The Canmore Eagles (Photo: Canmore Eagles/Facebook).

Merry Christmas! 

Normally in the wee hours of Christmas morning, your blogger would have been trudging home from midnight mass, his mild annual winter rebellion against a Protestant upbringing. 

Canmore Eagles Coach Andrew Milne (Photo: Canmore Eagles/Facebook).

So let’s talk about agriculture and hockey! 

After all, both are important to our supposedly unique culture out here in Wild Rose Country, and it turns out they may have even more in common that we thought. Plus, sensibly enough, public gatherings are not on this year as we’re in the midst of a pandemic.

It’s almost reassuring, in a depressing sort of way, to discover that the instinct remains strong among Albertans to shoot, shovel and shut up.

That memorable turn of phrase was Progressive Conservative Premier Ralph Klein’s response in the spring of 2003 when the medical condition in question was merely veterinary, even if potentially human. 

To wit, Mad Cow Disease, properly known as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, had been discovered in an eight-year-old cow on an Alberta farm. 

The farm was quarantined, its 150-head herd was eventually destroyed, and borders slammed shut to Canadian beef products.

In addition to battering the Alberta cattle industry, BSE was thought to have the potential, at least, to put humans in a nursing home — which, fast forward to Canada in 2020, turns out to be a very dangerous place to be.

Ralph Klein in his heyday (Photo: Chuck Szmurlo, Creative Commons).

Good Conservative that he was, a testy premier Klein’s advice to the farm community was the suggestion the problem might never have emerged if only farmers with a medical problem on the hoof would just shoot the creature in question, bury the evidence, and keep their lips zipped. 

This relates to hockey, of course, because we have just learned the coach of a Junior A hockey team in Canmore, just outside the border of Banff National Park, has been suspended and fined $1,000 by the league for talking to the media about how more than a dozen team players tested positive for COVID-19 in November.

Canmore Eagles coach Andrew Milne told media at the time that “our group feels terrible for affecting the billets and putting people out of work for a couple of weeks, and the fear that it comes with.”

“It’s definitely something we’re going to need to address,” he told CTV News in Calgary. 

Whoops. According to the league, Mr. Milne’s obviously on the mark commentary put the league’s “partnership” with Alberta Health Services at risk. That’s an interesting interpretation of the circumstances worthy of future questions. 

Alberta Junior Hockey League Commissioner Ryan Bartoshyk (Photo: AJHL).

In the meantime, according to CTV’s story, Alberta Junior Hockey League commissioner Ryan Bartoshyk said in a statement that Mr. Milne’s comments “resulted in the public misconceptions that strong protocols were not in place and put the AJHL’s partnership with AHS in jeopardy, both of which have now negatively impacted a return to play plan.”

“Consequences of his actions led to inconsistent statements regarding the circumstances and damaged the extensive work undertaken by the league office and its members to operate,” Mr. Bartoshyk said.

According to the commissioner, it’s OK for hockey coaches to talk to the media … about hockey. COVID-19, however, is apparently off limits. “They are required to direct any questions regarding COVID-19 and the league’s Return to Play Plan to the AJHL office.”

Needless to say, this kind of thing is unlikely to foster the attitude that Albertans should be encouraged to be up front and frank about coronavirus infections, the better to inhibit the spread of the highly contagious and dangerous disease. 

Don’t just take my word for it, that is the general consensus among public health experts. It’s “critical that people are able to share their experiences,” Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw told CTV. 

Nice to know the AJHL, though, makes its priorities clear about what brings “discredit to the league” and what its coaches can be trusted to say.

Unfortunately, the league’s message is doubtless clear to all. And not helpful in the circumstances we all find ourselves in. 

You’d almost think it would be helpful if a political leader would publicly rap the league’s knuckles for this.

Despite his supposed admiration for the late premier Klein – which wasn’t mutual, by the way – I very much doubt Premier Jason Kenney will have much to say about this situation. After all, that would almost be un-Albertan.

Join the Conversation


  1. I have a theory about Ralph’s shoot, shovel and shut up comments. I suspect it was in part a genuine exasperation about a problem he didn’t want to have to deal with. However saying “Why should I try sell your beef, if you are going to be like this” while probably just as accurate sounded far to PE Trudea-esque and Ralph knew a bit more about effective communication and his audience. It probably also conveniently reflected the unspoken sentiments of some other ranchers.

    Ralph got populism, probably much better than the current UCP bunch, who can give speeches to stir up the base for a while, but can end up feeling like empty calories after. You do get the sense a big part of UCP strategy is to keep as many things under wraps, as much as possible.

    Kenney seems to be an anti transparency guy, so the shut up part seems to resonate here. For instance, who really knows what the chief medical officer actually thinks or says in all those private meetings with UCP ministers. They do seem to be doing their darnedest to keep us from knowing as much as is possible about what is going on.

  2. A very apt display and comparison of neoliberalism in Alberta, and, a reminder of the neoliberal Kenney UCP secretiveness and nontransparency.

  3. Yeah, let’s not confuse the plebs.
    I’m quite familiar with what neoliberalism means: “a political approach that favors free-market capitalism, deregulation, and reduction in government spending”, per Oxford dictionary, but let’s be clear; this is conservatism and authoritarianism, pure and simple.
    It’s conservatism, by whatever name you’d like to use, because Kkkenney and the UCP and the dumb-ass Albertans who support them are first and foremost, always have been conservatives, always will be conservatives and second, just another used-up idea, worn-out policy and last-ditch effort to promote the ‘old ways – nothing new here. None of that new-fangled thinking and analysis; it’s too damn liberal for us to do!
    It’s authoritarian because it’s just control of the narrative. Too hell with what the people might or should know. Not a chance that we’ll allow a community to develop a solution. Top down, politically expedient and favourable to the corporate class – that’s the way to go!

    The problem is conservatism, any kind and every kind of conservatism.
    The solution, for a modern, democratic 21rst Century is liberalism. NOT any and every kind, just liberalism.

    1. Merry Christmas, Ranger. The terms “conservative” and “neoliberal” both come with problems, though not insurmountable one. Of the former, related to conserve, it could be argued that it once named a political movement that sought to preserve the good in society and not rush into new-fangled ideas. Since the conservative party and movement have come to be dominated by neoliberals, it has nothing to do with conservatism beyond appropriating the brand. Neoliberalism, which is certainly not liberal, nevertheless needs a name, else how are we supposed to call it out? As George Monbiot has pointed out, once upon a time neoliberals loudly proclaimed themselves as such, then they worked hard to suppress the term, the better to hide behind such respectable philosophies as conservatism and suggest that their nostrums have a foundation in natural law. To a large degree our society has taken the bait. DJC

      1. I agree with you David; we need names and naming conventions to help us express ideas. It’s weird that the English language is dominated by speakers who have such difficulty saying out loud what they are thinking.
        I also agree with your conclusion; we have taken the bait and are now being hauled around by some larger force that does not have our best interests at heart.

        I use conservatism and liberalism as the basis to talk about the bifurcation in governance of democratic communities in (relatively) modern times. There are today, like Covid, many variations and mutations that spring forth, seemingly out-of-nowhere, to challenge for primacy of definition.
        In a time and place where change is measured on a scale of centuries and millennia traditional thought and practices guarantee competence in activities and survival of the community. This is a fair description of our European heritage up to the Renaissance.
        In a time and place where change is measured on a scale of years and decades tradition and habit guarantee failure and social strife, even anarchy. Today, we have environmental and viral events every year or decade that were once thought to be rare once per century. We have AI managing data and governance structures that takes a team of hundreds (of highly trained humans) to understand and control. We have previously unimaginable populations of humans living lives so completely different, even abhorrent to us, yet are only hours away in proximity.

        There was a time when “conservative” was not a political ideology. According to Miriam-Webster’s it was actually used to mean something more akin to ‘preserve’ but now more normally used to describe “tending or disposed to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions”, again from Miriam-Webster’s. Things are the way they are because that’s the way things are – Period!
        Then came Reason. And with reason we could show that the Earth was not flat, that the Sun did not circle the Earth , that Time was an incalculable long arrow that went one way only and that the Church was fallible. The Church was fallible because Man was fallible. So only reason, analysis and evidence could be relied upon to show us the way.

        Faith and tradition are the foundations of conservatism.
        Reason and the fallibilism of humans are the foundations of liberalism.
        This is enough to outline the beginnings of my argument: conservatives have no place and no force in the governance of today’s communities. If we are to survive into the future it will be despite conservative values and only because of liberals who can see and react to the oncoming rush of new and unknown dangers.

  4. I remember the B.S.E bailout disaster very well. I also remember Ralph Klein proclaiming he didn’t do any scandals, like the Liberals in Ottawa did, when the sponsorship scandal, a.k.a, Adscam came to light. Adscam was $250 million. The B.S.E bailout disaster from Ralph Klein was $400 million. Ralph Klein made the foolish “shoot, shovel and shut up” remarks. Most of that $400 million went to two American owned meat packing plants. Cargill and Lakeside Packers. Cargill was where a major Covid-19 outbreak happened, and the UCP did a back to work order. The Alberta Education Minister, Adrianna LaGrange, has a nephew who is one of the senior staff at Cargill. The UCP just doesn’t care, unless you are one of their rich corporate pals, just like Ralph Klein did. The UCP has handled the Covid-19 pandemic in Alberta so poorly, that Alberta is the leader for the amount of per capita cases of Covid-19 in Canada. When the UCP admires Ralph Klein, it will not make matters better. Look at what Ralph Klein did to healthcare in Alberta. The UCP wants to further the same bad agenda, and that’s to have full on for the rich, private for profit healthcare in Alberta.

  5. As an avowed and eternally committed atheist, I see no rationale to honour a Christian holiday, that was appropriated from persecuted pagans to celebrate the birth of their so called messiah via virgin birth. Buddha is believed to have born of a virgin as well — where’s his special day?

    As for King Ralph and his well-regarded lie that everyone could see though, he was merely defending Alberta’s agricultural industry from their own stupidity. It was an amazingly cheap lie that didn’t cost a $30M war room to produce.

  6. It makes you nervous wondering who else is preventing embarrassment to their organization by not being forthcoming about their own Covid outbreaks.

  7. Partnership seems to mean “free pass to ignore pubic health orders”. Who is a making these back-room deals with the hockey interests? Will millionaire NHL players and their families get top priority for public-provided Covid vaccines, like they did in the shameful H1N1 incident? Will those brave hockey heroes skip the queues at elite clinics with vaccines paid for and provided by the plebes? Let the serfs line up outdoors for hours in the cold. No doubt millionaire hockey players are more important than ordinary elderly people, who should have the good sense to die at age 82, as suggested by our premier. Let’s make 2009 great again. Are you with me?

  8. Today the CMOH is providing guesstimates of Alberta’s new Covid case numbers, instead of actual numbers. It’s an approach taught in Discovery Math. As the late, great Jim Prentice once said, “Math is hard.” For sure. I guess transparency and facts have both gone out the window. No use pretending any more.

    But hey, those new cases are decreasing like magic. It’s a Christmas miracle! This pandemic will be over in no time.

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