And now for the hard part … getting businesses and right-wing commentators to curb their hysteria

Posted on May 07, 2015, 1:54 am
10 mins

PHOTOS: Alberta NDP premier-elect Rachel Notley at the centre of media attention. Below: NDP premiers Dave Barrett of British Columbia and Bob Rae of Ontario, back in the day; columnist and NDP activist Gerald Caplan.

And now, the hard part …

If you thought overcoming the supposed Progressive Conservative juggernaut piloted by hastily departing premier Jim Prentice was difficult, wait till you see the next big task that must be faced by premier-elect Rachel Notley.

And I’m not talking about the difficulties of training and managing a caucus with a lot of inexperienced members, which will present some challenges of its own – although not nearly as many as official commentariat would like you to imagine.

BarrettI don’t know if you’ve noticed, but for all the notorious inexperience in the federal NDP’s Quebec caucus, it didn’t take very long at all for them to settle down and get to work, operating reasonably smoothly.

It will be the same here. Being inexperienced is not the same as being a lightweight, and most of the new members of the Alberta NDP Government caucus are bright and committed people who will do just fine in the Legislature.

Nor am I talking about creating a cabinet that won’t mess up, although that’s an inherently more difficult challenge than getting a group of bright people to do an essentially simple task while sticking to well-understood rules. That one, as Calgary Herald political columnist Don Braid noted Wednesday, is merely monumental.

No, the biggest challenge will come when the Organized Right – including its corporate financiers, think-tank auxiliary and legislative and media arms – shakes off the shock of having been defeated at what it thought was a deadbolt cinch and declares open, unremitting war on the NDP government of Alberta.

A reader took me to task yesterday for daring to suggest that such a thing could be possible. “But of course any unflattering economic results may be attributed to s fifth column of ‘sabotaging’ business interests,” my interlocutor commented sarcastically.

Yet this is all too real a threat. As Gerald Caplan wrote in the Globe and Mail back in October 2010, this is exactly what happened when Bob Rae and his New Democrats took over the government of Ontario in 1990.

“Within months,” Dr. Caplan wrote, “Mr. Rae’s government faced an unrelenting, brutal four-year onslaught that was unprecedented in Canadian history.”

RAEThis long piece by the distinguished journalist, academic and lifelong CCF-NDP political activist is instructive, and well worth poring over with care. I hope Dr. Caplan will forgive me if I quote him at length:

“It is no exaggeration to say hysterical fear-mongering and sabotage was the order of the day. Launched within the very first year of the new government, the attackers included every manner of business big and small, both Canadian and American-owned, almost all private media, the police (especially in Toronto), landlords and lobbying/government relations firms. Their goal was clear, and they had the money and power to achieve it.

“They were determined to undermine the government every step of the way, to frustrate the implementation of its plans and to assure its ultimate defeat. In all three goals they were successful. The considerable achievements of the government – often forgotten or dismissed – were wrought in the face of a deep recession and ferocious obstruction.”

Instructively, Dr. Caplan reports: “After the new finance minister’s very first meeting with the banking community, a bank vice-president told him, in the presence of an aide: ‘Nice speech, Mr. Minister, but we’re going to kill you.’”

Despite the fact the Soviet Union was imploding at the time, Dr. Caplan recalled, some right-wing columnists of the day “actually resorted to old-fashioned red-baiting, smearing the government as ‘red’ or ‘communist.’”

That these attacks hurt the economy of Ontario, as well as the NDP, mattered not to the militant neoliberal right. The goal was the destruction of Ontario’s modern experiment with social democracy, driven by the Organized Right’s vicious and irrational hatred of the Rae Government.

2GCaplanThis phenomenon lingers to this day, as we saw during the just-ended Alberta election campaign, with its constant references to Mr. Rae, as if he had personally created the recession of the early 1990s. There was Wildrose Leader Brian Jean at the end of the campaign, barking on the CBC’s morning drive show about “Rae Days,” without an apparent clue in a carload what those words meant.

Rae Days were, let it be said, the unpaid days off work public employees got when Mr. Rae abandoned his own constituency and adopted the neoliberal policies of the never-to-be-satisfied right wingers, people with views not unlike those of Mr. Jean.

Although I would be hard pressed to produce documentary links in the time available, I can recall exactly the same response by the same actors to the government of Dave Barrett after his unexpected majority NDP government was formed in British Columbia in the fall of 1972.

As an aside, it is worth noting that the defeat of Mr. Barrett’s government at the end of only one term was caused at least in part by his foolish decision to call an early election after only three years in power. I’m just saying.

Regardless, that the same kind of attacks on the Notley Government are a real possibility goes without saying – indeed, they have already begun.

Yesterday, before Ms. Notley has even been sworn in, she’s being blamed in the mainstream media for a selloff of energy stocks by stock traders, a highly unlikely claim, followed by the inevitable threats that “capital is extremely mobile and can easily move out of Alberta at the first sign of uncertainty” if we don’t knuckle under.

Oh well, the Zombie Confidence Fairy is bound to put in lots of additional appearances in Alberta in the weeks and months to come.

The Calgary Herald’s Deborah Yedlin was on the CBC today wringing her hands about the “above-ground risk” to energy companies caused by the “political uncertainty” of having an NDP government in Alberta. I’m afraid I laughed out loud at that one as I motored along. After all, what’s uncertain about a majority government? Excuse me, there’s likely to be nothing but stability for four years or so, whether the Organized Right likes it or not.

Well, at least the days of open red-baiting are over … Oh, wait. Here’s a headline from yesterday’s National Post: “Albertans wanted a broom, not a hammer and sickle.”

Well, the author of that was former Mike Duffy speechwriter Ezra Levant, the intemperate and sharp-eyed loony-right commentator who this week identified an almost invisible Che Guevara watch in an old picture of Ms. Notley’s wrist and once spotted a Cuban flag in my lapel.

Where’s the evidence that anything at all has changed, in spite of Mr. Braid’s point on election day that while Ms. Notley won’t do Alberta any harm, this kind of reaction to her might?

“The real danger to Alberta,” he wrote, and perhaps to the rest of Canada as well, “is not MLAs in the Notley Crue. It’s loose talk from the conservative side about the NDP inevitably bringing economic doom. Such prophecies can be self-fulfilling.”

Mr. Braid’s implicit criticism such fear mongering by his colleagues is based on the assumption the deep-pocketed, determined promoters of these strategies don’t actually intend to do harm.

Let’s hope he’s right.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

13 Comments to: And now for the hard part … getting businesses and right-wing commentators to curb their hysteria

  1. Bobbie Saga

    May 7th, 2015

    I also saw an increase in the doom and gloom rhetoric, and from the usual suspects.

    As far as yesterday’s market decline? BNN is not pushing the usual adage, “sell in May and go away” that goes along with an annual decline in energy markets, most especially. Or are they attempting to ignore the fact major markets around the world were down yesterday. The sell off will continue today. That’s to do with the Alberta election? Give me a break! And how are they to account for that? Oh I forgot. Besides the NDP in Alberta, there are those pesky Greeks who voted in an anti-austarity government, and the Scots might vote for the SNP.

    I see the selloff as a buying opportunity for my retirement fund.

    Reply
    • ronmac

      May 7th, 2015

      Luckily, the oil price price plunge and the current downtown in Alberta’s oil industry began a few months ago and not today. Otherwise it would have been blamed on the NDP. Just like the early 1980’s when the price of oil collapsed soon after Ottawa introduced the National Energy Program. To this day the NEP is still being blamed for the collapse of Alberta’s then booming oil industry.

      Reply
  2. Topiary

    May 7th, 2015

    Hi David, here’s one big difference from Rae’s experience, he didn’t inherit a 40 odd year history. If I was anywhere connected to the previous regimes, I would be very concerned when the ‘books’ are investigated by the new NDP government. It might just reveal ‘stuff’ that the right wing might not want revealed! That is assuming that the ‘shredding’ has been contained and that Deputy Ministers & ADMs have been seriously warned not to ‘touch’ anything. Love to see all those sole source contracts dating back some 40 years or so! Ummm…wonder how many ‘free market’ family names we will see. Vive Alberta Libre

    Reply
    • keith rondeau

      May 11th, 2015

      lougheed ran a really tight ship… i doubt there was tons of nasty stuff till getty took power

      Reply
      • keith rondeau

        May 11th, 2015

        He was the master of the sharply minded note to his ministers… for instance if a minister wanted to go on a government paid junket, he would get a tersely written note along the lines of… i think your constituents need you focusing on there needs more.

        Reply
  3. May 7th, 2015

    I’m doing that pretty well on line at the Financial Post and the Globe and mail.. (And a few I don’t recall)

    I am taking the position oil has never been better off than with the NDP. Centering on 15 years of discounts doing anything is an improvement. I called out a stock type that was manipulating the market on Financial post This drew limited excitement but the tone of the newspaper has shifted today. People saying stock turnaround expectd immediatly. This Kayande guy was overboard so I called him out.

    @Samir Kayande butchered the facts! Notley said she would look forward to working with Harper on a National strategy!

    #Harper took office he had 75 million of surplus sitting there left by the Liberals. He turned every cent of this into lower taxes for Industry which the Bank of Canada asked them to spend but, the wouldn’t! They are not hurting with this token increase when applied.

    Perhaps some of you recall when an #oil sands electrical producer got caught up in a #California lawsuit on overcharging them for their electricity? That was exported through BC and amounted to many millions of dollars at stake. This type of power is not included in royalty yet, we pay for all the power lines.

    Power lines are already constructed from Montana into Alberta. The trick here is jurisdiction in pricing. If Alberta crosses a border on power lines the Fed has a say, is in charge in effect of pricing of the electricity. US brings a line into Alberta there is no contest Alberta remains in charge.

    You need to understand a little about DC power! DC power lines are larger in diameter because DC travels down the line on the outside of the line! This build up no resistance which is lost to heat mostly. Also there is no EMF generated in the lines which takes the more popular arguments away from NIMBY’s DC can be infinitely controlled between what is generated and what is needed. AC which we now use travels on the inside of the line creating resistance (called reactance on high power) and radiates EMF. The closer you are to the wire the closer you are to the radiation. It cannot be insulated by burying it underground. The distance is everything. Fence lines can be “trickle charged” tiny bits over a longer period of time. Don’t park school buses under AC power lines; bad bet.

    Most important is the Generators figure they will increase profits by 30% when the DC lines are in place.

    Again, we get #no royalty on electricity out of the tar sands surpluses.

    Every cent charged the oil industry in environmental penalty came from our royalty! We now collect 0% in royalty and oil pays 15% Carbon tax. Where is the hurt?

    There has to be a shakeup of the industry but, it doesn’t have to be bad. We need a strong industry but. we have to start conducting ourselves as a producing province, not a backwater oil kingdom.

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-and-resources/alberta-election-oil-patch/article24272879/comments/

    Reply
  4. ronmac

    May 7th, 2015

    I hate to break this to you but as we speak secret NDP documents are being uncovered about a devious plan to nationalize Alberta’s agriculture industry and force farmers into a form of state-controlled collectivization. Plans are also underway to move large parts of the province’s urban population into rural areas where they will be turned into peasantry.

    What is behind this? We can only speculate. But I have a theory. Last month, as alert readers will know, the federal gov’t sold off Canadian Wheat Board assets to a US/Saudi Arabian company formed for the purpose of “investing in Canada’s agricultural grain industry.”

    Awkward timing. A slap in the face to these generous foreign entities who, acting out of a genuine goodness in their heart and a desire to bring the happiness and prosperity to farmers.

    Already a group calling itself the Friends of the Cdn Wheat Board are spouting nonsense about a “cooperative tradition runs very deep in Alberta” and “restoring the single-desk Canadian Wheat Board is no longer as distant or as difficult as it may have seemed yesterday.”

    What’s next? A People’s Republic of Alberta? Does Ms. Notley (OR SHOULD WE SAY COMRADE
    NOTLEY!) have plans to station Russian missile on Alberta soil? We need to wake up and smell the wildroses!

    Here is the blueprint of a future that is too terrible to contemplate.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dFG99vi8OY&list=PLp-E6KKFA8R9yOJ5rJkmwQhhJnAz9nOX2

    Reply
      • luke

        May 8th, 2015

        Thanks for that. That was the best laugh I’ve had all week. When will the WRP and other loons stops using this kind of cartoonish mid-twentieth-century-esque fear peddling? It makes you seem all the more anachronistic and irrelevant the more you do it. You must see the insanity of blaming a party for acheiving a majority mandate at any rate. Maybe you should go knock on doors and ask people why they voted NDP. I think I can guess what they’ll tell you to do. Grow up.

        Reply
  5. Expat Albertan

    May 7th, 2015

    Well at least Andrew Coyne began his column today by exhorting everyone to take a valium because the NDP win in Alberta is not the disaster most people think. Of course, he went on to basically call the PCs lefties in drag for their profligate spending which would continue under Notley, but for a conservative in a conservative paper, I consider that a step up (honourable mention for Coyne repeating that he thinks the left is the only place where interesting ideas as being generated on the Canadian political landscape).

    A minor point, but on the think-tank side of things, we now have the very vocal Broadbent Institute to counter the Fraser Institutes claptrap – something else that didn’t exist in Rae’s days (no pun intended there).

    Reply
  6. David Grant

    May 7th, 2015

    I am not surprised that the oil industry is outraged and generating the kind of hysteria that it is generating. They are a privileged group that doesn’t like giving up their privileges. I think Premier Notley seems very pragmatic and would be more like Saskatchewan, than Ontario. The fact that she has spoken with Roy Romanow is a good sign. I think the biggest challenge is managing expectations. These problems took a long time to create and will take time to fix. The first thing the government should do is open the books so we know how much the people has been screwed. After that, they need clean out the rot.

    Reply
  7. Over Andoutnow

    October 31st, 2016

    How is the NDP message working you now? Doom and Gloom are now real life with crazy policies of this government. No more free lunch. Time for change….

    Reply

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