Popular UCP target Tzeporah Berman, scheduled to speak to members of the Alberta Teachers Association Saturday (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

After a difficult weekend doing damage control about how members of an anti-immigration group with white supremacist links were welcomed to a United Conservative Party beer-and-selfies night last Friday by an Edmonton constituency association, expect the right-wing Opposition party to dip into its strategic playbook to try to change the channel.

UCP Channel-Changing Strategy No. 1, of course, is: Attack Tzeporah Berman.

UCP Leader Jason Kenney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Strategy No. 2: Defame unions.

Strategy No. 3: Disparage teachers.

Expect the UCP to do all three.

After all, the Alberta Teachers Association, union for the province’s 43,000 public, Catholic and francophone schoolteachers and administrators, has invited the prominent B.C. environmentalist known for her opposition to the Trans Mountain Pipeline to a meeting near Edmonton on Saturday. So we can count on the UCP to be even more hysterical than usual in its denunciations of Ms. Berman, teachers, and by association with both, the NDP.

Expect the full-meal deal – red meat, not vegan or even gluten free – as UCP Leader Jason Kenney tries desperately to get Albertans to forget about how all three of his party’s candidates in the Edmonton-Henday West Riding invited members of the Soldiers of Odin vigilante group to their Friday night festivities and hung around for selfies with them.

And, yes, the “Soldiers” were invited, Mr. Kenney’s Tweeted denials notwithstanding.

It may have been a mistake, a misunderstanding or a miscommunication, but now that the smoke is starting to clear, it’s been proved beyond a reasonable doubt the group’s members received invitations from the UCP event’s organizers, and that they responded with an RSVP.

So there is really no excuse for Mr. Kenney and the three nomination candidates – Nicole Williams, Lance Coulter and Leila Houle – to claim the Soldiers of Odin members “crashed” the party, although presumably it’s still possible event organizers didn’t know who or what the Soldiers of Odin were when they accepted their RSVP and posed with them.

Edmonton Sun political columnist Lorne Gunter (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

If so, however, that’s hardly reassuring. First of all, the Soldiers of Odin showed up in biker-style regalia. You’d think that would have been a hint, since lots has been written and reported about the group. All three candidates posed for selfies with them anyway. Apparently no one even asked what S.O.O. stood for!

As Jim Storrie of Progress Alberta, the group that spotted the photos online and broke the story over the weekend, observed yesterday: It’s “pretty hard to believe that not a single person in that group noticed who these folks were – it’s literally written on their hats and jackets.”

Mr. Storrie continued: “The statement’s assertion that Soldiers of Odin were unwelcome and surprised the candidates by showing up – that’s a plain lie, and we’ve got the receipts.” He is referring to a screenshot of the RSVP by Soldiers of Odin members on the constituency association’s Facebook page.

Indeed, Tyson Hunt, the president of the vigilante group’s Alberta Chapter told the CBC that members advised the UCP a week in advance they’d be at the pub night. “So they knew we were there,” he said. “We weren’t hiding. We never snuck in.”

Said Storrie: “Soldiers of Odin didn’t crash this event – they RSVP’d to it. And not in some stealthy way, either. These men literally have Soldiers of Odin written on their profile pictures.” He noted that within two hours of Progress Alberta’s revelation, the UCP had deleted the evidence.

In fairness, Mr. Kenney did denounce the Soldiers of Odin after the brouhaha began. But that still doesn’t answer the question why such characters are attracted to the UCP, and seemingly only to the UCP, among Alberta’s major political parties.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley advised the UCP during a news conference yesterday to do something about the unsavoury people who keep showing up at its events. She observed: “If you use dog-whistle politics often enough, eventually, soon enough, people are going to respond to the whistle.”

It would be easier to excuse the UCP, Ms. Notley observed, if the same sorts of things hadn’t already happened eight times.

This made Mr. Kenney so angry he accused the premier of “gutter politics.”

Funnily enough, though, even Mr. Kenney’s greatest friends seem to have come to much the same conclusion. Lorne Gunter, one of Postmedia’s most enthusiastic UCP cheerleaders, said almost the same thing as the premier, advising his favourite political party that the time had come “to clean up its act.”

Well, good luck with that.

There seems to be a sort of hierarchy in the minds of the UCP’s leaders about the controversial far-right groups that make up a significant part of their party’s base.

Soldiers of Odin are no longer welcome, which represents progress.

Neither are nomination candidates who make anti-Muslim comments, which is also a positive sign.

Funding a Nazi meme website is frowned upon, but apparently still permitted by candidates, though.

Ditto homophobic slurs by candidates.

Climate change denial is standard operating procedure, tolerated without comment, perhaps even encouraged.

Campaigning for Donald Trump is rewarded.

And attacking Tzeporah Berman and the ATA, of course, are standard UCP operating procedure.

This is especially so when the UCP finds itself in a tight corner, as it does right now.

So expect lots of little videos very soon from Mr. Kenney about Ms. Berman, who once served as the co-chair of the NDP Government’s Oil Sands Advisory Group at the request of senior oil industry officials.

Ms. Berman will address the ATA social studies teachers’ group on Saturday morning. She will be rebutted after 45 minutes by Premier Notley, which won’t stop the UCP, of course, from pretending that the two are in league. Oil industry executive Chris Slubicki will also be there to back up the premier.

Join the Conversation


  1. Once again is proved that Kenney’s UCP has been associated with the conviction of anti-immigrant and anti-multi-cultralism. I do not expect that a leopard can change its spots ever.

  2. It’s fair to say that homophobes, xenophobes, racists and white nationalists have found a home in the UCP. This is eerily beginning to look very much like Trumpism sans the funny MAGA hats—Devin Dreeshen fashion choices notwithstanding.

  3. “UCP Channel-Changing Strategy No. 1, of course, is: Attack Tzeporah Berman.”

    Leading the attack is Alberta’s Premier. Notley stops just short of calling Berman a liar.
    “Notley says she needs to go [to the Alberta Teachers Association conference], in her words, ‘to counter misinformation and ensure that the whole story is told.'” (Canadian Press)

    It’s amusing to watch NDP supporters play both sides.
    If it’s Kenney vs Notley, they cheer for Notley.
    If it’s Kenney vs Berman, they cheer for Berman.
    Somehow forgetting that Notley and Berman are on different sides.
    Cognitive dissonance, much?

    If it’s Notley vs Berman, what then?
    On oilsands expansion and new pipelines, Notley and Kenney are on the same page.
    Both brazenly ignoring IPCC warnings.
    Both betting that the world will fail to take real action on climate change.
    Both on the wrong side of science and history.

    1. Geoffrey yer right: If you want to see just how far off-side they are, take a look at this Bloomberg article which points out the electric Tesla 3 is now the fifth most popular selling sedan in the US.


      If you want to see how delusional people in general are, please note that atmosphere guzzling SUVs and pick-up trucks are now more popular than sedans.

      At least Notley has the excuse that once upon a time there was a window for more DilBit exports (like maybe when Klein put the pedal to metal on Tar plants – not!). Now it looks like the smart move would have been to spend the pipeline money on upgrading DilBit to diesel and jet fuel since high torque applications will likely use diesel long after gasoline has been abandoned and going to exploit the white man’s privilege via jet is just getting more popular.

      On the other hand, Kenney and the UCP are just living in the Marxist paradise of the Alberta past where unskilled labour could earn more than a surgeon.

  4. Re: strategies 2 and 3, defaming unions and disparaging teachers, many of whom are now Generation Y, or the Millenials, and many of whom, will be voting in Alberta’s 2019 provincial election, could unwise for the UCP.
    The UCP, the Manning Centre, et al, are well aware that “Conservative-oriented political parties are the least-trusted group by Millenials across Canada,” and “two-thirds of Millenials in Alberta reject conservative values.”
    Many of us Baby Boomers (and whose children are now the Millenials) who were/are members of the Alberta Teachers Association and United Nurses of Alberta, for example, and who us, and our families, went through the hardship of the education and health care cutbacks of the Klein era, vowed never to vote for conservative politics in Alberta, ever, again. And, if it wasn’t as if times were not booming in the oil and gas sector, then. Now, the question is, “Where’s the money?”
    In my experience, now, as a Boomer, and working with Millenials, on the front health care lines, it could be said, and crassly, that it might not be wise to “piss off” the Millenials, a generation who, I find, does not take “guff.”
    Many of us rural farm women in our area of southern Alberta, worked off the farm doing the tough health care work during the Klein era cutbacks. It brings back memories of one of our rural, staunch, conservative-voting farmer friends who always came to the local drop-in centre and loved to disparage nurse’s wages, until……the day he was bucked off his horse and sustained a severe back injury. He was hospitalized and needed nursing care which involved his urinary system, his gastrointestinal system (and the hygiene involved!), pain control, close expert observation to detect a possible paralytic ileus which can be associated with back injuries…..on and on. And, some of his nurses, were much smaller in stature than him. Needless to say, after his recovery, he had to admit that his nurses were worth every cent, and of course, to much mocking from the coffee group. 🙂
    What is sad, is that we observed/still observe, many conservative voters, when they, or their family members, entered/enter the education or health care system, and even now, still, because of the existing aftermath of the cutbacks, have a light-bulb moment when they realize their expectations were/are not being met. As professionals, we would not say it out loud on the front lines, but it remains, that these social program cutbacks and how folks vote, are very much intertwined.

    1. Thank you for writing and posting this.

      I have some rural family members who I wish would read your post.

      re: ‘ It brings back memories of one of our rural, staunch, conservative-voting farmer friends who always came to the local drop-in centre and loved to disparage nurse’s wages, until……the day he was bucked off his horse and sustained a severe back injury. ‘

      The RW anti-gov’t, anti-union, anti-public services ideology has been fomented and propagated by RW media and RW politicians for 4 decades now. We’re really in trouble.

  5. I have a great plan! Jason Kenney and Rob Ford should assault Legault with a notwithstanding approval of energy east and leave all of us baffled by their very large brains!

  6. Simple answer: The UCP thought they were inviting The Soldiers of Onan, a group of male strippers whose shows always have a happy ending.
    But seriously, if Kenney is going to pal around with the likes of Doug Ford, how can he expect his minions to have better sense?

  7. Forget about these boobs who show up on pub nights dressed in biker garb. These fringe groups have been around forever and have been way overblown. More sinister is the three-piece suit cultist who infiltrate the very top echelons of power.

  8. Yes, I suspect Kenney is hastily looking for a good distraction right now, really any distraction really will do. Hey, how about those Olympics?

  9. So, it’s politics. I did see the actual Jason Kenney smiling in these pictures with Sons of Odin on my facebook feed. (Why I get some of my news from Facebook – I have enough friends for all this to matter, and friends who matter in the world because of the effort they put out, selflessly). Then I saw the news on CBC where his face and this fact was scrubbed. Now, my pal David Climenhaga is making a prediction (and I trust him, because, well, he really doesn’t spin to anyone’s agenda). Can I make a prediction? With the internet and the research kings and queens out there, some of this won’t wash. J. Kenney is just building himself to a “mirror moment”. A dysfunctional way for people to decide what side they are on, when push comes to crunch, this is not entirely predictable. Lots of people in Alberta are not doing so well, even if it is better than the absolute poverty in other provinces.

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