Friedrich Hayek

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t think the most interesting news tidbit yesterday was that Heather Forsyth will become the new “Wildrump” leader, Preston Manning’s peculiar apology for accidentally uniting the right, the government’s sneaky tuition fee increases, or even the poll showing the Progressive Conservatives lead massively despite public disapproval of their sleazy deal with the Wildrose caucus.

No, it was the breathless revelation by Wildrose-turned-Tory MLA Gary Bickman that Premier Jim Prentice is “a disciple” of Friedrich Hayek.

Bikman, the long-winded MLA for Cardston-Taber-Warner in Alberta’s Deep South, dropped this little bombshell in a typical Facebook post that mainly consisted of a lengthy Wikipedia review of the late Professor Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, a tome occupying a similar place in the literary canon of the loony right as the doorstoppers of Ayn Rand.

Prentice has studied on The Road to Serfdom, enthused Bikman, who by the sound of it finally had a chance as a new Tory MLA to speak with the premier over the weekend and may have been under the impression the premier’s enthusiasm for Hayek will be seen as a Good Thing.

The Austrian-born economist is generally recognized as one of the founders of the neoliberal ideology behind such heroes of the market fundamentalism as Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and Stephen Harper. His ideas were instrumental in the creation of the worldwide network of corporate financed “think tanks” to propagandize opinion leaders in the ideology of markets above all other values.

Because neoliberalism places “economic freedom” — which basically translates into the right of corporations to do as they please — above such traditionally defined fundamental freedoms as the right to democratically choose our leaders, Professor Hayek’s dogmas have a somewhat unsavoury reputation outside doctrinaire market fundamentalist circles. So Prentice would probably have been just as happy if this information had not been posted publicly.

Certainly, if Bikman’s report is true, no follower of Friedrich Hayek ought to have passed himself off as a moderate progressive as Prentice did during his leadership election campaign.

Heather Forsyth chosen to lead Wildrose remnant

What’s left of the Wildrose Party caucus in the Legislature, meanwhile, yesterday chose veteran Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Heather Forsyth to lead what’s left after former leader Danielle Smith got done shouting, “Honey, I shrunk the party!”

Whatever you may think of Forsyth’s position in the political spectrum, she is the Real McCoy when it comes to public service. She was first elected as a Progressive Conservative 21 years ago, and crossed the floor to the Wildrose Party in 2010. But she has always worked hard, and was an effective critic for the Wildrose in opposition.

Forsyth takes on this challenge at a difficult moment both for her party and herself. She suffers severe hearing loss and had been widely thought to be about to retire to deal with health issues in her family. Now she plans to soldier on until the next election.

The formidable task that confronts her is the need to ensure no more of the remaining Wildrosers accept Prentice’s invitation to c’mon up to the house. If one more deserts, as at least a couple more are thought to be pondering, the Wildrose will no longer have the numbers to be official Opposition.

And what’s left to keep Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills MLA Shayne Saskiw, for example, now that his wife Shannon Stubbs has won the Lakeland nomination for Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s federal Conservative Party?

Preston Manning apologizes for unwittingly uniting the right

Meanwhile yesterday, Reform Party founder and former leader Preston Manning, published a strange apology on Facebook for accidentally uniting the right!

The last time he united the right, Manning explained, his gift to Canadians that just keeps on giving was preceded by “a democratic process of discussion with grassroots members, several consultative referendums, large conferences on principles and policy, a vote on acceptance or rejection by party members, and ultimately subjecting the results to electors in the 2000 federal election.”

This time, he confessed, “my failure to strongly recommend a similar process to the Wildrose caucus was a mistake on my part. It was a disservice to those who sought my counsel and to those who have placed their trust in my commitment to democracy — a mistake for which I now sincerely apologize to all concerned.”

All I can make of this is that the harshly negative reaction by ordinary Albertans to the Wildrose-PC reunification surprised even the Godfather of the Canadian right.

Stealthy tuition increases raise some student fees by 56 per cent!

There’s nothing like quality public education and low post-secondary tuition to grease the skids down The Road to Serfdom, I guess. But you just can’t depend on the Great Unwashed to see what’s good for them, so Prentice waited until the Christmas holiday was almost upon us to stealthily slip out a press release announcing a series of “Campus Alberta market modifiers.”

In a case you were wondering, a “market modifier” in this context is what you call a tuition increase when you’ve promised not to increase tuition any more.

The tuition increases will affect more than 13,000 Alberta post-secondary students, and range from 6 per cent for some nursing programs to 71 per cent for agricultural programs at Olds College. Law school fees at the University of Calgary will jump 24 per cent to a program total of almost $41,000.

Merry Christmas, students!

And then there’s that poll …

Also yesterday, the Calgary Herald credulously reported a new public opinion poll that indicates support for Prentice and his PCs soaring, no matter how unhappy Albertans may be with the Wildrose shuffle.

Could be, but there’s lots to complain about with this poll by a Toronto outfit called Mainstreet Technologies, which claims to reveal 44 per cent of decided voters will support the PCs, 20 per cent the foundering Wildrose, 18 per cent the NDP, 14 per cent former PC Raj Sherman’s Liberals and 4 per cent for the normally undetectable Alberta Party.

The Herald excitedly pointed out the pollster got a recent poll of the Toronto mayoral election right. But it used a demon-dialler to call 3,128 people over the course of a few hours the Sunday night before Christmas. So if you ask me, this only suggests shut-ins are polling strongly for the Tories and surprisingly well for the NDP.

The Herald quotes a margin of error for the poll, something a pollsters’ trade organization, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association says should not be claimed for polls using “interactive voice response” robo-callers.

And finally a word about NDP Leader Rachel Notley

Let’s end with this thought: With the appointment of Forsyth as Wildrose leader yesterday, Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley is the only leader of an Alberta opposition party with seats in the Legislature who’s never been a Tory cabinet minister!

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

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...