PHOTOS: Possibly the Globe and Mail’s best headline of the decade. Below: NDP Premier Rachel Notley, Wildrose Finance Critic Derek Fildebrandt, the sailboat known as French Kiss, shown just to prove I didn’t make that part up, the full Globe headline, shown for the same reason.

Is Alberta ready for democracy?

Notwithstanding the unexpected election of a New Democratic Party majority government in Alberta last May 5, it’s pretty obvious a lot of Albertans – especially the business crowd in Calgary – still don’t really get this democracy thing.

Consider the stunned reaction Friday from the Calgary Chamber of Commerce to the shocking revelation by NDP Premier Rachel Notley – leader of the Alberta NDP, raised by committed NDP parents and well known for her NDP convictions – that she intends to vote … just wait for it … for the NDP in the Oct. 19 federal election. Shock! Horror! Bewilderment!

This was so astonishing, indeed, that mainstream media informs us the 1,600 gathered Calgary businessmen, and you can be pretty sure they were mostly men, sat in stunned and bitter silence as their orange sorbets melted before their tear-filled eyes. (I made up the bit about the orange sorbets and the tears, but you get the idea. Anyway, as we’ll see in the moment, just making up completely ridiculous stuff is now totally respectable in Alberta political discourse.)

“I can’t believe how quiet everyone is,” Ms. Notley told the burghers of Cowtown after pulling back the orange curtain on her true beliefs, no doubt with a small, sly smile.

This was pretty brave. If I’d been there wearing the premier’s orange shoes, in addition to being a little wobbly on the heels I would have been afraid this was the classic moment of silence before the howling mob stormed the podium and burnt the hotel to its foundations.

Graham Thomson, political columnist for the Edmonton Journal and generally a pretty sensible guy, interpreted Ms. Notley’s astonishingly astonishing proclamation that “I was literally born into the NDP, and I believe its principles and values are what the country needs now as are the grit, determination and intellect of Tom Mulcair,” as the equivalent of “poking them with a stick.”

Seriously? Well, yes. … Apparently seriously.

What next, one wonders? Horror in the streets when Kathleen Wynne reveals, even worse, she’s a Liberal? Probably not, actually. That’s the sort of thing you’re always hearing from Toronto, and it doesn’t surprise anyone because, what do you expect from a dissolute place like that?

Nowadays it’s not uncommon in these parts to hear people wonder “what right” the NDP had to impose policies the business community doesn’t like, such as raising the minimum wage by $1 an hour. If you suggest to them that’s how democracy works – you know, you campaign on a set of policies, and, when you get elected, you get to implement them, and if you don’t your supporters will be disappointed and quit voting for you – you’ll be met with blank stares like those that greeted Premier Notley at the Calgary Chamber.

Which brings us to the topic of Derek Fildebrandt, the Wildrose Opposition’s finance critic, who has a theory about this kind of thing.

Mr. Fildebrandt’s epiphany – which is apparently taken seriously by the entire mainstream media, including the ones from Toronto who ought to know better – is that the NDP are lying bastards because they keep their promises!

The Globe and Mail featured Mr. Fildebrandt’s excited realization prominently in its print edition Friday under what surely has to be one of the standout headlines of the decade, if not the century: “NDP duped voters by implementing its promises, Wildrose finance critic says.”

Je digresse, but it needs to be noted that Globe and Mail copy editors sometimes write headlines that subtly reveal their own, usually uncomplimentary, perspective on the reporter’s commentary and the interviewee’s point of view. It is a Globe tradition that, I confess, I participated in when I was a headline writer for that august publication. But while I think my dry explanation a racing sailboat called French Kiss had a tongue-in-cheek name was pretty clever, the headline about Mr. Fildebrandt’s ejaculation raises the bar to a whole new level!

Now, in any other democratic jurisdiction, such an idea would surely have been greeted with mild amusement, or perhaps outright guffaws. Not here in Alberta.

The author of the Globe’s account breathlessly explained Mr. Fildebrandt’s explication thusly: “Alberta’s ruling New Democratic Party hoodwinked voters into believing it would lean only slightly left and is now implementing ‘hard-core ideological’ policies.” …

“The NDP platform was never intended to ever be implemented,” Mr. Fildebrandt explained to credulous journalists outside the ballroom where the premier had just spoken. It was, he asserted, “a hard-core ideological document” designed to push the then-ruling Progressive Conservative Party led by the hapless Jim Prentice “in a particular direction,” by which Mr. Fildebrandt presumably means a teeny-weenie bit to the left.

“It was never actually meant to be implemented as real policy,” he averred.

This is baloney on all counts, pretty obviously, as a cursory glance through the NDP election platform will reveal to any reader. Unless, I suppose, you imagine such policies as gradually diversifying the economy to reduce reliance on a single industry, honouring your word, making modest moves in the direction of fairer taxation, telling the truth, protecting the public health care system, trying to protect the environment while doing business, keeping your promises, and making modest progressive increases to the minimum wage add up to “hard core ideological” radicalism.

Well, that is what Mr. Fildebrandt believes, or so says he says.

Certainly, it was obvious to Alberta voters – whom Mr. Fildebrandt and his party obviously think are quite stupid – that the NDP intended to implement this cautious and quite conservative program if elected.

Moreover, subsequent polling has indicated the steps taken by the NDP to implement an insignificant 2-per-cent increase in the taxes paid by big corporations and to review natural resource royalties continue to be quite popular with voters.

Now, the natural assumption of an observer from a normal democracy might be that Mr. Fildebrandt wears a tinfoil hat when he goes to bed to prevent Dipper-Rays from penetrating his skull. But this would be a mistake. He is a quite a bright young man, long associated with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, a well-known anti-union pro-big-business lobby group distinguished by its misleading propaganda and relentless media stunts.

The strategy of the Wildrose Party under Leader Brian Jean, devised by clever advisors formerly associated with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party, has been to paint the NDP from Day 1 as extremist lunatics bent on destroying Civilization As We Know It (CAWKI).

In this they are enthusiastically amplified by the mainstream media echo chamber and repeated constantly by loony conspiracy theorists on the lecture circuit, such as Ezra Levant, another natural candidate for the leadership of the Tinfoil Hat Club. And so it shall be without remit for the next three and a half years.

Surely in any other jurisdiction, though, Mr. Fildebrandt’s theorizing that the NDP are liars because they’re telling the truth would be ignored by the media as unworthy of ink and and laughed out of the court of public opinion.

Not here, at least as far as the media goes This is especially true in the Calgary and Edmonton newspapers, which are all now owned by the same partisan Toronto-based corporation, which shares essentially the same worldview as the CTF and the CFIB. As for what the public makes of this, the jury remains out.

Still, this does raise the question asked at the start of this post: Is Alberta ready for democracy?

If this kind of nonsense is taken seriously, perhaps not. Remember, Russia (as we are constantly reminded) has had some difficulty adjusting to democracy in the post-Soviet era, and the Soviet Union lasted a mere 69 years.

Here in Alberta, we had one-party rule for 80 years under the same party with two names – Social Credit from 1935 to 1971 and Progressive Conservative from 1971 to 2015. So it would not be surprising if Alberta had some rocky moments as well on the way to figuring out how democracy works.

Nor should it surprise us the Wildrose Party – which is really just the Social Credit-PC Coalition under yet another name – would long for the days when it made sense in Alberta not to make any sense.

The message from the Fildebrandt-Jean Angry Team seems to be that voters are idiots for not choosing their party, and that if we do at some point in the future, we can be confident they’ll lie to us about whatever they plan to do.

I can remember a day when the Wildrose Party, led by Danielle Smith, valued the idea of keeping promises. Obviously no more.

Apparently this Orwellian message has found a happy home at the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.

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  1. Another interesting aspect of this: I kept looking (in vain) for this story on the Calgary Herald website, and never found it. Either they ignored it or buried it deeply. Could this be an acknowledgement that Fildebrandt’s message was idiotic, even by Wildrose standards? That publicizing it could only harm the cause?

  2. Poor Mr Fildebrandt and the rest of the Wildrose caucus appear to have spent so much time looking in a mirror and congratulating themselves, that they, like Alice fell through the mirror to an alternate universe. It would seem that Mr Fildebrandt has become a disciple of Tweedledee.

    “Contrariwise,’ continued Tweedledee, ‘if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic.”

    And Mr Fildebrandt makes about as much sense in trying to create a logic that would have the NDP govern as though they were part of the Wildrose caucus.

    It is sad that we have become so inhered to politicians saying one thing and doing something very different, that a politician can’t quite believe it when another actually does what she says. Rachel Notley and the rest of her caucus have been a breath of fresh air and I hope their honesty continues.

  3. That this story is even able to exist, is a testament to the insanity of Alberta politics. Actually keeping election promises is now something we shouldn’t do? I mean, I always knew it was something that the PC’s didn’t do, but I didn’t like it. In fairness, the concept of *not* having the same old boys club in the Legislature is a bit shocking to some people… I am totally predicting the Calgary Sun to have a few interesting stories about how the oil wells are collapsing out from under us and how AB is going to implode when the budget comes out — doesn’t matter what’s in the budget, AB is still going to implode.

    Thank you for this post, I really enjoyed it!

  4. This isn’t the first time that we’ve seen evidence of this sort of cognitive dissonance from the WRP, though, is it? I seem to recall the WRP leader, about a week before election day here, saying something to the effect of “The polls indicate that we’re going to have an NDP government, but that isn’t what Albertans want.”

    That democracy thing, it’s tricky.

  5. Thank you for spelling out the things that have been on my mind. The Notley team said what they wanted to do. Albertans voted for them. What is hard to understand about that? Go Rachel!

  6. “subsequent polling has indicated the steps taken by the NDP to implement an insignificant 2-per-cent increase in the taxes paid by big corporations and to review natural resource royalties continue to be quite popular with voters”….really….what poll???

    “…the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, a well-known anti-union pro-big-business lobby group distinguished by its misleading propaganda and relentless media stunts……do you mean pro business….not just big business.

    Get your facts straight….this is total drivel….the kind that the Slop & Pail ( globe and mail) is known for.

    1. Facts: The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is not a federation and doesn’t represent Canadian Taxpayers other than about 1/2 dozen people. It’s a private company with a small number of shareholders which will not release any information on it’s donors, shareholders or financial status. Its claims that it represents a broad base of taxpayers has never been substantiated by member or financial data. It provides no bondifdes on its research or researchers. It is nothing more than a mouthpiece for a particular point of view on fiscal and monetary policy. Of course it sounds good to the media who are too lazy, underfunded or discouraged by their own employers to do their own research

  7. I agree that Mr. Fildebrandt’s statement is a testament to the insanity of politics, especially recent Alberta politics. Perhaps after watching the Alberta PC’s be all over the map with promises and actions because their only commitment was to power, Fildebrandt didn’t recognize that other people and parties actually had a real commitment to the ideas they proposed.

    I didn’t expect the Calgary Chamber of Commerce to be cheering Premier Notley, especially in these politically charged times, for announcing she is supporting the federal NDP. It is kind of like going into the lion’s den for her – many of them are probably very strong supporters of the federal Conservatives. However, there is a cause and effect here. I suspect if Prime Minister Harper hadn’t attacked the new Alberta NDP government so strongly earlier in the campaign, the Premier might not have been as vocal in front of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.

    There is an important political lesson here which I believe the Prime Minister has not learned – that the Chamber members may have contemplated while the new Premier spoke – what goes around comes around. Ultimately, no one can be successful in the long run in politics by alienating as many people as Harper has. Yes, I too think we need to Stop Harper, but fortunately he is doing a reasonably good job of helping out by digging his own hole – making so many enemies needlessly.

    Watching Harper’s most recent campaign appearances, however I think he has found the perfect post politics career after he is defeated next week – game show host! He has a touch of Monty Hall about him. From Prime Minister to game show host – how the mighty are falling!

    1. “Watching Harper’s most recent campaign appearances…”

      One worth noting took place last weekend in Mississauga. As reported by CBC News, instead of meeting reporters, Mr. Harper and his son visited a pumpkin patch. A photo was taken of him holding a large pumpkin at shoulder level. Comments included the following:

      The pumpkin has more charisma than Harper.
      On the charisma scale from one to ten, it’s pumpkin 1, Harper 0.
      Which one’s the pumpkin head?
      Look! Harper’s interviewing his next Senate appointment.
      Steve’s chatting with Duffy.

  8. Horror of horrors…a newly-elected government that is actually keeping its campaign commitments! What is a self-respecting Alberta oligarch to do?

    Alberta’s poor excuse for democracy was dysfunctional for so many decades, that Alberta’s movers and shakers don’t know what to make of a genuine change of government. They have never seen such a thing, at least not here, although I don’t know how they reconcile this attitude with the reality that everywhere else, governments change with relative regularity. Well, now it has happened here…time to get over it. This is what democracy looks like.

  9. I nearly fell on the floor laughing when I read about Fildebrandt’s idiotic pronouncement in the G&M. He should be embarrassed for saying something so stupid but then these guys are clearly delusional. It shows you what the Rosies think about the intelligence of Alberta voters. God help us if those bozos ever form a govt. I’ll be moving to B.C.

    What’s interesting too is that Alberta’s mainstream daily newspapers made a much bigger deal about Rachel Notley telling the Calgary Chamber of Commerce that she’ll vote NDP in the federal election. This somehow was the premier poking them in the eye with a stick. What would have been REAL news was her saying she was voting Liberal. This is what passes for political commentary in the MSM. Pathetic!

    1. The trouble with thinking that moving to BC is the end all is that Canada’s biggest political liar is in charge here. Christy Clark is just as delusional about herself as Fildebrandt and Jean are. She calls herself a ‘Liberal’, but really she is just another Right wing loser…..

  10. As much as I’d like to comment on topic, I just can’t. We’re about to be blown out nationally, because once again, we just can’t address issues with any kind of moral authority. Why? Because we chose to fake it with tragically poor defensive messaging. We could have set the agenda on the economy, health care, human rights, but no. We decided to try to put one over on ourselves and everyone else. Why?

  11. Glorious! It’s about time someone expose Jean and Fildebrandt for the Clowns they really are! Neither one of them is fit to sit in the Legislature and represent anyone…..

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