Cowboys and Politicians

It’s the last day of the Calgary Stampede. 

It’s also the last day for politicians to dress up as cowboys for one last photo-op before getting back to business of politics.   

The issue we have with this photo isn’t that these men aren’t real cowboys but that they’re not real conservatives.        

Premier Kenney with premiers of NWT, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and Ontario

Yes, Mr Kenney says he’s leading the charge to renew conservatism but unfortunately for conservatives he doesn’t represent traditional conservatism.  He represents something The Economist calls the New Right, a movement created by a bunch of aggrieved pessimists and reactionaries who are shredding traditional conservatism to gain power.

Conservatism then and now   

Traditional conservatives are cautious by nature.  They expect the authority imbued in the family, church, and tradition to control and slow down change.  Mr Kenney on the other hand promises to move with great haste because “speed creates its own momentum” and is more difficult to oppose.    

Traditional conservatives are pragmatists, not zealots who play fast and loose with the truth.  They don’t enflame wild-eyed western separatists with misinformation about the equalization formula, they don’t double down on allegations that the deficit was a billion dollars higher than the NDP said, when in fact it was $2 billion lower than the NDP had projected;  or to put it another way $3 billion less than Mr Kenney alleged.   

Traditional conservatives cherish institutions, they don’t abuse them.  They don’t create $30 million taxpayer funded propaganda centres and call them “war rooms”.  They don’t set up $2.5 million taxpayer funded witch hunts and call them public inquiries into foreign-funded conspiracies to kill the energy industry.  They don’t disregard the rule of law by promising to rip up billion dollar contracts before they’ve laid eyes on them.  They don’t make a mockery of democracy by running roughshod over the Opposition and plugging their ears and jumping into reflecting pools because no stunt is too juvenile for our elected representatives.                

Most importantly, they don’t manipulate the population with the promise of prosperity to gain power.     

Wealth and prosperity

Mr Kenney described his Stampede breakfast as an “…informal get-together of some like-minded premiers to talk about jobs, growth and prosperity.”   Mr Ford said it was the first time in a long time that “like-minded premiers that want their provinces to thrive” had a chance to get together.  Mr. Moe said it wasn’t an ideological gathering but one of “mutual interest on how we can continue to create wealth in the communities we represent.”

In case you missed it, the common thread there was wealth not ideology.  Prosperity in and of itself isn’t a bad thing, but under Mr Kenney’s New Right government it takes precedence over absolutely everything else.    

Mr Kenney’s government moved quickly to ensure corporations were happy even if this required underfunding public services to prop up failing businesses.  The government just announced a one-time 35% cut in property taxes for selected shallow gas companies.  This translates into a $23 million hit to revenue earmarked for education and is in addition to corporate tax cuts that will reduce business taxes from 12% to 8% over the next four years.

All government ministries understand the “economy first” priority.      

Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer says increasing employment and restoring Alberta’s reputation as a place to do business will be a big part of his ministry’s “fight-back strategy”. If economic development is part of the Justice Minister’s mandate what are the premier and the ministers of economic development & trade, energy, natural gas, labour and treasury & finance doing…justice?  

Traditional conservatives have always been small government, pro-business types, but the progressive ones like Peter Lougheed understood the need to balance economic development with funding public services through taxation.    

Sadly, the Lougheed conservatives have been outflanked by New Right politicians like Mr Kenney and his cowboy cronies.  They’ve discovered a two-pronged path to power:  (1) fan the fear and insecurity created in the aftermath of 9/11 and the financial crisis and (2) promise prosperity through austerity (why that one works is beyond me).      

Rhinestone cowboys are fun, but New Right politicians masquerading as traditional conservatives are dangerous. 

Five “like-minded” premiers showed up for the Stampede this year, if a “like-minded” prime minister joins them next year we’re in big trouble.    

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42 Responses to Cowboys and Politicians

  1. Mike Priaro says:

    “I am a conservative. This is why I deeply resent the neo-conservatives who are not conservatives at all. They are the opposite: radicals who are destroying cherished institutions and wreaking havoc on our human heritage as well as our natural heritage.

    I do not consider destroyers to be conservative. So many cherished institutions have been built with great care and dedication through the decades by well-trained people with good hearts. These are being smashed and weakened in great haste by politicians and ideologues who do not even understand what they destroy. Creation is long and difficult; destruction is quick.

    Institutions such as railways, medicare, electrical power production and delivery, environmental protection, social services, schools and many other government agencies are being attacked, weakened and even privatized. These aspects of society are useful and helpful and are there for the common good. Their destruction is done with the aim of cutting taxes and reducing government. Yet many thinkers, such as Lord Richard Layard, professor emeritus at the London School of Economics, argue that taxation is a good thing for creating a state of balance between work and life.

    Neo-conservatives seem to care more about the individual than the common good; the cult of the individual has grown into an ideology. Now we are faced with the foolish idea that a corporation should be regarded legally as “a person.” In reality, a corporation is simply a pile of money to which a number of persons have sold their moral allegiance. The slogan of most of these entities is “make too cheap and sell too high.” With few exceptions, there is little obligation among such corporate “persons” to ideas of public place or public good. In In the Presence of Fear, Three Essays For a Changed World, his excellent book written after 9/11, Wendell Berry observes, “Corporations make the assumption that stable and preserving relationships among people, places and things do not matter and are of no worth.” And “that there is no conflict between self-interest and public service.” This seems to be the philosophy of the neo-conservatives.

    True conservatives should believe in, and practise, conservation. One would expect them to act as good stewards to preserve and protect the natural world. Perhaps the most striking and alarming aspects of neo-conservatives are not only their neglect of stewardship but their vigorous attacks on protection and preservation. They seem to regard natural scientists as enemies whose work should be ignored and whose careers should be eliminated. Their desire to be rid of regulations and regulators puts them more in line with anarchists than true conservatives.

    It seems to me, as a conservative, that the family and family values would be worth preserving. A couple of decades ago then U.S. vice-president Dan Quayle was decrying the decline of family values in America. I agreed with him about the decline; I thought his critique applied to Canada as well.

    Mr. Quayle and the other neo-conservatives blamed overly permissive liberal ideas. There may be some truth to this. But to me, the main blame falls in the lap of profit-seekers who portion up human society into age-based market targets. Their advertising programs divide and conquer the minds of children and teenagers using greed, envy, lust and fascination with violence to sell products. Family values too often come from the television set rather than the actual and extended family. Merchants of Cool design youth to be alienated. If you preach salvation through shopping instead of salvation through service, the sense of community is weakened and even destroyed.

    Yet, neo-conservatives seem to have no problem with this state of affairs. They claim one can’t interfere with the freedom to make profit. This has also lead to the disruption and even destruction of meaningful work.

    In his 1973 bestseller, Small is Beautiful , the German-born British economist E.F. Schumacher wrote, “Next to the family, work and the relationships established by work [are]the true foundation of society. If these foundations are unsound, how can society be sound?”

    Subsidized, industrial farming has decimated family farms and rural communities. Subsidized, industrial fishing has closed down entire fishing communities and brought many fish stocks to the brink of extinction. Subsidized, industrial forestry has ruined many small logging communities. And these three industrial “Fs” have devastated wild nature at every turn.

    The horrible irony is, much of this destruction of human communities and natural ecosystems has been paid for by taxpayers — you and me. Neo-conservatives never seem to complain about our taxes being wasted in this manner, though they do whine about taxes going to help social programs and a civil society. The cost of corporate welfare amounts to many times that of social welfare. It is not a question of fiscal responsibility, it is a question of ideology.

    Media analyst Marshall McLuhan spoke of how the technological revolution of recent decades has produced a maelstrom of bewildering forces that are neither completely understandable nor predictable, but bring with them stress, depression, addiction and other negative side effects. A true conservative would strive to alleviate these problems; the neo-conservatives seem to encourage the maelstrom to become bigger and even faster.

    In recent elections, I’ve heard only one main message from all the major parties, whether they called themselves Liberal or Conservative or Alliance, or in America, Democrat or Republican. The message is, “Vote for me, I will cut your taxes and put more money in your own pocket.” Then the implication is, “You can go to the mall and buy more stuff.” In other words, we will achieve salvation through shopping or salvation through selfishness. We no longer hear messages such as the one John F. Kennedy gave at his inauguration: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

    Of course, everyone wants lower taxes; we all have a natural sense of selfishness and greed. But taxes are the price we pay for civilization. If you do not like government and taxes, try Somalia. In fact, I am at a loss to distinguish between the philosophy of the B.C. Liberal Party and the Fraser Institute on the one hand, and the American Republican party on the other. I’m not the first to argue that neo-conservatives should call themselves neo-Republicans.

    Although I am a conservative I do not claim that being a conservative is virtuous. My point is that those who are in favour of rapid change and destruction of institutions can in no way be called conservative”. — Robert Bateman is an internationally renowned artist and naturalist.

  2. John McWilliams says:

    Good stuff, Susan
    Well said. It’s ironic today’s “social engineers” are on the right.

    • John, that’s what makes these New Right politicians so difficult to expose, after 44 years of conservative government Albertans have been trained to believe anyone who calls himself is a conservative IS a conservative even when his policies are anything but conservative (as per the Bateman quote above).

  3. Like-minded or closed-minded? Strikes me as an “old boys network”.

  4. Robert Bateman – brilliant conservative – a genuine conservative. Read “Thinking Like a Mountain” . . .

  5. Edison says:

    Susan, while The Economist may choose to refer to this paradigm as The New Right, I don’t think it fully encapsulates what has happened in Alberta. Not just is the current government’s fiscal focus ideologically skewed toward corporate vs community benefit, considering their unremitting hostility to civil society I will continue to refer to them as I have understood them to be since Harper first came to power, and that is The Alt-right

    • Edison, you make a very good point about the UCP’s lack of respect for civil society. I don’t know if you saw the photo of the UNA (nurses union) VP talking to Kenney at the Premiers’s reception in Saskatoon. His lips are pursed and he’s glaring at her. Apparently he demanded to know why she was there not once but three times. The short answer is because he refuses to talk to labour leaders and they have to catch him where they find him. Hardly appropriate behavior for the premier who made a point of telling us in his victory speech that he represents ALL Albertans.

      • Edison says:

        I did indeed Susan. I was pleased to see that she didn’t appear to be intimidated in the least by Kenney. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has no clue about his newly acquired adversary the UNA, including their history and conviction to their profession

        The nurses have worked under many governments over the years and are not known as being easy pushovers. When dealing with ideologues, they can give as good as they get

  6. Keith McClary says:

    Did you catch the part where Kenney closed his eyes and clicked the heels of his ruby cowboy boots together three times while repeating “Please let there be another oil boom”?

    • Love it Keith! That’s exactly what Kenney must be doing because he’s made it clear his vision of “economic development” is rooted in the past, he’s not interested in supporting AI or medical research or other sectors that might give us a sliver of a chance to break away from our reliance on the energy sector. Well what do we expect…he’s old white guy with old white guy ideas.
      BTW by “old white guy” I mean a mindset not a physical description, there are a few women and minorities in his cabinet who support where he’s going (or lack the courage to disagree).

  7. Dwayne says:

    Susan: I must thank you for your great blogs. You offer perspectives on political matters that are a rarity in this day and age. This is another great blog. I can guarantee that these “Conservatives” we see today, are not the same as they used to be, long ago. Something changed with Conservatives in the 1980’s, and that’s where they started to go bad in Canada. From the 1990s, and onwards, Conservative governments in Canada were not any good. These current crop of “Conservative” premiers are continuing on that bad legacy. It is also happening on the federal level too, with the CPC and the PPC, (who are the Reform Party on steroids). They love to blame other governments for outcomes that are based on things that they have no control over, like low oil prices, court rulings on pipelines, disregard the environmental issues, regardless of the cost, waste money on fruitless lawsuits, waste very big amounts of money on failed corporate welfare schemes, lose large amounts of money on corporate tax breaks, and with the “Conservative” premiers, pick fights with other premiers, bash the federal government, not surpress bigots, and support a dictatorship, basically crushing any opposition. Doug Ford recently took someone to task when they called him corrupt. That is very scary. Doug Ford was a poor Toronto city council member. He aided and abetted his younger brother’s unethical conduct. As the PC premier of Ontario, he wasted money on Ontario News Now, wasted more money on expensive, revenge based lawsuits, lost Ontario $3 billion, from cancelling the cap and trade program, wasted money on a costly consultant, to see if liquor should be sold in convenience stores, and cost Ontario $1 billion, or more, on the liquor store fiasco. Doug Ford was not the first choice for leader of the Ontario PCs either. If past and present Conservative politicians disagree with what Doug Ford has been doing, there is a problem. On YouTube, in a news video, fairly recently, there were the usual trolls bashing Justin Trudeau for criticizing Doug Ford’s policies. Really sad. They were also ignoring the fact that Doug Ford has not done anything to help control Ontario’s fiscal situation, and that he was not making things better. (I could only imagine the vile things you’d see, if you were on YouTube). With Jason Kenney, there is little mention in the news about his kamikaze campaign. The CBC touched on the election related infractions, and recently mentioned around 5 UCP MLAs being questioned by the R.C.M.P, but that was about it. Postmedia did not even go there. I don’t recall CTV or Global covering it. The Rebel thinks it’s a CBC and NDP orchestrated scheme, when it is nothing like that. When the R.C.M.P investigation is over, how will the media hide the big trouble Jason Kenney will be in? Also, not long ago the petrochemical (bitumen) upgrader disaster, by the Alberta PCs resurfaced again. It was the one that had around $35 billion in total costs. It is a sinkhole of debt, because oil prices are so low. Again, very little media coverage. It was not in The Sun. It was barely mentioned in the Edmonton Journal. Jason Kenney admitted he could not get out of it. Yet, he has the gall to blame Rachel Notley and the NDP for Alberta’s fiscal problems, when the Alberta PCs were fiscally reckless, since Peter Lougheed was not the premier of Alberta. The $30 million “war room” set up by Jason Kenney misses two large obscuring matters, (what we’d call the elephant in the room). One is the low oil prices that existed for 5 years. This is due to the United States and Saudi Arabia having oil that the oilsands from Alberta is incapable of competing with. Triple digit oil prices have vanished. Getting another pipeline will not change that. As I recall, Jason Kenney was in a CPC majority government, when triple digit oil prices existed, and the CPC did nothing to help get a pipeline built, that went to the B.C coast. Why is he intent on blaming others for things he did not do? The other matter is something that started with the Alberta PCs, in the early 1990s. It is where they were not coming after oil companies to clean up the messes they created. Now, Albertans are shouldered with a $260 billion cost to clean up tailings ponds, orphaned oil wells, and other damages caused by the oil industry. Peter Lougheed was not a supporter of reckless oilsands development, and he did not like how the other Alberta PC governments were negligent on this matter. He even called Fort McMurray “a mess”. I think if Peter Lougheed were still around, he would be very unhappy with the UCP. Peter Lougheed was different. He built things up, saved money and planned for the future. He did not allow industry to override the environment, by striking a balance. He did not allow oil and resource companies to take advantage of Alberta. Nor did he bash the federal government. He also cared for all Albertans, and saw Alberta as an integral part of Canada. The UCP is intent on spreading falsehoods, breaks its election promises, is making a fiscal mess, from corporate tax cuts, and the like, blameshifts, bashes the federal government, supports inequalty, and wants to run things like a dictatorship. I hope Albertans realize the problems they now have. I look forward to reading your blogs and responding, but I’ve got to enjoy my birthday today.

    • Dwayne: HAPPY BIRTHDAY! And thank you for taking time away from your birthday celebrations to post your comment. You nailed it with each and every point here.

      There are so many things that trouble me about the New Right/Alt Right/Freemarket party but one of the worst is how vindictive and nasty it is. As you point out the conservatives weren’t always like this. When Brian Mulroney’s conservatives ousted the Trudeau liberals Mulroney didn’t scrap all the work Monique Begin (Trudeau’s health minister) did trying to implement universal healthcare across the country. He said Begin had done a very good job and carried on where she left off but passing the Canada Health Act. Contrast that to Kenney’s behavior. He campaigned on the promise to tear up every single piece of legislation the NDP passed. He’s since backed away from that a bit (not much) because it turned out the public likes many of the things the NDP put in place. Nevertheless Kenney got a lot of support from thoughtless supporters who failed to consider the implications of Kenney carrying out his threat to wipe out all the good the NDP had done during their term. We’re already seeing the consequences and it will get worse after the fall budget.

      • Dwayne says:

        Susan: Thanks for the birthday wishes. How do you think the R.C.M.P investigation against Jason Kenney and other UCP MLAs will play out? What will it do to the UCP party, as a whole?

    • Carlos Beca says:

      Happy Birthday Dwayne – by the way the RCMP and CSIS will be soon opening a new file called ‘Dwayne from Susan on the Soapbox’ 🙂 🙂

      • Dwayne, my concern re: the RCMP investigation is that the criminal standard for illegal conduct is much higher than the civil standard of unethical behavior, so unless the RCMP finds evidence that is very incriminating I worry that Kenney and the UCP will walk away from this investigation relatively unscathed. And if we’ve learned anything from the reaction of Trump’s supporters to his latest “go back home” tweets, Far Right/Alt Right supporters will forgive anything as long as their leader sticks it to those they deem to be “unpatriotic socialists”.

      • This gave me a chuckle Carlos! 🙂

      • Dwayne says:

        Carlos Beca: Lol!

  8. ymk says:

    Totally enjoy and appreciate your perspective.  Your ability to articulate and support with stats is much appreciated. Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

  9. papajaxn says:

    Hi Susan Good Monday morning!

    As you may know or not, living with my values and actions may put me on the imagined list of alternative facts distribution clan. The thought came to me perhaps you might be interested in attendance to a gathering. We the people will discuss water and impacts on First Nations communities of “regulated oil and gas development”. This event begins Thursday. I have attached a couple of the info documents.

    Please give me a call if you need more information.

    Keepers of the Water Council

    780 689 0405

    Bruce Jacks

    • Thank you for the kind invitation Papajaxn! I checked out the link and the event sounds interesting and timely given all that is going on. Unfortunately I live in Calgary and won’t be able to make the trip there and back given my other commitments. Please let me know how it went.

  10. Bota28 says:

    Great commentary Susan, as usual you ” nailed it”. Love your blog !

    For Kenney and his cronies to ” expect the authority imbued in the family, church, and tradition to control and slow down change” is ridiculous and shows how out of touch they are with realities of every day life for many. Authority from church? has he not checked his statistics’ on the decline of ” families attending church”? Family in the 21st century is not what many of us knew growing up, it has changed tremendously. As we strived for more free time and more technology, corporations/institutions took over more and more of our lives, including raising our children. There is no such thing as family values for many; their values and examples come from televisions’/dysfunctional households or video games. This is the new norm for many. Our rural communities are awash with corporate or huge farms, obliterating the family farm and the sense of community in many incidents and then we wonder why so much crime? We have become a consumer society, expecting someone to do everything for us, and at the same time leaving members of society ( especially the younger generations) insecure and lost. This “crowd” is so out of touch with the realities any families face and I crave for an Alberta which is caring and compassionate, yet balanced economically. As Albertans we are better than the misinformation, and divisiveness we hear daily and we deserve much better…😃

    • Thanks Bota28. I think you’ve identified a big part of the problem with the New Right’s brand of conservatism. They expect institutions like the church, family and tradition to slow down change, but they forget that these institutions themselves are changing. Kenney is a perfect example. He credits Pope John Paul II with leading him into politics. Pope John Paul II was a very backward pope. He used the paradigm of the “culture wars” to support his distinction between “the culture of life” (anti-abortion, anti-assisted dying, homophobia) and “the culture of death” (pro-choice, pro-assisted dying, LBGTQ rights). This is outdated thinking from the 2nd millennium. It has been replaced by the more progressive thinking of Pope Francis. And yes, I would like Pope Francis to be more progressive, he’s a damn sight more compassionate than Kenney will ever be.
      As you said, we Albertans deserve much better.

  11. Carlos Beca says:

    Of all the new Jason Kenney’s cult creations the ‘War Room’ is my favorite.
    Canada has been one of the countries in the Western World with the highest foreign control of its economy. Somehow that never bothered Conservatives. Activist trying to protect the public interests apparently is way more threatening. They are messing with Jason’s bosses and that of course is a NO GO. So comes the 30 million dollar White Elephant. Imagine if Rachel Notley had spent 30 million dollars on an ‘Evasion Room’ trying to find out which corporations have moved profits abroad illegally?

    • Very good point Carlos. I recall reading somewhere that 43% of Alberta’s energy industry is under foreign ownership (I can’t track down the citation but will update the number when I do). The irony is that when I worked in the energy sector the goal of everyone who owned a small oil or natural gas company was to build it up so they could sell it to a big (usually foreign) company. A classic example of this is Duvernay, a natural gas company which was sold to Shell for $5.9 billion. This equated to a 36% premium over its average share price. Everyone who worked at that company who had stock options made a bundle. One of Duvernay’s administrative assistants walked with $700,000.
      Can you imagine the backlash if Kenney passed a law to prevent the sale of Alberta energy companies to those evil foreigners. The oil and gas executives would go bananas.

  12. Carlos Beca says:

    WOW the Calgary Stampede is finally over. Another year, another 6 horses dead and another investigation just like the one the RCMP is conducting to check our premier’s integrity.
    To complete our week in heaven, another couple from Edmonton are kissing each other behind their trophy – a enormous and gorgeous lion they had just killed for fun and probably as a prelude to a night of sex.
    Amazing – this is all happening in our province where a war room is now open for business to eliminate people that, like myself, have hope that we as human beings should do much better than this disgusting show of barbarism.
    Having fun torturing other animals in order to display our superiority is SICK.

    • Carlos, I have to agree with you on both counts. I’ve been told that the horses used in the chuck wagon races are retired race horses and would be euthanized if they weren’t “repurposed” for this use, but I wonder about that. Aren’t race horses bred for speed on the race course and as such wouldn’t they be too fragile to be yolked together to haul a clunky chuck wagon around a rutted track?
      The trophy lion photo was sickening.
      I don’t understand any of it.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Susan I have reached my limit on excuses given to me by Rodeo Fans. Sometimes in life we have to grow up, assume what is obvious and move on. As our levels of understanding improve we cannot ignore reality just because it is fun or convenient. Bullfighting has been now banned in many places around the world. It is time we look at this kind of entertainment and check whether or not they meet our standards of decency. I questioned why the bulls and horses jump so hard when they are released with a person on their backs and I was told that was because they are ticklish with the tight ribbon around their bodies. After I found out the real reason, it is hard for me to understand that any men would just be so entertained with an animal that not only is under horrible pain but that is used over and over and accept its faith. If they revolt we all know what happens to them. This is disgusting but not surprising. We are definitely the worse predator by far on the planet and we are very good at rationalizing our attitudes masked as fun.
        Allowing this kind of practice in our city and province tells tons of who we really are.
        We are quick at killing any bear in the National Parks that shows tendency to attack humans even if in self-defense. This is done, I am told, to stop the tendency to spread through genetics to other future bears. I wished we would do the same when the tendency is from humans. For a start the Vatican would not have many priest left.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        you are welcome – I am glad you agree

  13. Carlos Beca says:

    Watch if you have time

    • Carlos, this is an excellent speech by Jim Stanford. His book Economics for Everyone is an excellent read. I highly recommend it.
      By the way have you noticed that often you’ll comment on something that I end up writing about the following week. It happened again with my July 21st post. 🙂

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Yes – sorry about that
        This is a very good speech. I have not read his book yet. I am reading ‘Teardown Democracy’ which is a very important subject to me. I think it is about time.
        it makes me happy to know that I am not alone in the idea that we need a full clean up on the current system, whatever the name.

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