Thursday, February 14, 2008

Sun Love In With NDP

Is subversive socialism creeping into the Sun Editorial Room. After all their new marketing slogan smacks of Bolshevism; Read Red. Red being their banner colour.

And they are saying nice things about Brian Mason and the NDP after Brian met with them yesterday.

When Mason appeared yesterday to talk to the Sun's editorial board he didn't seem to have any blood-sucking socialist fangs and wasn't wearing a red beret.

Instead, he wore a tie and jacket and patiently outlined a policy platform aimed at what ex-premier Ralph Klein dubbed severely normal Albertans.

Kerry Diotte, a transplanted Ontario libertarian, gushes again over Brian and the NDP.

There's long been an innate fear of socialism here and it has been reflected by the poor showing by NDP candidates who run federally and provincially.

That's why it's got to be frustrating for a guy like Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason, who's the most charismatic of the three major party leaders contesting the March 3 provincial election.

Which is why he falls into the revisionist right wing myth that Alberta fears socialism. Which is contradicted by the historical fact that Western Canadian Socialism was given birth here with the strikes of miners who belonged to the IWW in Medicine Hat and Lethbridge. Again in 1919 with the founding Convention of the One Big Union in Calgary, during the Winnipeg General Strike, organized by the Socialist Party of Canada. And later with the founding of the CCF in Calgary in the 1920's, not as some mistakenly believe in Regina.. Albertans embraced socialism even in its later distributionist right wing variant; Social Credit.

Neil Waugh gushed this week over Brian as well.

There was nothing about a Liberal-style
assault on the oilsands for Our Brian, clearly a friend of the working man and woman, or at least not for now. Heck, he even wants to charge a bitumen removal "barrel tax" to force oilsands outfits to upgrade their production here.

Then today Waugh joins in with a clarion call of pending class war because of Big Oil's finger puppet Ed Stelmach. Suddenly Waugh is sounding like more like Lenin than Ayn Rand.

That was all before Canadian National Resources Ltd.'s $2-billion oilsands overrun suddenly appeared to bite the Tories this week.

With only 10% of the Horizon oil sands plant at Fort McMurray still to build, the costs mysteriously soared 28% in what the company blurb called the "toughest, most labour intensive portion" of the controversial project controlled by Calgary billionaire Murray Edwards.

"Unfortunately, mid to late January and early February saw a significant deterioration of labour productivity on the site," company brass lamented.

The reason was "much colder than normal weather seriously curtailed activity."

Who knew that it sometimes hits -40 C at Fort Mac in the winter? When in doubt, blame the workers and the weather.

But it won't be CNRL shareholders picking up the extra $2 billion. Somebody messed up big time and tried to build the biggest piece of the project in brass monkey weather.

In all likelihood, Alberta taxpayers will once again bite the bullet.

Even under Stelmach's new royalty deal (a strangely forgotten part of the PC campaign), oilsands outfits still only pay pennies on the dollar until the massive plants are paid out. Then the royalty jumps to a more reasonable rate of 25% to 40%, depending on oil prices.

Energy department spokesman Jason Chance insisted that any additional costs "would have to be validated and determined whether they are appropriate. It's based on what the reality is."

The sweet deal CNRL got from the Tories for Horizon allowed the company to tear up the oilsands labour construction deal and broke the peace that ruled in the oilsands for the last quarter century. It touched off last fall's Hard Hat Flu walkouts.

This resulted in the "No Plan" Stelmach attack ads backed by the Alberta Building Trades Council.

These took a turn for the bizarre last weekend when the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees' brass, after "extensive debate," voted to kick in $300,000 to the TV spots, meaning government workers are now attacking their own work.

Meanwhile Employment Minister Iris Evans continues to sit on the probe into CNRL's all-fall-down tank farm, where two Chinese foreign temporary workers were crushed to death.

"The chickens are coming home to roost for Mr. Stelmach," Mason chuckled, calling for a "special unit" of government auditors to "validate and verify" CNRL's cost-overrun claims.

Or is Klein's political ghost now haunting Eddie's campaign bus?

Mason also met with the Liberal Edmonton Journal editorial board. And again a fair gushing ensued over the only charismatic politician in the race. Mason was the winner in the 2000 race, and the NDP has made the transition from being a decimated party in 1993 to rising from the ashes in 1997 to winning four seats in 2004. And in each of those elections the NDP was a new party with new directions and new leaders who appealed to the public.

Albertans should be grateful the competent, thoughtful, personable likes of Brian Mason is willing to fight the uphill battle, to make the case for New Democrat MLAs in the legislature at election time, and to stoke debate on issues such as health care each time the Tories introduce one of their numbered "ways" of challenging the public system.

Do the NDs have a place in the next legislature?

That's a decision voters -- in practice, Edmonton voters -- must decide as they balance their desire for change in government offices, their recognition that our new Edmonton-area premier already constitutes change from the Calgary-centric Klein past, and their admiration for stands of principle by people like Mason and his predecessors Raj Pannu and Pam Barrett.

But would this election be as valuable or as useful a forum of political renewal and debate without Mason's and the NDP's thoughtful perspective on issues?

It certainly would not.

The Edmonton media seems to have given Brian and the NDP an election bouquet of good wishes on Valentines Day.


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1 comment:

janfromthebruce said...

Sweet. May this result in more NDP seats is the prov. legislature.

Thanks for an 'insider' edition.