The Progressive Conservatives Prepare for War–Really!

“Our organization cannot lose the grassroots donation battle to our opposition if we hope to win the war in 2016.”—Ron Renaud, PC Chief Financial Officer

Win the war in 2016??? 

The “war” metaphor

Before we get sucked into the “war” metaphor let’s pause and consider what George Orwell taught us—thought can corrupt language and language can corrupt thought.* Orwell warns that the invasion of one’s mind by ready-made phrases (battle, war) anaesthetizes one’s brain, but it can be prevented if one remains vigilant.

George Orwell

He suggests we start with the dictionary.  What does “war” mean?  Ah yes, here it is.  The Oxford dictionary defines “war” as “a state of armed conflict between different countries or different groups within a country”. 

Armed conflict between different groups within a country…?  What bright light at PC party headquarters imagined, even for a nanosecond, that the best way to squeeze a few donation dollars out of the party faithful was to characterize the 2016 election as an act of insurrection?

But having raised the spectre of sedition, let’s follow it to its logical conclusion.

The enemy

The PCs can’t mount a war without targeting an enemy.  Who would that be?

Mr Renaud refers to losing the battle to “our opposition”.  Assuming he’s targeting the 50% of eligible voters actually bothered to vote in the last election, the “enemy” would be the 34% of voters who voted for the Wildrose or the 56% of voters who voted against the PCs by voting for the Wildrose, the Liberals, the NDP, the Alberta Party or the Evergreens.

Applying the war metaphor, the message is clear.  If you’re not with us, you’re with the enemy.  Given the PCs tendency to reward their friends and punish their enemies, this is a powerful warning indeed.

The battle for the grassroots

The PCs have a funding problem.  Their deep-pocket corporate donors are wobbling.  Corporate Alberta is worried about Ms Redford’s willingness to take on debt, and it (like the Auditor General) is not convinced that Mr Horner’s new budget model is anything more than smoke and mirrors.

Danielle Smith & Rob Anderson

So Corporate Alberta is doing what it always does in times of uncertainty.  It’s hedging its bets by contributing to the Wildrose party.

This gives the Wildrose an advantage because it already has solid grassroots support (over 75% of Wildrose contributions come from individual donors) and is well ahead in the fund raising race.

No wonder the PC party is resorting to the war metaphor…a scared dog is an aggressive dog.

Will the PCs succeed in capturing the grassroots?

The grassroots is a broad based group with diverse interests…whether the PCs manage to persuade them to fund a steady stream of donations will depend on convincing them of two things:  (1) their mantra: “promise made, promise kept” is true and (2) the devil you know is better than the devil incarnate (the Wildrose).

Which brings us back to George Orwell.

Political doublespeak

Orwell says: Political language…is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.  One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one’s own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase…into the dustbin where it belongs.*  

The fact that the PC party’s CFO resorted to the war metaphor so early in the game signals the desperation of a flagging party trying to hold on to power at all costs.

Rude Raspberry

Albertans need to listen to the political rhetoric, identify misleading “political language” and jeer loudly so that it and the PC party are relegated to the dustbin where they belong.

I’ll start:  Here’s a giant raspberry to Mr Renaud and the PCs for sending a message of fear and discord to the party faithful.

This is Alberta for heaven’s sake, not America on the brink of the Civil War!

*Politics and the English Language, Horizon, April 1946. 

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19 Responses to The Progressive Conservatives Prepare for War–Really!

  1. Midge says:

    As ever, you’ve read my mind and put what I’m thinking into your intelligent, thoughtful and brilliant writing! Thank you!
    My province is NOT their war zone!!!

    • Exactly Midge. Treating an election as war is so over the top it makes my head spin. Albertans deserve a government driven by vision and hope, not one that’s reactionary, negative and cynical.

  2. david swann says:

    If the Tories think a war image will help ‘rally the troops’ despite default on their commitments to save from our non-renewable resource wealth, protect the environment, address growing social inequity, and live within our means they affront their own past supporters.
    And they add to the growing public sense that politics sucks, alienating people from our most crucial role as citizens.
    Most Conservatives I know do not support this juvenile propaganda and will be even less likely to support these Tories in 2016…

    • David, propaganda is a good way to describe it. Charles Derber says that propaganda emerges at times of economic and social insecurity and is most effective when it connects to long standing cultural values. Albertans pride themselves on their willingness to work hard and get ‘er done. If after all their efforts they fail to achieve economic and social security because the PCs have depleted the Heritage Fund, destroyed the social safety net and damaged our environment, the only way the PCs will remain in power will be to create a false crisis outside the party in the hope that it will focus the voters’ attention away from the government’s failures.

    • The Tories are vastly mistaken on many platforms, but most critically with their disregard for the lives of our most vulnerable citizens. It is correct to remark that this group has effectively alienated itself from Community; particularly in its role within the PDD populace where public was right to be critical of its intent to alter service delivery knowing full-well, through historical action, that the move will further betray citizens. However, a most telling aspect of the PC government is the crude lack of responsive action towards the deaths of 145 children under its watch; cowardly trying to cloak issues while claiming victimization on its end as opposed to paying heed to the real victims: The CHILDREN. This is a heavy statement on Leaderships’ poor regard of our youth and with this, its true view of every single citizen. A Government which refuses to respond to difficult answers which require due diligence and honest empathetic strides to alter the course of future children is dooming not only itself, but failing its followers, dragging us each into an inescapable pit of hellish consequences. It is deeply shameful to witness shuffling of Cabinet to deter accountability, knowing full-well that efforts intend to misdirect the public’s memory while proclaiming a Round Table discussion 2 months following revelation is all that is necessary to correct failures. Ministry indicates that conditions have improved within the Child Welfare realm, a myth perpetuated long past and uttered repetitively by each Minister who has secured the role in Human Services. Still, the children continue to die and not only are they unnecessarily robbed of life, but also starved of identity under misleading publication bans to discount outward inspection of circumstances. Furthermore, the previously unaccounted for fatalities are minimized with declaration that the children died due to poor health while not disclosing that underlying conditions were preventable measures which could have salvaged lives… Caseworker, for instance, who failed to make a face to face visit with a child under ministry direction to achieve extraordinary medical care for 14 months. The same caseworker, aware that the child was referred for medical intervention for seizures and instead of ensuring care was sought, simply relied upon word of mouth of foster placement to take appropriate action while, in fact, they had not presented the child for treatment, nor taken the child for medical examination in 3 years! So, when a child suffers a heart attack – likely initiated by seizure activity, as per Provincial Medical Examiner – and the death is considered, “natural” by Ministry, how are circumstances considered a “natural” death? Where, no action leads to accountability to ensure that similar outcome transpires with any other child: Foster placement remains open to medically vulnerable children despite declaration that given similar circumstances, with medical investigation recommended, still would choose not to heed professional advice, but instead, rely upon their own judgment. Where, the caseworker has achieved the position of Criminal Record Check Clearance for the Province. In the absence of consequences, there can be no incentive to deter poor behavior. We cannot tolerate two sets of rules: One for Public, another protocol for Government servants. The response often offered is there is fear of losing workers in the field and that more funding is required to better serve an over-wrought industry, but neither of these factors are critical to improvement of the system… In fact, yes, the industry may suffer loss of individuals who refuse to risk accountability for negligence and subsequently, generation of monies will be reduced. However, what the result will be is a community of solid caregivers and social-workers who are well-educated and prepared to be truly invested in the lives of children. Reduced funding means that less children will be taken into custody of the Province, therefore, only those with circumstances which cannot be corrected at a preventive level will be taken into care and served with excellence. It is not a question of the integrity of foster parents as it is well-understood that good and evil exist amongst all segments of society; whether or not we speak of natural, foster, kinship or adoptive settings. Focus need not be on the adults… At the forefront of all considerations, we must regard the CHILDREN. A Provincial Government unwilling to pay heed to well-researched Policy, adhere to and enforce existing legislation, is genuinely not serving the needs of its citizens. That it chooses to maintain cover under guise of benign ministering instead of admitting to erroneous practice and working alongside those who can offer concrete solutions is unacceptable. Sincerely, Velvet Martin, mother of but one of 145 victims, Samantha Martin.

      • Thank you Velvet. I know that you and many others like you are fighting to prevent tragedies like the one that took Samantha. As you point out, notwithstanding all our efforts the PC government continues to fail its most vulnerable citizens. The deaths of two elderly women in a private long term care facility (supposedly supervised by the government) is yet another example of a tragedy that could have been prevented. At the same time as the young, the elderly, the poor and the disabled are falling through the cracks, the government is rewriting legislation and ramming it through the House in order to “streamline” the application for energy projects. People are being pushed to one side but industry is happy and that’s all that counts.

        The lives of so many Albertans have been damaged by the government’s failure to provide adequate social services—education, healthcare, child protection, elder care—that this next election could well be the end of the PCs. They know it, we know it, and the opposition parties know it. Hence the use of the “war” metaphor…it’s part of the plan to confuse the public and cling to power for another four years.

      • Norman Wiebe says:

        Well said Velvet. Not only can we not tolerate two set of rules, but our public servants should be held to the highest level of accountability.within those rules. The idea of public service shouldn’t be about protecting your job at all costs to ensure a good pension;..

  3. The phrase is over the top, but the underlying problem is the PCs see themselves as being in an “us vs them” situation, and are pulling all the classic “keep the group together” tactics out of their bag.

    In this case “us” is Albertans, and “them” is … Albertans.



  4. Roy Wright says:

    I never thought I would be facing an Orwellian world and I definitely do not like it…not even one bit. When we lived in the US, I had the displeasure of listening to George Bush ratchet up the rhetoric and emotional fear mongering after 9/11. Civil discussion was often disrupted with illogical outbursts from people who listened to Bush but did not think about what he really said. I am hoping Albertans will not follow so blindly.

    However, it has been a steady erosion of our rights as citizens. First it was the removal of “public interest” (that’s us in case you were wondering) from legislative obligations, then certain people were excluded from participating in environmental hearings. Now, war has been declared. I am not sure who is being attacked, but if it is the people that did not support the PC Party in the last election, then it means ¾ of the province has just had its government declare war against them (the PC popular vote was about 570,000, while our population broke 4,025,000 last summer). Another way of looking at it would be to draw a line at the 53 parallel (Wildrose only won one seat north of that line) and have the north declare war against the south. (Shades of the American Civil War).

    If our premier decides to buy an aircraft carrier and stand on the deck stating “Mission accomplished” when everything is unravelling all around the province, we know all is lost. All we can do is take bets on whether the aircraft carrier will be touted as “flood protection”, a new hospital or a new school.

    • Roy, great points about where the “war” metaphor could lead us–to a situation where the government declares war on its own people. The PCs have been in power so long they’ve lost sight of the simple concept that once elected they represent all Albertans, not just those who voted for them.

      The Herald ran a poignant story today about a Vietnam war vet who found a bullet-scarred pith helmet belonging to a dead Vietnamese soldier on the battle field. The vet kept the helmet for 40 years because scratched inside it was a dove in full flight. He gave the helmet to the DOVE Fund which is going to return it to the dead soldier’s relatives.

      The vet said that serving in Vietnam changed his perspective because “I needed to find out I wasn’t the only one on the planet, and that everything wasn’t set up for me”.

      The DOVE Fund rep (also a war vet) said when he returned to Vietnam he realized that “We all want the same things for everybody; the war divided us and made us somehow believe we were all after different things”…but this wasn’t true.

      These are two concepts the PCs would do well to learn. The fact that they’ve resorted to the war metaphor shows that they’re incapable of figuring it out. Pathetic.

  5. Julie Ali says:

    Hi Susan,

    I actually think that the Tories are being more truthful now –at the end of their tenure— than they were at the beginning of it.
    I think it was always the Tories versus the non-Tories.
    We –the ordinary citizens didn’t realize this.
    We were babes sleeping innocently in our beds while these folks were way ahead of us in terms of strategy, Synergy spin, intimidation, Action plan, use of public money to finance their endless election propaganda–these sorts of political dirty tricks that are very prevalent now in Canada.
    In Alberta, they are so used to being monarchs– they don’t even bother to hide their true ways of operating in politics.
    Long tenure has gone to their heads.
    Why else would they have prematurely published the brochures regarding bill 45 and bill 46 even before they yapped about these pieces of legislation in the house of corruption?

    I’m of the mind, that they just do whatever they want to do openly now with the greatest of contempt for the citizens—while in the past it was all covered up under a mask of genial goodwill and familiar non-representation.
    In other words, they can’t be bothered to play nice anymore.
    Executive council just makes all the laws and pushes them through rather like Harper and crew does at the federal level with the omnibus laws that they super-size because they have to get the transformation of Canada done before they are evicted.

    These folks, in Alberta—in my mind, never cared about the folks who did not vote Tory (the majority of citizens).
    I rather wonder if they even care about folks who did vote Tory.
    They have in my mind, alienated nearly everyone in this last term in office.
    I think it is because they think they will stay in power forever and ever amen. They are delusional. I don’t believe they will get in again unless of course vote splitting results in a minority government.

    The use of the word war by the Tories is actually honest and I like that they are admitting their evil strategies to us. But good luck getting any money from ordinary citizens with these strategies.
    Such war language– just feels odd to normal ordinary citizens because we are used to thinking of the people we vote in–as being our representatives rather than warlords.

    We think of our MLAs as representing the entire population of Canadians and not just themselves. The MLAs revolve like electrons around the nucleus of the Executive Council.
    How the Tories expect to continue their oil monarchy by simply gathering the MLA electrons to spin in established orbitals without actually doing some work that results in performance that we can see as productive–is beyond me.
    But then these are doublespeak military folks.
    War is peace.
    Peace is war.
    We are always at war.
    That sort of thinking.
    Meanwhile citizens look at the making of laws by a select group of people even before these bills are introduced into the legislature and wonder at the deMockracy that is all about us.

    And what did the speaker of the house have to say about the brochures regarding the bills that weren’t yet introduced?

    Click to access 20131202_1330_01_han.pdf

    Obviously, your Speaker has very serious concerns about the
    advertising that was undertaken in the Alberta brochure, which is
    central to the point of privilege before us today. As indicated in
    my earlier comments, the Alberta government was warned to not
    try and presume that the Assembly would pass legislation through
    some form of their own advertising. As your Speaker I was
    representing the interests and role of the Assembly in our
    parliamentary form of democracy.
    In Alberta and throughout Canada we have a form of
    responsible government. As Speaker Kowalski, my predecessor,
    commented, on May 1, 1997, at page 319 of Alberta Hansard for
    that day:
    the principle of the executive being responsible to the Assembly
    is the cornerstone of responsible government in this country.
    In his text Constitutional Law of Canada, third edition, by
    author Peter Hogg, Mr. Hogg goes so far as to say: “Responsible government is probably the most important non-federal
    characteristic of the Canadian Constitution.” In the province of
    Alberta the executive is composed of the members of the
    Executive Council, all of whom have taken and subscribed to
    the oath for cabinet ministers.
    In his 1989 ruling at page 4461 of House of Commons Debates
    Speaker Fraser requested that departments study his ruling
    carefully, pointing out that “we are a parliamentary democracy,
    not a so-called executive democracy, nor a so-called administrative democracy.”

    Despite the Speaker’s confirmation that we still have a parliamentary democracy— yet in Alberta, I don’t think we do have a parliamentary democracy but a deMockracy that is shaped entirely by the executive council.

    While the speaker did not seem to like being put on the spot by the bad behavior of his own party he had very little to say in terms of censure of the Tories and merely had to drag an apology out of the Lukaszuk guy.

    Click to access 20131202_1330_01_han.pdf

    Mr. Lukaszuk: Mr. Speaker, obviously, I will accept your ruling.
    In no way, shape, or form would this government ever under any
    circumstances want to offend the dignity of this House and the
    importance of the Legislative Assembly and the parliamentary
    process, that we all strive to adhere to.
    But if I may, Mr. Speaker, in my acceptance of your ruling
    point out to you that you very clearly make comments relevant to
    the mechanism by which MLAs’ salaries are to be increased. I
    would point you to your own website, Mr. Speaker, the
    legislative . . .
    The Speaker: Hon. member, I’m offering you a chance to
    perhaps apologize for the breach. That’s what I’m expecting at
    this stage. We have not rehearsed any of this, as you know, but
    that would be customary. If you’re willing to do that, then the
    Assembly, including myself, would be more than anxious to hear
    it, particularly since you’ve accepted the Speaker’s ruling, for
    which I thank you.
    Mr. Lukaszuk: Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, by no means would
    this government ever offend the dignity of this Legislative
    Assembly, and if, in your learned opinion, such has occurred, I do
    sincerely apologize.
    Speaker: Thank you, hon. Deputy Premier. That would close
    the matter.
    After getting the Lukaszuk to say sorry for being anti-democratic, the speaker then brushes away the mess by saying the advertising of laws before they become laws–is not a big deal.
    Actually, I think this sort of behavior by the executive and minor light bulbs like the Lukaszuk is a big deal.
    It destroys what little trust we have in government. But for the speaker it’s no big deal.
    He begins by saying that there was a problem but ends by saying the problem was solved by the apology of the Lukaszuk and that was that.

    Click to access 20131202_1330_01_han.pdf

    It is clear to your chair that the advertising in the brochure I
    referenced earlier did presume that a decision had been made by
    the Members’ Services Committee, to which the Assembly has
    delegated the ability to make decisions about members’ pay and
    benefits. That decision had not been made, in fact. That decision
    had not been made until the following Friday. Let me make sure I
    said that correctly: I am of the opinion that the advertising in the
    brochure presumed a decision that had not yet been made by the
    Members’ Services Committee.
    The chair also finds that the brochure created the impression
    that legislation was in effect concerning public service salaries
    when, in fact, the bills had not been introduced. The advertising
    does show some disrespect for our legislative process and by
    extension, perhaps, for the Assembly itself. It should be very clear
    that in our form of democratic government the Assembly is owed
    total respect by the Executive Council, by all members of
    government, by all members of the House regardless of the
    capacity in which they serve.
    The continued absence of adherence to some of the proprieties
    of this institution causes your chair a great deal of grief and
    anguish, and it also caused us again an enormous number of hours
    of research dealing with case precedent, dealing with former
    rulings, looking at other Assemblies, and so on and so on. I would
    estimate that collectively we spent almost 200 hours over the
    weekend, a number of us, looking into this and asking Speakers in
    other jurisdictions and other Parliamentary Counsels and so on for
    their examples. I would hope that the dignity and authority of this
    Assembly and of its delegated committees would be given greater
    respect from this day forward.
    Accordingly, your chair finds that the advertising undertaken by
    the government on page 6 of the aforementioned brochure, The
    Building Alberta Plan, does constitute a prima facie case of
    privilege. It’s a breach of that privilege under Standing Order 15(6)
    as it is a form of contempt of this Assembly and of one of its
    That concludes my ruling on that matter. I would invite anyone
    from the government side should they wish to rise and issue a
    statement of whatever kind, and I’ll deal with it from there.


    The Speaker says it is a breach but so what? No one was harmed.

    Click to access 20131202_1330_01_han.pdf

    Point of Clarification
    Mr. Anderson: Mr. Speaker, under section 13(2), and it’s truly
    just a question, how would we at this point as an opposition – or is
    it even in our purview to do this? – refer something like this to the
    appropriate committee on this issue? Or, once you close the
    matter, is that just it?
    The Speaker: That’s a very good question, Airdrie, and thank you
    for asking it.
    Had the government not apologized for it, you would have been
    free to bring a motion forward to this Assembly, because once the
    Speaker has made a ruling, then the matter belongs to the
    Assembly. It doesn’t belong to the Speaker. I find whether there’s
    a prima facie case; I did. I asked the Deputy Premier if he wished
    to comment, and he started to comment in an elongated way. I
    tried to shorten it up and say: here is what I think the Assembly is
    after. I don’t think that anyone was really seriously harmed or hurt
    throughout this whole process, but neither would I want someone
    to be, and certainly the rights and dignities of this House could
    have been tarnished had there not been immediate action taken
    with the apology.
    We’ll leave it there.

    So there you go.
    You have the Tories finally showing the true faces under the masks.
    They make out that they are at war with the citizens (any citizen really –even Tory voters like myself who criticize them on anything).
    They publish laws that have not been introduced.
    They make transmission lines that we pay for that industries like SNC-Lavalin benefit from but do we get any benefit from these corporate welfare projects.
    Why is SNC-Lavalin getting such massive public subsidy but we don’t get to say nay to the projects?
    But what power do citizens have until election time?
    They do what they want because they are in total control of the system right now.

    I’m curious what they are going to do when we evict them from the house of corruption at the next election.
    Will they send drones after us?
    Will they use fun language suggesting that we are Wiebo Ludwig mummies for protesting emissions in the Peace gassing our kids?
    What will be the next development of Orwellian language in Alberta -and really in Canada itself?

    Interesting times.
    Here are some more fun words that the government may use that you can look out for:

    MPCT • 3 days ago −
    Corporate double-speak? Try Government double-speak.
    Security Contractors- paid killers
    Preemptive strike- unprovoked attack
    Collateral damage-civilian deaths
    Domestic Politics
    Affordable Care Act- neither just a costly regulatory expansion
    Revenue Enhancement- Taxes
    Quantitative Easing- Printing Money
    Affirmative Action- distinctive discrimination
    Undocumented Workers- Illegal aliens
    Path to Citizenship- Amnesty for those same currently breaking the law
    Executive Privilege- cover up illegal or unethical acts
    Homeland Security- not as warm as fuzzy as it sounds
    Patriot Act- civil rights guaranteed in the Constitution will now be null and void as a service to your country

    • You’re right Julie. The Speaker found that the Building Alberta brochure should not have referred to the MLAs’ pay freeze or the public servants pay freeze before these matters had been debated in the Assembly. The Speaker said that when the PC Government put these items in the brochure and gave the brochure to the media the government showed “contempt” of the Legislative Assembly.

      However by brushing off the gravity of the situation with nothing more than an apology (which had to be dragged out of Mr Lucaszuk) the Speaker demonstrated that the PCs have been in power so long they can do whatever they please.

      You make an interesting point when you say the PC’s characterization of the upcoming election as a “war” is probably the most truthful they’ve been for a long time. Clearly they’re fighting for their political lives and will stop at nothing to stay in power. This is going to be one heck of an election. We need to publish every instance of dirty dealing so that all Albertans understand what they’re dealing with.

      Thank you for staying on top of all this. It’s a massive job!

  6. Interesting article as always Susan.

  7. Pingback: | Is this war?

  8. Carlos Beca says:

    To me this is the neocon regular language. It is all about war, extreme competition, extreme individualism and on and on. This war business started with the so called ‘the war on drugs’ which was an abysmal failure, and the ‘war on obesity’ which doubled the level of overweight people and the ‘war on crime’ which is going the same way. I think that we are giving it too much credit to an ideology of failure as well as unintelligent. This is to me the reaction of people that do not understand anything but war on life. They do not believe in cooperation or discussion and I think that is pretty clear to all of us that have to endure this provincial and federal governments.
    Hopefully the war will be over soon.

    • Carlos, excellent comment, especially the part about some people viewing the “war” as a “war on life”. A friend and I were talking about some wealthy people he knows. He said they’ve gotten angrier as they’ve grow older. They end up screaming at their TVs and getting tossed out of nursing homes because they’re too mean to stay there. Apparently building a huge bank account isn’t that comforting when you reach your twilight years. My mother used to say, a bank account doesn’t hug you at the end of the day. Smart woman, my Mom.

  9. CPCPropaganda says:

    Conservatisme is obsolete. Traditions change and people change for the good usually. Pushing for more crude oil sales and pumping heavy crude through pipelines made for natural gas is litteraly psychotic,Protected wetland and lakes are no longer protected, firing credible scientists who do their jobs to conserve Canada. Elections fraud, tampering with court cases prior to elections. The list gets longer and longer. The opposite of conservative is the new conservative?

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