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The Cheney-Morton Axis: This right-wing nut didn't fall far from the Dickster

Alberta Finance Minister Ted Morton

Being born in the United States shouldn't automatically exclude a person from being elected to the highest public offices in Canada. In our tolerant nation, after all, that would be unconstitutional -- unlike some other countries.

However, such circumstances should be cause for additional caution and scrutiny by voters -- especially here in Alberta, where in ruling circles the worst American ideas are revered and the best ones are disdained. Never forget, as the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service recently reminded us, that some politicians are more loyal to foreign states than their adopted home, and some adhere to alien ideologies.

Thus we come to the curious case of Frederick Lee "Ted" Morton, Alberta's minister of finance and the putative premier in waiting of Canada's richest province, whose Los Angeles birthplace and upbringing in Casper, Wyoming, should raise a red (state) flag with Alberta electors.

Seeing Morton as the Premier of Alberta is the wettest of dreams among the neo-liberal propagandists of the University of Calgary's Department of Political Fantasy, Stephen Harper's far-right cadre in Ottawa and big corporate bosses everywhere. After all, verily -- profoundly -- Mr. Morton is their man.

Pardon me, Dr. Morton. Educated in the United States and Ontario, Morton earned a PhD in the field known officially as political economy at the University of Toronto. He joined the University of Calgary as a political science professor in 1981 and, after that, things really picked up. He once called himself "every liberal’s nightmare -- a right-winger with a PhD."

As the Wikipedia gently said of Morton's academic life before her entered politics as Alberta's fatuous "Senator in Waiting," he was "part of a group of academics called the Calgary School whose teaching and writing exercised a very significant influence on the future of conservatism in Canada."

A significant influence? No kidding! The Calgary School, so called, is a cult-like taxpayer-financed hothouse for the cultivation of loony, far right economic and political nostrums. Although they deny it, principal figures in this group are widely believed to be acolytes of the crypto-fascist American political philosopher Leo Strauss.

Shadia Drury, professor of political theory of the University of Regina, wrote famously that the late Prof. Strauss was the font whence sprang American neo-conservativism, teaching that "perpetual deception of the citizens by those in power is critical because they need to be led, and they need strong rulers to tell them what's good for them." In other words: "Lie to 'em, it'll be good for 'em! … Or us, anyway." Needless to say, Drury was roundly abused by the disciples of the Calgary School and its many supporters in the media.

It was at the Calgary School that Alberta's famous "Firewall Letter," urging Premier Ralph Klein to imitate the action of a separatist and summon up some sovereignty-association, had its seminal moment. The Firewall Letter advised Klein to "build firewalls around Alberta" by pulling out of the Canada Pension Plan, abandoning the Canada Health Act, getting rid of the RCMP and the like. It was signed by a group of six notorious Western sovereignists, including Stephen Harper, then the director of the so-called National Citizens' Coalition and … of course … Ted Morton.

Thankfully, Klein had the good sense to put the Firewall Letter where it belonged -- in the round file. But today, Morton's separatist epistle is one of the animating documents of the Widlrose Alliance Party of Danielle Smith. Ironically, the same crafty oilpatch bagmen who today support Smith tout Morton as the best hope for saving the Conservative party from the existential threat supposedly posed by the Wildrose Alliance!

Be that as it may, at least Morton came by his association the far right honestly. He was begotten by Warren A. Morton, a "proudly conservative" oilman from Casper, Wyoming, who after that fateful spell in the City of Angels served as the Republican Speaker of the Wyoming House of Representatives and once ran unsuccessfully for governor of that state.

Ted's pappy's Casper-area electoral district shared real estate with that of Dick Cheney, for a time the U.S. Congressman for Wyoming and later the Darth Vader of the whole United States. Cheney is also said to have assisted with the elder Morton's gubernatorial bid.

Morton's official biography claims he flirted with lefty politics in his misspent youth. One suspects, however, this is merely a Straussian ruse cooked up to humanize the unsmiling market fundamentalist. But it is true, nevertheless, that his maternal grandfather was a Democratic member of the U.S. Congress. Still, the most telling fact about Morton is surely that as a laddie he was likely patted on the head by Cheney himself, the Dark Lord of U.S. politics.

He was patted on the head again, figuratively speaking, by Cheney in 2008, when as "sustainable resource development" minister he accompanied Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach on a pilgrimage to Washington to sit at the knee of the ailing Republican Godfather, his fellow Wyomingite and brother gun-nut. (Better the guns should remain in Morton’s hands, we can all agree, than Cheney's!)

Not to worry, said the Dickster, by then President George W. Bush’s vice-president, it doesn’t matter how dirty your oil is, Uncle Sam will buy it. Come to my arms, my beamish boy! O frabjous day! Alas, how things have changed!

So now we see the coruscating path Morton has described through the heavens: From Dear Old Dad, to Dick, to the Calgary School and its firewalls, to Dick again, to minister of finance, to Conservative saviour, to, just possibly, premier of Alberta!

Thus we discover the Cheney-Morton Axis: this right-wing nut didn't fall far from the Dickster!

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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