Rick Bell

It’s not their fault. It’s our fault.

It’s not Jim Prentice’s fault. It’s your fault.

Have you got that, fellow Albertans?

You caused this crazy reliance on yo-yo oil prices and insistence on public services. You! It’s what you said you wanted.

Well, now you’re going to have to take responsibility or face the consequences. Maybe both!

I’m not making this up. That was the message yesterday from Prentice Election 2015 Campaign Headquarters in Houston, Texas.

OK, I did make up the bit about the campaign headquarters being in the Lone Star State. Leastways, the front office and the mailing address will probably be in Calgary, unofficial capital of the Lone Tar Province.

The official story is that the premier was in Houston to reassure U.S. oil industry big shots everything is under control back in Alberta, which shouldn’t necessarily reassure you if you happen to live here, if you know what I mean.

The message to citizens may be “Panic! Now!” But the message to the corporate titans south of the Uninsured Medicine Line is, “Stay calm. We have everything under control. It’ll all work out the way you want it to.”

If you think about it, both could be true. If you’re a mere taxpaying citizen, that should worry you.

Anyway, we’re sure to hear the same thing over and over as we approach the early provincial election designed to ensure at least four or five more years of strong, capable, united, stable Progressive Conservative government under Prentice’s steady, guiding hands.

As is well known, the conservative frame on crime, poverty, use of health-care resources and almost all of the things that a civilized society provides for its citizens is that individuals need to “take responsibility” for the consequences of their own actions.

Yesterday morning, though, listening to the audio feed from Houston of Premier Prentice’s teleconference with the Alberta media, it was quite clear that neither Prentice nor his PC Party have any intention of applying that yardstick to their own activities.

Just for starters, Prentice explained in response to a sharply worded query from Calgary Sun columnist Rick Bell: “I didn’t create this circumstance. I inherited it.”

He didn’t elaborate on whether he inherited it from Alison Redford, the Bitumen Bubble Lady, from Ralph Klein and Ed Stelmach, or from fate, karma and kismet. Or from Suspect No. 1: Us. Maybe a combination.

Regardless, Bell responded by making the point that Tories are being accused of creating the circumstances themselves by doing a lousy job of managing Alberta’s economy and resources even when times were good. “That’s also part of the reason there is a hole now,” the columnist explained helpfully to the premier.

Prentice replied: “I’ve been the premier of Alberta for approximately 120 days. And I’m doing the best I can. I wasn’t in the Alberta government before and I have inherited the circumstances we’re in and I intend to deal with it.”

He also said: “We’re all in this together. We got into this collectively as Albertans. We’re going to get out of it together.”

I don’t know about you, but to me, not a single part of the preceding sentence was very reassuring.

Indeed, it’s enough to make one want to dig out an old “Don’t Blame Me, I Voted NDP!” bumper sticker from back when I was growing up in Social Credit British Columbia.

But then, I suppose, some bright spark Alberta PC Party’s Twitter Strike Force would Tweet: “It would have been even worse then!” And in the absence of a map of an alternative universe, with only logic and facts to guide us, who could argue with that?

Prentice also said from sunny Houston that “this is difficult for every single one of us.”

Judging from the tone of his commentary, though, it’s going to be considerably more difficult for some of us than others, and the ones being punished won’t necessarily be the ones who committed the sins.

But then, whoever said the universe was fair — or should be? Certainly not a Conservative when the tide is running his way!

We don’t come in to this province in an automatic state of grace. We have all sinned and come short of the glory of the market, as I’m sure PC patron saint Preston Manning, chief unifier of the One True Market Fundamentalist Faith, would concur.

We’re just going to have to repent and admit that this whole mess is our fault.

Only then can we be redeemed … by 40 more years of Tory government.

Thus endeth the lesson.

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

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...