A Warning to Albertans: Prepare Yourselves for the Identity Politics Onslaught

By Josh Lieblein

Nothing shatters the relative calm of Canadian discourse so completely as a full-throated Albertan cry for redress against the perfidious East.

When Ryan Rados raked my home province of Ontario over the coals in his justifiably harsh missive, I felt the burn.

I can’t argue with Ryan’s characterization of our out-of-control debt or how we seem wedded to the same old disastrous progressive ideas–though I did try.

I confess that my first instinct was to do what all Ontario conservatives do when called out by a Western Canadian and invoke the example of Mike Harris and his efforts to get spending under control.

But I was forced to check that impulse. Truth be told, except for a $3.1 billion drop in the bucket (and I realize how insane it is to call it that) when Highway 407 was sold to a Spanish multinational, the debt continued to balloon under the Harris PCs, though arguably not as quickly.

No, there’s no getting around it. Unlike Ontario, debt is about as welcome in Alberta as pumpkin-spice flavoured crude oil. Rachel Notley will learn this the hard way come 2019 when she’s deposed by Jason Kenney.

And while I’d love to believe that, I’m not so sure.

You see, Ryan, an addiction needs enablers and, most importantly, a belief that things will get worse if the addiction stops.

While I may be three provinces away, it seems to me that Notley is as good, if not better, than Trudeau and Wynne at scaring her unfortunate constituents into staying hooked on debt. Specifically, she knows how much Albertans hate to be stereotyped as bigoted rednecks… and she knows how to play on that insecurity to get her way.

Ryan even betrays a hint of this in his own piece when he says, “The bitterness that we have toward the East right now isn’t irrational or based on any kind of bigotry.”

Look, I’m in no place to judge. Ontarians are possibly the most reputation-conscious folks on the planet. Why, just a month or so ago it was alleged–ALLEGED–that over-concern for the Ontario Liberal Party’s “rep” was the motive for the deletion of emails in the gas plant scandal.

But I’m old enough to remember when the federal Conservative leadership race was rocked by chants of “Lock Her Up!” directed at Premier Notley herself at an anti-carbon tax protest outside the Alberta provincial legislature.

And I was interested to see how Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi was re-elected to a third term despite having accumulated quite a bit of baggage–but not before he played the race card, of course.

Then there was that abrupt implosion of the Wild Rose Party in 2012–all because, we were told, of a single blog post where a WRP candidate said gay people were going to burn in an actual lake of fire.

Ontario conservatives live in fear of such unreconstructed stupidity taking over the news cycle to the point where they elect ciphers like Patrick Brown to lead.

Not that it’s doing any good, mind you. Because now the Liberals have managed to take what might have been a slip of the tongue by Brown–to the effect that Kathleen Wynne was on trial when she wasn’t–and torqued it into a narrative in which this represents a Trumpian disregard for the facts.

Laughable? Kind of. But then again, these are the same people who convinced Ontarians that the aggressively bland John Tory was a secret radical because he unwisely green-lighted a plan to fund faith based schools. So I don’t take Kathleen Wynne’s desperation moves lightly, even if Patrick Brown and his team do.

For his sake, then, I hope that the first United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney has figured out some way to keep the discussion on the subject of Alberta’s finances when–not if–his comments about gay-straight alliances come up.

And I’d especially hate to see Albertan conservatives become like their Ontario cousins, refusing to touch anything controversial for fear they’ll get steamrolled.

Because if they do somehow lose to Notley… who will be left to tell Ontarians how badly we’re screwing up?


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