The Earth, near Edmonton, it’s like, obviously, you know, flat. (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Surprisingly, as far as we know, neither Opposition Leader Jason Kenney nor any members of his United Conservative Party Legislative Caucus made it to the Flat Earth International Conference at the appropriately named Fantasyland Hotel in Alberta’s capital city Thursday and yesterday.

“Flat-earthers from around North America came to listen to speakers such as Indiana radio host Rick Hummer, who told them to pull their kids out of public schools and ignore the consensus of the scientific community,” said a report in the Toronto Star’s freebie Edmonton edition.

United Conservative Party nomination candidate Randy Kerr (Photo: Facebook).

I don’t know if the reporter was taking a subtle jab at spherical-earth Truthers at the conference when he said they came from around North America. I rather suspect he was, because the headline on the story read, “faith trumps reason.”

I also don’t know if the apparent flatness of the earth around here is part of the UCP’s platform, but I’m pretty sure pulling your kids out of school and enrolling them in fully tax-subsidized religious home-schooling programs and ignoring scientific consensus on important issues like climate change are UCP mainstays, so why the hell not?

On the latter point, consider Randy Kerr, UCP nomination candidate in the Calgary-Beddington Riding on the side of that city that’s closest to the North Pole. Mr. Kerr has been busy on his Facebook page re-posting articles from the Neo-Naziish Breitbart News and informing the world “global warming is the hoax we’ve always known it to be.”

It was 37 degrees Celsius in Calgary yesterday, but, you know, that’s just weather.

As for Mr. Kenney, who used to employ Mr. Kerr as a campaign manager, he has explained that “climate change of course is a permanent factor of the natural environment, but there’s clearly scientific consensus around it being a significant anthropogenic element to recent climate change, and that’s why I support prudent, reasonable measures to control and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Emphasis added, of course. Translated, it presumably means he’s prepared to say publicly it’s a thing, sort of, but not enough of one to actually bother doing anything meaningful about. Well, if Mr. Kerr is chosen as the candidate, his views will fit right in with those of several members of the party’s caucus.

Meanwhile, back at West Edmonton Mall where the Fantasyland is found, conference goers were told the Bible is “unequivocally a flat-earth book” – which I suppose is a position on which a lot of people on both sides of this debate could find common (level) ground.

The Star’s reporter rather daringly informed readers that while many flat-earthers think the earth is a disk – you know, it’s round, but it’s flat, like a plate – “there is overwhelming scientific and photographic evidence that it is spherical.”

New York Times economics columnist Paul Krugman (Photo: Twitter).

Thank you for that! Nevertheless, no one can accuse modern Canadian journalists of writing reports that aren’t “balanced.” Balance, of course, as rigorously practiced by 21st Century Canadian media, means that for every verifiable fact, a contradictory “fact” advanced by right-wing politicians for self-serving purposes must be assigned equal value and given equal attention.

Traditionally, this phenomenon was restricted to economic matters. This once caused an exasperated Paul Krugman, the New York Times’s Nobel-Prize-winning economics columnist, to exclaim: If a presidential candidate were to declare that the earth is flat, you would be sure to see a news analysis under the headline *‘Shape of the Planet: Both Sides Have a Point.’”

Now, of course, the practice has spread to other topics the political right finds inconvenient, such as science. So in its coverage of the flat-earthers’ opinions, the competing National Post, fearless champion of the Canadian overdog, yesterday explained: “Even if media coverage is negative, their beliefs appear to be part of the marketplace of ideas, something that is a legitimate topic of debate.”

Dr. Krugman was just being acerbic. But as you can see for yourself, we have actually arrived at his sarcastic prediction! I am not making this up.

At the Fantasyland Hotel, meanwhile, guests can sleep on a bed shaped like an igloo or in a room that appears to be a space station … circling the earth.

Several recent polls have indicated the UCP leads the governing NDP in the affection of decided Alberta voters by a comfortable margin. Despite some evidence, science is divided on the popular belief there is intelligent life on the Great Plains.

Join the Conversation


  1. One of the amazing things about people is the diversity of thought and ideas across the globe. Yes, sorry my flat earth friends, but I will not be joining you at the I think appropriately chosen Fantasyland Hotel, but I hope you have a good time here and enjoy Edmonton – yes it is relatively flat so you might find it quite comfortable.

    Some ideas and thoughts, like the earth being flat are way out there, but relatively harmless. Our bigger problem today are other ideas that deny or ignore science, such as anti vaxers or climate change deniers that can be harmful. Sorry, you can rationalize or convince yourseves all you want, but it has really een kind of hot lately or even over the last few years. Forest fires in many places in the world all at once and 40 C in Alberta in August is not normal. Lets not try pretend it is.

    I don’t have a problem with home schooling, parents who take such an interest in their childrens education is a good thing, but there is still a curriculum that should be followed and they need to be careful not to give their children a too narrow view of the world. I don’t recall the bible explicitly saying the earth was flat. I think that was only the interpretation of some religous leaders and I think Copernicus got into trouble when he challenged that

    I do agree the problem of two sides to everything is something our society has perhaps unwittingly created and our media has perpetuated. This approach also undermines the credibility of our media when Bob from Carstairs gets equal airtime as the 99 reputable scientists who have an opposing view. There are legitimate issues of great debate and those of consensus with a few differing views and they should not be treated the same way by the media.

    I don’t think the people on the great plains are any less intelligent than elsewhere, but I do think being far from tidewater we are somwtimes less exposed to the diversity of humanity. It is ironic that those who have the greatest fear of a woman in the hijab are those that seldom or never see her in person, not those who ride the same bus as her every day and eventually realize she is harmless. The most unfortunate thing is those that exploit other peoples limited experience for their own political gain. It seems to have become quite the thing lately. It is harmful to our society and it should stop.

    1. “… I don’t think the people on the great plains are any less intelligent than elsewhere, but I do think being far from tidewater we are sometimes less exposed to the diversity of humanity. It is ironic that those who have the greatest fear of a woman in the hijab are those that seldom or never see her in person, not those who ride the same bus as her every day and eventually realize she is harmless… “ To that point, I live in the formerly very white bread city of Grande Prairie, and the diversity here has exploded in recent years. That “woman in the hijab” might be serving you your double double, or selling you chocolate bars or lotto tix or cancer stix at your local convenience store, or drawing your blood at your next health check.

      The other thing is that for those who claim to be uncomfortable with so-called “religious headgear”, where do you stand then on observant Hutterite and conservative Mennonite women, who have worn various designs of headscarves or skullcaps or bonnets for as long as they have been in Canada? Fundamentally there is no difference.

    1. Bloozguy, I followed your link to the Big Valley Creation Science Museum, located in the Village of Big Valley, It appears to be something set up by a local, as a private citizen, to deny evolution. I then googled the museum, and one of the options that came up was the Village of Big Valley website. I got the impression the museum is even a source of embarrassment for the village; they list 13 attractions they have; the museum is listed 12th, and is the only attraction that does not warrant a promotional sentence.

  2. You can have alternative opinions, but not alternative facts. People of good conscience can disagree about the best approach to address the climate change issue, but you have to deny established facts to claim it isn’t happening or isn’t a concern.

    I think this is the real reason the UCP won’t say what they’d do about climate change if they were elected to government. Some conservative commentators have said that the best approach is not to price carbon via a carbon tax or a cap & trade regime, but to regulate emissions. Of course, the cognitive dissonance of small-government conservatives (Doug Ford, anyone?) advocating an expensive, complex, bureaucratic web of onerous regulations is jarring, but at least it doesn’t deny we need to take action. But maybe the UCP thinks it’s easier to just stick their fingers in their ears and chant “la-la-la-la-the climate has always changed & we don’t need to do anything-la-la-la-la”.

    1. How do you define “established” facts? Do you believe that it is not possible for there to be systemic bias in the scientific community and the media and education system that propagates knowledge? Not 100 years ago Alberta had a eugenics board chaired by doctors who executed the “scientific consensus” that sterilizing “undesirables” such as minorities was the socially responsible thing to do. I am glad that people challenge “established” facts because sometimes the establishment is rotten.

      1. Graeme, there is no doubt that science has gotten things wrong in the past. In addition to your eugenics example, it seems like every week there is a news story telling us that some food has been moved from the wonderful category to the ‘bad for you’ category, and at one point doctors were advising patients to take up smoking.

        That said, there is also a very real chance climate change is real, just like a lot of other instances when science has been correct. We are certainly starting to see some of the predictions climate scientists made in the late 1980s come to fruition. Climate change deniers love to talk about the economic hardships we would be in for if we take steps to reduce our emissions; I would encourage you to compare those economic hardships to what we will endure if the climate continues to change.

        I don’t think there were many people fleeing the fire in Fort McMurray who were worrying about not being able to get to work the next day.

      2. The way to challenge established facts is with new facts substantiated by a chain of evidence based in the physical world. The anthropic warming denialists prefer to challenge with mountains of bullshit. In this instance, there is a corrupt side to the bun fight, and your are on it.

  3. No surprise. No doubt there are some folks in the Party who belong to the group that believe that dinosaurs are a hoax and those bones were put in place by humans to fool us.

    Perhaps Randy does not get out much.

  4. “Despite some evidence, science is divided on the popular belief there is intelligent life on the Great Plains.”
    Got some intelligent life competition for you westerners. On June 7 Ontario electors voted in buck a beer, a 348K premier’s pal who will study (gasp) overcrowding in the province’s hospitals, no ban on handgun sales despite scads of shootings in Toronto the Good. Stick ’em up!

  5. Great column, David. Thank you.

    One wonders if Randy Kerr’s climate change views are sufficient for Jason Kenney to pull the plug on his candidacy. He certainly could prove to be embarrassing during a campaign.

    “…I support prudent, reasonable measures to control and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

    If this is so, would a UCP government continue the subsidies on LED light bulbs etc that are presently being funded by the carbon tax Kenney has promised to terminate?

  6. Trump’s pouch-piping about the supposed ‘balance’ between “some very fine and some very bad people—on both sides” of the infamous Charlottesville racism conflict is not, by itself, anything new—he is, after all, an invention of racism, not its inventor. Still, we were shocked at his equivocation because he’s supposed to be president of society (as it happens, one of the most globally influential societies, too). The good news is, this sorry episode reminds that social opprobrium toward racism has become the norm, has overtaken and replaced what once was, not so long ago, a widely held, unexamined, (racist)‘opinion’ legitimized by the constitutional right to free speech. This success was further illustrated by the plainly defensive, reactionary antics of fringe neo-nut-case groups Trump conveniently exposed by showing them respect society has justly starved them of for decades.

    Trump’s presumptuous dictatorial whimsy can only be sustained now by throwing more and more firecrackers into the pan—which will underscore the social opprobrium against racism even more, a type of science —mathematics—he seems to have ignored, in the democratic sense. Call his a short lived, flashy revivalist movement that has inadvertently exposed and made more vulnerable the crystallized, cystic remnants of racism to society’s successful quenching of fewer and smaller teapot spot fires.

    Likewise Trump did not invent the supposed ‘balance’ between scientific fact and contradictory fanciful belief. The preposterous requirement of many American state education policies to teach Biblical creationism to high school students (who, presumably, are trying to qualify for post-secondary education at institutions that unequivocally reject the Bible’s mythological theory of creation) as if it’s an equally valid theory warranting equal educative weight has been a longstanding cultural redoubt for the mostly rural jurisdictions that have been so-co-opted for politcal purposes they are barely aware of—except in the basest of terms.

    Canada has made and tested criminal law that would make Trump’s race-targeted demagoguery indictable as a hate-crime. We have long since dispensed with any freedom-of-speech excuse for inciting hatred toward anyone or identifiable group of people. Neither do we accept that anyone’s freedom to seek civil redress for defamatory speech is a sufficient brake on hate-speech. Of course citizens may sue for defamatory, hate-inciting speech against them, providing damages done or anticipated are proved in court. Society has moved, however, to make hate-speech a crime against itself, an offence against the state as a whole. The individula’s Constitutionally protected right of free speech is thus restricted because hate-speech is much more than an offence against individuals, and is actually a serious social disease that absolutely needs to be stamped out. The sovereign whole, as Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations concluded, trumps individuals’ rights.

    But if the teaching of hate-inciting opinion can be outlawed by criminal consequence —as it was with Jim Keegstra who got fired for teaching anti-Semitic ideas (Holocaust denial) to his public school students and challenged the hate-speech law to try to get his job back—because such speech has been legally accepted as bad for society as a whole, then why not the teaching of climate change denial which, a plethora of scientific evidence and common sense tell us is wrong? Climate change, we are seeing, is causing great harm to society, and the sovereign state is warranted to mobilize its primary executive—us citizens—to combat it and prepare for the society-shaking consequences that aren’t simply theorized but actually demonstrated. Climate change catastrophes are not a flash in the pan like Donald L(ame in November) Duck.

    Climate change is bringing death, suffering, disease and destruction that will rock our nation economically and challenge society to devote unified emergency effort in order to save individuals, society itself and our very country else we become strategically susceptible to the worldwide tumult hailing out of the sky every single day now. We already get that racism would, if allowed, weaken our capacity to protect ourselves. Should we not also get that climate change denial also does the same? It’s a mug’s game to try to ‘balance’ the two, racism and climate change preparedness—be like fiddling while Rome burns.

    Yet we note White Christian Redoubters’ stock rhetoric (or, shall we call them sacrosanct articles of faith?) include various pouch-pipe pitches of racism and climate change denial, the former played as fugally cluttered as Chines opera, the latter still artlessly pitched cant.

    How come climate change denial, considering its threat to our society and nation, has not been criminalized like hate-speech has? Why has so-called ‘right to Christian worship’ —straight out of the Dog-whister’s Hymnary—been cultivated as a right that trumps the safety and survival of society and our nation? As we know by hate-speech, rights do not necessarily balance against the health of society as a whole—especially in court.

    This dangerous equivocation habit, we should remind, is merely the fashion of politicians and journalists these days. It never washes floats in court and it shouldn’t in society as a whole.

  7. David, every once and a while I read an article I really enjoy. August 10 Edmonton Journal article by Graham Thomson: Rachel Notley fed up with federal NDP leader Singh’s anti-pipeline, ‘elitist’ views. What I found really amusing was that she was attacking Jagmeet Singh for having the same views on pipelines that she espoused when in opposition. Now I happen to agree with her present outlook on Jagmeet’s views but there is one problem, while Premier Notley is trying to distant herself from the policies of the federal NDP she is still a member of that same federal NDP. Even someone like myself who you would accuse of being a flat earth supporter because I will not be voting for Premier Notley can see the obvious contradiction. She is in a no win situation. Her present views will alienate traditional NDP supporters and no matter what she says or does for the rest of us she is still under the umbrella of the NDP. Enjoy your day

    1. While I don’t necessarily enjoy Premier Notley and the NDP’s new found political acumen, and the NDP have been far from perfect, she’s been braver than any Conservative Gov’t in recent memory if not ever; I certainly don’t feel alienated. She will not lose traditional NDP support. Admittedly (And sadly) the only reason she is governing is due to the (years of) rank ineptitude of the PC’s. As expected Conservative prattle, and rhetoric (Despite a lack of any policy) will likely win the day, however the worst case scenario is that there will be a far stronger opposition. Guaranteed.

    2. I am one of those traditional NDP supporters, all the way back to 1971, and I will continue to support the Alberta NDP and Premier Notley. I read the same article and I am not alienated. As a person who harbours a belief in and a desire for both economic and social fairness, there is honestly no other viable choice in who to support and who to vote for. Enjoy *your* day.

  8. An indication of the science-denial crowd and its influence on the electorate can be somewhat ascertained by the usual, unscientific polls conducted by Calgary CTV where, at 0030 on 12th. August, 51% of almost 4,000 respondents declared in the negative when asked, “Do you believe humans are impacting climate change?”

    Perhaps Winston Churchill may have had a point when he intoned, “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

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