Cue the balalaikas! Tory MLA hears the Red Army tramping across the Steppes of Central Alberta

Posted on March 22, 2017, 11:57 am
8 mins

PHOTOS: Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Richard Gotfried, at right, and an unidentified friend. (Photo grabbed from Mr. Gotfried’s Facebook page.) Below: Mr. Gotfried with Progressive Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney and PC Vermilion-Lloydminster MLA Richard Starke.

Social democracy in Alberta? Pretty much the same as the Russian Revolution!

Really! I’m not making this up!

Just ask Richard Gotfried, Progressive Conservative MLA for Calgary-Fish Creek.

Mr. Gotfried should know. After all, he talked to his dad about this. His late father quit Russia in 1917, which, as historically alert readers will recall, was a big year for revolution in that part of the world.

So if you thought it’s only Wildrose infiltrators voting for Jason Kenney in the recent Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership election that worry about this kind of thing, guess again. Mr. Gotfried was up on his hind legs in the Alberta Legislature Monday afternoon to prove you wrong.

According to Mr. Gotfried’s rambling commentary during Monday’s members’ statements, his pop just was 10 years old when he shook the dust of revolutionary Russia off his boots and headed for Shanghai in the company of his mother and siblings, “a refugee with little more than the clothes on his back.”

So far, this sounds like a ripping yarn, and I would sincerely like to hear more – but perhaps not in the context of trying to prove Alberta’s thoroughly democratically domesticated New Democrats are a bunch of Bolsheviks. (Or maybe just Mensheviks, if Mr. Gotfried was feeling kind-hearted on Monday, or if there’s any uncertainty about which month in 1917 we happen to be talking about.)

But Rachel Notley as Leon Trotsky? Sorry, I don’t see it.

Anyway, according to Mr. Gotfried, 32 years later in Shanghai the same damn thing happened to his dad again, only this time instead of Vladimir Lenin and the Red Army it was Chairman Mao and the Eighth Route Army.

I’m sure readers can see the similarities to Alberta since May 2015 – carbon tax … bloody revolution … pretty much the same thing, huh?

According to the younger Mr. Gotfried’s remarks in the Legislature, that time his dad escaped Mao Zedong and his comrades “with little more than a handful of prized family possessions,” eventually ending up here in Alberta.

And, boy – this is the point to Mr. Gotfried’s story, I think, unless it was the laboured pun about red ink being sorta like orange ink, which is pretty cheeky coming from a member of a party that posted five years’ worth of serial budget deficits – would his dad ever be pissed off now if he learned Alberta was living under a red banner, or an orange one, anyway. (Red, orange … close enough for bad speechwriting!)

“Mr. Speaker,” exclaimed Mr. Gotfried, “as we in Alberta drift further into the abyss of social democracy, I cannot help but be reminded of his fate!” (Gotfried Senior’s fate, that is. Emphasis added, of course. If you can stand it, you can read more of this by going to Hansard. While you’re there, you can also take a boo at PC leadership candidate turned NDP MLA Sandra Jansen’s member statement, which has its own merits.)

OK, enough sarcasm. I don’t mean to make fun of Gotfried Pere’s troubles, 100 years and two calendars ago, which I’m certain were very difficult – although it’s nice they had a happy ending here on the Steppes of Central Alberta. But, seriously, what’s with these Alberta conservatives, anyway?

One minute they’re mocking NDP supporters as delicate little snowflakes, shivering and shedding tears at a few harsh words, the next they’re quivering under the table, imagining the tramp, tramp, tramp of the Red Army’s boots as it marches through Fish Creek Park and up the Macleod Trail to seize control of the means of production!

They need to get a grip. What they’re hearing is probably just three-tonne SUVs smacking the speed bumps in the Fish Creek parking lot.

Mr. Gotfried needed to get a grip on Monday too. He was still rambling along when he was cut off by the Speaker with a cheery, “Hon. Member … your time is up …” (This is the Parliamentary equivalent of “Thank you caller!” Click! Buzz…)

At best, this kind of nonsense suggests a tenuous grasp of history. (Mr. Gotfried’s peroration also suggests he is under the impression there was no free enterprise in Alberta before Peter Lougheed, a notion on which I am sure Preston Manning or some other old Socred would be happy to set him straight.) At worst it indicates a nasty streak of McCarthyism.

Of course, this is part of a long tradition in Alberta politics of dubious Russian political metaphors that fall flat upon delivery. Alert readers will recall that not so long ago a group of Wildrose MLAs prompted outrage by blogging about how the NDP’s carbon tax is pretty much the same thing as Stalin’s genocidal starvation policy in Ukraine in the 1930s.

MLA Richard Starke was rewarded with boos when he made reference to the embarrassment caused by that incident during his speech to the PC leadership convention hours before the delegates elected Mr. Kenney.

Still, perhaps the jeering suggests Mr. Gotfried’s surfing the Tory zeitgeist. On the other hand, in 2015 he beat the NDP’s candidate by only 136 votes – about seven tenths of a percentage point – so maybe that’s why the Orange Horde makes him nervous.

A few years ago, just to show this is an equal opportunity kind of blunder, a former NDP leader of my acquaintance to whom Mr. Gotfried bears a passing resemblance created a huge brouhaha when he suggested in an over-the-top moment in the House that “Stalin would be proud” of then premier Ed Stelmach’s land expropriation policies.

Brian Mason later apologized for that one, setting a good example that others should immediately follow.

If you ask me, though, it’s time for the rest of us to say “shut up, already,” to this kind of foolishness.

Mr. Gotfried? How about it?

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

22 Comments to: Cue the balalaikas! Tory MLA hears the Red Army tramping across the Steppes of Central Alberta

  1. Gail

    March 22nd, 2017

    This is a sign we need a much stronger history component in our education system.

    Reply
    • Murphy

      March 23rd, 2017

      There is no “history component” in our schools. There is an indoctrination program. Have a look at the Social 30 textbook. It looks like it was compiled by a consortium of John Birchers, Aynd Rand fan-boys, and people who quit EST. The author’s reference to “Stalin’s genocidal policy” is just as fanciful as Gotfried’s rubbish. The entire Ukrainian Holodomor story is utter rubbish. There is not a single document indicating that the famines in the Soviet Union were the result of policy. In the case of a real atrocity, the massacre by Soviet NKVD of the Polish officer corps in Katyn Forest, one can see orders signed by Stalin. Because, of course, that was a real event. There were multiple famines in the Ukraine prior to the period of the “Holodomor” and none after. There were concurrent famines in other parts of the Soviet Union, but nobody claims they were “genocidal” in nature. We live in a country in which certain groups have tried to sell the patently embarrassing notion that Canada was created at Vimy Ridge, an insignificant battle in a useless campaign in a perverse war. People are taught that we’re “the good guys” even though our government sent people to help the British steal the Boers’ gold, a charming little adventure that produced the first concentration camps, run by the British. Likewise, we’re staunch allies of the Americans, who stole the Philippines from the Spanish and then set about keeping the Filipinos from taking it back. The same folks who had Jim Crow and had to use the National Guard to ensure that little black girls could get safely inside their school in Arkansas. And the Super Friends killed several million North Koreans with aerial bombing five years after saving the world from Hitler’s horse-drawn army.

      Reply
      • Gail

        March 24th, 2017

        Excellent highlights of the history we aren’t talking about.

        Reply
  2. David

    March 22nd, 2017

    The most privileged are always the most hilarious when they try to claim victimhood because they have no personal concept or real experience of it, so I not surprised that Mr. Gotfried had to go back to his father’s real experience which of course was nothing like his own.

    Revolutions are quite different than free elections, communists and social democrats are also very different. Post oil boom Alberta is still one of the better off places in the world, compared to the extreme poverty of pre-revolution Russia and China. Edmonton has some wonderful Orthordox churches, but it is not Moscow and Calgary is not Bejing.

    Many of our ancestors have left or fled from poor places with heavy handed authoritarian governments, so I can understand there is some suspicion or fear of government power that they have passed on to their children. However, comparisons with far away places and times that were totally different than ours does not strengthen their arguments, it undermines them.

    Reply
  3. ronmac

    March 22nd, 2017

    “…as we in Alberta drift further into the abyss of social democracy…”

    The abyss of social democracy. He’s saying that as if it was a bad thing.

    I was under the impression that social democracy was the highest goal we could attain ever since we humans first organized ourselves into a body politic.

    Reply
    • Bloozguy

      March 23rd, 2017

      I was working part time at Simpsons back in Montreal then. A group of Russian hockey players came in one evening. They were built like brick shit houses but none of them was more than 5’7″-5’8″ , if that. 🙂
      Man, they were short.

      Reply
  4. CovKid

    March 23rd, 2017

    Unfortunately, the one on the right is my MLA.

    Reply
  5. Val

    March 23rd, 2017

    i wouldn’t say Ms. Notley are communist but economical management policy of her government pretty much resemble ones, employed by communist and pro-commie regimes.

    Reply
    • MgS

      March 23rd, 2017

      I have to challenge you on that. Substantiate your claims with actual evidence – that’s a pretty strong accusation, and I don’t think a reasonable analysis of the historical record would support what you are saying.

      Reply
      • Val

        March 23rd, 2017

        in simple words:
        way of healthy capitalism – invest earned/borrowed money into development and growth of enterprise and in such way rise the profit.
        way of marxist economy – collect all and then redistribute as it suit them, which pretty much practice present government of Ms. Notley.

        Reply
        • MgS

          March 24th, 2017

          Uh … right … you do realize that our taxes today – UNDER NOTLEY – are lower than they were under the vaunted King Ralph, or going back a bit further, Peter Lougheed? Right?

          Somehow, claiming that there is some massive scheme afoot to “redistribute wealth” based on what the NDP government has done is a bit farcical indeed. I think you might want to reflect upon how capitalism has lost its bearings in the last 30 years or so and has become so unbalanced as to make you think that a few relatively minor changes to our tax system in Alberta is even remotely comparable to a massive “wealth redistribution” scheme that you imagine marxist economies to be.

          p.s. when I said actual evidence I meant _sources_ – you know – those things your teachers in high school used to insist upon for your social studies essays.

          Reply
          • Val

            March 25th, 2017

            you may noticed, i’d emphasized HEALTHY capitalism?
            you’re right about the transformation of capitalism ideology in last quarter of century and shift to perverted form of hybridization – keeping steady on wealth growth, justifying it as base of capitalism, at same time exploring and relying on marxist’s form of redistribution (privatization of public assets penny for dollar, subsidies, bailout, public funding, tax preferences, monopolization and full control over particular sectors of economy, etc.), instead of entrepreneurial spirit and skill on competitive base .
            i didn’t said anything about taxes and frankly it’s less important how much one pay in taxes, than as HOW collected taxes have been used. and that brings us to Ms. Notley and her government.
            newly introduced carbon tax ALONE expected to bring in $6.8 billion. that’s quite significant sum and with application of entrepreneurial thinking can be put into wealth generating productions and services sectors, which in turn could brings value added taxable employment and so much needed and in fact at present absent competition.
            guess how many dollars from those six billions went for this purpose?
            second year in row government rely on borrowed money for what? to better an economic situation in province? nope. only to sustain bloated and overpaid the public sector employment, created and established by the way by the previous (and so much criticized by NDP) conservative government.

          • MgS

            March 26th, 2017

            Val,

            With all due respect, but we’ve lived through several decades of “wealth makes it all right” capitalism.

            What you are arguing for is a continuation of the status quo, which is a grossly distorted environment where control over capital has been centralized in the hands of a few. We have gone from the “entrepreneurial capitalism” you seem to worship to what is damnably close to “corporate feudalism” in the course of my adult lifetime. I’ve seen this in both the large corporate workplaces of downtown Calgary, as well as in the world of high tech startups.

            Vis a vis your comments about a “bloated public sector”, I have yet to see meaningful evidence that supports this claim. Alberta has grown substantially in the last 20 years, but public sector size has remained a relatively constant with respect to GDP. The argument that it’s “bloated” is far from cut-and-dried. (It’s an easy claim to make, much harder to substantiate – even if we agreed upon how that measurement could be made – which I seriously doubt).

            The second part of your argument is that “everything works better when run by the private sector”. To say this is a logical fallacy is an understatement. Private sector businesses exist to MAKE A PROFIT. That’s it. Arguing that they will therefore “find ways to be more efficient” presumes that “efficiency” is solely about profits. It’s not. A good example is education. Education can be made “more efficient” by paying teachers less, putting more students in the classroom etc. From a purely mechanistic view, this produces “more graduates for less money” (and therefore, greater profits). Unfortunately, it also means less qualified teachers, poorer student learning and outcomes that will in fact impair the ability of future businesses to be profitable. (We’re already experiencing huge complaints from businesses because of deficits in what graduates have learned.)

            Perhaps even more concerning has been the propensity of conservative governments to place public infrastructure (eg. the power grid) in the hands of private enterprise … often handing it to them for pennies on the dollar based on a questionable promise that they will maintain it to the benefit of all. Instead, what has happened? Every nickel needed gets downloaded to consumers in the form of myriad of “fees” on our utility bills. Real “efficient” that.

            The free market is not a holy grail, nor should we see it as such. It is not “self correcting”, it is subject to serious manipulation when power (in the form of money) becomes concentrated in the hands of a few. The “free market” actually needs appropriate regulation and oversight to ensure that it does continue to be a balanced system that works to the benefit of all, not merely to the profit of a few.

            Again, I turn back to your critique of the Notley government, and I argue that in fact the Notley government is merely starting the process of correcting the imbalances that have crept in over the last 35 years of increasingly “market fundamentalist” PC government have created.

        • Murphy

          March 24th, 2017

          Good point, Latka. How about “unhealthy capitalism”? Line pockets of peoples what has billions in derivatives and offshores of all other money?

          Reply
          • Rocky

            March 25th, 2017

            Regarding Val’s point about “healthy” capitalism, it’s an inevitable sign an ideology or philosophy is in decline when its adherents start to argue about who represents the “true” faith. Religions are bad for this – it inevitably starts the instant the prophet that founded the religion passes on, and it gets more frantic in its terminal epoch. But political philosophies and movements do the same thing: Stalin wasn’t a “true” Communist, W.A.C. Bennett wasn’t a “real” Social Credit, and now that market-fundamentalist perversion of the natural human tendency toward commerce has established itself as another dogmatic ideology complete with unbreakable rules that defy common sense and for which there is no evidence, capitalists who embarrass Val are practicing “unhealthy” capitalism. Sounds like pish-posh to me!

    • Murphy

      March 23rd, 2017

      Once again, Mrs. Vilve Yachke, thanks for providing the Lutonian peasant perspective. Go Happy Wanderers!

      Reply
      • David Climenhaga

        March 23rd, 2017

        Just in case anyone is wondering, or imagines something nefarious in Murphy’s commentary, Mrs. Vilve Yachke was a character on SCTV’s recurring Shmenge Brothers polka music skit. DJC

        Reply
        • Val

          March 23rd, 2017

          yeah, MURPHY seems like kind personality, just a few staatssicherheits phobias to follow me and stubborn attempt to drag me from classical music and prog. rock into polka.

          Reply
          • Murphy

            March 24th, 2017

            De gustibus non est disputandum. Some folks like their Stasi, other folks like their their RCMP.

  6. Lars

    March 23rd, 2017

    David, I clicked on your link for Hansard and got a lot of alphabet soup. The page’s been moved, apparently.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      March 23rd, 2017

      Thanks for pointing this out, Lars. The operations of the Assembly’s web page can only be designed as bizarre – and, interestingly, did not change one whit when the government, and the Speaker, changed. I have downloaded a PDF of the appropriate edition of Hansard and posted it instead on my own service’s server. So it’ll stay there as long as I continue to pay my bills. DJC

      Reply

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