I don’t know about you, but a lot of Albertans are surely going to have trouble sleeping tonight when they realize their province is no longer rat free. Presumably a sales tax could be next!

This has been a lousy couple of summer weeks for Premier Alison Redford’s government, what with all the health executive pension plans and whatnot becoming public, but this rat report has got to be the topper. Well, look at the bright side: it’s a break from a steady drumbeat of health-care disasters — at least until someone asks Alberta Health Services if we have a Plague Plan!

After all, we’ve prided ourselves for a lot of years on the fact the only rats welcome in this province are, as former premier Ed Stelmach might have put it, the two-legged variety found in the vicinity of the provincial Legislature.

Stelmach, musing back in February 2011 about certain politicians who played a role in his decision to quit public life in disgust, observed that there are two things Albertans can be proud of: “We don’t have any four-legged rats and we don’t have a sales tax.” (Ted Morton! C’mon down!)

Now we’re down to only one such point of pride. (That’d be the sales tax, naturally, which we still don’t have. But how much longer can we stave that off if the price of non-Norwegian oil continues to languish below a hundred petro-loonies a barrel?)

As for the rats, Agriculture Minister Verlyn Olson told a news conference yesterday that 19 of ’em were discovered on Aug. 9 huddled down in — what else — a rat hole in a dump near Medicine Hat, which is also home to a lot of venomous snakes and has all hell for a basement, the location for which it serves as the trap door, but never mind any of that just now.

No word on whether any of these four-legged rats had a gold-plated Kalashnikov given to it by a certified Enemy of Alberta — you know, like the premier of British Columbia — but Olson (who is a guy, notwithstanding being named Verlyn by his mom and pop) said there may be more of them in the region and we’re going to have to send in special forces to root them out.

That may not be so easy, because we’re not just talking kangaroo rats (which, dirty little secret, have been living here for years). Nope, these invaders are, wait for it, Norwegian rats!

This is bad, really bad. First the Norwegians embarrass our fine Progressive Conservative government by charging embarrassingly high royalties for their oil, and then not just pissing the proceeds away on pricey buyouts for health care executives who move to other provinces like we do here in Alberta, but actually using it to fund social programs and putting the rest of it in a savings account. And their oil costs a fortune compared with ours — what’s with that?

Now their rats start turning up in significant numbers just inside our eastern frontier. And you think this is a coincidence? Surely not!

My advice? Well, first thing, just stay the heck from strangers with a funny accents offering you tasty Kjøttboller — which even the Wikipedia admits is “a rougher version of the Swedish meatballs” — without a contents label.

Traps and digital cameras with infrared spotlights have been set up around the dump, we were assured by Olsen, who is the MLA for Wetaskiwin-Camrose. (What were his parents thinking?) Meanwhile, we await the Wildrose press release weighing in with demands that we purchase Predator drones with little rodent-sized Ratfire missiles.

Over at the Ethical Oil Institute, I think you can rest assured they’ll be looking into the Rattus norvegicus-Christy Clark-Norwegian Brent Crude nexus.

Royalty-demanding rats to the east of us! Pipeline-hating revolutionaries to the west of us! Guilty looking former health care executives walking around among us! It’s just not easy being an Alberta Conservative these days.

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...