Rick Strankman

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A sensible person could easily reach the conclusion a carbon levy is a good thing that will benefit society or a bad thing that won’t. There’s room for a lively discussion about these differing propositions.

But how does a sensible person come to the conclusion a modest new tax is the equivalent to killing six to 10 million people?

Hint: a sensible person doesn’t. But even a nut still in possession of an ounce or two of sense would say nothing about such thoughts aloud, no matter what he privately believed.

So we really have to wonder the nine Wildrose MLAs whose shared blog post that compared the NDP’s carbon levy, as it is officially known, to the death by starvation of six to 10 million people in Ukraine in the 1930s under the rule of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

On the most obvious level, the thought expressed in a blog post used by Wildrose MLAs Rick Strankman, Grant Hunter, Dave Schneider, Wes Taylor, Ron Orr, Mark Smith, Dave Hanson, Don MacIntyre and Drew Barnes was bizarre, and in excruciatingly bad taste. It also may be what many members of the Wildrose Party nowadays actually think is keeping things in the proper perspective!

Unsurprisingly, given the zeitgeist of the digital moment, this immediately stirred up a blazing social media controversy in Alberta when it was discovered on Friday.

NDP Economic Development Minister Deron Bilous, who is of Ukrainian descent, demanded an apology. The tone of his social media commentary suggests he was he was genuinely steamed. In a Tweet to Wildrose Leader Brian Jean, who must feel like hiding under the bed to get away from his caucus, Bilous called on the Wildrose leader to denounce the blog.

Eventually, the CBC reported, the offending comments disappeared, although not before the traditional screen shots had been taken, and the nutty nine issued a reasonably grovelling apology.

So, unless Jean unconstitutionally suspends the lot of them and inflames the Wildrose base for the second time in a week, that’s probably the end of it … for now.

As observers of Alberta politics with long memories have already pointed out, though, this isn’t the first time Wildrose MLAs have come up with this kind of foolishness. Indeed, as former Progressive Conservative Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk noted last evening — also in a Tweet, of course — this particular comparison is kind of a habit with the Wildrose Party.

Back in late 2011, Wildrose MLA and former Leader Paul Hinman was comparing the Progressive Conservatives’ Land Use and Assembly Act to, wait for it … the very same Stalinist land collectivization policy. The debate was entertainingly chronicled by Edmonton Journal columnist Paula Simon.

So, it’s fair to ask, what’s with this, anyway? Oddly enough, also today, New York Times economics columnist Paul Krugman published a column that goes a ways to answering this question. He was commenting on the bizarre extremes that anger takes among a certain class of Republican males who live amidst the diverse population of our great neighbour to the south.

Republican (and presumably Wildrose) fury at things like climate change science and fair taxes can be partly explained by the economic interests of the angry men themselves, Krugman observes, “but I’ve always had the sense that there was a third factor, which is basically psychological.”

“There are some men — it’s almost always men — who become enraged at any suggestion that they must give up something they want for the common good,” Krugman explains.

And that gives rise to such things as Donald Trump — nowadays described as the presumptive Republican candidate for president, although we hate to presume that about our neighbours — becoming enraged with anti-pollution legislation because restrictions on chemicals that harm the earth’s ozone layer made his hairspray let his famous follicles flop prematurely!

“No doubt Donald Trump hates environmental protection in part for the usual reasons,” wrote Dr. Krugman. “But there’s an extra layer of venom to his pro-pollution stances that is both personal and mind-bogglingly petty.”

It’s said here that the same kind of personal pettiness must drive Wildrosers like Strankman, the MLA for Drumheller-Stettler and his party’s agriculture critic, and Hinman, who nowadays is hoping to take his peculiar brand of Wildrose wisdom to Ottawa, to compare benign policies they don’t like to those that caused the deaths of several million people.

Strankman, by the way, in 2002 violated the Customs Act in a stunt to protest the Canadian Wheat Board and spent a few days in jail as a result. He was later pardoned by Stephen Harper, who as prime minister also dismantled the CWB. Nowadays Strankman describes the Wheat Board as an example of “anti-capitalist and anti-property rights thinking.” This is also a bit of a stretch, though admittedly not quite as much of one as calling the carbon levy murder!

To be fair, the nine MLAs behind this latest social media tempest probably comprise the fruitcake fringe of the Wildrose caucus. But that’s not really very reassuring when you realize that group makes up 41 per cent of that august body, without even counting Derek Fildebrandt!

Just not ready, you say? No kidding! Really, the Wildrose Party needs to change more than its name. It needs to change its mind! And we all know how likely that is.

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

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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...