Take it from an old newshound old enough to remember when newshounds were an actual thing: When someone accuses a reporter of taking their words out of context, what they usually mean is, "I wish I hadn't said that."
Or, at least, I wish I hadn't got caught saying it.
So when Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland MLA Shane Getson, a member of the United Conservative Party caucus in the Alberta legislature, says his now notorious remarks about unemployed Albertans spending their Canada Emergency Response Benefit payments on Cheezies, cartoons and recreational drugs are being taken out of context, he most certainly means he wishes he hadn't been caught making them.
Complaining about how local businesses have trouble finding employees, he told about a dozen constituents in the Parkland village town hall that it's "because they make more on CERB, eating Cheezies and watching cartoons, I guess."
In doing so, he insulted more than a million Albertans who were helped by the benefit in the face of the COVID disaster and expressed a level of contempt for working people that is all too common among small business operators in Alberta and their cheerleaders in the Kenney government.
What's more, the former construction crew boss may have missed it, but rural Alberta had a problem with addictive drugs long before the CERB came and went. Nevertheless, he also opined that the root of Alberta's drug problem -- which by closing down safe injection clinics, the UCP is doing the opposite of helping -- is what he called "that fancy sock wearin', paper-straw-suckin', water box kinda thing-in', sorta embezzelin', whatever, blackface paintin', ethics fraction (sic)" from Ottawa. To wit: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
After all, Getson explained to his apparently mostly credulous listeners, "all of a sudden you have that population that has all that extra cash, and now their addiction levels are going through the roof. And then what? The funny money runs out?"
Apparently he thinks if you keep the proletariat sufficiently impoverished, they'll stay sober.
Some media have been giving credit for distribution of a video of the MLA's remarks to the Alberta NDP, but Getson has no one to blame for the controversy but himself -- he appears to have posted the thing on social media!
You'd think even a rural UCP MLA would get it by now that it's probably smart to curb your enthusiasm about climate change denial, COVID questioning and the like when the digital cameras are rolling. Especially when the cameras are yours.
But not Getson, apparently. He now has the dubious distinction of being known as the guy who thinks COVID is "a very bad flu that's contagious, a respiratory thing." Plus, he's become Alberta's leading recipient of Cheezies in the mail. Some of the salty treats, presumably, are being sent by sarcastic citizens with the postage paid by what's left of their CERB payments.
So blaming his embarrassment on his political enemies may be a familiar tactic, but it's a bit of a reach in the circumstances. You can hardly say he's being taken out of context, when the entire context -- all excruciatingly boring two hours and 11 minutes of it -- has been posted for the edification of those seeking insights into the mind of the typical rural UCP MLA.
But give the man his due. He got one thing right in his seemingly endless bloviation. To wit, his Wexit-minded constituents ought not to count on the United Nations ensuring an independent Alberta's bitumen goes unvexed to the sea through British Columbia.
No, he pointed out, for any hope of that happening, they're going to have to remain citizens of Canada.
Sad to say, if anything gets him in trouble with Premier Jason Kenney, it just might be that.
So one cheer for Getson, anyway.
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 at The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald.
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