party’s nominee in the 1964 presidential election, a key inspiration to young Republicans opposed to the reforms of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1933-1936 New Deal. He was an advocate of dropping atomic bombs on Vietnam.)

Like former prime minister Harper, social conservative loudmouth Craig B. Chandler, and Alberta Progressive Conservative Party interim Leader Ric McIver, Mr. Fildebrandt is a native of Ontario, so I suppose we can charitably concede he comes by his animus against Ms. Wynne honestly.

Why we Westerners keep extending these guys what Mr. Braid plaintively called “the hospitality Albertans cherish” is another question. But, je digresse. I mention this only to make the point it’s doubtful Mr. Fildebrandt is anything but extremely pleased with his performance Thursday in the Legislature.

ClarkThe reaction elsewhere, of course, was appalled. Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann expressed his distress in a Facebook commentary that said, in part, “with this petulant display, the Wildrose have proved, yet again, that they do not represent Alberta’s core values of respect and tolerance. I can only imagine the response of the Wildrose should any Albertan premier receive similar treatment in any of Canada’s legislative assemblies.” Indeed.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi called Mr. Fildebrandt’s ranting “childish,” taking it on himself to apologize to Ms. Wynne. “I was quite shocked to see the so-called shadow finance minister, who has yet to reveal any shadow budget or really any ideas whatsoever about the province, treat a guest in that manner,” Mayor Nenshi said. Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark also expressed disapproval.

This was apparently enough for the Wildrose Party to feel enough shame to engage in a little damage control, and House Leader Nathan Cooper was trotted out to mumble a carefully parsed non-apology apology seemingly designed mainly to protect the party from accusations of flip-floppery.

It was a mistake, Mr. Cooper conceded, to insult Ms. Wynne while she was in the Legislature’s Gallery. Nothing wrong with the insults themselves, he hastened to add. “A more appropriate time could have been found, particularly when a visiting dignitary was not in the gallery,” he ’splained. “We didn’t have a respectful tone. … We express regret for how things unfolded.” (Emphasis, of course, added.)

MasonMr. Cooper also claimed the Opposition didn’t intend to embarrass Ms. Wynne, and that while Mr. Jean signed off on Mr. Fildebrandt’s comments, “the party was not expecting Wynne to be in the gallery when they were stated.”

Well, they could have looked up and seen her, couldn’t they? And Mr. Jean, remember, remained firmly and untraditionally planted on his keester as Premier Notley stood to introduce Premier Wynne. As for the Opposition leader signing off on Mr. Fildebrandt’s vituperation, that sounds like face saving since it’s highly unlikely anyone gets to tell Mr. Fildebrandt what to say.

Still, if nothing else, thanks to Mr. Fildebrandt’s boorishness, the NDP now has the opportunity to blame any lack of progress on the pipeline front on the antics of the opposition party.

“If that’s how they’re going to approach things, we’ll become isolated very quickly in this country and won’t be able to achieve our objectives, including getting a pipeline to tidewater,” Government House Leader Brian Mason said yesterday. Duly noted.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

Categories Alberta Politics