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Apr 24 2012

A Wildrose by any other name…

DISCLAIMER: I am going to do my absolute best not to make fun of Alberta in this post.

Those of you who do not follow Canadian politics news closely may be unaware that the province of Alberta recently had a provincial election. Alberta has often been (somewhat unfairly, but not entirely) characterized as the Texas of Canada. It is rich in oil wealth, and has long held itself out as the victim of a campaign of neglect by central Canada. At least partially as a result of this, and the entrenched conservatism that seems to accompany life on a frontier, Alberta has long been to the political ‘right’ of most Canadian issues. Of course, now that we have a Prime Minister from Alberta who is to the political ‘right’ of most Canadian issues, it’s a confusing time to be Albertan. What does it mean to your long-standing identity as the middle child of the Canadian family when one of your own is calling the shots?

In the wake of this confusion sprung the Wildrose Party, a provincial party that is even further to the right than the Progressive Conservative Party that has run Alberta for the past 40 years. Yes, you read that right – Alberta has been represented by a single party for 40 years, and it is called the “Progressive Conservative” party – Americans, sorry for blowing your minds with our weirdo Canuck ways. The Wildrose Party, branding itself as the populist conservative alternative to the staid, Tory leanings of the PC party, made a strong bid to unseat the reigning PCs in this latest election. Up until recently, political observers (plus everyone with a sense of civic duty) were gnawing their fingernails at the prospect of the right flank of the right wing seizing control – it was a real possibility.

Then… the wheels kind of came off:

Dr. Ron Leech, who was a senior leader of a Calgary church for 30 years — a congregation of over 500 members representing over 47 nations of the world, is a Wildrose candidate for Calgary-Greenway. Leech was recorded saying during an interview with Fairchild Radio in Calgary on Sunday: “I think as a Caucasian I have an advantage. When different community leaders such as a Sikh leader or a Muslim leader speaks they really speak to their own people in many ways. As a Caucasian I believe that I can speak to all the community.”

An animated gif of Tracey Morgan saying "no" repeatedly

So there’s a lot to unpack here, and I’ll give it my best shot.

First, I’ll address what I think Mr. Leech* meant when he said that, as a white guy, he had an advantage over someone who owes allegiance to a specific minority community. After all, it is an incontrovertible fact that Alberta is majority white - stating this is neither controversial nor is it particularly offensive. If eighty percent of Albertans are white, then a white politician does speak to their issues with more visceral, organic experience than a non-white person. By not speaking to the issues of any one particular minority group, Mr. Leech can indeed express the generic concerns common to all Albertans.

The first problem is the monumental privilege blindness that Mr. Leech’s comments demonstrate. Yes, Mr. Leech, you may think you know what is important to “all the community”, but it is more likely that you will ignore issues that are not pertinent to white men – that is a basic (and common) outcome of privilege. Your view of what “all the community” looks like is coloured by the fact that you don’t have that same level of insight into their concerns. It is the same problem of a group of men empanelled to speak about women’s health issues. While you might have the best of intentions, there is simply no way you can expect your position to be representative of minority group concerns. It is simply not reasonable for Mr. Leech to assume that he has enough perspective to speak to issues that matter to “all the community”.

The other side of this coin is that the comment itself displays Mr. Leech’s profound ignorance and racially-tinged (I hesitate to use the word ‘racist’) view of Albertans. In his eyes, members of a minority community are the “other” – people who are hyphenated Albertans rather than ‘regular’ Albertans. They are less qualified to speak about the issues facing the general community because their perspective is forever mired in their own insular concerns. He would probably be shocked to learn that minority groups (of any kind, racial or otherwise), immersed as they are in the dominant culture, actually know a great deal about what “all the community” thinks and feels. Far more so than members of a majority group know about minority concerns. If anything, being white makes you less qualified, because you have to overcome your own privilege to understand the issues facing people of colour (PoC). Certainly being completely incurious about your own racial privilege makes you a poor candidate.

So Leech made a stupid comment. He apologized, and was ready to move on. After all, he was otherwise a good guy, right?

Leech wrote an editorial in the Calgary Herald in 2004 entitled Marriage a union between one man, one woman, which argued against same-sex marriage. He said redefining marriage “says children don’t deserve both parents, and it will further demoralize their own efforts to become parents themselves.” “It is biblically, morally and practically reprehensible for the government to pretend that two men or two women engaged in mutual stimulation are the same as husband and wife, as potential parents,” he wrote. “Marriage is not about equal rights; it isn’t a special-interest group. It is a repository for the future of humanity.”

Ah, right. Because the government is supposed to be in the business of legislating morality based on the Bible. Nice job, Leech.

So the question becomes whether or not Mr. Leech’s comments, and the beliefs they reflect, are a good barometer of what “all the community” in Alberta believes. After all, in Texas it is actually de rigeur for politicians to invoke Biblical nonsense and get into racial hot water. If Alberta truly is the Texas of Canada, those comments should have only helped:

Monday’s election result caught many off guard, but observers say issues like questionable polling and strategic voting, as well as concerns about social conservatism and controversial statements from Wildrose candidates, help explain the 61-seat PC majority.

“Fear won out over anger,” Paul McLoughlin, who writes the Alberta Scan newsletter, told the CBC radio show Calgary Eyeopener Tuesday morning, referring to “bozo eruptions” from two Wildrose candidates as well as Smith’s waffling on the reasons for climate change.

Waah waaaaah.

So, Alberta, I guess the numbers belie the stereotype: the truth about your similarities to Texas is much more complicated than that lazy comparison would allow. After all, you are still Canadians, and despite our quirkiness there is far more than unites us than divides us. Now if only you could vote in a Liberal government!

And to Mr. Leech?

The Negro Community frowns on your shennanigans

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*I love Dickens characters

29 comments

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  1. 1
    Pteryxx

    lawl! Thank you for the image-alt captions! I might not’ve snickered so hard at the actual images.

  2. 2
    Dave, ex-Kwisatz Haderach

    Well I did try. Unfortunately the Liberal candidate only got 8.6% of the vote in my riding. Maybe I should move.

  3. 3
    Anthony K

    DISCLAIMER: I am going to do my absolute best not to make fun of Alberta in this post.

    Oh, go ahead. You know that feeling you get when you step off the curb just in time to see some lead-footed fool texting with one hand and steering for you with the other, and you jump back just far enough to only lose a button to their sideview mirror? That kind of nervous, twitchy euphoria that comes when you realise how close you came to cashing it all in?

    Collectively, the Alberta that visits internet sites other than freedominion feels like that right now. We won’t even notice.

    To be fair, we shouldn’t lay all the blame for the Wild Rose’s defeat at the feet of Mr. Leech. Pastor Allan “Gays will suffer the rest of eternity in a lake of fire” Hunsperger did his part for the other team as well..

  4. 4
    Tabby Lavalamp

    I never thought I’d look at the election of yet another Tory majority and think it could have been worse.

    Two positive things – Alison Redford seems to want to put the “Progressive” back into “Progressive Conservative” (though watching the leader of a party that’s been in power for OVER FOUR DECADES talk on and on about bringing “change” has been outright surreal).
    And Alberta has our FIRST ELECTED FEMALE PREMIERE! WhoooooooooO! Sure, she may be a Tory, but history has been made!

  5. 5
    Snowshoe the Canuck

    Pasteurized Allan was the teabag candidate in my riding. He honestly thought that his comments were personal and would in no way affect his ability to represent all his constituents. Wrong again moon!
    The lake of fire is frozen over.

  6. 6
    starspider

    For living in Seattle and being so close to the border, I have to admit that I find the complexities and little niceties of Canadian politics deeply confusing.

    You know the stuff I’m talking about.

    Seattlites largely view our northern neighbor country as the extremely-polite upstairs neighbor who doesn’t raise a fuss when we’re having a party at 2AM on a weeknight but who can’t come down to play because of some perfectly reasonable social or professional restriction. The neighbor who doesn’t call the cops, lets you borrow some ice and really appreciates the beer brought upstairs as a thank you gift, who has weird family members you just don’t get.

    That guy? That’s Canada. Nice guy. We should introduce him to our sister.

    That being said, we want to understand, but every time you say the word Tory, I start thinking about Mythbusters and wonder if I can stream it on my phone.

    Mmm. Explosions.

  7. 7
    Sercee

    “I never thought I’d look at the election of yet another Tory majority and think it could have been worse.” I typed those exact words on facebook last night after the blue line crossed the “majority” point on the results. I’d never been so happy to see so much blue in Alberta.

    I’ve been watching Alison Redford since she took over from Ed. You’re right, she does seem like she’s willing to do things a little different (the order to make a useless committee pay back the government, for example, was good) and she’s broken into the Ol’ Boys Club. So, while I think this election was only a gross parody of democracy – how much of that blue was voted in “strategically” rather than because people voted for the candidate they wanted? – I am willing to give her a shot.

  8. 8
    timgueguen

    I was hoping one of the Canadian FTB crew would discuss the election.

    Last night I tuned into the talk radio station in Edmonton for a bit online. They had Dave Rutherford, right wing talk radio loudmouth from QR77 in Calgary, doing election coverage. Poor Dave was just about whining about the results, and used the “you voted out of fear” line to explain why Albertans didn’t go Wildrose. He also refered to the Liberal Party multiple times as Libs. No doubt he’ll spend the next few weeks yammering about the “liberal media” ruining Wildrose’s chances with “fearmongering,” even though he’s heard Monday to Friday on a major radio station.

  9. 9
    Crommunist

    The demonization of the Liberal party in 2012 strikes me as incredibly odd. Particularly in Alberta, when they won only 4 of nearly 90 seats. One would think that an organization powerful enough to control the entire media would be able to wrangle themselves a few more votes.

  10. 10
    Setar, too lazy to log in on his blackberry

    So, while I think this election was only a gross parody of democracy – how much of that blue was voted in “strategically” rather than because people voted for the candidate they wanted?

    This argument is poorly framed. The “parody of democracy” is the first-past-the-post system that makes strategic voting necessary in order to prevent victory by divided opposition, not the use of strategic voting itself.

    The mere existence of “strategic voting” should be treated like a blaring red alert indicating a fundamentally broken electoral system. The only consolation is that at least we’re not like the US where parties only need to campaign in specific states or areas to shift power because most of the country has effectively made up their mind already.

  11. 11
    evilDoug

    I was quite giddy after I finally mustered the courage to check the election results this morning. Like others, I never thought I would be glad to see the PCs win.
    I am pleased that Rutherford is having another hissy fit (number 386902). He is one of the biggest assholes in this city. I’m sure all the shitheads at the Sun are equally unhappy. Good. Very good.

    As for the very small number of Liberals & NDP elected – Many in the paid mouth trades are calling this the result of “strategic voting”, meaning voting for the conservatives to block the WackoRows bunch from being elected. I almost went that way myself. If there had been an option on the ballot for “subtract my vote from those for wildrose”, I would have used it). Rutherford et al may call it voting out of fear. I call it voting out of the sure and certain knowledge, based on evidence accumulated, that the Wild Rose bunch would complete the destruction of the province that the assholy Mr. Klein (ptooey) started. I suspect that the polls that predicted a big win for WR actually contributed significantly to this sort of voting.

    ~~~
    I don’t know what has become of Lindsay Blackett.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lindsay_Blackett
    He was my MLA prior to the redrawing of ridings this year. He was behind an attempt to kiss religious ass with some bills a couple of years ago, claiming it was supported by “the community” but refusing to say who that community actually was.

  12. 12
    sithrazer

    I have a friend in Alberta who is a political activist and volunteers for the Liberal party (doing campaign work and such), and from what I understand from him is that if the Liberal party had lost just one more seat they would lose their recognition as a formal political party.

    Must be spending too much time micromanaging the media to actually run for office. /sarcasm

  13. 13
    kraut

    “The demonization of the Liberal party in 2012 strikes me as incredibly odd.”

    Young man, you are forgetting your history. Remember 1979…and the “National Energy Policy” by the Liberal Party under Trudeau?
    Ever since the Liberal Party in Alberta was persona non grata, and Alberta has the hate for any Liberal Politician
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Energy_Program

    I was a resident of Alberta at the time between 1979 – 80, and you cannot imagine the hatred that the ordinary Albertan showed against Trudeau and his party.

    If you have forgotten that part of Canadian history or did not experience it yourself – no wonder you do not understand.

  14. 14
    tim rowledge, Ersatz Haderach

    Well I moved north of the Sanity Line in 2004 (following 13 years in the code-mines of silicon valley and before that growing up in UK) and was shocked to find a party called ‘Liberal’ that seemed to me to be far right.
    Here on Vancouver Island it is commonly observed that Albertans are a really odd lot. They move here – to the middle of a rain forest, on mountainous territory – and when they buy a plot of land the first thing they do is remove all the trees and bring in excavators to level the hillside. And they they spend all their time complaining that BC isn’t like Alberta…

  15. 15
    Utakata

    I think Trudeau did what the rest of Canada wanted to do to Alberta then and now. That is, give them the finger. And he literally did. O.o

  16. 16
    left0ver1under

    For the Americans reading, Trudeau’s visit to Alberta and the NEP led to two memorable and funny moments in Canadian political history:

    The Trudeau Salute, as it has come to be known.

    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Trudeau%20salute

    And a popular bumper sticker of the time, possibly spoken by an Alberta politician:

    “Let the eastern bastards freeze in the dark”

  17. 17
    kraut

    “party called ‘Liberal’”

    The BC “Liberal” party at present has more in common with the Harper PC than the federal Liberal Party, which in turn has more in common with the Blair Labour party.

    I like Canadian politics to some extend, although I despise the voting system.
    Where else is it possible that a party with a former majority gets reduced to 2 seats in the Parliament?

  18. 18
    Crommunist

    I am aware of that period (despite not living through it), but it still doesn’t make sense to have a serious hate on for a party that barely exists and has no real political influence.

  19. 19
    Charles Sullivan

    This kind of reminds me of the now extinct Reform party. Weren’t they a spawn of Alberta, and didn’t they represent Alberta after the 1993 federal election?

  20. 20
    kraut

    The demonization of the Liberals in Alberta is a tool to keep them out as a contender.

    I think the latest result however shows that even in Alberta progressive thought is to some extent desired and will find a place within the PC.
    In my experience Albertans in the majority are fiscally conservative and in general like to keep their noses out of their neighbours business, unlike the republican attitude in the US.
    I remember having lived there as as budding immigrant, the neighbours were always helpful but discreet, not trying to “enforce” a Canadian lifestyle (whatever that might be)on us..they took my ignorance of hockey and baseball very well…
    There are some religious hotbeds – Camrose I think is one of them, but their influence is not as pervasive as might be expected.
    Calgary and Edmonton are much more open to new ideas…and especially anything that can turn a buck.

  21. 21
    kraut

    The Reform party spawned the Alliance party becoming the official opposition after the PC’s devastating defeat in 1993, which then formed eventually the Conservative Party with remnants of the PC, replacing unfortunately the once respectable PC of Canada.
    The present Conservative Party is more a continuation of the ex Reform Party and its fiscal and socially conservative (influenced in part by fundamentalist Christian “thought”) policies, Preston Manning’s child, than a conservative party represented by the likes of Diefenbaker, Dalton Camp, Robert Stanfield, Joe Clark or even a Brian Mulroney, who wasn’t all bad…

  22. 22
    Interrobang

    Brian Mulroney wasn’t all bad? o_O Did you, um, miss the ’80s or something?

    I can’t think of a single thing about Mulroney that wasn’t bad, except his losing his very own seat in that last election, when the Tories got turned into little blue landing lights.

    My view on the whole NEP thing, as someone who left Alberta in 1979, albeit as a child, is that Alberta basically turned into a massive bunch of FYIGM idiots as soon as they discovered oil, which deserved a finger or two from the rest of Canada, since we’d basically been keeping them alive since the Depression. Newfoundland codfish and Ontario apples, ya bastards.

  23. 23
    kraut

    Mulroney endorsed the boycott against the South African Apartheid regime in opposition to the UK and US government, he implemented the GST, which is much more rational than the previous manufacturers tax on goods that were hidden throughout the manufacturing process, he started the aid process in Ethiopia, under his leadership Canada opposed the US intervention in Nicaragua, and accepted refugees from El Salvador and Guatemala, whose dictatorships were supported by Reagan.

    He also managed to have a treaty signed on acid rain, and imposed a moratorium to stop the destruction of cod stocks by Newfoundland fishers. Canada also was first among industrialized nations to ratify both the biodiversity convention and the climate change convention agreed to at the UN Conference on the Environment

    He also pushed Canada to ratify conventions on biodiversity and climate change.
    He also tried but failed to include Quebec into the constitutional fold of Canada – e for effort.
    I have not much sympathy for the man, his behaviour in the Schreiber affair, his pushing through the Free Trade agreement despite opposition of almost 80% of Canadian – although I still think it in the end made more sense than not agreeing to an agreement that almost removed all duties on imports from the US.

    I think it is dishonest to just harp on the negatives alone. And judged under the historical perspective instead of the daily political grind – I maintain he was not all bad.

  24. 24
    Mark Fournier

    Take all the shots on Alberta that you like. They have been afflicted with the worst of all political, social, and economic poisons: oil.

    Consider all of the places that have oil: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Russia, Venezuela, Texas, and Alberta. They all have bizarre ideas on how the world works because they are protected from reality through the sheer accident of winning the geological lottery; they have money pouring out of the ground where they live. They did nothing to earn this, it just happened, and in many cases other people came in and found it, dug it up, tapped it, and built the delivery system, but to hear them rave, it’s clear that they believe that they are the Chosen of God. In some cases, quite literally.

    You see, oil men are prospectors, and prospectors are gamblers, and if there’s one thing worse than a gambler, it’s a successful gambler, because a successful gambler thinks he has a system. He thinks he’s got it all figured out. And he thinks that if other people copy his system, they’ll get rich too, so they have no reason to complain. Only they’ve forgotten that most of us don’t have a money well in our back yard. Well, too bad. If we’re affected be economic downturns, that’s our fault. Maybe we just don’t pray hard enough, or work hard enough, or drill deep enough. Or maybe you just don’t live in Alberta. Whatever it is, it’s your fault.

    But don’t expect them to share their money. They won the lottery. And they’re keeping it.

    (I just realized that I’ve written a Rick Mercer Rant. Try reading this with his voice.)

  25. 25
    Crommunist

    Now I can’t NOT hear it in his voice. Spot on.

  26. 26
    Ian

    Technically a party needs 4 seats in Alberta to qualify for official status, but an exception was made first for the NDP in the last election when they only got 2 seats, and then I believe also for the Wildrose when they got 3 floor crossers and won a byelection.

  27. 27
    Ian

    Rutherford is an atheist and has done quite a bit to support Centre for Inquiry Calgary. Unfortunately, like far too many atheists in Alberta, he’s also a libertarian.

  28. 28
    Ian

    Norway has oil and they’ve done it right. With somewhere between half and a full trillion dollars in the bank, their country lives off interest and invests heavily in its social safety net.

  29. 29
    Ian

    I clearly haven’t been blogging enough recently. Regardless, here’s my thoughts on the Alberta political situation:

    Redford is a red-Tory. Once thought extinct, this political species truly represents the “Progressive Conservative” brand. Socially liberal but fiscally conservative, these politicians have no desire to restrict human rights, while also want to keep deficits small and let business operate more freely. Redford won her party’s leadership by promising to support teachers and doctors.

    Danielle Smith is a pure libertarian, direct from the Fraser Institute, and seems to legitimately have no interest in legislating along morality. Unfortunately for her, her party comes from a combination of fringe far-right parties (Wildrose and the Alberta Alliance) which sought to push these socially regressive policies. Smith, believing that free speech means speech should have no consequences, refused to distance herself or her party from the racist and homophobic views that were all too common in a slate of fringe nutcases, and consequently her party was trounced in the city that recently elected a brown Muslim university professor as mayor and in the other city that has a popular Jewish mayor.

    The Liberal Party of Alberta is cursed by their name, despite being entirely independent from their federal cousins who forever tarnished the big red brand in Alberta. Their leader, Raj Sherman, is a former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister, who was kicked (or quit, I forget) from caucus for openly criticizing the government over its handling of health care. He joined and then became the leader of the Liberals, but failed to make a break through. Many thought with a PC leader that the Liberals would curve right and attempt to bleed soft PC support from the left while the Wildrose tore in from the right. Instead, he released a platform to the left of the NDP, promising new taxes on the rich (Alberta currently has a flat income tax) and free university tuition.

    The NDP doubled its caucus and nearly won in Lethbridge with a popular local candidate. Its leader, Brian Mason, was the only veteran leader, but he has yet to break through in quite the way that Jack Layton did for the federal NDP. They almost sadly consider getting 11% of the vote and 4 seats to be a rousing success.

    Finally, the Alberta Party started basically through Twitter and Web 2.0 fads, focussed on “doing politics differently”, nominated and targeted only a few ridings, and failed to even make a dent in any. The Alberta Greens were de-registered after the previous election for failing to file their paperwork, and their former leader was just elected as a Wildrose MLA (basically the Greens were really big on property rights which aligned with the Wildrose). In place of the Greens was the EverGreen Party that failed to even register on the radar (can anyone name their leader?).

    Party loyalty and tribalism being what they are, there is little to no chance that the Liberals, NDP, and other left or centre alternatives will make efforts to cooperate or merge. Therefore, under first-past-the-post, these parties will continue to split the vote in many ridings and the best hope for progressive policies in Alberta in this election was in many of the PC candidates.

  1. 30
    State of Albertan Politics | Terahertz

    [...] State of Albertan Politics Having just got back from vacation (we visited the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida), it’s time to get a bit more back into blogging. I posted the following as an extended comment for Crommunist who recently discussed the Alberta election. [...]

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