Calgary Nose Hill MP Michelle Rempel Garner (Photo: Andrew Scheer/Flickr).

Did you know Oklahoma has an official state meal?

The State Legislature in Oklahoma City designated the repast as an official state symbol in 1988. And, I must say, it sounds delicious: fried okra, squash, cornbread, barbecued pork, biscuits, sausage and gravy, grits, corn, black-eyed peas, chicken-fried steak, strawberries and pecan pie.

Former Liberal Party of Canada leader Michael Ignatieff (Photo: Michael Ignatieff/Flickr, Creative Commons).

I’m certainly ready for my official Oklahoma state dinner (or lunch) as soon as we can gather up all those frontier ingredients and we’re allowed to creep cautiously out of our social isolation. The purpose of the communal meal, of course, will be to welcome back Michelle Rempel Garner, the Member of Parliament for Calgary Nose Hill, from her protracted sojourn in the Sooner State.

Ms. Rempel Garner, as is well known now thanks to the Toronto Star and the storm that has been raging on social media, has been conducting her Parliamentary duties from the family abode somewhere in Oklahoma, to the general mockery of progressive types and outrage at such criticism by her Conservative defenders.

Deputy Conservative Party Leader Lisa Raitt (Photo: Andrew Scheer/Flickr).

Citing an unspecified “urgent, private personal matter” that required her presence at the family villa, Ms. Rempel Garner seems to have slipped this tidbit onto the 19th page of a 20-page report on her many accomplishments during the COVID-19 crisis that was mailed to her constituents in the Canadian province most like Oklahoma last week.

Normally, the Honourable Member is best known as one of the most consistently troll-like Conservative MPs and the Blocker Queen of Twitter for her habitual response to anyone who fires back at her broadsides. She was also one of the Gang of Four Conservative MPs who signed the fatuous “Buffalo Declaration,” a twaddle-filled 6,000-word Alberta separatist screed.

When the Star pointed out that Ms. Rempel Garner was doing her Parliamentary work from 2,600 kilometres south of the Medicine Line and a few inevitable ripostes appeared on social media, Conservatives were quick to assert that such criticism was inexcusably unfair.

The late Senator Andrew Thompson, the only picture the media ever seemed to use of the man during his troubles in the late 1990s (Photo: Origin unknown).

“Honestly,” huffed former Conservative deputy Opposition leader Lisa Raitt in a typical response, “want to know why some folks don’t want to serve in politics? Imagine having to disclose to a national reporter that an ‘unexpected and urgent private personal matter’ happened in your family and other reporters then mock you.”

I just want these good Conservative folk to know that I got my inspiration for mocking Ms. Rempel Garner with a mouth-watering Oklahoma welcome spread from none other than the Reform Party of Preston Manning. That is the institution that did business under a variety of names over several years before devouring both the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta and the Conservative Party of Canada, to the great detriment of the Dominion.

Former Wildrose and UCP MLA Derek Fildebrandt in his pre-MLA days (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

As readers with long political memories may recall, back in 1997 and 1998, the Reformers in Parliament got their knickers in a twist about a Liberal Senator named Andrew Thompson, who some bright spark had noticed rarely turned up in the Red Chamber and spent much of his time soaking up the sun in La Paz, Mexico.

Before Senator Thompson was kicked out of Parliament’s Upper House for truancy in 1999, Mr. Manning’s crew turned the situation into a cause célèbre. “Reform MPs paraded through the halls of the Parliament Building in sombreros with a hired mariachi band,” the CBC reported at the time. They mockingly served burritos in the lobby of the Senate.

Of course, you didn’t have to be away from Ottawa to attract this kind of disdain from Conservatives. You only had to have been away once upon a time.

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt (Photo: Twitter).

Remember the brouhaha the Conservatives made about former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff in the lead-up to the 2011 election because he had previously lived in Britain and the United States. He’s “just visiting,” croaked Conservative ads attacking the distinguished scholar who had held teaching posts at Cambridge, Oxford and Harvard.

Indeed, just holding a foreign passport could be enough to get one in trouble with Conservatives, as former NDP Opposition leader Thomas Mulcair learned to his chagrin more recently. Oddly, this was not a problem with the same Conservatives when it was their leader, Andrew Scheer, who had two passports. Speaking of which, I wonder if Mr. Scheer has heard back from the south about his plan to give up his U.S. citizenship?

But what about COVID-19, someone may ask? Surely the global pandemic and attendant requirement for everyone to socially isolate themselves makes this a different matter entirely.

Derek Fildebrandt, the former coruscating star of the United Conservative Party and member of more right-wing Alberta parties than you would care to remember, grumpily expressed this view: “Who gives rat’s tail if @MichelleRempel is working from the US? In lockdown, it doesn’t matter if MPs work from Antarctica or Tahiti.”

Former NDP Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

This is true unless, of course, the MP in question happens to be working close to his family at Harrington Lake, Quebec, 29 kilometres from the Houses of Parliament.

“So, just to be clear, Justin Trudeau is excoriated as a massive hypocrite because he chooses to be with his spouse, while Michelle Rempel is defended as a good little wife because she chooses to be with her spouse,” observed the always acerbic Robert P.J. Day on Twitter, summing the situation up about as well as I’ve seen anywhere. “At least Trudeau is showing up for work.”

The point is this: Canadian Conservatives care deeply and profoundly about where politicians live, or even what passport they might be inclined to use — until they don’t.

Accordingly, supporters of Ms. Rempel Garner, who boasted in response to her critics that “I’m tougher than they are,” are just going to have to get used to it.

I expect she’ll find the means to travel home soon enough, self-isolation or not. After all, coronavirus or no coronavirus, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, a Republican, plans to reopen the state to business tomorrow.

Holding up the failed state of Oklahoma as a model for Canada and Alberta is all very well when it’s your neighbours you propose to beggar. It’s something else entirely when a prudent Parliamentarian faces the second wave of COVID-19 that’s likely to hit Sooner than later.

Join the Conversation


  1. Lets hope she remembers to self quarantine when she gets back to Canada. on the other hand she might be more comfortable in the usa and it is doubtful we’ll miss her. I doubt there was much of a “family emergency” she was most likely just getting a little family time in and then Parliament got told it was time to go back to work. omg, she needs another job.

  2. You’re not giving Ms. Rempel Garner enough credit, Dave. She’s written to Governor Stitt requesting that Oklahoma not behave like a red state while she and her family are living there.

    1. In addition, she might think the good people of Oklahoma could provide a solution to Alberta’s financial woes.
      From the blogger’s link to,
      “Oklahoma declared a revenue failure for the second year in a row.
      Governor Mary Fallin had an answer: prayer. The governor issued an official proclamation making 13 October Oilfield Prayer Day. Christians were to gather in churches and hope for a little divine intervention targeting falling worldwide oil prices. “Prayer is good for everyone,” she reasoned. Prayer day came and went. The price of oil has barely budged since.”

      Although the Okie experience failed horribly, the tough Ms. Rempel Garner, albeit from afar, might try to persuade her friend Mr. Kenney and his Christian advisors to schedule Alberta’s own Oilfield Prayer Day, hopefully with more encouraging results.

  3. Calgary CON MP, Buffalo aficionado, and amateur sommelier, Michelle Rempel seems to have the same problem many CONs do, not knowing when to clue in that they are/want to be Americans. In Scheer’s case, it was by birth; in Rempel’s case, by marriage. Either way, Okie triumphalism will creep its way into the CON’s game soon enough.

  4. What a misleading post a number of fronts:
    -Rempel went south BEFORE the travel restrictions began, Trudeau did so AFTER
    -Trudeau had no work related reason to be at the cottage and traveled there over the Easter weekend while government authorities had been explicitly advising people not to travel to vacation homes. If that weren’t inept enough, narcissism comes so naturally to he and his equally clueless wife that they post selfies from the cottage
    -Andrew Thompson was AWOL while the Senate was in session. Rempel is WFH while everyone is WFH
    -Ignatieff’s decades abroad played into the bigger narrative that he only came back to pad his resume. Rempel has only been in OK for a few weeks, not decades, for personal reasons with no obvious benefit to her career path
    -Rempel is definitely not a dual citizen as she only married an American last year. The Green Card process takes two plus years and once in the queue, an applicant cannot leave the country. She almost certainly has not applied for a Green Card
    -Mulcair’s dual citizenship played into the narrative that he could be aligned with Quebec Separatists. It was stupid, but not analogous to Rempel spending time in the US with her husband’s family during a period when everyone is WFH
    -Scheer acquired his US citizenship passively without having ever lived there. The facts that he didn’t renounce or disclose earlier speak to incompetence not questionable allegiance
    -Fildebrandt is a has been. His opinions mean nothing. Attempts to connect him to Rempel are misleading
    -OK is a red state with right to work laws. Does spending time in a red state or associating with people from a red state automatically confer indoctrination? Would the situation be less alarming if her husband were from VT or CA?

    I expect nothing less from a site aligned with public sector unions.

    1. Not bad justifications. I’ve heard far worse horse manure from the little screamer herself on the floor of the Commons. I have always assumed she was a mere gadfly, a role at which Conservatives seem especially adept because it requires little thinking and a lot of red-faced bluster.

      However, your last sentence is a classic Conservative non-sequitur. Talk about one thing and then come to an insulting conclusion on another matter entirely. You really must brush up on logic.

    2. Yet, David published your nonsensical comment.

      Keep defending the indefensible. You are a credit to the Republican party – I mean Conservative party led by an American citizen.

      1. We have a profound commitment to free speech. Nonsensical comments will normally be published if they are not profane or defamatory and if they are vaguely on topic. DJC

          1. Doug, you claim to know “absolute truth?”

            You are either the Dalai Lama, or a delusional Republican/Conservative. I think it’s the latter.

  5. Yeah, we should hold a big ole barbecue party to welcome her back, assuming she will not be coming back for a while so hopefully by then restrictions to 15 people or less well be lifted.

    We can welcome her back with “Oklahoma – Alberta” and “Just Visiting” signs. In a sign of how frugal and fiscally responsible we are, hopefully we can borrow them from the Conservative prop department – assuming they are still kicking around and Scheer didn’t have them burned as a precautionary measure when it came out he was a US citizen. Of course, no mariachi band this time, that would be an extravagant, unnecessary and excessive expense, don’t you think? After all, I don’t think mariachi is that big in Oklahoma anyways. Probably some Alberta country and western band would fit the bill close enough.

    Now, Michelle all you have to do is let us know when you will be back. You don’t have to lift a finger, we’ll make sure to give you a big Alberta welcome, in case you forgot about our hospitality, having been away for a while. Y’all don’t forget to write, stay in touch.

  6. Oklahoma’s “Official State Meal” seems like it ought to come with a free prescription for Lipitor …

    Then there’s this: “ …Canadian Conservatives care deeply and profoundly about where politicians live… until they don’t”. Another case in point: a certain Conservative PEI Senator — & retired CTV journalist — who actually lived in Ottawa.

    1. Hate to disappoint you brother, and I hear what you’re saying, but …

      Adopted on May 23, 1985; November 1, 2002
      Milk was adopted as a symbol of the State of Oklahoma twice!

      Milk was adopted as the official state “beverage” by Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 2 on May 23, 1985.

      In 2002, Representative James E. Covey introduced House Bill No. 2110 to makes milk the official state beverage and changes the name of the Department of Agriculture. On May 6, 2002, Governor Keating signed House Bill No. 2110 naming milk “the official drink of the State of Oklahoma.”


        1. I thought Utah’s official state drink was 3% beer. But maybe it’s just the unofficial state drink. DJC

  7. She didn’t come back for you.

    Now where did I hear a similar sentence one before? Hmmm. Wait, wait, it’ll come back to me soon…

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