Alberta Diary

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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 Toronto Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. His 1995 book, A Poke in the Public Eye, explores the relationships among Canadian journalists, public relations people and politicians. He left journalism after the strike at the Calgary Herald in 1999 and 2000 to work for the trade union movement. Alberta Diary focuses on Alberta politics and social issues.

Ex-MLA speaks: Fear and loathing on the Alberta Conservative trail

| October 4, 2012
Doug Elniski

CALGARY

Doug Elniski is a nice guy … for an Alberta Tory … and he'll tell you that himself. But take it from me, it's true.

The former Progressive Conservative MLA for Edmonton-Calder, who may have decided not to run again in the April 23 Alberta election rather than be beaten by New Democrat Dave Eggen, can be described as pretty easy going, careless about the implications of what he says, and really, really big. Like, six-foot six, maybe 240 pounds -- I'm sure he'll let me know.

Alberta Diary has given Elniski a hard time over the years for some injudicious advice given in a 2009 blog post ("Ladies, always smile when you walk into a room, there is nothing a man wants less than a woman scowling because he thinks he is going to get s--t for something and has no idea what") and equally ill-considered Tweets sent from an Edmonton Pride Parade. He's also pretty bright, so his recognition of the impact of those remarks may have also weighed on his decision not to run again in 2012.

Still, I believe he didn't mean any harm, and I've always said I'd want him on my side in a bar fight!

Now, Elniski has done us all a big favour by writing a post on his personal blog that tells a lot about the state of affairs in Alberta Conservative circles -- a situation referred to in this space back on Sept. 28 in a post about how Premier Alison Redford and her minions treat her backbenchers and why they in turn don't seem to like her very much.

Well, by the sound of it, it's not just backbenchers, and it’s not just happening at the provincial level. Let me explain…

In an item today on his personal blog -- evocatively titled "Don't Encourage Me" --  Elniski (who endorsed Redford on the second ballot almost exactly a year ago today) tells an interesting story about how even former politicians get treated in Conservative circles in Alberta when they dare to colour outside the lines.

"A person needs to prove that I should not like them," Elniski wrote. So … “imagine my surprise, when a highish ranking member of a government, suggested to me that my blog is taking shots at the wrong people and the wrong parties. I should, in the words of the highish ranking member of a government 'be careful' lest I annoy the wrong people and thus reduce, if not eliminate, my chances for further public service." (Emphasis added.)

Now, I confess that I first took this as a reference to goings on within Redord's provincial government, but Elniski has contacted me to say he has another level of government entirely in mind, presumably the one led by such notable Alberta luminaries as Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Regardless, here's how Elniski says business is conducted in the Alberta Conservative snakepit:

"Since I thought this particular highish ranking member of a government was a gender neutral 'dick' when I was a somewhat less highish ranking member of a government, I took offence to the advice," he reminisced.

"To which I can only say," the now-retired and obviously extremely annoyed former MLA went on, "What are you, highish-ranking member of government, going to do? Raise my taxes?"

"It will be frustrating for the highish ranking member to realize that they can't even keep me from getting a fishing license, much less raise my taxes," he went on. "There are no punitive measures left to elected officials who derive their mandates from the masses.

"That type of arrogance went out with meaningful monarchist rule. Time to realize my friend, you are neither the King or hopefully the Queen of anything. You chose to serve, you exist to serve and with service comes critique of your performance and your governments performance. Sadly, your cries of 'off with his head' will do nothing to prevent my continued evaluation and humorous assessment of your work and character."

Notwithstanding Elniski's revealing comment, MLAs still sitting in the Legislature as members of the Redford Government and MPs in Ottawa who are members of Harper's caucus may not be so bold about stating their unhappiness with the way things operate within this unhappy government … yet.

I commend the entire blog to anyone interesting on how politics are practiced in Tory Alberta. Plus, of course, I would welcome tips as to the identity of Elniski's unnamed interlocutor.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaDiary.ca.

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