How fitting that the wrecking crew that Alberta Premier Jason Kenney dubbed the "Gang of Five" met at the Calgary Stampede where they sported cowboy hats and jeans, flipped pancakes for the cameras and fumed about the federal carbon tax.
If this group, which included Ontario's Doug Ford, Saskatchewan's Scott Moe, New Brunswick's Blaine Higgs and Bob McLeod of the Northwest Territories, were a middle-aged-man band, I'd dub them The Flapjacks.
Flap because of all the ideology they spout; jack because they know -- or care -- nothing about the havoc they are wreaking on the planet and people in the name of "prosperity."
And so it was apt that they gathered at Calgary's annual yahoo and rodeo show because it is likely the cruelest entertainment and "cultural" event since all those circuses of bullwhipped lions, tigers and elephants left town for good.
Animal rights groups have complained for decades that chuckwagon races, steer wrestling, bronco riding and calf roping not only panic and terrify the animals, they have killed about 100 of them -- just since 1986.
Panicking and terrifying people seem to be what the gang's ideology -- and, in particular, Ford and Kenney's -- are all about.
Obviously, having just over a year under his "Premiers Stampede Breakfast" apron, Ford is winning the race to the bottom with his education and health-care cuts, his assaults on Toronto and crony-riddled government. Among other hardship-inflicting moves, there's also his attack on the modern sex-education curriculum, the cancellation of almost 1,000 alternative energy initiatives, and even axing a 50-million tree-planting initiative to hold back climate change.
But hey, Ontarians will now have access to alcohol anytime, anywhere -- although that buck-a-beer thing turned out to be pure B.S.
Which, like H.S., is all over the Stampede grounds.
One can easily predict where Kenney's United Conservative Party is headed now that he, like Ford, has rolled back minimum wage increases, attacked the LGBTQ community and declared war on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
He has even set aside a $3-million war chest to do battle against critics of the tarsands.
(On a personal note, I was targeted right after he became premier when he responded to my tweet about National Geographic magazine calling Alberta's tarsands "the world's most destructive oil operation" by pointing out that I was a "former Toronto Star journalist." Which I am. But his point was …?)
Meanwhile, Ford, whose government is on a five-month sabbatical lest it further jeopardizes federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer's chances of becoming prime minister, is not lying low at his cottage. From the Stampede, he went on to Saskatchewan to attend a premier's conference.
Mind you, Scheer is doing a pretty good job already of losing support, at least if the most recent polls are to be believed. And yes, he too turned up at the Calgary hoedown, after which Kenney posted on his Instagram account, "We are united in stopping the Trudeau-NDP agenda."
So anyway, at the Stampede, Ford joined his fellow band members to sing from the same blue songbook of building more pipelines across Canada.
And, when he faced reporters for the first time since his MPs quit Queen's Park, he was visibly irritated by questions about the patronage controversy back home. Dismissing queries about questionable appointments as nothing more than journalists getting "into the weeds," he declared that voters simply don't care. Instead, he mounted his favourite hobbyhorse to ride herd on the debt and deficit that the Liberals left behind, insisting: "that's what the people of Ontario worry about; they don't worry about the stuff that the media worries about."
But they probably also care about cuts to regional libraries, supports for autistic children and their families, school class sizes, the elimination of cancer screening programs, loans to university students, improving Toronto's transit system, allowing developers to run amok and more untrammelled ideological stampeding.
Which is why the Calgary setting was so appropriate for Scheer, Ford and Kenney.
These horseman of the climate apocalypse are, as floodwaters rise and fields and forests burn, intent on inflicting cruelty not just on their constituents but on every living being on Earth.
Antonia Zerbisias, former CBC-TV journalist and Toronto Star columnist, writes about society, media and politics.
Photo: Andrew Scheer/Flickr
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