Does anyone other than me remember Dave Barrett suing W.A.C. Bennett for libel in 1972?
For that matter, does anyone other than me remember Dave Barrett and W.A.C. Bennett?
Messrs. Bennett and Barrett – both persons of my acquaintance, as it happens – were each premier of British Columbia for a time in 1972. The latter, a New Democrat, replaced the former, a Social Creditor, that year, to most everyone’s astonishment. And while Mr. Barrett’s time in power was short, it was fun while it lasted. But, never mind, I digress.
It’s just that I could have sworn that on the way to that fateful election in 1972, Mr. Barrett went to the Supreme Court of British Columbia seeking a libel writ, which he proceeded to drop upon then-Premier Bennett (at right), who had been smearing him as a Red.
This tactic had worked very nicely for Mr. Bennett against the NDP in 1969, but Mr. Barrett’s action put a stop to that, thank you very much! (Or so I do recall. Mr. Google is uncharacteristically silent on this topic. He has more to say about the Cathars and the Illuminati, for heaven’s sake!)
At any rate, with Mr. Barrett’s defamation action pending, Mr. Bennett had nothing more to say about Mr. Barrett’s supposed Red tendencies, and the election campaign culminated in that unexpected NDP majority.
These events came to my mind today when I read about NDP Leader Brian Mason’s attempts in the Alberta Legislature Tuesday to stop Premier Ed Stelmach from telling fibs about him by smearing him as a Green.
Mr. Stelmach keeps insisting that Mr. Mason and the New Democrats would like to close down the Alberta tarsands. This might get the Green set’s hearts beating faster, if only it were true. Alas, the facts are otherwise – as Mr. Mason insisted in the House that Mr. Stelmach knows well.
What Mr. Mason (at left) actually said – back in the bad old days of the Second Great Boom, before we pissed it all away again – was that there should be a moratorium on new tarsands development until such time as the Alberta economy had had a chance to catch its breath. That would be like now.
Now, you may question the wisdom of making such a comment in the run-up to a provincial general election fuelled on petro-bucks. Mr. Mason, no doubt, felt safe enough saying it, because one Peter Lougheed, a former Conservative premier of Alberta, had said much the same thing just days before. Nevertheless, it is pretty obviously not what Mr. Stelmach says that Mr. Mason said.
Mr. Mason called Mr. Stelmach a liar, which in a Canadian Legislature is a parliamentary no-no. Mr. Speaker (who in his private life is known as Mr. Kowalski, but never mind) begged Mr. Mason five times to stop.
Mr. Mason eventually relented and mumbled a withdrawal – not so much to mollify the Speaker, one suspects, as to appease his colleague Rachel Notley, who must have been sorely displeased at the thought of having to do the work of the entire Alberta Opposition for two weeks, rather than just half of it.
The Premier, we can assume, will now go back to regularly and happily smearing Mr. Mason as a Green.
If this continues come the next election campaign, however, I suggest that Mr. Mason take a page from Mr. Barrett’s successful playbook and visit the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench to sue Mr. Stelmach for defamation. Leastways, he should if he can goad Mr. Stelmach into uttering this comment outside the House.
He would have to prove, of course, that it was as much of a defamation to call someone a Green in Alberta in the 21st century as it was to call someone a Red in British Columbia in the 20th. But surely that is not too much of a stretch!
And who can imagine what interesting effect this might have on the next provincial election? An NDP majority, perhaps? Well, whatever. It beats letting them just go on about you!