Am I the only one who sees irony in the leader of Alberta's ultra-conservative Wildrose Party working up a full head of steam because the merely very conservative government of Premier Alison Redford plans to mail a colourful budget brochure to every household in the province -- at taxpayer expense, of course?
After all, the Wildrose Party of Danielle Smith is effectively the Alberta provincial branch of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative Party of Canada -- the one mailing out those federal Tory flyers attacking Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's substance as well as his masculinity.
The federal Tory ads are being mailed to voters across the country at taxpayer expense as well, of course, but there’s no word about how Smith feels about that -- nor is there ever likely to be.
She was also silent on the provincial government’s new policy of referring to the Alberta Government as the Redford Government in news releases drafted up by civil service public relations flacks -- another bad habit copied from the Harper Government.
But on the topic of the Redford Conservatives -- the 61 supposedly Progressive MLAs so spooked by Smith’s 17-member caucus they've forgotten who got them elected and offer destructive policies nearly identical to those of the Wildrose Party -- the Opposition leader was in fine fettle.
"We have a premier who is desperately afraid of losing confidence from her party in her leadership vote in the fall, and she's pulling out all the stops, including using taxpayer money to send out political propaganda," Smith huffed in an interview with the always reliable Canadian Press, which you can only read in out-of-town newspapers nowadays because the moribund Alberta rags don't use the news service any more.
Smith raised an important and fairly non-partisan point -- which was echoed from the other side of the political spectrum by NDP Leader Brian Mason -- and that is that this mail-out likely has as much to do with internal PC Party politics as with any desire to inform the populace of the government’s plans.
"This has got a lot to do with the premier's campaign, which is now in full swing, to win her leadership review in November," Mason told the CP, most certainly an accurate assessment of the premier's motivation.
If the mail-out can help her improve her polling numbers with voters, it will most certainly help her win her party's endorsement to carry on -- which, as has been stated here before, she likely will anyway.
Still, with their characteristic ineptitude, Redford's strategic brain trust made it easy for the opposition by printing the $350,000 brochure in the same orange and turquoise colour scheme the premier used in her 2012 election campaign.
A clever commercial artist in Smith's party's employ worked up a witty Facebook graphic that drew attention to this fact, managing to make the leaflet look just a little sleazier than it in reality is.
The contents of the eight-page mail-out add up to the usual baloney we'd expect from any premier who found herself in Redford's shoes -- plenty of excuses for the party's screeching turn back to instinctive austerity from its promised sustainable funding for social programs, blamed on the already evanescing "Bitumen Bubble," plus anodyne bromides about the province's glowing future.
Well, call me cynical, but I reckon that to the winner goes the spoils -- and in a democracy that usually means the keys to the room with the postage meter.
The brochure is faintly unsavoury, but I just can’t get my knickers in a twist about a sin this small compared with things like the Tories' determination to ship bitumen and jobs out of the province and the country as quickly as they can -- a policy they share with the Wildrose Party, except that Smith's crew is standing on the sidelines yelling, "more, more, faster, faster!"
Nor do I believe for a moment that the Wildrose Party -- the would-be, erm, Smith Government -- would behave any differently in office on this particular count.
That's not cynicism designed to discourage citizens from voting, yet another Tory bad habit, merely an evidence-based assessment of the likely behaviour of so-called conservative parties of almost all stripes whenever they manage to glom onto power.
The government, meanwhile, defended sending us all the factoids contained in its cheerful "Report to Taxpayers" -- "we don't apologize for communicating to Albertans the information that Albertans want to know," sniffed Finance Minister Doug Horner.
Well, not all the information that taxpayers want to know. The government won't be releasing the contents of a report on pipeline safety to taxpayers any time soon, Energy Minister Ken Hughes explained yesterday.
Hughes promised: "We'll release it in the fullness of time" -- the dispensation of which will happen, as lots of people in Alberta of all places understand instinctively, whenever…
In other words, don't hold your breath waiting for environmental pie in the sky.
This post also appears on David CLimenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.
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