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Seasonal angst: Ted Morton's Christmas message

With likely future political challenges in mind, presumably, Alberta Finance Minister Ted Moron recently rolled out a spiffy new Website.

When it appeared, the new site was replete with a Christmas video that shows this minister (of the Crown) in a nice environmentally green sweater, surrounded by seasonal paraphernalia and invoking the name of the deity five times in one minute and 34 seconds. This seems appropriate for a politician whose only hope of not being toppled soon by the Wildrose Alliance may be divine intervention, regardless of which Calgary riding he chooses to run in. 

Whatever. It’s easy not to listen carefully to holiday messages of this type. They tend to be anodyne and predictable. Nevertheless, there may be value in parsing Morton's festive maunderings, if only to assist us in reading Alberta's political tealeaves. After all, Morton wouldn’t have done this if he hadn't thought it was to his political advantage, so, if nothing else it tells us what groups of voters he is persuaded he most needs to keep if he is to survive.

Anyway, like the "Sovietologists" of yore, we need to read between the lines seeking the minutest hints to figure out what the heck is going on within Premier Ed Stelmach's secretive government. So, in the name of Kremlinology, Alberta Division, here is a short commentary on Morton's Christmas message, with Morton's remarks shown in bold, my comments in italic.

(Sound of Sleigh Bells)

Yeah, sleigh bells. Sleigh bells are OK! This may sound tacky to the overly sophisticated, the kind of people who live in Toronto. But really, it's entirely appropriate to mark the arrival of Jesus Christ in his sleigh on our rooftops each year just before he slides down the chimney carrying a huge bag of expensive electronic gifts. I've got this Christmas story thing right, haven't I?

Christmas Message from Ted Morton

These words hover on the screen for a moment. But, just in case you wondered, there's a message to the Base here. To wit: this is about Christmas, it's not some politically correct "holiday greeting." Got that, Durango?

By now, I’m sure you're tired of politics and I don't blame you. In the recent U.S. elections and here at home, there’s been way too much negativity. And mudslinging. Thank God it's Christmas!

For heaven's sake, Ted, the United States is your model for politics, not to mention your dream economy. Anyway, we're not tired of politics, not even a little. Even American politics. As for mudslinging, please! Most of the mudslinging in Alberta is done by your party. You're confusing legitimate political criticism, alternative policy positions and the shocked reaction of taxpayers to your premier's continued bumbling with mudslinging. Yeah, there's been some mudslinging in the States -- but, gee, I guess that's the kind of thing that happens in your ideal style of democracy. Same goes for your supposed nattering nabobs of negativism. Uh oh! Here comes Divine Reference No. 1. Too bad for you that, with or without an invocation of God's name, Christmas isn't going to make those voters who are carping so vocally any less tired of your Conservative government.

Christmas is a time to remember what really matters: Family, friends and the celebration of the birth of Christ. The glow of the Christmas tree is a reflection of the love that Jesus taught us. For family and friends, yes, but also for those less fortunate. So, please, take some time over the holidays to help some of our fellow Albertans who are down on their luck.

In this section, we see Divine References 2 and 3. And just in case you doubted which divinity we're speaking about, that’s been made explicit. 'Here’s hoping,' Morton presumably thought, 'that I can get back some of the nutty fundamentalists in … whatever riding I decide to run in…' And by the way, that tree is a reflection of our pagan pre-Christian beginnings. But never mind that, 'tis the season after all, so give a fiver to a hard-luck case. You’ll find lots of them hanging around hospital emergency wards all over Alberta for hours on end! The rest of the year, of course, it’s OK to give them a good swift kick, like Ralph Klein metaphorically used to do. By the way, if you think love for friends, family and the less fortunate might mean doing something about pensions to actually help folks get by, well, forget it!

Celebrating the birth of Christ also reminds us that all children are special. Here in Alberta we talk a lot about our natural resources, but it's important that we never forget it's our children who are our most important natural resource. They are our future, and we have a special obligation to leave Alberta as good for them as we received it from our parents. This means not leaving them with piles of public debt and unpaid bills, but also means a healthy environment, and the special beauty, the natural beauty, that we’re so blessed with here in Alberta.

First comes Divine Reference No. 4, with a weird segue to the kiddies. Oh well, as You-Know-Who famously said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me." (By the way, the "suffer" in this reference means "allow" -- I point this out only in case any Conservative Biblical literalists are confused about the resulting theocratic policy point.) If you ever wondered how Conservatives see your children, now you know. They're a natural resource, best subjected, presumably, to the whims of that other almighty, the Market. You know, like Alberta water. "We have a special obligation to leave Alberta as good for them as we received it from our parents…" But Ted, you didn't receive Alberta from your parents! You received California, or maybe Wyoming, depending how you want to look at it. And if we thought that green sweater meant the environment, we can forget that too. It’s all about cutting spending… Well, you're not doing so well with this one just now, are you Dr. Morton? Yeah, yeah, it's about special beauty too…

So my New Year's promise to you is that I will continue to support strong families, as well as economic and environmental sustainability. To my constituents in Foothills-Rocky View, thank you for allowing me to represent you in the Legislature of Alberta. And all of you, my wife Bambi joins me in wishing you health and happiness in the New Year. God bless and Merry Christmas.

Strong families? Did we mention improvements to the Canada Pension Plan, which Morton's been manfully opposing? That would strengthen families, and the economy too. But, you know… "To my constituents in Foothills-Rocky View, thank you for allowing me to represent you in the Legislature of Alberta." He may also have been thinking: 'Thanks all right! Seeing as I don't think you’re going to do it again, I may run somewhere else next time….' We end with Divine reference No. 5, and a further invocation of Christmas, and if you happen to be a member of another religion, well, you’ll get your own message later, if at all.

(Sound of sleigh bells)

See above.

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

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