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How weird is this? Calgary Chamber of Commerce spokesperson praises Rachel Notley's NDP government

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Scott Crockatt

Well, these are strange times indeed when the official spokesperson for the Calgary Chamber of Commerce can extol the potential for Alberta's just-elected New Democratic government in glowing terms, apparently without risking instant dismissal.

Actually, if you don't think the NDP under Premier Designate Rachel Notley has at least the potential to form a dynasty of its own, consider the commentary last week by Scott Crockatt, the Chamber’s director of marketing and communications.

"Business can be successful under any government and I think this new NDP government has the opportunity to be a fantastic government for Alberta," Crockatt last week told the Calgary Journal, an online publication put out by journalism students at Cowtown's Mount Royal University. (Emphasis added, of course.)

Indeed, based on his conversation with Crockatt, the Journal's reporter concluded that "for the Calgary Chamber, there are many areas of agreement between the business community and the new premier."

In Crockatt's own words, "businesses want clarity, fairness, and decisions that make economic sense from the province" -- something he seems to think the NDP government will deliver.

Mind you, while the kind of views expressed by Crockatt in the Journal interview may reflect what surprising numbers of Alberta business people think -- any New Democrat who has been talking with friends and family in small business here in Alberta knows this -- there wasn't a breath of it in the mainstream media.

Still, the word is that at a Calgary Chamber meeting last week attended by about 200 small business owners, participants were standing up and shrugging off suggestions a small business tax increase would do much harm and expressing their willingness to invest in their community through their taxes.

When they got around to talking about the minimum wage, instead of the hysteria Canadians expect from local chambers of commerce, people actually stood up and cheered a panelist who said it was a good idea for businesses to pay their employees a living wage.

OK, their idea of a living wage may not be my idea of a living wage, but this does illustrate how Alberta had changed -- and continues to change. This was something that was apparently entirely missed by both the Progressive Conservative and Wildrose strategic brain trusts. It was also missed, it must be conceded, by a good many loyal New Democrats, the ones who are now bragging they had an Orange party card "before it was cool.'

Crockatt's take, according to the Journal, was that businesses want to invest in their communities if that makes them better places to live, and they recognize that paying fair taxes and fair wages are part of what they have to do to get where they want to go.

I checked with Crockatt and he assures me he was quoted accurately.

Meanwhile, however, it's almost a relief to know that not everyone associated with business and its hobbyhorses is behaving with as much equanimity at the thought of an NDP government -- especially one that can get re-elected -- in Alberta.

The Broadbent Institute's Press Progress has been reporting on the nasty and at times bizarre commentary pumped out by a publication called C2C Journal and promoted in email blasts from the Calgary-based Manning Centre, which was founded by Preston Manning to advance his market-fundamentalist ideology's takeover of Canadian governments.

Using a photograph taken in Ethiopia lifted from a Jesuit charity, the Manning-promoted online mag makes bad-taste jokes about refugee camps full of Albertans popping up in Saskatchewan to illustrate a story by a former Canadian Taxpayers Federation operative horrified by the thought that not only did the NDP just win one election, but could win another and another. Imagine, this from a group of people horrified at the thought of an old Facebook picture showing a young NDP MLA in the vicinity of a T-shirt illustrated with a marijuana leaf!

"Their party has left a trail of economic carnage across Canada," wrote a hyperventilating Colin Craig, a statement that no amount of debunking can keep his ilk from repeating as if it were fact. As always, there are wheels within wheels.

C2C is edited by a former Stephen Harper speechwriter. The supposedly non-partisan Manning Foundation, a registered charity that mysteriously is not being investigated by the Canada Revenue Agency, is "pleased to sponsor the publication."

C2C has representatives of the Manning Foundation and the Fraser Institute on its board. Craig, the former CTF operative who wrote the article, which pretty clearly seems to meet the CRA's definition of partisan political activity, is now the Manning Centre's "director of strategic communications." The Manning Foundation claims in its apparently unchallenged 2013 tax filing that "0%" of its activities are political. You get the picture.

But it's stuff like the commentary coming out of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce that must really make the blood of the right-wing ideologues at the Manning Centre and its C2C branch-plant run cold.

If the Chamber reflects the real attitudes of Alberta's business community outside the oilpatch, Craig could very well be prescient when he grimly predicts "the reelection of an NDP government in Alberta" and "multiple NDP terms."

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

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