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 Dr. Morton’s festive maunderings, if only to assist us in reading Alberta’s political tealeaves. After all, Dr. 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 Dr. Morton’s Christmas message, with Dr. 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,’ Dr. 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 Alverta 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 Dr. 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 rabble.ca.

4 Comments on "Seasonal angst: Ted Morton’s Christmas message"

  1. NLAR says:

    I'm glad I am not the only one who caught the double standard in Morton's Christmas message.

    I found nothing particularly inspiring in his message that would convince me that he had a good plan for all Alberta. Worse yet he said that he stands up for families but won't go along with a strengthened CPP.

    The one tea leaf you forgot to look at was the constituency that he was playing to, Alberta's religious and evangelical communities.

    Data is available to the P.C. party that shows that this group consistently gets out and votes, and when they do, they vote Conservative while other non-church going Albertans are statistically more likely to stay home.

    All this while the so called Liberals or left of center parties continue to avoid this group like the plague, likely out of fear that somehow they might be overtaken by some sort of resurgent modern fundamentalism, or perhaps its their literal interpretation of "separation of church and state" that keeps them from courting this voting block.

    Just to back up this point the Premier recently attended at the Sherwood Park Alliance Church to speak on how government works. His only condition was that his visit was not announced in advance, and that his visit would not grace the pages of any bulletin.

    Do you see this tea leaf now?

  2. David J. Climenhaga says:

    Aw, gee, NLAR, I would have thought "'Here’s hoping,' Dr. Morton presumably thought, 'that I can get back some of the nutty fundamentalists in … whatever riding I decide to run in…'" would have covered that point! No tea leaf unturned is my motto! But you make a good point. You'd think Christians would be a natural constituency for the New Democratic Party – at least those Christians who follow the actual teachings of, you know, Jesus Christ. That may be why such important CCF and NDP figures as Tommy Douglas (Baptist), J.S. Woodsworth (Methodist) and Bill Blaikie (United) were all Protestant clergymen. Indeed, Mr. Blaikie still is, presumably. Of course, these guys were all involved in Protestant Christianity before its reverse takeover by … let's just say "market fundamentalists."

  3. workeradvocate says:

    Point on Dave. While browsing potential candidate sites for the next Alberta election, I came upon the site of the nomination candidate for the WAP in Calgary Varsity [kevindick.ca]. Now remember that Varsity is Alberta's best educated riding. His policy page is ripe with the thoughts and ideas of the 'reformatories' like Ted Morton in Alberta.
    Balance the Budget – Albertans worked hard to pay off the debt;
    Improve Health Care –
    Government maintain the status quo instead of making the right choices to fix health care;
    Universal health care is not providing universal access for all Albertans.
    A two tier health care system already exists, let’s stop playing partisan games, and work on increasing the existing benefits of our two tier system;
    Defend the Oil and Gas Industry – The oil and gas industry, the backbone of Alberta’s economy, faces extreme criticism from David Suzuki, Al Gore and others in the left-wing media, who are spreading lies about our industry on the world stage. The government must hold companies accountable when they violate environmental regulations and must defend the industry just as vigorously against unfair and inaccurate criticisms.
    Competitive Taxation – In order to ensure increased investment and entrepreneurship, Alberta must have the lowest business and personal taxes in Canada.
    Smaller Government – Our government has increased its role in our daily lives. Governments should stick to the basics like health care, infrastructure and education
    Enhance Education – Education is the keystone to maintaining Alberta’s leadership in business, entrepreneurship, technology and innovation. Parents deserve the right to choose where their child will go to school; tax dollars must follow the student. Public Universities need to be teaching institutions with better fiscal accountability.
    Get Tough on Criminals – We need to stop the ‘catch and release’ problem of our legal system. Serious criminals need to stay behind bars. Stelmach is pushing for broad search and seizure powers, while serious criminals get early parole and house arrest because our prisons are overcrowded. If building more jails protects society from criminals, let’s do it.
    Pro-Life – The right to life must be protected.

    So the Wildrose Alliance will maintain two tier health care, defend the oil sands regardless of the science, weaken public education, shrink government, build more jails, reduce taxes, and eliminate the right to choice while balancing the budget. Wow.
    So the net costs of the "reformatory" government will be fragmented public education, health care based upon ability to pay, significant job loss in the public sector, mixing religion and politics and a domination of Alberta political policy by the American style evangelical communities.

  4. NLAR says:

    Don't disagree with you Dave, with the exception that in Alberta the broader evangelical/religious community (more encompassing than calling this group fundamentalists) closes aligns with the Conservatives in Alberta than any other political party. One big reason for this was the gay marriage debate and threats by Klein to enact the "notwithstanding clause" (which he never did) regardless it did create waves among this community creating the impression that the PC's as being the defacto political defenders of the faith.

    Harper has also played to this group rather well as written about in a book "The Armageddon Factor"- The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada http://bit.ly/gpEIRC

    After John Kerry lost the 2004 U.S. Presidential election he was reported to have said that he had lost because he did not court the religious vote. Barack Obama did not want to make the same mistake so in 2006 he wrote this speech which reads more like a reprimand to Liberals for not courting the religious/evangelical vote. http://bit.ly/aKMDlO

    As far back as the 1925 famous monkey trial where liberal Christians chastised fundamentalist Christians for interpreting the bible literally, it's now the liberal Christians who are interpreting literally the meaning of the term "separation of church and state" and so loose an important voting constituency.

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