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Newsletter publisher apologizes for wrong MLA message -- but Team Angry's still angry at NDP

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Derek Fildebrandt

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A Calgary community newsletter publisher apologized promptly yesterday and took complete responsibility for placing a New Democratic Party MLA's New Year's constituent greetings underneath the name and photo of Independent Calgary-Bow MLA Deborah Drever.

But never mind, Opposition Team Angry is still angry with Drever and the NDP!

"Mind's Design Studio apologizes for the MLA message error in the January 2016 edition of the Broadcaster," said business owner Bobbie-Jo Bergner, a development that was predicted in this space yesterday.

"This was completely an oversight on the design and editing ends," Bergner wrote on her business's Facebook page of the circumstances that led to the appearance of NDP MLA Brandy Payne's message under Drever's name. "We did not intentionally insert another MLA’s message in lieu of Deborah's message."

"Sorry for any confusion this has caused. Again, our sincere apologies," she concluded.

Notwithstanding the attempt to gin up a controversy Friday by Wildrose and Conservative politicians and at least two news organizations, the Postmedia Network-owned Calgary Sun and the Shaw-Media-owned Global TV News, all of which portrayed the simple error by a contractor as a conspiracy somehow involving the NDP government, Drever's response was graceful and professional.

"Mind's Design Studio had posted a clarification & apology regarding the publishing error they made in publishing a greeting written by another MLA under my name," Drever said on her Facebook page. "I appreciate their quick action & look forward to working with them as we move forward."

The publisher's error, familiar to anyone who works with words for a living, would barely be worth mentioning had it not been for the fact that the Sun and Global reporters failed to confirm the accuracy of their stories before publishing, and that comments and fanciful conspiracy theories advanced by Wildrose Finance Critic Derek Fildebrandt, interim Progressive Conservative Party Leader Ric McIver and a few others who ought to have known better were based on nothing but hot air and idle speculation. But why ask questions when you can just start blazing away at the NDP?

Drever, 27, was elected as a New Democrat in the May 5 general election, but was expelled from the NDP caucus by Premier Rachel Notley 17 days later, when several tasteless social media posts made when she was a university student came to light.

Premier Notley said in late May she would review Drever's status within a year. For her part, Drever has conducted herself ever since with maturity and professionalism and won accolades for her private member’s bill to protect victims of spousal abuse by allowing them to break residential leases without financial penalty, thus making it easier to escape violent domestic situations. The bill was passed unanimously by the Legislature in December.

Starting from these well-known facts, Fildebrandt and McIver came up with a conspiracy theory in which Notley’s office is somehow directing the Independent MLA’s lonely efforts from the other side of the House for nefarious reasons.

Notwithstanding the lack of evidence other than whatever the Sun reporter told him, Fildebrandt concluded from the newsletter text's placement it is "blatantly obvious Miss Drever is getting her marching orders directly from the premier's office."

For his part, McIver took this nonsense a step further, concocting an improbable hypothesis the NDP majority government wants Drever outside its caucus because her budget as an Independent is slightly larger than a government MLA's. He called her status "an expensive charade."

Never one to be left out of the fun, former PC deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk, who lost his seat in the May 5 election and is rumoured to be considering a comeback run for McIver's job, expanded on this theme yesterday on his busy Facebook page with speculation the NDP keeps Drever as an Independent to get more questions in Question Period!

He also noted darkly that it is "very unusual accomplishment for a rookie MLA to pass such bill so early in one’s term with unanimous government approval" -- perhaps forgetting the bill had unanimous opposition approval as well.

Notwithstanding the normal wish of opposition politicians and their supporters to undermine the governing party, one has to wonder about the fury of some of the personal attacks on this young woman, who got herself into a difficult position and has been diligently working to get herself out.

Such rage about a small mistake for which the victim of the attacks was not responsible raises a number of questions:

  • Would the media have accused Drever of being a secret Wildroser if a copy of an opposition member’s message had appeared under her name?
  • Would the same accusations have been made if the victim of an obvious printer's error had been a man?
  • Was the patronizing use of the honorific “Miss” by Fildebrandt, who is 30, related to this?
  • Why the sudden fury at the passage by all MLAs of a law that protects victims of spousal abuse at the expense of the convenience of landlords, since the opposition voted for it too?
  • At what point do such personal attacks cease to be politics as usual and become outright bullying?

Rather than admit they have egg on their faces and simply apologize for getting an insignificant story wrong, which would show both maturity and decency, participants in the campaign against Drever are now either ignoring the proof they messed up or doubling down on their mistakes.

Global TV added the publisher’s apology to its online story, but did not change the report to reflect that the premise on which it was based has been revealed to be false. It did not apologize.

The Calgary Sun ran a short story by a different reporter acknowledging the publisher's apology but also added new quotes from Fildebrandt repeating what he said before. The Sun also failed to acknowledge its original story was based on a false premise, and there were no apologies from either the newspaper or Fildebrandt.

Lukaszuk stated explicitly on social media he has nothing to apologize for. McIver simply said nothing.

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

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