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
The rantings of Mr Jean aka Captain Chicken Hawk and his entourage are not only taking a page out of the republican playbook, they appear to have bought into the entiure using book, all 3 pages. Apart from the small band of fervent supporters it is difficult to imagine that these childish outbursts will gain much traction with the general population. I’m also reminded by Mr Jean’s adherence to an election playbook when he gave the same response to different questions from media. The fact that he was not the least embarrassed by that may well be a testament to his complete lack of awareness of his actions and the perceptions they generate.
I agree Ted. Even the Calgary Herald which tends to print every inane thing the Wildrose says took a pass on the absurd statements profferred by Messrs Hunter and MacIntyre. And as for Mr Jean…well, let’s just say he doesn’t strike me as very insightful.
The Republicans have their buffoon and the Wildrose have their equivalent. Thank goodness, for without them how would I get my morning giggle? 😆
Peter, your comparison of the Wildrose with the Republicans is bang on. In the US republicans get to choose between Cruz and Trump (yikes), in Alberta the conservatives are offered Ric McIver or Brian Jean…no wonder the majority of conservatives who attended the United-The-Right convention in Red Deed this weekend opted to form a third party.
The Wildrose have no actual policies. So they stick to invective instead. That may work for awhile but will wear thin with voters by the time of the next election.
Alvin, Cliff Fryers, campaign chair for the Wildrose in the 2012 election, was quoted in the Herald this morning talking about the unite-the-right convention that just took place in Red Deer. He said the split on the right isn’t the biggest issue facing the province. He said the conservatives must eliminate the possibility of a left-of-centre government, period. Here’s the entire quote: “Is there taking place in our province a fundamental change? Are we going to go forward as a province where socialist/left-of-centre governments have a regular role to play in every election? What we must do is eliminate that as a possibility, that it is a credible thing for the NDP or a centre-left government to govern our province.” I wonder what part of “fundamental change” he and the Wildrose don’t get.
wild rose have no substance they exist out of fear and greed
Gordon, your comment reflects my thinking as well. Fanning the emotions of fear and greed will not create a climate of hope and optimism. The Wildrose are done.
I would agree that member statements in respectable environment should have decorum.
If proper traditional behavior was what was acceptable in the legislature now, perhaps the Speaker should have had a honest & legitimate revote, when Brian Mason bullied past the pages to get in for the vote and then did not have everyone leave who should, to win the vote. Perhaps the NDP should have respected traditional Private Members bills, by voting either up or down, rather than twisting and amending a vote that that the member says doesn’t resemble what he presented, and then try to justify it. Perhaps they should stop lying about the Oppositions policy and fear-mongering about mass layoffs and not showing any credible proof to back up those statements. When the government does not listen or uses tactics that show demeaning or arrogant attitudes, and then criticizes Satirical responses back that is blatant hypocrisy. Could member statements be used more effectively, absolutely, but in this case the NDP finally listened for a change.
Doug, you raise a number of interesting points. Taking them in turn, Brian Mason should not have barged in past the pages; he recognized that and apologized. See Hansard, March 9, 2016, page 28.
And yes, while it is not common for the government to amend a private member’s bill it has happened in the past. The prior PC government made four amendments to nongovernment bills in 2007. In those case the amendments were characterized as friendly whereas in this case they were viewed as substantially changing the intent of the motion. Whether the amendments were substantial depends on how you interpret the changes. The original motion and the proposed amendments can be found in Hansard, April 18, 2016 starting at p 630.
As for the government lying about the Opposition’s plans for mass layoffs, the onus lies with the Wildrose to demonstrate it could indeed save $2 billion/year without impacting front line services. It’s not enough to say they’ll save $200 million through a hiring freeze and decentralizing and re-allocating responsibility to the front line, $500 million through wage freezes and renegotiating binding contracts, $250 million by changing the budgeting process, $600 million in streamlining service delivery and $293 by eliminating red tape, the Wildrose needs to give enough detail so we can see they’re not making baseless promises. I worked in the private sector and quickly learned that the most difficult thing about implementing a cost reduction program was ensuring that departments didn’t double count their “savings” or push unavoidable costs on to another department in order to achieve their reduction targets. It’s possible to get this kind of information through FOIPs. Wildrose Health Critic, Heather Forsyth did a very good job of demonstrating that the PC government wasted millions and millions as a result of its sole sourcing policy and giving contracts to their friends. The WR Budget document can be found here: https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/wildrose/pages/6051/attachments/original/1460504474/Budget_Sustainability_Recommendations_Web.pdf?1460504474
No private member’s bill was “substantially changed” by a government amendment, at least not recently. Mr McIver presented a motion, not a bill; it was never able or intended to become legislation. And the amendment proposed was by an NDP backbencher, not a Government Minister.
Let this discussion be informed by the facts, please, not by hyperbole.
Great comments but I do not agree at all that dismissing the Wildrose is a smart decision. The world is not only in a economical crisis. The world is facing a major shift in economic terms, the old paradigm of oil/mechanical/permanent growth is moving to a renewable/digital/sustainable. There is a major political crisis all over the world including the US and the whole of Europe and so the situation is very volatile. People like Donald Trump and Brian Jean are taking advantage of the current crisis and I strongly believe that now more than ever we should try to discredit them. Furthermore returning to old style politics is even a worse choice. It is a bankrupt democracy. Unfortunately the NDP, as I expected, is totally silent on political reform and Justin Trudeau has a shrinking appetite for it. Maybe being on the throne has changed his mind. The change to Proportional Representation is no longer on the table. It is a very interesting time in history that is for sure. My greatest fear is that now humans have the power to totally destroy life itself.
Carlos, I agree with your comment that we’re in a period of fundamental change and would be remiss if we didn’t call out politicians like Donald Trump and Brian Jean who use the instability created by change to foment fear and distrust. It’s hard to predict just who the people will elect to represent them in this turbulent time, and more importantly, why. Take Donald Trump. It looks like he’ll become the Republican nominee for President. Is his success attributable to an utter lack of critical thinking on the part of his supporters or the fact that they can’t stomach another political insider who’ll tell them what they want to hear until he’s elected and then swing back to taking care of his big money donors at the expense of everyone else. I was going to say something about Brian Jean but lately it’s hard to figure out exactly where he’s coming from. One minute he’s attacking the government for spending too much on public services and the next he’s demanding more hospitals in rural Alberta. Of course that’s one of the joys of being in opposition, you can have it both ways.
Yes no doubts that the number one reason why the American people are behind Trump is the fact that they are tired of what you explained in terms of saying one thing and doing another. That is the spin Democracy that took over the western world. We are not exempt of that at all. We are actually doing very well in that kind of politics thank you.
Brian Jean, just like one of the other contributors or yourself said, has no policies. I am sorry but I have only seen politicians of his caliber in Africa.