International Women’s Day turns into a major embarrassment for Alberta’s tone-deaf opposition

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PHOTOS: Wildrose Opposition Leader Brian Jean – nothing to do with us, really. Below: Health Minister Sarah Hoffman, Environment Minister Shannon Phillips and former PC leadership contender Sandra Jansen, all New Democrats.

It’s International Women’s Day and, whatever Alberta’s two right-wing Opposition parties would rather be doing, one doubts it’s insisting they have nothing to do with a group of their campus supporters in Calgary who posted a social media advertisement promoting a screening of a “men’s rights” movie today that declared “feminism is cancer.”

But it looks like the Wildrosers will be spending another day bleating unconvincingly that Wildrose on Campus Calgary’s breathtakingly stupid publicity effort had nothing to do with them. No! Really!

Just to share the pain, the same campus Wildrose club last month endorsed Jason Kenney’s effort to lead a united right-wing party by taking over the Progressive Conservatives.

Alas for the Wildrosers, as political commentator Dave Cournoyer pointed out yesterday on his Daveberta.ca blog, this is turning into another in a long tradition of “bozo eruptions” reminiscent of the Lake of Fire brouhaha that may have cost the party led by Danielle Smith the 2012 provincial election.

The timely discovery of a blog post by a Wildrose candidate predicting a hellish eternity for gays and lesbians certainly contributed to the election in 2012 of a government led by Alison Redford, who subsequently demonstrated her own unsuitability as premier. That in turn helped set the stage for the election of the New Democratic Party led by Premier Rachel Notley in May 2015.

This has made some Alberta conservatives almost crazy with frustration, fuelling the competing campaigns by Progressive Conservative leadership frontrunner Kenney and Opposition Wildrose Leader Brian Jean to unite the right and lead it back to the promised land of permanent power.

So the IWD-eve commentary perpetrated by people who just hours before both men would have hailed as fine young people with impeccable conservative credentials really doesn’t help their effort to portray their parties as a common-sense alternatives to the increasingly credible Notley NDP.

If Alberta’s conservatives can impose some message discipline on their supporters, though, this incident is unlikely to turn out to be as serious for them as the Lake of Fire. Still, it’s symptomatic of the mentality of both parties’ base, and thus represents a problem for them that isn’t just going to go away.

“You and I both know that feminism is cancer,” said the Facebook ad, borrowing from disgraced alt-right demagogue and pedophilia apologist Milo Yiannopoulos’s typical commentary. “To create a dialogue on campus, we have decided to take action,” the ad went on.

The social media response was predictably harsh. The fact mainstream media picked it up was more of a surprise – and should be more of a concern for Wildrosers and PCs alike.

The fact that such well-known and articulate NDP figures as Environment Minister Shannon Phillips and Health Minister Sarah Hoffman stepped up and demanded the opposition parties say what they thought of their supporters’ offensive commentary suggests the NDP has learned from the pummelling they’ve taken from Wildrosers and Tory supporters for the past couple of years and aren’t going to take it any more.

For its part, Wildrose tried manfully to edge away from the club. Mr. Jean insisted yesterday the group wasn’t authorized to use the party name – and it’s now been told not to. “We will be taking steps to make sure it’s a more formalized procedure, when people use our logo they do get permission to do so beforehand,” he told reporters at the Legislature, slamming the barn door shut in acknowledgment of the horses’ departure.

Both Mr. Jean and Wildrose MLA Jason Nixon both Tweeted disapprovingly about the commentary – although a photo circulating on Twitter last night showed both of them attending a meeting of the same group not so very long ago.

New Democrat MLA Sandra Jansen – who not long ago was a candidate herself to lead the PCs, until she was hounded out the door by some of Mr. Kenney’s supporters – reminded the Legislature that her new party is bringing forward a bill to help victims of sexual and domestic abuse. “While we take action on domestic violence, they say feminism is a horrible disease,” she said. “That is the Wildrose.”

The campus Wildrose club fired its publicity director – a pretty meaningless sanction under the circumstances – and pulled the plug on its role in the screening, also a day late and a dollar short.

Well, this is Alberta, where another day often means another right-wing bozo eruption.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

Categories Alberta Politics