As Ken Kowalski, the venerable and soon-to-retire Speaker of the Alberta Legislative Assembly might have put it: “Well! That didn’t take long!”
No sooner had the mainstream media proclaimed the Progressive Conservatives under Premier Alison Redford on their way to yet another huge victory than the word was all over the Interwebs that the Tories themselves were returning to their traditionally prickly ways.
A wise old Alberta political hand told me many years ago that this province’s Conservatives don’t really like being challenged by anyone, and even being so bold as to chat with an MLA from an Opposition party in public can be enough to get you and your cause into hot water.
So you can imagine the kind of trouble you could get in for saying something like, oh, the Tories had out municipal grants on the basis of how well a municipality’s voters behave come election time!
But for the last year or so, as Alberta’s Natural Governing Party for the first time in a generation has been contemplating the possibility that things might not go quite as would normally be assumed, so its visage has not been as stern toward those miscreants who toed the line with insufficient enthusiasm.
But the same day the mainstream media was penning predictions that the Redford Tories would return by another massive majority – maybe the most massive majority ever – Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths was pounding out a letter of his own, excoriating the president of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association for her naughty suggestion and setting out her punishment for the world to see.
Linda Sloan, you see, had had the temerity to say to a journalist that the government hands out the municipal moolah based on political performance. Ms. Sloan, who is also an Edmonton city councillor who can be prickly herself on occasion, told the Edmonton Journal that “I don’t think it’s fair to pick communities one way or the other based on what their provincial voting record has been.”
Fair enough, except that the Redford Regime denied it all, with the premier’s Chief of Staff, Stephen Carter, Twittering hotly that Ms. Sloan was a lair, and a malicious one at that.
For his part, Mr. Griffiths’ sharp letter advised Ms. Sloan that unless she came to the throne on bended knee, tugging her forelock, the Conservative caucus and cabinet would boycott the AUMA’s breakfast tomorrow morning.
“Your comments are deliberately inflammatory and erroneous, and are not a sound way to build a strong relationship between governments whose ultimate purpose and focus is to build stronger communities,” Mr. Griffiths, or his executive assistant anyway, huffed. “Please be advised that as a result of your comments in the media, neither I, nor any of my Cabinet or Caucus colleagues, will be attending the AUMA breakfast on Feb. 16, 2012.”
What’s more, he went on, “you have chosen to make false accusations in the newspaper while claiming you want to work together. The situation can be remedied if you apologize and retract your erroneous statement.” (Emphasis added.) Click here to read the entire letter.
Now, to those of us in the hoi polloi, this may sound plain silly, but it would have been a major humiliation to any leader of the municipal politicians’ league.
As a consequence, apparently, Ms. Sloan grovelled sufficiently to satisfy the government, denying that she ever said any such thing as was reported in the Journal. For its part, the Journal, which is standing by its story, reports that peace reigns again in the Tory valley.
As a result, presumably, the breakfast is on again and the PC Party’s Legislative stalwarts will be able to sit down peaceably to their eggs and bacon as most of you are reading this.
As a gesture of good will, Ms. Redford lightly tapped Mr. Carter’s wrist for his overly enthusiastic Tweeting.
Meantime, though, we are all on notice again. Don’t cross an Alberta Tory government not matter how big its majority is. It can be meaner than a snake!
This post also appears on Rabble.ca.