St. ALBERT, Alberta
There's an old saying in politics that goes, "it doesn't matter what they say about you, as long as they spell your name right."
Just in case you're wondering, the name in question is spelled R-A-T-H-G-E-B-E-R. Brent Rathgeber.
But I've got a little political secret for you: It's not really true.
Well, if you're a Conservative Member of Parliament out here in darkest Alberta, as Rathgeber is, I guess that whatever you do or say, no matter how embarrassing, doesn't really make much difference to your re-election chances. Not just yet, anyway, although hope springs eternal. But it does tend to crimp your chances of ever becoming a cabinet minister, say.
Arguably, the more serious consequences are for those of us who live in the riding where this guy can get re-elected, Edmonton-St. Albert. Face it, people, when our local MP becomes a national embarrassment, guess what, it's kind of embarrassing. We have to know that wherever we go, be it Toronto, or Vancouver, or Trois-Pistoles, or Dildo, there's never a moment somebody isn't looking at you sideways and wondering, "Did he actually vote for that guy?"
Obviously, some places just don't care. Consider Calgary West, which habitually re-elects Rob Anders, the guy who called Nelson Mandela a terrorist and who has trouble staying awake in the House of Commons. (Who wouldn't? -- ed.) Doesn't seem to bother most of them a bit!
Living here, though, one has to hold out some hope for Edmonton-St. Albert. Still, we have elected Rathgeber a couple of times now, so you've got to wonder.
After having been for months a big advocate of shutting down the national rifle and shotgun registry, lately Rathgeber has been self identifying as Sun TV's -- I mean, the Harper government's -- pit bull on the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. In his taxpayer-financed blog, he recently called for federal funding for the CBC to be replaced by charitable donations from those of us silly enough not to want to watch Fox re-runs on cable.
It was in "Brent's Blog" that I first encountered the useful factoid that the CBC's billion-dollar budget costs each of us taxpayers $69. Seems like a bargain to me, and I call this insight the Rathgeber Scale. Sixty-nine smackers to the billion is a useful way to measure what we get for various federal initiatives.
Consider those one-engined, flame-out-prone, radio-free F-35 stealth fighters that Rathgeber's party is so keen to buy. You know, the ones that require a million-dollar paint job every time you change a spark plug or whatever, that lose their stealthy qualities when you put enough gas in 'em to fly over and intercept a Russian bomber anywhere close to Russia, and that don't fly as fast or as far as the ones we've got now. Depending on how you calculate the total budget, according to the Rathgeber Scale they'll cost each one of us anywhere from about $700 to $2,000!
Or the annual operating cost of the long-gun registry that Rathgeber so disdains: About the same as one tall Starbucks vanilla latte.
But, je digresse.
On Monday, Rathgeber was in Parliament asking tough questions about the CBC. For example, he wondered, "did the CBC hold an open tender for a political satire show for the Mercer Report or was the contract untendered?" Now, it's just possible that Rathgeber, like that lieutenant in Good Morning Vietnam, thinks he's funnier than Mercer and should have had a chance to bid. And, of course, in this case it might just be that he's right.
Regardless, this caught the attention of the Globe and Mail's television reporter yesterday, who proceeded to mock Rathgeber, and, just as I had feared, also made fun of "the good people of Edmonton-St. Albert." (You can just hear them chuckling, "Cue the banjos," down there in T-Town.)
I'll let you read the article for yourself. It's pretty funny and makes a couple of good points about Rathgeber and the Harper Conservative attack on the arts generally and the CBC in particular. And don't forget, while you're working yourself into a good old Alberta eastern bastards swivet: nowadays the Globe and Mail is a Conservative newspaper. (Though it wasn't always so, and George Brown, who was born just yesterday, only in 1818, must be spinning like a top at the thought of it!)
Now, I have to digress here again and remind myself that it's a sure sign you're from a small town when it's news that some local guy went to New York or got mentioned in Toronto. Well, St. Albert is a small town -- and we like it that way -- but we don't necessarily like it that our local MP is a national laughing stock, or worse, that he often deserves to be.
So, my fellow St. Albertans, you read it here first: Big city newspaper mocks local Conservative MP!
As Rathgeber said in his most recent blog post, which complained about the federal government's belated contribution to the Royal Alberta Museum, "I do see the value in the preservation of history." (But why build a museum now that we have Google picture pages, he doesn't quite go on to say, although I figure he was working up to it.)
In the previous post, the one about the CBC, Rathgeber complained about being caught up in a "minor blogger eruption" and then continued with his attack on the CBC. (I suppose I should feel hurt to be characterized as a minor blogger, but, as they say, "it doesn't matter what they say about you, as long as they spell your name right." It's C-L-I-M-E-N-H-A-G-A.)
The post before that he defended the appointment of a unilingual Supreme Court justice. "Merit, not language, guides Supreme Court appointments." But then he sort of had to. He had a hand in it, after all.
And the one before that he complained about the same court's decision to allow the Insite Safe Injection Site in Vancouver continue to operate. Without going any further, I think you get the general idea about this guy.
Of course, when bad things with a federal twist happen in our region -- like when Ottawa suddenly decides not to follow through on the dough it committed to the Royal Alberta Museum -- he generally goes more quiet that HMCS Chicoutimi when it's not being towed back to port on the surface. Then you don't hear much from the guy at all, except maybe the occasional expression of veiled skepticism about that whole history thing.
As has been noted in this space before, Rathgeber does have one unusual qualification: He's one of the few Alberta politicians ever to have been beaten by a New Democrat.
Last time it happened in a nearby provincial riding. Well, I think that we, the good people of Edmonton-St. Albert, should get Rathgeber's name in the Guinness Book of Records. The next time there's a federal election, we should make darn sure he's the only Alberta politician ever to have been beaten twice by the NDP!
This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.
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