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The declining impact of 'bozo eruptions' -- are Albertans the proverbial frog in a pot of boiling water?

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United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney. Photo: David J. Climenhaga

Have Albertans grown so inured to Conservative "bozo eruptions" they no longer have much impact?

To put that another way, have we grown so accustomed to the "lake of fire" that we imagine we can bathe in it comfortably without putting on an asbestos swimsuit?

That's likely at least part of the story behind the most recent pre-election polls in Alberta, which suggest that with the provincial election now only a week away, the United Conservative Party led by Jason Kenney is by and large maintaining the lead it has held over Premier Rachel Notley's NDP.

Duncan Kinney of Progress Alberta argued in a CBC commentary over the weekend that Albertans are much more progressive than Canadians from elsewhere give them credit for being -- or than we often do ourselves.

There are more millennials than boomers here now, he pointed out. University enrolment is way up. Alberta's population is diverse and growing more diverse -- in the next 20 years the majority of Calgarians won't be white. And most Albertans live in cities.

From this he suggested Kenney may be significantly overestimating conservative sentiment in Alberta.

As we know from recent history all over Canada, sometimes polls do get it wrong. Still, you'd think that given such attitudes, Albertans would be more troubled than they appear to be by the serial revelations about UCP candidates and their attitudes on a variety of topics, from white supremacy to reproductive rights, from LGBTQ rights to climate change, from paranoid theories about the United Nations to outright Islamophobia.

Still, there have been so many disturbing bozo eruptions on the right since the original lake of fire boiled over in 2012 -- shocking voters and without any doubt turning many away from the Wildrose Party, which was thought then to have a strong chance of defeating the Progressive Conservatives -- that there's a possibility we no longer even notice the heat when another one slops over.

The twin shockers about the recent pattern of inappropriate comments we've learned UCP candidates or influential party supporters have uttered are how little they seem to concern the party's leadership, and how seldom they seem even to register with significant numbers of voters.

Every political party has the odd wingnut, of course. Most parties do a pretty good job of keeping them out of prominent or sensitive positions.

Kenney vowed to do that too. Who can forget his promise of the "rigorous" vetting procedure that he would implement?

Yet the sheer number of candidates or party officials expressing repugnant or dangerous views seems not to have abated very much through the lead-up to the campaign and into its final days. If there was any UCP vetting process at all, it must have had some other objective.

Of course, people do say stupid things and later change their minds. Reasonable people accept this. But this many people with unreasonable views under one metaphorical roof suggests something more sinister is at play.

Whatever the leader's personal philosophy, it certainly indicates that far too many people see the UCP as a vehicle for outdated, dangerous or downright bigoted views significantly out of tune with the Alberta mainstream.

As for the party's leadership, it's hard not to draw the obvious conclusions. As the author Ian Fleming, creator of the fictional spy James Bond, famously observed: "Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action."

This should add up in the minds of voters -- if only anyone were paying attention -- to a party that’s likely to make them very unhappy in the near-term future. Such dissonance between the majority of citizens and the government they elect is bound to end in tears for someone.

As Kinney wrote: "Voters in Alberta need to take a hard look at what the UCP are actually proposing, or they’re liable to get an 'accidental government' for real -- a premier who, at the end of the day, fundamentally doesn’t share their beliefs."

If we do get such a government, though, it may well be because we've become so acclimatized to the conditions associated with lakes of fire that the brimstone feels cool when we dip our toes in it.

Like the proverbial frog brought slowly to a boil, we may be in for a very rude surprise after April 16 when we realize what we've actually done.

Facebook bans Faith Goldy -- still welcome in Alberta?

I note than Facebook, which has long seemed willing to tolerate almost anything, yesterday banished far-right extremist Faith Goldy from its virtual pages.

Alert readers will recall that back in 2016, Kenney responded to a complimentary tweet by the prominent white nationalist, who ran for mayor of Toronto last year: "You're always welcome in Alberta, Faith!" He never seems to have mentioned that exchange again, but he's never renounced it either, so presumably she's still welcome here in the UCP leader's estimation.

She has also appeared on more than one occasion with Edmonton-Griesbach MP Kerry Diotte in photos the Conservative politician has published on social media.

Yesterday, the social media platform also banned the Soldiers of Odin and the Wolves of Odin, a couple of white nationalist organizations whose members have been spotted on at least one occasion at a UCP function, although in fairness they were swiftly disavowed.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Image: David J. Climenhaga

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