Just when you thought you’d seen it all the Wildrose Official Opposition upped the ante on red-baiting.
They’re using Members’ Statements, a part of the Legislature’s Daily Order of Business, to push their “NDP-are-commies” narrative.
Members’ Statements give MLAs an opportunity to make brief, uninterrupted statements on matters of concern to them and their constituents.
Originally, Members’ Statements were non-partisan comments that recognized a significant event (such as the death of an important Canadian) or the anniversary of a key historical milestone (such as women getting the vote).
Over time Members’ Statements took on a more aggressive and partisan tone and in 1983 Jeanne Sauvé issued guidelines prohibiting Members’ Statements that were personal attacks, congratulatory messages, frivolous or poetry…poetry?
Unfortunately Mme Sauvé did not prohibit Red Scare rants. Presumably she didn’t think it was necessary to ban gutter politics masquerading as Members’ Statements. Turns out she was wrong.
How bad is it?
To be clear it is entirely appropriate for the Wildrose Opposition as the “government in waiting” to use Members’ Statements to evaluate NDP government policies and outline how the Opposition would do a better job if they were in office.
The Wildrose Opposition regularly uses Ministerial Statements to raise the alarm (sometimes to hysterical levels) about the NDP’s decision to maintain social programs and diversify the economy by increasing taxes and taking on debt.
Whether you agree with the Wildrose or not, this is a legitimate use of Members’ Statements.
However when the Wildrose Opposition deploys the “commies at the gate” narrative it crosses the line into unparliamentary and unacceptable behavior.
A few weeks ago Wildrose MLA Grant Hunter rose in the Legislature to deliver a Member’s Statement describing his experience in a new candy store where he tasted a bottle of Leninade.*
Just in case the folks back home were too dense to catch the symbolism he pointed out that Leninade was “spelled after comrade Lenin”.
Mr Hunter couldn’t resist testing the bottle which was offered as “A Drink for the Masses” and while his first sip was smooth, bubbly and effervescent he soon realized that Leninade was an acquired taste which required Albertans to drink a bottle a day for five years in order to become “a Hero of Socialist Flavour”.
He said it didn’t take a Russian rocket scientist to realize that the NDP government had embarked on an unsustainable and unpalatable scheme…one where “orange crush really means high debt, loss of jobs and loss of hope”. He assured the Premier that he would tell Albertans to stay away from her drink for the next three years.
This gibberish follows on the heels of a similar red-baiting attack, pardon me, Member’s Statement, launched by Wildrose MLA Don MacIntyre.**
Mr MacIntyre said the Premier’s deputy chief of staff was a “Soviet-era communist” and suggested one of her MLAs supported the “Soviet-backed, communist Castro regime[which] repressed an entire nation, murdering and imprisoning dissidents, religious leaders, and minorities”.
Applying Mme Sauve’s rules for Members’ Statements, the Speaker should have shut down Mr Hunter and Mr MacIntyre the minute they started spouting off about Soviet-era communists and comrade Lenin. Their “Members’ Statements” were personal attacks, frivolous and utterly inappropriate.
That the Wildrose Opposition would use Members’ Statements as a political bludgeon is not surprising—their leader, Brian Jean, was a loyal member of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives and learned these tactics at his master’s knee.
The Conservatives’ track record
Evan Sotiropoulos analyzed Members’ Statements made in the federal 38th (Liberal minority) and 39th (Conservative minority) parliaments.
He discovered that the Conservatives in Opposition made three times as many unparliamentary/partisan members’ statements as the governing Liberals.
More importantly, after the Conservatives took power they continued to make inappropriate Members’ Statements, twice as many as the Liberals in Opposition.
Forming government did little to curb their acerbic conservative tongues.
The Wildrose election plan
Wildrose leader Brian Jean says his party will spend the next few years “winning the hearts and minds of Albertans.”
If the McIntyre and Hunter Members’ Statements are an example of how Mr Jean intends to do so he’s in for a surprise.
While many Albertans are struggling through the “bust” created by the drop in oil prices they know that the NDP do not control oil prices and their access to public education, public healthcare and other critical services will not be compromised by harsh cuts to the public sector while the economy recovers.
Most importantly, Albertans just aren’t that stupid. They know NDP Orange is not the same as Commie Red, notwithstanding what Mr Jean wants them to believe.
*Alberta Hansard, Apr 21, 2016, p 746
*Alberta Hansard, Mar 17, 2016, p 280