Alberta Politics
For U.S. President Donald Trump, yesterday’s mid-term elections could have been worse (Photo: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons).

Even with Democrats controlling the House, Trumpism is the new normal – probably in Canada, too

Posted on November 07, 2018, 1:45 am
10 mins

American Republicans mostly hitched their wagons to Donald Trump’s dark star in this year’s U.S. mid-term elections, and notwithstanding passage of control of the House of Representatives to the Democrats it has worked remarkably well for them.

If you imagine this lesson is lost on Canadian movement conservatives, think again.

Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, elected yesterday as U.S. Senator for Utah (Photo: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons).

The politics of Trumpism were already here in Canada, of course. Fear, hatred and division – not to mention fake news, climate change denial, sexual hysteria and active voter suppression – have already been tried in Canada, and have already proved effective. I give you … Doug Ford.

Thank God we still have paper ballots and federal elections administered nationally by a federal agency, but don’t expect that to be enough to keep Canadian Conservatives from being seduced by the allure of Trumpism, at least as long as it appears to be working somewhere.

Not so long ago, as a reporter for the New York Times observed last night, the post-mortem consensus of the Republican Party after Barack Obama’s defeat of Mitt Romney in the 2012 U.S. presidential election “was brutally straightforward: Expand the tent or risk extinction.”

Calgary-East MLA Robyn Luff (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Here in Alberta in the same approximate time frame, as the still-progressive Conservative Party transitioned from the neoliberal shock doctrine of Ralph Klein through the more moderate Ed Stelmach years to the apparently progressive Alison Redford era, the Conservative consensus was much the same.

No more.

Trumpism is the norm among conservatives on both sides of the Medicine Line. All the more so thanks to over-represented rural ridings in Canada and low-population rural Red States south of the 49th, where the first-past-the-post mechanisms of the Electoral College and the anti-democratic design of the U.S. Senate bias national election results toward the right.

So say hello to more like Devin Dreeshen – the Alberta United Conservative Party’s new MLA for Innisfail-Trump Tower.

Mr. Romney, by the way, appears to be back – this time as Senator for the State of Utah. And, who knows, maybe in office he will prove to be one of those rare moderate Republicans, the theocratic leanings of the state he represents notwithstanding.

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

As for control of the House by the Democrats, that’s good news, but perhaps less so than Canadian progressives may hope. The U.S. Democrats under their current leadership are yet to prove that they can organize a booze-up in a brewery, and a surprising number of their elected candidates aren’t much more than Republicans with blue neckties.

What’s more, partisan warfare with the Democrats may well suit Mr. Trump.

Still, you have to admit this is a more hopeful outcome than the alternative of the executive, the judiciary and both parts of the legislative branch of the U.S. Government in the hands of the Trump kleptocracy.

Meanwhile, in Alberta politics, yesterday was a Luff a minute

Meanwhile back in Alberta, it was a Luff a minute in the political news.

Former Edmonton-St. Albert MP Brent Rathgeber (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Calgary-East MLA Robyn Luff, kicked out of the NDP Caucus the night before for what was inevitably interpreted as flinging a spanner into the party works in the leadup to an important election, expressed her shock and dismay at that entirely predictable outcome in a rambling Facebook post.

In it, Ms. Luff responded to her former party’s decision, which is surely the one any Canadian party leader regardless of location on the political spectrum would have made, by essentially throwing everything but the kitchen sink back at Premier Rachel Notley. She also vowed to continue her irresponsible protest boycott of the Legislature.

Among Ms. Luff’s accusations – far too entertaining to be ignored by mainstream media, especially the United Conservative Party auxiliary at Postmedia – was the entirely believable claim Alberta NDP Caucus members had been asked not to appear in photographs with federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.

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

Are we seriously expected to be shocked at this, given Mr. Singh’s recent position on issues at variance with Ms. Notley’s policies, or the tendency of the UCP troll farm to spin such pictures into damning and memorable memes?

Ms. Luff also complained of the NDP’s treatment of her private member’s bill, which proposed changes that she intended to increase renters’ rights. Unsurprisingly, with a full legislative agenda and an election looming, party leaders were not enthusiastic. Ms. Luff, who is an honourable person and a genuine progressive, was said to be extremely unhappy.

Of course, if we had a nickel for every MP and MLA displeased with the treatment of their private member’s bill, we could probably pay down the deficit!

That said, Alberta seems to be the home of over-the-top responses to this garden-variety Parliamentary complaint.

Who can forget Edmonton-St. Albert Member of Parliament Brent Rathgeber resigning from prime minister Stephen Harper’s caucus in 2013 after melting down when his fellow Conservatives pushed changes to his private member’s bill, which would have required public disclosure of any public employee’s salary above $188,000?

Mr. Rathgeber is now back chasing St. Albert ambulances as a lawyer, with a sideline advising Edmonton city councillors on ethical issues.

Sad to say, human nature being what it is, this tactic is seldom likely to solve an unhappy office-holder’s grievances.

Realistically, the breach between Ms. Luff and the NDP is now permanent, and complete. Ms. Luff will soon return to her teaching career, as she is said to have contemplated well before this blow-up.

Ms. Luff and U.S. President Donald Trump don’t have a lot in common, obviously, but there is this: Each in their own way, regardless of your political ideology or economic beliefs, is proof of the wisdom of sticking with professional politicians when picking candidates for public office.

Advice on photography for bloggers and politicians

Tony Peter Clement (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

My advice to political bloggers is always to take a snapshot of a politician when you have the opportunity. This is because, usually, they’ll be reluctant to send you one when they get in trouble. Unless, that is, they get into trouble for sending you one, which is another matter entirely.

In such a case my advice would be not to publish it online, if you know what I mean.

This is the only thing I am going to say now about the Hon. Tony Peter Clement, former comer in Conservative political circles. Hitherto, Mr. Clement was best known for his gazebos.

My advice to politicians like Mr. Clement, who until last night was the shadow minister of justice on federal Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer’s front bench, is if you feel the urge to email someone a picture, ask if you can use one  a blogger took of you.

They may not always be flattering, or even entirely in focus, but you can usually be confident they’ll not get you in trouble!

13 Comments to: Even with Democrats controlling the House, Trumpism is the new normal – probably in Canada, too

  1. Bob Raynard

    November 7th, 2018

    Nowhere in Ms Luff’s statement does she satisfactorily explain why she will not attend the legislature. She has, after all, been granted the independence she so desperately craved, and now she is refusing to use it. She can be seatmates with Derek Fildebrandt, with whom she shares the value of disdain for party discipline!

    Reply
    • Scotty on Denman

      November 7th, 2018

      Ms Luff’s first loyalty, like all elected parliamentarians, is to her constituents. She should be able to ensure each and every one of them that her representation of their concerns is, as ever, her top priority—except now, with respect constituents who didn’t vote for the party that bankrolled her successful candidacy, her bond with them is not so obscured by party politics as it might be for most other MLAs and might have been for her as a party-caucus member.

      She can’t respond to parliament on her constituents’ behalf, nor very well to her constituents themselves, by ‘boycotting’ this responsibility and neglecting to sit in the place she was elected to.

      Reply
    • Geoffrey Pounder

      November 7th, 2018

      NDP apologists reduce the issue to “party discipline”.
      Ms. Luff was plenty disciplined. After three and a half years of being completely muzzled, she had enough. That’s not how our government is supposed to work.

      Read Ms. Luff’s statement and judge for yourself.
      The NDP lost an MLA of fundamental integrity.
      https://edmontonjournal.com/news/politics/robyn-luff-fires-back-at-alberta-ndp-after-they-kick-her-out-of-caucus/wcm/d66bd978-7697-4ff3-abcd-ec9286fc4099

      Ms. Luff has taken a stand for a stronger democracy, whereby MLAs can truly represent their constituents’ interests. Something the NDP aren’t keen on, evidently.
      Kudos to Ms. Luff.

      Reply
  2. David

    November 7th, 2018

    I am a bit concerned that Trump style politics could come to Canada. It can happen anywhere and as the wave of so called populists in countries around the world, including unlikely places such as Germany and the Netherlands shows, no country is immune to this. However, I don’t see anyone to lead this movement nationally at this time. Ford and Kenney are provincially based and that seems to be the death knell for national political aspirations. Scheer is not really a populist although he tries sohard to convey that every man image that worked at times for Harper and Bernier seems to be more an ideologue than a populist. I suspect the Federal Conservatives will push a more populist message over the next few years and it will probably resonate with some, but immigration and refugees are not the same hot button issues in Canada as the US for a number of geographic and historical reasons.

    Ironically, just as the US is starting to show signs of Trump fatigue, I suspect Canadian Conservatives will embrace it more enthusiastically. Isn’t that the way things often go – the political trend in the US, catches on here 1 to 2 years later. Hopefully Canadian politicians will not make the same mistakes as the US Democrats did, which was to initially dismiss, ignore and ridicule it. Yes, it is hard to take Trump seriously and it is easy to find his flaws, but his message did resonate with enough people to get him elected. In the last Presidential election, the Democrats got distracted by attacking Trump who seemed to be such an inviting target that they didn’t spend enough time getting the message out about what they were actually for. Of course, just as in Ontario, it was also time for a change and US Presidencies seem to swing from Democrat to Republican and back with the regularity of a pendulum about every eight years.

    I do wonder if Trump will get eight years, as some Presidents only get one term, like George HW Bush, particularly those that govern during recessions and the next recession is probably overdue if you believe in economic cycles. However, even if he does get a second term it will may work out for him like Obama, where first the House went to the other party and then the Senate. In any event, his time of having a friendly Congress is now over and as Watergate and Whitewater show, the ride can get very bumpy for a President in the US system.

    Reply
  3. Scotty on Denman

    November 7th, 2018

    Bismarck observed that the political sausagemaker’s art is best done discretely. But the facts that Tony “The Gazebo” Clement, like the butcher who backed into his meat slicer, got a little behind in his work, and Robyn “The Zamboney” Luff methodically smears her self-flagellating boycott across the broad, empty, white stage where bigger stars compete with each other in grunting clusters— as fans impatiently wait for the game to resume— viewer-discretion should be advised —because some might find the subject matter sordid —and shielded from such.

    Both appear to need a review of what Private Members’ Bills actually means: for Ms Luff the fact that any Private Members’ Bill she may wish to table requires seconding by any parliamentarian, irrespective of partisanship, that it would otherwise have the same chance of getting onto the order paper or of passing by a majority of parliamentary votes, no matter her party-affiliation (or lack of it), that if it’s self-flagellation she wants, she should realize that, sitting now as an Independent MLA, she is her own party whip, and that lashing herself on the seat her constituents pay her to occupy would actually receive a wider audience—and for longer, too; and for Tony Clement that he really ought to get that dyslexia looked at—he’s permitted to table and take credit for a Private Members’ Bill by the same Westminster parliamentary rules governing all sovereign Canadian legislatures, not to pay for sending images of a Member’s privates on a tablet with his credit card.

    The doubly talented DJC accompanies his sterling journalism with revealing photos he takes himself. The ‘EXIT’ sign in the background above Ms Luff’s shoulder is a nice touch. The image of Clement seems to capture something of the puerile naughty-boy he’s been exposed as of late, that sort of suspended panting of a randy hound pretending to ask permission to hump your leg.

    Neither politician has their constituents’ consent in these regards, nor would Her Majesty be amused, but in two simple photographs DJC has conveyed what thousands of words about eating the sordid cold cuts of revenge would require.

    Bravo!

    Reply
  4. Hana Razga

    November 7th, 2018

    Re: Tony Clement – no fool like an old fool…..

    Reply
  5. ronmac

    November 7th, 2018

    Thank God the midterms are over. It was getting exhausted hearing all these pundits going into overdrive trying to convince everyone there’s a big difference between the two main parties when there’s not.

    Case in point. Labelled a rising star, Elissa Slotkin squeezed out a victory in one of Detroit’s congressional districts, after the Democrats poured record amounts of money into her campaign. She actually campaigned on the kudos she got from Bush Admin officials for her work on the Iraq war strategy while she was with the Defence Dept. You can’t make this stuff up.

    Re Tony Clment. What a dick.

    Reply
    • Bob Raynard

      November 7th, 2018

      “What a dick”

      Sounds like you might have been one of the email recipients, Ron.

      Reply
  6. Geoffrey Pounder

    November 7th, 2018

    Too bad NPD commentators are focussed on Ms. Luft, instead of the concerns she brought forward. Shooting the messenger.

    “Among Ms. Luff’s accusations … was the entirely believable claim Alberta NDP Caucus members had been asked not to appear in photographs with federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.
    “Are we seriously expected to be shocked at this, given Mr. Singh’s recent position on issues at variance with Ms. Notley’s policies…?”

    No, not shocked. But the incident underlines Notley’s abrupt departure from traditional NDP policy positions and values. This ain’t your father’s NDP. It certainly isn’t her father’s NDP.

    “proof of the wisdom of sticking with professional politicians when picking candidates for public office”

    Way too cynical. One of the best things about the NDP victory in 2019 was the breath of fresh air brought to the Legislature by people of unassuming backgrounds, non-career politicians, ordinary Albertans, who looked like you and me.

    How do all these choke-collar and short-leash tactics benefit the NDP anyway? Their term is up in May 2019 regardless.
    One expects anti-democratic tactics from the right, ever on guard against bozo eruptions. Too bad our “progressive” party followed their bad example, with much less to fear on the bozo front. The NDP had a chance to do government differently.
    Remarkable that now even NDP diehards approve of concentrating power in the Premier’s Office, reducing MLAs to mere puppets. What happened to the “D” in NDP?

    Reply
  7. PJP

    November 7th, 2018

    Trump’s “success” actually increases my distaste for the UCP as I see them trying out his political approach here.

    But ignoring the public’s distaste for political “sausage-making” makes it surprisingly distasteful to vote for the NDs.

    I don’t think I am being too naive; I get how parliamentary political party have to whip their members, but these actions by the NDs, the pursuit of political power over principled leadership, kinda feels like its a version of Trump’s playbook:

    – defending one’s actions by blaming the ‘malcontent’ (almost like Trump blaming his victims) instead of reflection and taking responsibility,
    – relying on what-about-isms saying “yah but the other guys were worse” (like when Trump continues the ‘lock ‘er up’ chant) instead of self-improvement,
    – preying on our fears (can you hear the creaking UCP caravan burning a ring of fire round a school near you!) instead of offering and delivering a better vision (or failing that, offering grown-up explanations for the necessary compromises or failures)

    I remember Obama’s campaign of hope. I remember Notley’s offer of a better leadership. Gord-damn I truly miss the day dream of “sunny ways”.

    I watch as the failure, often by progressives, to address many of their concerns has lead Americans to a rebound vote in a self-destructive way.

    That we might do the same here, for the same reasons, is my fear.

    Sausage as political foreshadowing? How very mortifying.

    Reply
  8. David

    November 8th, 2018

    A bit lost behind all the US election coverage were the Federal Conservatives recent troubles, in particular with Tony Clement’s proclivity to send out private pictures apparently to anyone posing as an attractive lady. Clement was a very important MP from Ontario for the Conservatives, especially in the early Harper years so I expect his loss will hurt them. I suppose there are other Conservatives from Ontario that can now fill his place, but also the leader Scheer seemed to also do a poor job of damage control – first saying it was a one time event and keeping Clement in caucus and then later finding out he was a serial sexter.

    What is it with those Ontario Conservatives? Perhaps the former provincial leader Patrick Brown should set up a rehab program, it might be more lucrative than his new job as mayor. By the way, if anyone says they have private pictures of Doug Ford, I don’t think I want to see them.

    Reply
    • Kang

      November 9th, 2018

      You asked “what is it with these Ontario Conservatives?” The answer is the same for Conservatives of every label – manure finds its own pile.

      Reply

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