Alberta’s “New” Normal is the Same as the “Old” One

Ralph Klein referred to “severely normal” Albertans.  Ric McIver and the Wildrose MLAs like to call them “ordinary Albertans“.  This evening at Derek Fildebrandt’s pig roast, Nathan Cooper, interim leader of the United Conservative Party said he’d “had to spend a lot of time in Edmonton lately and (was) happy to be in Strathmore with totally normal people”.  Could he have been referring to MLAs at the Alberta Legislature as Derek Fildebrandt suggested?  Anything is possible.

Derek Fildebrandt and Nathan Cooper

Strathmore, August 4, 2017

His comments weren’t taken out of context but like anything else, it means different things to different people. Personally, I think he meant it as a joke and it went over as such but after the “sewer rat” incident, is it really in anyone’s best interest to give someone the benefit of the doubt?

The Wildrose caucus and their favourite right wing media monster certainly weren’t willing to do that.  As the tale is now told, the NDP called “all the (Wildrose) party’s supporters ‘sewer rats‘.”  Never mind that it was one MLA and don’t even think of trying to rationalize why a government minister would call provincial constituents who elected her and her party ‘sewer rats’.  You would be wrong.  The Wildrose knows what she meant and both they and their supporters pushed the narrative as hard as they could.  It’s an urban legend now.

I’m not about to run with a false narrative though.  Welcome to a centrist point of view: I’m reasonable.  All of the people who “got” the joke agreed; they are normal.  The problem with this narrative/rhetoric is it suggests someone else isn’t and that definition is in the mind of the beholder.

The “us against them” narrative is something I find particularly concerning. Jason Kenney is running with a current theme of “us” against the “elites” in academia (which elites are under fire change but not the story).  They are a small group.  Marginalizing them is easy; people who spent half their lives paying to learn and now get paid to learn – and teach???  Who does that?  Some people have to work for a living.

Truthfully, marginalizing Edmonton is easy as well.  It’s a government city and a government city has unions.  Fildebrandt has taken a stance against unions numerous times and while Kenney has as well, he’s much more careful about alienating voters.  Because of unions, Edmonton also has the majority of well-paying government jobs.   It’s tough to find a well-paying job in rural Alberta.  Even if you own a business, you don’t have the consumer base of the cities which also makes it difficult to start a business.

Nevertheless, if it wasn’t for all those decent paying jobs and successful businesses around the province, Strathmore wouldn’t have a hospital, let alone upgrades to the hospital.  The tax base of ~11,000 people (a great number of whom work in Calgary) can’t pay for the five elementary schools, three junior and senior high schools as well as a hospital.  Don’t tell residents though – they think their taxes are too high as it is.  If this argument sounds familiar, it is: federal equalization payments perform the same function as urban to rural equalization within provinces.

“Us vs Them” rhetoric is not helpful to anyone even if it makes you feel good for a moment.  We, Albertans, are all in this together.  Will you decide your future, the future of your children, neighbours and friends based on what you don’t want?  Rejecting divisive statements should be our first priority as citizens and especially as voters.

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