rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Tories train their intellectual big guns on Tom Mulcair: if Rex Murphy fails, there's always Don Cherry!

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

Rex Murphy

"BRIEFING NOTE: Respond to criticism about economic impact of high-Loonie, everything-for-petrochemical-industry policy by making voters see Thomas Mulcair as recklessly un-Canadian…"

This isn't an actual quote from the Tories' current list of talking points, but it seems to be what the Strategic Heavy Lifters in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative brain trust have in mind for their main attack on the leader of the NDP Opposition. Expect them to trot out that French passport momentarily.

They promised us the Mother of All Battles, and the best they can come up with before Harper's Republican Guards bug off to the dusty hills of Alberta is to call the NDP leader un-Canadian?


Oh, I know, I'm being hyperbolic. I admit it. It'll be a long road before Mulcair and the NDP form the government of Canada, and the possibility's quite high the old slime-hurlers of Harper’s Tea Party of Canada will come up with something more effective than this kind of fake patriotism, the last refuge of the modern neo-Con petro-scoundrel. So I guess we shouldn't start measuring the orange shag carpet for the prime ministerial residence on Sussex Drive just yet.

But, really people, does Harper seriously think getting his party’s Media Auxiliary over at the National Pest to assign Rex Murphy the job of calling Mulcair "recklessly un-Canadian" is a strategy? Rex Murphy?

And for what does the thankfully inimitable Murphy level this charge of un-Canadianism? Because Mulcair called three of the four western premiers "Harper's Messengers"!

For lack of a more suitable phrase usable in the public prints: Take off!

Surely this is unworthy of a mighty "public intellectual" like Murphy. They must be holding back the really big guns for when things get truly desperate … you know, like Don Cherry!

Murphy's screed is a laugh a minute, like the bit about how "it's taken more than a couple of decades to exorcise the demon of the NEP from Western memories -- particularly Albertan ones…" Excuse me, but we've heard about nothing but the alleged depredations of the National Energy Program here in Alberta pretty much every day for the past 32 years. ("The NEP destroyed Alberta! Would you like fries with that, sir?") Some exorcism!

Murphy also descends into the fuzzy arithmetic typical of his so-called conservative ilk since really only three of the four Western premiers have had anything to say on this topic, and the one from British Columbia is being pretty mild and cautious for obvious reasons. You know, like the well-known Mulcair-style predilections of a majority of B.C. voters, who may well have concluded they have nothing whatsoever to gain from Alberta bitumen being pumped through their forests to the ocean but oil dumps, oil spills, dead fish, dead animals, pissed off environmentalists, angry First Nations, litigation, cancer, high security costs, terrorism risks, lawsuits and the ruination of a few more local small export businesses. Did I miss anything?

Perhaps Harper and Alberta Premier Alison Redford could explain the advantage of this to British Columbians again. A couple of dozen maintenance jobs and a boost for the private security industry? Or what?

But, hey, half a loaf is better than none -- especially when you’re apparently just trying to stick as close as possible to the PMO's talking points. And Murphy's effort truly outshone the line of Zs thrown up by the Globe and Mail's Jeffrey Simpson, who worked himself into what passes for a swivet at 444 Front Street, calling Mulcair's commentary … "political nonsense." Whew!

With stirring headlines like "Mulcair should drop the 'Dutch Disease' rhetoric," the Globe had better be careful it doesn't provoke rioting in the streets of Calgary!

Meanwhile, out here in the west, the Conservative echo chamber is really testing our arithmetical skills: Friday's edition of the Edmonton Journal includes a story under a headline that reads: "Alberta exporters don't buy Mulcair's loonie concerns." ("Loonie concerns" … Geddit?) The story quotes five business people, all of whom are … uh … concerned about the strong petro-Loonie.

Representative quote: Edmonton frozen-Indian-dinner exporter Noorudin Jiwani "acknowledged that a strong Canadian dollar makes exporting more difficult, but he said he realizes that oilsands companies dwarf his firm, which employs about 70 people. 'The Canadian dollar is too strong for us,' he said. 'I would like that not to happen, but then I’m a small potato.'" (Emphasis added.) Got that?

I’m sure they're slapping themselves on the back at the PMO. "Great media coverage, chief!" … if you don’t bother to read the story.

And it's all just so divisive, our Pecksniffian Conservative MPs keep sniveling -- this from a group of people who repeatedly told tout le monde Quebec to bug right off on the topic of the long-gun registry, and who indeed continue to do so, the better to play wedge politics in the last federal election and the next one.

Oh well, like the big lie about how it was Pierre Trudeau’s energy policy and not world petroleum prices that caused Alberta's one-dimensional economy to fall on its keester in 1980, a certain number of people will eventually start to believe anything if you repeat it often enough.

Meanwhile, Harper's semi-official Conservative Party newspaper and the state broadcaster over at Sun Media keep telling us Mulcair is not only a suitable candidate to be hauled before the House Un-Canadian Activities Committee (HUCAC) but he's a firebrand, a hothead and a perpetually angry guy.

But constant repetition of this meme doesn't actually change the fact that Mulcair is probably just as coldly calculating as our divisive and un-Canadian prime minister.

For this reason, western Canada's current crop of parochial Conservative leaders -- and that includes the sanctimonious Harper -- really ought to think carefully about how their hysterical McCarthyism is going to go over in what they privately think of as the cheap seats of Confederation.

As Norman Spector -- the "steely political insider" who was once chief of staff to prime minister Brian Mulroney and holder of several other illustrious positions, and who is now one of Canada's Top Tweeters -- shrewdly observed last month in the Vancouver Sun: "To prevent Harper from forming another majority government, Mulcair must break the coalition between Ontario and the West that the Conservatives fashioned in May 2011. To become prime minister, Mulcair must create a coalition of his own. …

"He will invite Quebecers to join with 'progressives' across Canada to help replace the Conservative government they have come to revile. And he will focus on re-creating the coalition with Ontario that has governed Canada for most of our history, while not giving up on the prospect of winning more seats in B.C. and Manitoba."

Note which western provinces are not on the old civil-service slasher's list -- the ones that benefit most from the conditions that are causing our national outbreak of Dutch Disease and which are currently led by petrocrats hostile both to increased Canadian control of the oil patch and to policies that would help restore the country's manufacturing sector to health.

We can expect to hear a lot more of this divisiveness codswollop about Mulcair over the next couple of years unless Harper's advisors manage to come up with something more effective.

But if that's all the Harperites can think of, they'd best phone their Republican mentors south of the Medicine Line right quickly! Maybe those guys can send out a Tweet demanding to see Mulcair's birth certificate or dress up like Paul Revere and light lanterns to warn us Albertans, "One if by land, two if by … uh, land."

Either that or just hand over the keys to 24 Sussex while they’re still in possession of some tattered remnants of their dignity.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.