Those lame green coroplast arrows point to one thing: the UCP’s cozy relationship with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation

Posted on January 03, 2018, 12:53 am
10 mins

PHOTOS: United Conservative Party MLA Wes Taylor with his notorious green coroplast arrow. Below: An example of the fun made of Mr. Taylor by Internet wags; Porky the Waster Hater, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s mascot; Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt and Wildrose Leader Brian Jean in happier times with their lame CTF-style signage; and UCP Leader Jason Kenney getting his marching orders from CTF Alberta supremo Colin Craig. (All photos except Porky found on social media. Porky comes from the CTF’s website.)

If Jason Kenney were to become premier of Alberta, would government MLAs and ministers of the Crown be forced to dress up in pig costumes and pretend to be characters with names like Porky the Waster Hater?

Perhaps Wes Taylor, United Conservative Party MLA for the Battle River-Wainwright riding in East Central Alberta, would be just the man to meet the challenges of such a dramatic role.

This is actually a more serious question than it first might appear to a casual reader on its round, pink, porcine face.

It’s easy to make fun of Mr. Taylor. Indeed, many social media users have been doing so since New Year’s Day by creating amusing variations of the MLA’s social media memes attacking Premier Rachel Notley and her NDP Government’s carbon levy. Mr. Taylor’s versions of the images feature pictures of him pointing at stuff with a large green coroplast arrow that says “Notley made this more expensive.”

An increase in the carbon tax had kicked in with the start of 2018, so the stunt – whatever its merits in nuanced policy debate – was certainly within the bounds of fair comment.

My personal favourite unauthorized variation was done with one a shot from a grocery store’s bakery section. Some wag used Photoshop to make the prop read, “Galen Weston made this more expensive,” an assertion for which a stronger case can be made!

Was this just Mr. Taylor’s idea? There’s strong reason to suspect it was inspired by two people in the UCP who have in the past held senior positions with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

One is Mr. Kenney, the party leader, who was once the CEO of the Saskatchewan-based austerity missionaries. Mr. Kenney is very proud of that connection and rarely fails to bring it up at meetings with party supporters.

The other is Derek Fildebrandt, who is technically an Independent MLA for Strathmore-Brooks but in reality is a UCP Caucus member in all but title. Despite his recent legal and political woes, Mr. Fildebrandt is expected to be formally welcomed back into the party by Mr. Kenney soon, no doubt to an influential role.

Printing lame slogans attacking government spending on large pieces of plastic and photographing paid agitators standing with them beside things the organization’s unaccountable leaders don’t approve of is a vintage CTF tactic.

Like the CTF’s fatuous and misleading “debt clock,” Porky the Waster Hater is another perennial CTF favourite. The group’s unoriginally named mascot is trotted out at stunts like the fake awards given to governments for supposedly wasting taxpayers’ money on projects the CTF’s operatives think will be easy targets – say, original work by young Canadian scholars with little immediate profit potential.

That’s why you don’t have to dig very deeply into the Internet to find pictures of Mr. Fildebrandt and former Wildrose Party Leader Brian Jean, in happier and more Wildrosy times, sitting in a bar holding up a large, red, coroplast arrow that reads “Prentice made this more expensive.” The premier in question at that time was the late Jim Prentice, the last Progressive Conservative to lead the province.

Lazy journalists often call the CTF a “tax watchdog.” It is not. The Regina-based group describes itself as a “not-for-profit citizen’s (sic) group dedicated to lower taxes, less waste and accountable government.” This description, however, is also largely spin. Despite reporting more than 100,000 “supporters” – presumably mostly individuals who have donated small sums to the group – the CTF legally has only six members, its board. If you think you’re a member and you want to know how much of a pro-accountability citizens’ group it is, just ask it to let you see its books.

It’s fair to label the CTF a classic Astro-Turf operation.

Board members change occasionally, but the board generally includes some members with an anti-union agenda. The group consistently supports positions taken by market-fundamentalist, conservative political parties as well as what most Canadians understand to be a corporate agenda.

But after many years being handled with kid gloves by mainstream media, the group is extremely sensitive about such criticism. Its president, Troy Lanigan, accuses people who characterize it as serving the corporate agenda of being “far-left bomb throwers.” Seriously.

In September last year, Mr. Kenney and other candidates for the leadership of the now-defunct PC Party, which has since been merged into the UCP, trooped obediently to a CTF press conference to sign the group’s “taxpayer protection pledge” to take “immediate action” to repeal the carbon levy and eliminate the provincial deficit within one term if they form government.

The group’s Alberta director boasted it uses such signatures “to pressure politicians” to maintain their fealty to the CTF’s agenda. “Politicians know that if they break these promises, the images of them signing the pledges could haunt their political careers,” warned Colin Craig in a news release.

The CTF has not always found so much love among Alberta’s Conservatives. The late Ralph Klein, whom the UCP leader purports to admire, in 1993 accused Mr. Kenney of spreading falsehoods about his government’s spending and accused the CTF of “robbing” senior citizens with its aggressive fund-raising campaigns.

According to a Maclean’s Magazine account of Mr. Klein’s “remarkable exchange” with Mr. Kenney in the halls of the Alberta Legislature Building, Mr. Kenney “threatened to sue the premier for slander.”

It seems unlikely the CTF needs to worry about anything like that happening with Mr. Kenney now. The UCP leader is so close to the CTF one wonders if the UCP has simply become its Alberta franchise.

Are CTF apparatchiks the “experts” a UCP Government would rely on to draft and set provincial policy, even law? What role does the group play in drafting UCP policy now? These are legitimate questions Mr. Kenney should be asked.

As for the lame stunts deeply ingrained in the CTF’s political DNA, it’s a given they will increasingly become a part of political life in Alberta with Mr. Kenney at the Opposition’s helm.

There was a day when you might disagree with Alberta Conservatives, but you could count on them to behave with disdainful dignity when it came to acknowledging their political foes. That, however, was before they found themselves in opposition.

The UCP has more in common with the Wildrose Party and even the Social Credit League than the poor old PCs, who seemed like they would last forever but suffered one setback and immediately gave up the ghost.

So it’s almost a given that, sooner or later, some member of the UCP Caucus is going to be told to dress up as Porky the Waster Hater, at least until they have the opportunity to generate some porky waste of their own.

Surely this is something lesser UCP lights like Mr. Taylor should worry about.

10 Comments to: Those lame green coroplast arrows point to one thing: the UCP’s cozy relationship with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation

  1. David

    January 3rd, 2018

    I suppose if you believe the UCP the sky is falling every day in Alberta. The 50% increase in the carbon tax they are hyperventilating about turns out to be a 2.5 cent per litre increase in the cost of gas. That’s actually around 2.4% or so, based on the current gas prices, which is of course far from the 50% they keep on talking about. I noticed the gas price shown by a number of gas stations I went by yesterday actually seemed unchanged from late 2017. I suppose if you make more than $95,000/year you will not benefit from the increased rebates, but presumably you can afford the increase, or the approximately $5 month estimated increase in home heating costs.

    I suppose the UCP will keep on running around like chicken little screaming the sky is falling, but I think eventually many Albertans will start to realize the disconnect between their overblown rhetoric and reality, even if some in the media haven’t challenged their very misleading 50% figure very much.

    Reply
  2. Jerrymacgp

    January 3rd, 2018

    So, there are two kinds of government “waste”. One is legitimately-labelled waste, brought about when there are inadequate controls of public spending, poor financial stewardship, poor procurement processes (alliteration unintended lol), and outright fraud or malfeasance. This is the kind of waste uncovered by auditing, such as by Treasury Board audits or the Auditor-General, and is quite rightly to be condemned (although it can never be completely eliminated, since no system created by human beings can ever be perfect). However, with increasingly rare exceptions, this type of waste is becoming an ever-less-significant contributor to government balance sheets.

    Then there is ideologically-labelled “waste”, which is public spending on programmes and services that the labeller disagrees with on ideological grounds. (Two can play that game; for example, remember the left’s attacks on the previous PC government’s subsidies to golf courses and the horse racing industry, or the 70s-era federal NDP slogan, “corporate welfare bums”). Much of what the CTF attacks falls into this second category. There are government programmes they disagree with, because they are after all right wing free-market fundamentalists and corporate shills, but calling those programmes “waste” is going too far. One person’s “waste” is another person’s legitimate public service.

    Reply
    • Bob Raynard

      January 3rd, 2018

      I agree, Jerry. For all the talk about how much the NDP government is spending, we never hear opponents present examples of wasted money. The UCP, on the other hand, are quite willing to pay for a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s authority to impose a carbon tax, when a half hour with a lawyer should settle the issue. How much money did the austerity minded Klein government spend on Senator In Waiting elections?

      Reply
  3. brett

    January 3rd, 2018

    Really, how silly?

    Perhaps the taxpayers association should be looking at how much the grocery store price fixing on bread over the past ten plus years has cost Canadians? Would that be just a tad more appropriate?

    They are truly making themselves look foolish.

    Reply
  4. pogo

    January 3rd, 2018

    BETTER LATE THAN NEVER me mum used to say! This blogger from our sunset years deserves all the support he can get. If he happens to do an expose on the human rights ethical angle of the TFW policies of Jason Kenney? I’ll donate my from rent and food money. If he equates it to wage suppression and gets Yanis Varoufakis to comment? Hundred bucks chief!

    Reply
  5. tom in ontario

    January 3rd, 2018

    “Far left bomb throwers?” Really Mr. Lanigan? Do your duty as a citizen, notify the cops and have those criminals put away. Shake a leg, lad. Your credibility as president of the CTF is at stake.

    Reply
  6. Ron Grant

    January 3rd, 2018

    Actually the oil industry and their high wages during the boom times made groceries in Alberta higher than any other Canadian province

    Reply
  7. Farmer Dave

    January 4th, 2018

    Kenney says he will get rid of the carbon tax and balance the budget in his first term. He won’t come clean and show Albertan’s how he will do that instead just making erratic statements. He says he will let the grassroots from his party determine how it will be done at their policy convention. How does he know what the grassroots will accept if anything from his proposal for eliminating the carbon tax and balancing the budget within his first term in government. I smell Ted Byfield, Preston Manning, Stephan Harper, Tom Flanagan and Fihdepockets involved someplace here, some of them are from Eastern Canada. Time for Kenney to show if he has any intestinal fortitude and step up to the plate before Boozo Eruptions start exploding in the UCP.

    Reply

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