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Message to the Wildrose Party: The NDP won and you're going to need breakfast!

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Brian Jean

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Get the coffee perking! Maybe the Legislative Building's modest cafeteria will introduce a Wild Rose Country Breakfast Special a couple of days a week.

Alberta's majority New Democratic Party government has prevailed as anticipated and MLAs will now have to start work at 9 a.m. … two days a week, and only when the Legislature is in session, but still an improvement in value for money for taxpayers and better accommodation of legislators with families, both of which ought to be encouraged.

It is also a largely self-inflicted defeat for Alberta's Opposition Wildrose Party -- which inexplicably opposed the early start time from the moment it was mentioned by the government, thereby ending up with scrambled egg from the most important meal of the day all over its MLAs' faces.

Opposition Leader Brian Jean tried to argue, rather fatuously I thought, that starting the Legislature's day at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays and 9 a.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays would let the NDP "ram through" legislation by sitting all day and into the night.

But with a substantial majority and a Parliamentary kitbag full of legislation-ramming tools, the NDP could do that anyway without bothering to lose sleep. Indeed, what the NDP is trying to do is put an end to the need for late-night sittings, which past Progressive Conservative governments loved because they were an effective way to, well, ram through legislation.

As has been said here before, it's hard to believe the Wildrosers, 21 out of 22 of whom come from mostly rural ridings where lots of folks still have to rise early to do agricultural chores, would score many political points arguing that they have a God-given right as MLAs to sleep in.

In all seriousness, notwithstanding the continual stream of irresistible mockery flowing through and from this blog, I find it hard to believe that sleeping in could have been the real reason the Wildrose Party took on this unwinnable fight. While I am skeptical about Jean's claim all 22 Wildrose MLAs are at their desks bright-eyed and bushy tailed by 7 a.m. at the latest, I have no doubt most of them work hard and get up well before noon.

But in the absence of their being sleep deprived, their taking on this sure-loser is simply inexplicable. Under the circumstances, one can certainly forgive NDP House Leader Brian Mason for succumbing to the temptation to mock the 'Rosers for their apparent stout defence of their right to sufficient beauty sleep.

The Wildrosers have asserted from the start of this weird controversy that they had a deal with the NDP about start times that the government party broke. Many of us were prepared to concede that this might be a possibility, or simply a misunderstanding, but it's telling that no compelling evidence of this supposed deal has ever been presented.

Meanwhile, the mainstream media, true to form, has not been able to stop itself from presenting this as a "spat" between the government and Opposition, as if it were some kind of he-said-she-said argument. Even the CBC, which ought to know better, did this. Given the circumstances, this is quite offensive.

This was not, as one CBC report put it, "bickering between the NDP and the official Opposition Wildrose Party." It was a misconceived attempt by the Opposition party for reasons that remain unclear to prevent the NDP from implementing a simple change in legislative procedure the benefits of which are pretty obvious.

Whatever you think of the NDP's policies on the major issues of the day, to which it is the Opposition's job to propose alternatives, the government's position on this question was soundly reasoned and sensible, indeed quite principled.

So this was not "bickering." Indeed, the entire bickering-legislators meme is a key part of the neoliberal/Wildrose/Conservative narrative about democracy, designed to disillusion progressive voters and suppress their votes so that the right-wing ideological base and social conservative special interest groups can bring home the electoral bacon.

As a couple of recent elections illustrate, that strategy has not been working as well lately as it used to. Perhaps it's time for a strategic rethink on the Legislature's west-side benches!

As for the media's instinctive default to "objectivity" and "reaction" -- or "fairness, accuracy and balance," FAB, as they used to put it back at the Calgary Herald just as they were about to abandon the principle -- it's is all very well, but surely not in a case like this.

There are moments, and this is one of them, when purblind idiocy ought to be identified as such and ignored with the contempt it deserves.

Rona Ambrose, Ayn Rand and the conservative online barking chain

Speaking of getting bent out of shape over the wrong issues, what's with the obsessive right-wing objection to mentioning it when a politician reads Ayn (rhymes with swine*) Rand?

Personally, I think it's very telling when a politician of the right mentions that Rand is one of his or her favourite authors. It's code for "this candidate is a real market-fundamentalist nut" -- and those of us who don't run in those circles are expected not to get it. The literary efforts of the late "objectivist philosopher," who is neither objective nor a philosopher, have been raised to the status of holy scripture by the looniest fringe of the neoliberal movement.

But whenever I mention this literary preference, as I did last week when I noted Rona Ambrose's reported taste in reading materials, I am accused of being unfair by the legions of far-right trolls that infest the Internet. This sets off a noisy barking chain on anti-social media. That, in turn, makes me suspect that these people really know in their bones than Rand isn't much of an author.

They make it too easy. And I acknowledge that stirring them up like this is the intellectual equivalent of running down the street at 3 a.m., slapping all the cars to make their alarms go off.

Heaven knows why, but I once made a project of reading all or close to all of the Rand oeuvre. And you can take it from me that, notwithstanding her inexplicably compelling justifications for greed and parasitism, she is a really, really shitty writer. Such technical terms as turgid, leaden and badly in need of an editor all spring to mind. Her characters mostly have ridiculous names, too.

So save yourself the effort of reading Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead, unless, of course, you've enrolled as a student at the University of Calgary's Skool of Public Policy, in which case they're presumably on the required reading list with the other works of the neoliberal cannon. (Thankfully, the rest of it has mostly been translated into English, so you won't have to learn Austrian.**)

All you really need to know about Rand, other than the fact she ended her days relying on U.S. Social Security cheques (which she had every right to take, by the way, far be it from me to say otherwise), is contained in this summary found on economist Paul Krugman's New York Times blog, the provenance of which is not entirely clear to me:

"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year-old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs."

* Her line, not mine.
** For neoliberals who read this, hold your comments. It's a joke.

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

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