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There are no rules around partisan signs in the Alberta Legislature Building's windows

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Alberta's historic Legislature Building in Edmonton as climate protesters gathered last Friday. Image: David J. Climenhaga

Who knew? It turns out anyone can stick up anything they like in the windows of the stately and historic Alberta Legislature Building in Edmonton and they won't be breaking any rules.

This even includes Matt Wolf, Jason Kenney's personal Twitter troll, formally known as the Alberta premier's director of issues management, who during last Friday's climate action protest could be seen peering past an I-[HEART]-[MAPLE LEAF]-Oil+Gas sign at the 4,000-plus mostly youthful demonstrators below.

The explanation: There are no rules.

This must make the granite and sandstone Beaux Arts pile overlooking the North Saskatchewan River Valley, completed in 1913 at the then substantial cost of $2 million, unusual and possibly unique among major public buildings just about anywhere.

I imagine it would make the three architects who had a hand in its design -- Allan Merrick Jeffers, Richard Blakey, and Percy Nobbs -- spin like tops in their crypts if they knew!

But there it is. I have this on very good authority. Lianne Bell, chief of staff to Speaker Nathan Cooper, responded to my query about the rules for signage informatively and succinctly yesterday: "There are no rules or guidelines around signage in windows of the Legislative Building."

End of story? Probably not.

Opposition leader Rachel Notley, at a pre-budget town hall in St. Albert last night, observed that "there were four thousand people who were talking about the future of our planet out there and all our leadership could do was put up signs trolling them from the safety of the inside of the cabinet room!"

"Frankly, I think you should go out and talk to protesters,' she said, recalling the days when she was premier and her NDP government's farm-safety legislation was unpopular with many farmers. "We had 1,000 people protesting when we introduced legislation to protect farm workers, and our ministers and MLAs went out and spoke to people."

She noted that she couldn't recall a similar example of political staff or politicians posting signs in the more than a decade she’s been a member of the legislature, and dismissed the absence of any UCP ministers or MLAs in the crowd as cowardice.

Notley is certainly right that sophomoric displays of partisan signs in the building are highly unusual, and nothing much controversial in this vein seems to have happened since interlopers unknown lowered a Bolshevik banner from the press gallery of the legislative chamber onto the Speaker's throne in the 1920s.

Of course, the legislature is pretty much the fiefdom of the Speaker, so Cooper can make any rule he likes if he perceives that MLAs or their staffers are starting to go bolshie.

And with friends like Wolf in the building, that might not be a bad idea. As soon as word there are no rules starts to get around -- sorry about that, mea maxima culpa -- it wouldn't be surprising if the premiers' boys in short pants start carving their initials in the sandstone.

Notley on that ambassadorial rumour: 'I'm staying on until the next election"

While Notley was in St. Albert, I took the opportunity to ask her about Wolf's pre-federal-election creative writing on Twitter to the effect a re-elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will name her ambassador to Washington.

While many of us might think Notley would do a fine job for Canada in such a role, it's just not on, she assured me. "I've been very clear. I'm staying on until the next election.

"That's what I said election night, that's what I've been saying to everybody since. I'm flattered that the UCP wants me to go so much, but unfortunately for them it's my plan to stay around and stand up for Albertans."

It's interesting, she added, that the premier's issues management guy -- salary, $194,253 per annum; Twitter followers, 1,222 -- "is so worried about my future that he's actually dedicating time to trying to create groundless rumours."

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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