Alberta Premier-designate Rachel Notley addresses the media in front of her caucus at Government House in Edmonton, Alta., on Saturday, May 9, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

PHOTOS: Premier Designate Rachel Notley, in orange shoes, with her caucus. Below: Scott Crockatt, the Calgary Chamber’s communications and marketing director; Manning Centre polemicist Colin Craig.

Well, these are strange times indeed when the official spokesperson for the Calgary Chamber of Commerce can extol the potential for Alberta’s just-elected New Democratic government in glowing terms, apparently without risking instant dismissal.

Actually, if you don’t think the NDP under Premier Designate Rachel Notley has at least the potential to form a dynasty of its own, consider the commentary last week by Scott Crockatt, the Chamber’s director of marketing and communications.

“Business can be successful under any government and I think this new NDP government has the opportunity to be a fantastic government for Alberta,” Mr. Crockatt last week told the Calgary Journal, an online publication put out by journalism students at Cowtown’s Mount Royal University. (Emphasis added, of course.)

Indeed, based on his conversation with Mr. Crockatt, the Journal’s reporter concluded that “for the Calgary Chamber, there are many areas of agreement between the business community and the new premier.”

In Mr. Crockatt’s own words, “businesses want clarity, fairness, and decisions that make economic sense from the province” – something he seems to think the NDP government will deliver.

Mind you, while the kind of views expressed by Mr. Crockatt in the Journal interview may reflect what surprising numbers of Alberta business people think – any New Democrat who has been talking with friends and family in small business here in Alberta knows this – there wasn’t a breath of it in the mainstream media.

Still, the word is that at a Calgary Chamber meeting last week attended by about 200 small business owners, participants were standing up and shrugging off suggestions a small business tax increase would do much harm and expressing their willingness to invest in their community through their taxes.

When they got around to talking about the minimum wage, instead of the hysteria Canadians expect from local chambers of commerce, people actually stood up and cheered a panelist who said it was a good idea for businesses to pay their employees a living wage.

OK, their idea of a living wage may not be my idea of a living wage, but this does illustrate how Alberta had changed – and continues to change. This was something that was apparently entirely missed by both the Progressive Conservative and Wildrose strategic brain trusts. It was also missed, it must be conceded, by a good many loyal New Democrats, the ones who are now bragging they had an Orange party card “before it was cool.”

Mr. Crockatt’s take, according to the Journal, was that businesses want to invest in their communities if that makes them better places to live, and they recognize that paying fair taxes and fair wages are part of what they have to do to get where they want to go.

I checked with Mr. Crockatt and he assures me he was quoted accurately.

Meanwhile, however, it’s almost a relief to know that not everyone associated with business and its hobbyhorses is behaving with as much equanimity at the thought of an NDP government – especially one that can get re-elected – in Alberta.

The Broadbent Institute’s Press Progress has been reporting on the nasty and at times bizarre commentary pumped out by a publication called C2C Journal and promoted in email blasts from the Calgary-based Manning Centre, which was founded by Preston Manning to advance his market-fundamentalist ideology’s takeover of Canadian governments.

Using a photograph taken in Ethiopia lifted from a Jesuit charity, the Manning-promoted online mag makes bad-taste jokes about refugee camps full of Albertans popping up in Saskatchewan to illustrate a story by a former Canadian Taxpayers Federation operative horrified by the thought that not only did the NDP just win one election, but could win another and another. Imagine, this from a group of people horrified at the thought of an old Facebook picture showing a young NDP MLA in the vicinity of a T-shirt illustrated with a marijuana leaf!

“Their party has left a trail of economic carnage across Canada,” wrote a hyperventilating Colin Craig, a statement that no amount of debunking can keep his ilk from repeating as if it were fact. As always, there are wheels within wheels.

C2C is edited by a former Stephen Harper speechwriter. The supposedly non-partisan Manning Foundation, a registered charity that mysteriously is not being investigated by the Canada Revenue Agency, is “pleased to sponsor the publication.”

C2C has representatives of the Manning Foundation and the Fraser Institute on its board. Mr. Craig, the former CTF operative who wrote the article, which pretty clearly seems to meet the CRA’s definition of partisan political activity, is now the Manning Centre’s “director of strategic communications.” The Manning Foundation claims in its apparently unchallenged 2013 tax filing that “0%” of its activities are political. You get the picture.

But it’s stuff like the commentary coming out of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce that must really make the blood of the right-wing ideologues at the Manning Centre and its C2C branch-plant run cold.

If the Chamber reflects the real attitudes of Alberta’s business community outside the oilpatch, Mr. Craig could very well be prescient when he grimly predicts “the reelection of an NDP government in Alberta” and “multiple NDP terms.”

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  1. The CCC is doing the responsible thing for it’s paying members who want to build relationships to increase understanding. Facing actual reality.

    Manning Centre, Preston, Colin, Patrick thanks for all the tweets that kept Twitter account “RedScareBot” working overtime during the 28 day general election. That hysteria, and Mr. Manning’s advice to have Alberta’s Premier invite The Leader of Alberta’s Loyal opposition cross the floor to an existing giant PC majority is definitely two of the major reasons we had real democratic change in Alberta. MC Presto, Colin, Patrick, you helped make history in Alberta!

    So gentlemen, please keep up the “booga wooga”(tm Don Braid’s description of the fear mongering phenomena especially unsparing use of the ….. “S” word. it’s really working and I guess representing the views of your funders, I presume.

  2. If it breaks up the corrupt old boys network in Alberta where you don’t get a job or a contract unless you are friends with the government, it is a good stop forward. I* have a book that outlines all the corruption that took place under Ralph Klein.

  3. There is a message here for Preston, Steve and the rest of the gang. Speaking of prescience, I think Ray Zimmerman and his gang got it right about fifty years ago.

  4. OK, the St. Albert Chamber of Commerce should take note and start singing the praises of the incoming NDP regime. Didn’t they announce plans to build a shiny new office complex for their HQ. How will they be going cap in hand looking for donations from the provincial coffers?

    All kidding aside I have a suggestion for the NDP. How about helping small business covering the costs of retail space? There are some programs like that in Europe, I understand.

    This landscape is now dominated by the big box stores, all pretty much selling the same thing. Small business offering unique products and services have been priced out of this space.

  5. It’s a common strategy for big corporations dealing with a government they don’t feel that they control to follow a two-pronged strategy: on the one hand, the formal organizations of business, such as Chambers of Commerce, claim to be trying to work with the new government (said the spider to the fly…). On the other hand, the informal organizations, funded entirely by business, such as the Manning Centre and the PC Party, do the screaming. The former tactic slows a government down because it naturally wants to find a modus vivendi with Big Business if it can. The latter limits the possibilities of the government acting in the longer term. The same strategy was followed in both Manitoba and Saskatchewan when the NDP has won various elections. A good book demonstrating how the health insurance industry in the US successfully used this two-pronged strategy to get rid of the public healthcare option in “Obamacare” is found in Wendell Potter’s Deadly Spin. He was an insurance company top propagandist who defected.

    1. Add to your list of operatives. The “press”. Media if you prefer. CTF is a symbiotic feeder as is the Fraser Institute. The game is: be polite in front, but relentlessly undermine. When you have opportunities to smear, use surrogates. The only tactic that works is make them pay. Tell them this is you, and this is what it costs to be you. Start by airing every dirty sock in the laundry bag on the political side while you play nice with the corporate side. Do not respond to attacks, other than to blame them on the unfortunate culture that was counter productive to business and government as well as society at large. Save up some big ammo.

    2. Thank you for that reminder Alvin. Hopefully our government will not be overly concerned with making ‘ friends’. That would be a mistake & business would be certain to take full advantage. Premier Notley should keep all relations ‘business’ like as she moves to get the best deals possible for all Albertans.

  6. David, Manning has two different non-profits; The Manning Foundation which is a charity and the Manning Centre for “Democracy” which is non-profit, but not a charitable organization. Manning has bragged that he uses his Foundation to do the “research” for his Centre to promote his tea party ideas. Thus he pays no tax on either and can issue tax receipts for donors to the Foundation. Ironic that the preacher’s son is happy to shirk taxes well telling everyone else that free market corporatism is the answer to everything!

  7. “,,,bad-taste jokes about refugee camps full of Albertans popping up in Saskatchewan…”

    Geez, if Alberta can elect an NDP government, it should be a cinch for Saskatchewan, the birthplace of the NDP (via the CCF) to elect another one in the near future. Either that, or they might feel that the death of the Wheat Board (and it’s sale to Saudi Arabia) might be a good time to hedge their political bets by voting NDP at the federal level. I understand that federal riding redistribution in that province has made a lot of seats much more competitive for the party.

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