Kaycee Madu, Alberta’s new justice minister (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

VICTORIA — When I was growing up here in Lotusland, British Columbia had the reputation of being the Crazytown of Canadian politics.

The late Allan Fotheringham, the Vancouver Sun columnist we all read religiously, famously summed up Canadian politics like this: “In the Maritimes, politics is a disease; in Quebec a religion; in Ontario a business; on the Prairies a protest; and in British Columbia an entertainment.”

Dr. Foth’s assessment was shrewd enough, then and now, but nowadays the politics on the western edge of the Prairies, though still saturated with protest, is edging ever further into the entertainment zone — at least if you don’t happen to have the misfortune to live where the crazy stuff being done by Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party has a direct impact on the quality of your life.

Columnist Allan Fotheringham and his wife captured by the inimitable Vancouver photographer Alex Waterhouse-Hayward (Photo: Alex Waterhouse-Hayward).

When I got up yesterday morning and looked at Twitter, everyone back home was talking about how Alberta’s newly appointed justice minister, the astonishing Kaycee Madu, was telling municipalities that if they dare to defund the police, why, he’d cut their police budgets!

With Premier John Horgan’s steady hand on the tiller, even with a pandemic and the narrowest of minority government’s possible, British Columbia seems like the sanest of political jurisdictions compared to the Prairie fire next door.

I mean, seriously, it’d be very hard to make stuff like this up. Naturally, defund-the-police advocates of my acquaintance were soon gleefully chanting, “Go for it, Kaycee!”

Meanwhile, all Canadian provinces — including British Columbia — are in too much of a hurry to have schools fully reopen in the face of the global pandemic, and they’re all facing the challenge of controlling the resurgent second wave of COVID-19 that’s building even before the weather turns cold and we’re trapped indoors with the windows closed.

But in Alberta, we’re proudly doing it on the cheap.

There’s no way we’ll be adopting anything like the Alberta NDP’s proposal to reduce class sizes to 15 students each for the duration. That, said Premier Kenney, apparently horrified, “would require opening 13,000 new classes, building 800 new schools, training and certifying 13,000 new teachers at an estimated cost of $4 billion.”

B.C. Premier John Horgan (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

We’ve already given approximately that much away in tax breaks to big corporations, and we’re committed to handing another $7.5 billion just to TC Energy Corp. to keep building a pipeline through Montana that Joe Biden has promised to unplug on the minute he’s elected president.

Mr. Kenney, by the way, claims this risky investment will create 1,400 direct jobs and another 5,400 indirect ones. That makes the NDP plan look like a much better bargain. For a slightly smaller expenditure, you’d get 13,000 direct jobs and, according to the premier’s arithmetic, nearly 40,000 spin-offs.

Well, forget about it. In Alberta we only give that kind of money to fossil fuel companies.

There’s another reason too, of course. Mr. Kenney would very much like to weaken the public school system and bust the teachers’ union. Hiring lots of new teachers — even if 13,000 is a bit of an exaggeration — is not going to help Mr. Kenney’s plan to give us more expensive new educational “choices” like the school once operated by his dear old dad.

What if the parents of Alberta’s schoolkids realized their children were getting a better education in those smaller classes, in addition to being safer? Quelle Horreur! That could be the end of the premier’s masterplan to drive families away from public schools, justifying further defunding.

Now that, presumably, is the kind of defunding the UCP could really go for, Mr. Madu’s strange commentary notwithstanding.

It’s very hard to argue Alberta hasn’t taken on the role of home to Canada’s most bizarre political spectacle. With the NDP in office, the only thing crazy about British Columbia is the real estate market — something Alberta is never going to have to worry about as long as the UCP is managing the economy.

Even Ontario’s Conservative Premier Doug Ford has stopped completing Mr. Kenney’s sentences and started acting like a grownup instead. Well, some politicians grow in office, others don’t.

To return to the observations of Allan Fotheringham, who died last month at 87, he once compared Conservatives to cream: “Rich, thick and full of clots.”

That seems like a pretty good assessment of our Alberta variety.

A victory for Canadian public health care in B.C.

I imagine there was wailing and gnashing of teeth in the privacy of the premier’s and health minister’s offices in Edmonton yesterday as the news broke that the B.C. Supreme Court had dismissed Dr. Brian Day’s argument rich patients have a constitutional right to jump to the front of the line for heath care.

Dr. Brian Day (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

A victory by Dr. Day, owner of Cambie Surgeries Corp., the private Vancouver clinic the Kenney Government had hoped to use as a model for the privatized delivery of health care in Alberta, could well have been the beginning of the end of public health care in Canada.

Alert readers will recall that during the last Alberta provincial election, the premier spoke fondly of the 2005 Chaoulli Decision in Quebec, which pushed the Quebec government toward more privatization as a response to long waiting times for some medical procedures. For his part, Dr. Day endorsed Mr. Kenney’s platform. You can count on it that a decision in favour of Dr. Day would have supercharged the UCP’s plans.

That will now be harder to do — and it may make the federal government bolder about defending the Canada Health Act.

The fight isn’t over of course. Dr. Day will appeal the B.C. decision to the Supreme Court, and despite the definitive nature of yesterday’s ruling, the Supremes may well want to hear the case. Conservatives will also seek other ways — perhaps constitutional change — to realize their dream of destroying Canadian public health care once and for all.

Still, supporters of public health care are right to be buoyed by yesterday’s ruling, as long as they realize advocates of marketized health care are just like rust — they never stop their destructive work.

Joan Millar, 1945-2020

As regular readers will have noticed, AlbertaPolitics.ca has fallen very silent of late. This is a sad time for me. I am in Victoria doing the necessary tasks associated with the unexpected death of my beloved older sister, Joan Millar.

Joan Millar, the author’s sister (Photo: Climenhaga family, photographer unknown).

My sister was a social worker, a principled social activist inspired by her Christian principles, and a committed ally of Canada’s Indigenous people. During her long career she worked mostly for the B.C. Public Service, but also for the ’Namgis First Nation in Alert Bay, where her husband Garth Millar served for several years as priest of the Anglican parish.

Joan was one of this blog’s most acute readers. I will miss her frequent emails pointing out a range of problems from logical inconsistencies to garden variety typographical errors. She was 75.

It will be a couple more weeks before this blog returns to its normal daily publication schedule.

Join the Conversation


  1. I am here now in great conflict. On one hand I have a revered mentor. On the other, a bag of rats, who control my home province. What to do? Excoriate! I’d say so! However, my love for strangers overwhelms me! So, to DC I beg. Use your last breath to help us. That’s just the right thing! It is your calling.

  2. David Climenhaga, please accept my sincere condolences on the passing of your sister.

    Your contributions are much enjoyed and appreciated, and I’m looking forward to your next insights.

  3. My condolences.
    The gift that keeps on giving to the yokel-grifters. Progressives crying out for more Covid socio-economic dislocation have moved beyond Branch Covidianism, in which your behaviour inadvertently invites destruction by the state, putting a lot of helpless kids at risk, to more of a Heaven’s Gate scenario, in which you seem to be actively pursuing your own destruction. Perhaps there will be a Federal benefit to cover purple shrouds and a new pair of Nikes for the final voyage to the tail of the neo-liberal Covid comet. Bon voyage!

  4. My condolences on the loss of your sister.

    Thanks for taking the time to write a blog post, an excellent one, as usual.

    Nothing like leaving hometown dystopia for a while to gain perspective on just how crazy Alberta’s government is from afar! I do find their machinations entertaining, but then I don’t have to live there and suffer the consequences.

    Look forward to seeing more posts as time and circumstances permit.

  5. Sorry to hear of your loss.

    As to:
    “but nowadays the politics on the western edge of the Prairies, though still saturated with protest, is edging ever further into the entertainment zone — at least if you don’t happen to have the misfortune to live where the crazy stuff being done by Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party has a direct impact on the quality of your life”

    Kenney’s UCP is trying to reorganize the provincial payroll to be able to afford the services people have come to expect. How is that crazy compared to borrowing until nobody will give you any more money?

      1. You’re right the government unions are rich thick and full of it. As evidence looking at h thy r voting record for Strathcona, the centre of the orange enabler invasion of Alberta. You’ll notice it’s the rich neighbourhoods that vote dipper. The poor neighbourhoods do not, because they actually want to be productive and have the benefits for their labour.

        1. Bret Larson: The blue party in Alberta left us with nothing, because of their extreme carelessness of handling Alberta’s money, since the mid 1980s. Now, Alberta is run by a deep blue party, who is the exact same thing.

          1. Do you guys actually believe this patter? The GDP in Alberta was the highest in Canada in 2013. Go to the election website and look at median salaries of the various jurisdictions.

          1. I never brought up money. I read your ageist article. Personally I find both sides to be juvenile and ego eccentric. Its ironic that the main way “boomers” became rich was because they didnt pay cell phone bills and they tended to share an accommodation with one other person and the arent even mentioned.

    1. You don’t start “reorganizing” the provincial payroll by giving multi billion dollar tax breaks to corporations and multi billion hand outs to pipeline companys, then cut the just raised minumum wage,cut seniors benefits,cut aish, tear up the Dr’s contract,,etc.etc. Albertan’s may be easy going and slow to react but we’re not stupid.

      To my mind the UCP should have got the finances in order ( yes some tough decisions ) first, before the giveaways, and then maybe the people would get behind them, as it stands I don’t believe a word they say.

      1. Actually, that is exactly what you do. You setup a low tax environment so companies incorporate in your jurisdiction. Then they provide jobs and some tax monies. What you dont do is give startups money to hire people, which was what the NDP wanted to do.

        They never make any money so they dont pay any taxes, even if your tax rate is high.

        Once they do become profitable, they leave for said low tax jurisdiction.

        Welcome to globalization and free trade.

  6. Hold back funds will just be another excuse as we see death by thousand cuts in this province. First we will go after the most vulnerable AISH recipients then we will move on to the municipalities under the disguise of ” defunding” issues, and once they conquer that it will be the public service. We all must share in the pain of stupid political decisions by inept govt’s of all stripes, but to go after the least who can defend themselves AISH we show our true colours as a province. Why look at the revenue side when there are so many easy targets out there.
    By mid November we may see a change of govt south of the border, then JK’s dream of a pipeline may become a pipedream. We will be on the hook for another 4.5 billion to TCP if Biden halts the Keystone. Add this to the other 1.5 billion and 4 billion in so in corporate tax cuts and you have 10 billion that has been pissed away. This money could have been used to kick start a tech economy in Alberta, but why forward think when you still think it is 1970.
    FYI I was at a private function for a business org when JK was running for the leadership of the party, and yes he spoke like it was 1970. Pipelines, cutting civil service and taxes was the theme. Unfortunately people can’t say they were not warned! No 21st century thinking was making the rounds that night.

  7. So sorry to hear of your loss David. Your sister sounds like a wonderful woman and you were very fortunate to have her support. Someone so special can never be forgotten.

    Thank you for taking the time for another thoughtful piece. It is truly a crazy time and appears to be getting worse.

  8. The crazy is getting crazier in Berda.

    Albertans will be dragged kicking and screaming into private health care, based on the wildly misguided notion that it’s better. Meanwhile, there will be a state of constant warfare in the public system, while doctors are shown the door, or held hostage by an increasing belligerent and insane health minister.

    And now there’s an AG is has been completely politicized for the sake of his questionable career.

    Third-world, indeed.

  9. When little Jason was in Ottawa, his nickname was “Curry in a Hurry” for a very good reason. I also had a look at who was donating funds to his election campaign and there was a long list of dollars – all in exactly the same amounts (something like $800.03) and all the names of the contributors were of the same foreign origin. He was very good at mining donations from large groups of “new” Canadians. It looked suspiciously like the funds were coming from a large employer who had already maxed out their contribution limited and used the names of its employees to cover that up. Jason was working very hard at fast tracking immigration from India and China and was well compensated for his efforts during election time.

    Bottom line is that this guy always has some scheme up his sleeve to finance and facilitate his self promotion. Divide and conquer is at the top of his list and like most wannabe dictators, he is not the sharpest tool on the rack. Once this latest leadership failure of the Cons plays itself out, Jason will abandon Alberta in a minute, leaving all but a few Albertans in a financial quagmire and rush back to Ottawa to pull off another political “miracle” (translation Betrayal) and take over that disastrous group. I believe his real goal has always been to be PM of Canada, but then, Harper controls who gets that chance.

  10. So sorry about you losing a dear sister.
    Dr. Foth taught me one other phrase many years ago on the back page where I went first whenever I purloined a copy of that magazine: the “Excited States”. I use it religiously as the situation fits the phraseology so much more as time passes.

  11. David, please accept our sincere condolences on the passing of your sister.

    Love your articles, however do take your time and look forward to what you will enlighten us with, once you return …..

  12. I’d be willing to take up Kaycee Madu’s offer to cut police budgets, if I believed for an instant that 1) the cops could then stop responding to mental-health calls and leave them to trained health-care staff and 2) the money diverted from police budgets would go to those newly-established mental-health intervenors instead. Not gonna happen! What’s your guess where the money would go?

    It’s just another example of how Kenney and his Klowns won’t do anything good for ordinary citizens. Doubling down–no, it’s more like “down squared”–on fossil fuels when the rest of the world is turning toward renewables is classic RepubliCon tactics. Arse-first into the future! Their newest brainstorm, destroying protections for forests and rivers on the Eastern Slopes so Aussie coal companies can get richer, will leave us stuck with clean-up costs to rival the tar-sand tailings lakes.

    Now I see they’re going after AISH recipients. Why am I not surprised? Clobber anyone who is hurting, isolated and too poor to fight back (doctors are none of those–bad move for the RepubliCons….) Frankly, the only surprise is they didn’t cut AISH benefits sooner. After all, it was Rachel Notley, the Arch Villainess, the Con Nemesis, who raised benefits.

    Medicare has received a crucial boost from the BC Supreme Court. Of course, it ain’t over yet. It’ll be years before the Supreme Court of Canada hears the case, and the outcome isn’t assured. For myself, I’d like to see for-profit clinics banned. (Remember, most hospitals are NOT owned by provincial governments! Profit is the problem, not ownership.) Anyone who thinks for-profit hospitals are a Good Thing is welcome to leave for the US. The sooner the better.

    On a much lighter note–many thanks for including the link to Vaughn Palmer’s column. His quotes from “Dr. Foth’s” report on SoCred Women’s Auxiliary was shocking–and SO perceptive! But I think his famous quote needs updating. “Canada is 13 semi-independent princedoms, who agree on only two things. 1) ‘Ottawa can’t tell me/us what to do.’ 2) ‘Ottawa needs to give us more money.’ ”

  13. My deepest condolences on your loss … my heart goes out to you & yours at this undoubtedly trying time. Take care of yourself, Sir.

  14. My most sincere condolences. It is very difficult to loose anyone, but a close sibling is the worst.

    Thank you for posts, they are one of the very few good readings in this province governed by evangelical nuts.
    It is difficult to see any future for this province, not only because of our dependency on oil but especially for the lack of character most of us have developed due to a crazy consumerism and victim-hood complex we cannot shake off.
    We have no leaders and very few outside of Jason Kenney types that will take us in the right direction.
    This is no longer a protest province, we are now the Canadian jokes as far as I am concerned.

  15. Where KAYCEE MADU is concerned, he’s a fast learner.

    Advancing a political career doesn’t require intelligence or competent policy advocacy. All one needs to be is a complete zealot and oblivious to any ministerial responsibility one is expected to uphold. Make irrational and irresponsible demands and submit a fat expense claim.

  16. Terribly sad news about your sister. We love your work here and hope that the support of your readers gives you a small measure of comfort.

  17. My condolences to you on the recent loss of your sister.

    Getting away from the Alberta bubble sure does make the craziness here of our provincial government even more obvious. We seem to be working hard to become the West Virginia of Canada. Normally I would say it is good to have goals, but I don’t think this is something we should aspire to. In fact, I wonder if our current government actually has any real goals, other than ideological. They seem to be flailing, as if they actually drank their own election Kool Aid and thought their election in itself was going to trigger some sort of miraculous economic turn around, more pipelines and jobs.

    Of course that hasn’t happened, so like a gambler, they seem to have doubled down and bet more on oil and their ideology. I suppose to some degree BC went through some similar economic turmoil in the 80’s and 90’s as mining and forestry receeded as primary economic engines. However BC, seems to have succesfully diversified into other things, like technology and tourism and used its Pacific location to its full advantage.

    Maybe all this craziness comes as part of the economic turmoil, but BC seemed willing and able to move on and get over it. Alberta at this point seems very much stuck in a rut. I realize that Alberta is not like BC in many ways, but we can even look at a place like Texas and see it is possible to move on from being a stagnating petro state to a place with a more diversified and healthy economy.

    I am hopeful enough Albertans will eventually see the ridiculous of the current UCP approaches and we will somehow start to make the changes needed to get out of the current quagmire here.

  18. I’m sorry to hear of your loss David.
    Someone with principle values.
    It sound’s like she lived a good life, and one that you could leave with peace of mind
    in your heart.

    We’ll look forward to seeing you back in the saddle when your ready.
    And Thank You for shining light into the dark corners.

    PS: I loved the Alan Fotheringham quote!
    What a joy it was to look forward to his writing …

  19. Please accept my condolences on the loss of your sister. 2020 has truly been a difficult year for many of us.

    We look forward to your latest “Dr. Foth’s” rants whenever you feel able to return to the fray.

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