Creepy Wildrose attack ads set the tone as Alison Redford prepares to be sworn in as Alberta premier

| October 7, 2011 | 0 Comments

by David J. Climenhaga

Honeymoon? What honeymoon?

Alison Redford was elected leader of Alberta’s governing Progressive Conservative Party in a vote announced in the wee hours of Sunday morning. She hasn’t even been sworn in as premier and everyone is piling on and screeching like banshees.

Just a thought, but rank and file Albertans may want to give Ms. Redford a few days to get her transition under way in an orderly fashion, and to drop a couple of hints about what her policy plans may actually be, before we all light our hair on fire.

The National Citizens Coalition, a loony-right Toronto-based propaganda shop once led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, attacked the premier-designate for making an unholy alliance with unions in a “highly controversial backroom deal.”

The NCC couldn’t actually find a backroom deal to call controversial, but it did the next best thing and reported that a certain number of unionized teachers and public sector health care workers went out all on their own and joined the PC Party. They did it to vote for Ms. Redford on the strength of her promises to preserve public health care and restore funding to public education. And we all know the NCC hates “special interest groups” like women, teachers, health care workers, parents with children in school and seniors – you know, citizens – who don’t share their brutalist dogma of economic perfection.

Meanwhile, the president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, the province’s largest union, told the Edmonton Journal yesterday that behind the “veneer” of Ms. Redford’s health care and education policies “is a very sinister approach to public services overall.”

This was based, the union said, on a statement on Ms. Redford’s website that some government departments would be required to conduct program reviews “and demonstrate why programs and services cannot be delivered by community-based organizations or the private sector.” Ms. Redford’s policy statement went on: “Within six months, I want to identify services that can be transferred to community leadership or privatized.”

Well, one can certainly sympathize with the concern about privatization talk among members of AUPE, who have faced such destructive policies under premier Ralph Klein, but since Ms. Redford has left the door open to listening to arguments against it, instead of throwing down the gauntlet, persuasion might be the place to start this discussion.

As for the right-wing media (which would be pretty much all of it), the Calgary Sun hyperventilated that “female health-care workers and moms peeved about teacher cuts” were to blame for the outrage of Alberta being led by a woman premier bent on perpetrating a dreadful plan to spend more on education. Also at fault, the Sun lectured, were members of the Alberta Teachers Association, whose executive director, quelle horreur, encouraged members to “get involved in choosing the next premier of Alberta.”

Regardless of all this, the blue ribbon for sheer brass must go to the far-right Wildrose Party, which along with almost everyone else in Alberta (your correspondent included) assailed Ms. Redford on Monday morning for saying immediately after her victory that she didn’t plan a fall sitting of the Legislature.

On Tuesday, she said she’d decided to have a fall session after all. So yesterday, which was Thursday, the Wildrose brain trust rushed out a creepy video attack ad that complained Ms. Redford “tried closing the Legislature.”

Well, you know what, you just can’t please some people!

The Wildrose strategy is pretty clearly to get in fast, before Ms. Redford is in a position to defend herself, and Swift Boat the premier-designate with attack ads that cement the notion in voters’ heads that Premier Ed Stelmach’s successor is a flip-flopper and someone “who will do anything for power.”

The conventional political wisdom in the United States, where parties have some experience with this kind of thing, is that some of the sleaze always rubs off on the attackers when they go negative, but that it can be a net benefit to their campaign.

We saw in this country how effective this can be when former federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff was preemptively smeared into irrelevance by the U.S.-influenced Harper Conservatives.

Still, the menacing Wildrose attack ads, complete with a soundtrack that in one sounds weirdly as if dogs are barking in the background, could work – if Alberta happened to have the U.S.-style system of government the right-wing party admires so overtly it uses U.S. images on its website.

But it can also have interesting unintended consequences when you imagine, as the Harperistas did this year, that you’re operating in a U.S.-style two-party system when in fact it’s a multi-party democracy with, say, an Orange alternative.

Indeed, the new Wildrose ads are eerily reminiscent to the TV spots purchased by coalition of labour unions in 2007 to plant the idea in voters’ heads that Mr. Stelmach had “no plan.”

We all know how well that one worked out!

Ms. Redford will be sworn in today just before noon.

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Category: Alberta, Opinion, Politics

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