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Alberta Diary

djclimenhaga's picture
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.

It's not just the #kudatah -- it's the feeling Alberta’s conservatives are all boarding the Crazy Train

| January 17, 2016
George Clark

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Are there any sane conservatives left in Alberta?

Given the events of the past few weeks, this question must be asked.

The answer, of course, is yes. But you wouldn't necessarily know it from reading the political news in this province.

You certainly wouldn't think so if your main source of news has been social media, especially Facebook, where the ranting of many Wildrose Party supporters and their even more radical brethren leaves a reader with a strong impression Alberta conservatives are all aboard the Crazy Train, chugging out of the station.

Social media nowadays is a zone where New Democrats are routinely excoriated as "communists" and readers are warned to beware agents of "United Nations Agenda 21" conspiring with the NDP to enslave Albertans by encouraging them to eat locally grown food. I am not making this up!

Then there is George Clark, the construction contractor who acts as if he's concluded he's Alberta's answer to Joan of Arc, and has persuaded a surprising number of social media users this is so.

Clark stands ready to save the province through a divine, or perhaps magical, "100% effective" intervention on the day the Legislature reopens that will remove the premier from office "legally, peacefully and democratically if she denies our petitions for plebiscites."

In other words, a legal coup d'état. This became a mocking social media meme -- #kudatah -- after a comment by one of Clark's supporters who either couldn't spell or, as the popular Sixties metaphor had it, wasn't about to let French be shoved down his throat with his morning cornflakes.

Anyway, in the snap of a finger, the #kudatah will remove the NDP from power, Clark insists. "I will make the announcement at 12:15, we will be back in control of the government by 12:30," he said in a Facebook post on Jan. 3, reported by Vice.com after it had been deleted.

Exactly how this deus ex machina is supposed to work, Clark won't say. However, thanks to an indiscreet post by a supporter, also swiftly deleted, we have an idea: he seems to think that if he can get Albertans to sign a petition demanding a binding plebiscite on a government bill, and if the government says no to the plebiscite, and if a commissioner of oaths agrees the premier therefore isn't doing her job, then the Lieutenant-Governor must remove the government. Or something.

This doesn't suggest a comprehensive understanding of the workings of Parliamentary democracy on Clark's part. However, it seems to be keeping him and his "Albertans First Plebiscite Warriors" busy trying to get people to sign a petition against the NDP's controversial farm safety legislation, which was passed on Dec. 10.

More seriously, this foolishness also points to the problem with Alberta's mainstream conservatives.

Where are the mainstream politicians of the "centre right" who are willing to speak up about this nonsense and tell their supporters to simmer down? Are they too dignified, or something else?

And why is the media giving Clark and the social media groups with which he is affiliated such a respectful hearing?

According to the National Post, Clark "is an avatar of an angry Alberta." Well, that's one theory. Judging from what he is saying, he seems more like someone who has drunk the ideological Kool-Aid served by the likes of the Duck Dynasty militia holed up in that ranger’s hut in Oregon.

As for the Wildrose Opposition, they may have very little to say about this in public, but, when no one's around, their MLAs are helping constituents find and sign Clark's petition. That means they're endorsing this craziness, by omission and commission.

This is the same Wildrose Opposition that called the NDP communists in a by-election brochure last fall -- although only the version that was printed in Chinese.

And this is the same party that includes an MLA who warned at a public meeting that the NDP may have plans to persecute members of religious farming communities. Sad to say, I'm not making that up either.

So if the Wildrose Party is a mainstream conservative party in Alberta, it's hard to say Clark and his allies aren’t part of the mainstream too.

On this, I probably owe an apology to Preston Manning, criticized strongly in this space for his role in the effort to merge the Wildrose Party into the Conservative caucus back in December of 2014.

The move was cynical, to be sure, but I'm prepared to admit now that the godfather of Canada’s conservative movement obviously knew far more about just how nutty his side was getting to be out here in Alberta than those of us across the aisle!

Who can blame him, then, for encouraging the Wildrose to subsume its worst instincts and merge into a caucus led by then-premier Jim Prentice, if only to keep the people now emerging as leaders of the right from doing any real harm?

So are there any sane conservatives left in Alberta? Yes, former Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith is among them. And in the diminished ranks of the PC Party's legislative caucus there are people like Sandra Jansen. The Alberta Party's only MLA, Greg Clark (no relation, I'm guessing), is pretty sensible too, and he's basically an old-style Red Tory.

But if Jean's proposed reverse takeover of the PCs takes place, not one of them will have their hands anywhere near the levers of power. That's only a problem, of course, if the NDP can’t manage to remain the government through an election or a #kudatah attempt.

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

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