Social democracy in Alberta? Pretty much the same as the Russian Revolution!
Really! I'm not making this up!
Just ask Richard Gotfried, Progressive Conservative MLA for Calgary-Fish Creek.
Gotfried should know. After all, he talked to his dad about this. His late father quit Russia in 1917, which, as historically alert readers will recall, was a big year for revolution in that part of the world.
So if you thought it's only Wildrose infiltrators voting for Jason Kenney in the recent Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership election that worry about this kind of thing, guess again. Gotfried was up on his hind legs in the Alberta Legislature Monday afternoon to prove you wrong.
According to Gotfried’s rambling commentary during Monday's members' statements, his pop just was 10 years old when he shook the dust of revolutionary Russia off his boots and headed for Shanghai in the company of his mother and siblings, "a refugee with little more than the clothes on his back."
So far, this sounds like a ripping yarn, and I would sincerely like to hear more -- but perhaps not in the context of trying to prove Alberta's thoroughly democratically domesticated New Democrats are a bunch of Bolsheviks. (Or maybe just Mensheviks, if Gotfried was feeling kind-hearted on Monday, or if there's any uncertainty about which month in 1917 we happen to be talking about.)
But Rachel Notley as Leon Trotsky? Sorry, I don't see it.
Anyway, according to Gotfried, 32 years later in Shanghai the same damn thing happened to his dad again, only this time instead of Vladimir Lenin and the Red Army it was Chairman Mao and the Eighth Route Army.
I'm sure readers can see the similarities to Alberta since May 2015 -- carbon tax … bloody revolution … pretty much the same thing, huh?
According to the younger Gotfried's remarks in the Legislature, that time his dad escaped Mao Zedong and his comrades "with little more than a handful of prized family possessions," eventually ending up here in Alberta.
And, boy -- this is the point to Gotfried's story, I think, unless it was the laboured pun about red ink being sorta like orange ink, which is pretty cheeky coming from a member of a party that posted five years' worth of serial budget deficits -- would his dad ever be pissed off now if he learned Alberta was living under a red banner, or an orange one, anyway. (Red, orange … close enough for bad speechwriting!)
"Mr. Speaker," exclaimed Gotfried, "as we in Alberta drift further into the abyss of social democracy, I cannot help but be reminded of his fate!" (Gotfried Senior's fate, that is. Emphasis added, of course. If you can stand it, you can read more of this by going to Hansard. While you're there, you can also take a boo at PC leadership candidate turned NDP MLA Sandra Jansen's member statement, which has its own merits.)
OK, enough sarcasm. I don't mean to make fun of Gotfried Pere’s troubles, 100 years and two calendars ago, which I'm certain were very difficult -- although it's nice they had a happy ending here on the Steppes of Central Alberta. But, seriously, what's with these Alberta conservatives, anyway?
One minute they're mocking NDP supporters as delicate little snowflakes, shivering and shedding tears at a few harsh words, the next they're quivering under the table, imagining the tramp, tramp, tramp of the Red Army's boots as it marches through Fish Creek Park and up the Macleod Trail to seize control of the means of production!
They need to get a grip. What they're hearing is probably just three-tonne SUVs smacking the speed bumps in the Fish Creek parking lot.
Gotfried needed to get a grip on Monday too. He was still rambling along when he was cut off by the Speaker with a cheery, "Hon. Member … your time is up …" (This is the Parliamentary equivalent of "Thank you caller!" Click! Buzz…)
At best, this kind of nonsense suggests a tenuous grasp of history. (Gotfried's peroration also suggests he is under the impression there was no free enterprise in Alberta before Peter Lougheed, a notion on which I am sure Preston Manning or some other old Socred would be happy to set him straight.) At worst it indicates a nasty streak of McCarthyism.
Of course, this is part of a long tradition in Alberta politics of dubious Russian political metaphors that fall flat upon delivery. Alert readers will recall that not so long ago a group of Wildrose MLAs prompted outrage by blogging about how the NDP's carbon tax is pretty much the same thing as Stalin's genocidal starvation policy in Ukraine in the 1930s.
MLA Richard Starke was rewarded with boos when he made reference to the embarrassment caused by that incident during his speech to the PC leadership convention hours before the delegates elected Kenney.
Still, perhaps the jeering suggests Gotfried's surfing the Tory zeitgeist. On the other hand, in 2015 he beat the NDP’s candidate by just 136 votes -- about seven tenths of a percentage point -- so maybe that’s why the Orange Horde makes him nervous.
A few years ago, just to show this is an equal opportunity kind of blunder, a former NDP leader of my acquaintance to whom Gotfried bears a passing resemblance created a huge brouhaha when he suggested in an over-the-top moment in the House that "Stalin would be proud" of then premier Ed Stelmach's land expropriation policies.
Brian Mason later apologized for that one, setting a good example that others should immediately follow.
If you ask me, though, it’s time for the rest of us to say "shut up, already," to this kind of foolishness.
Mr. Gotfried? How about it?
This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.
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