Occasion to examine the Alberta syndrome.
revised may18, 2023
As those who have read my output for awhile know, I am originally from Alberta. I escaped to Ontario almost thirty years ago now. I still have relatives in Alberta, follow its politics, and visit occasionally.
I left Alberta because it is an especially dangerous place in which to be disabled. All parts of Canada are a difficult place for a ‘useless eater’ but Alberta is the Canadian home base of the crypto nazi/eugenic mentality. I have made some study of just why that is so.
An election is going on now in Alberta, so it is a good time to discuss just what is wrong with the place. As with most stories, it is best to begin at the beginning.
The way in which the prairie provinces were promoted to prospective settlers, and the kinds of people who were attracted, naturally shaped the prairie culture. The “Triangle” was oversold; it was never going to be more than a resource and agricultural hinterland, and a route to the pacific. The area should have been made one province, not three.
The problem with large scale immigration, then as now, is that it often attracts people who were not succeeding where they were. Often, that is because they had been privileged within a particular social order which was becoming more equal, and their relative privilege had declined. At the time of the original settlement, serfdom was disappearing in eastern Europe, indentured servitude had disappeared in England, and slavery had ended some time ago in the United States.
It can be seen from the behaviour of many early settlers, that they saw the Canadian west as a place where they could reestablish the kind of life they felt entitled to. They were often resentful when they discovered they could not. They were not meant to work, lesser people were obligated to work for them.
They could acquire farmland, but they had trouble forcing other people to work it for them. They were often reduced to working with their own hands until they could create businesses or enter professions. These attitudes seem to pass through generations.
Descendants of these people seem to have a strong influence in modern Alberta. I have encountered people there who seem to go through their lives in a permanent state of rage that they cannot have serfs. I know people who came to Alberta, encountered this mentality, and where quite disturbed.
This “moral obligation to work under any condition” has always occurred to me as the way lords would have talked to and about their serfs.
It was not just a ‘lord of the manor’ mentality that often got imported into Canada west, but the classic ‘peasant’ mentality as well. This term can be very elastic but in its useful sense indicates a mean minded, zero sum approach to life. If anyone gets more, I get less, anyone ‘shirking’ makes me work harder, skilled work or mind work is not real work, anyone doing better than me is cheating somehow.
This kind of mentality is always looking for a scapegoat. Such people can be played like a fiddle by those with money to employ influencers, to attack anyone they want targetted.
Another mentality that arrived in Western Canada in early days was the classic ‘red’ or ‘bolshevik’ mentality. As has been shown in many cases, this is not really useful in building alternatives to capitalism. It often gets redirected into fascistic tendencies.
Cooperative ideals also arrived with the early settlers. This resulted in some of the best aspects of Western Canadian culture. Much of this has been suppressed in Alberta by the long dominance of crypto fascism.
The western provinces went in very different ways as a result of the great depression of the 1930s.The predecessor to the NDP came into office in Saskatchewan. This came out of the cooperative tendency, not socialism.
In Alberta, the Social Credit party gained power, with sorrowful consequences for the subsequent development of the province. The party was built around a crank monetary movement originating in the UK. There it was closely connected with the ‘Green Shirts’, the British version of early fascism.
Old “Bible Billy” Aberhart thought these ideas gave him a solution to the depression; just give people more money. At least, it gave him an issue he could use to get elected. Social Credit really seemed to be about imposing certain social and religious ideas on society.
The Socreds discovered they did not have any money to give people. The federal government soon made clear that only it could issue a legal currency. The Socred government resorted to issuing the famous ‘funny money’, which could not be used to buy anything.
There are some present day advocates of a Basic Income who want to hold up the Social Credit ‘funny money’ as an early example of a BI. Some make the claim that it helped solve the depression in Alberta. They should read history.
The “30s” were the critical years in the development of the political culture of Alberta. Someone wrote a novel, a fictional parody of those times. It is titled, “The Words of my Roaring”.
In it, a charlatan came across a town full of farmers who were being made desperate by drought. He promised that he could make it rain if they gave him power over them. It happened to rain shortly after this.
The Socreds never had any answers for the depression. It was ameliorated by measures other provinces developed and which they had no choice but to imitate. Some federal measures helped. The world war and the sudden revival of demand for agricultural products ended the depression in Alberta.
The core of the Socred movement were really mere thugs. Aberhart brought some ‘Green Shirt’ people from England to help him deal with opposition to implementing Social Credit. Most of them soon went home, one to escape criminal charges for trying to arrange an assassination.
Many socialists and cooperativists were drawn into the early Socred movement. Some became converted into crypto fascists and the rest were eventually driven out.
Most politics enthusiasts in Canada, over a certain age, will recall Preston Manning. He is responsible for reconstructing the conservative party in Canada as a vehicle for the far right, forcing out all ‘red tories’. He is still the ‘Grey Eminence’ behind the far right in Alberta and in Canada.
His father, Ernest Manning, took over the Social Credit party after Aberhart and cemented it as the instrument for a religious crypto fascist elite in the province. They were particularly concerned with suppressing socialism. They stayed in power into the 1970s, consolidating this culture in Alberta.
A number of factors helped the Socreds to maintain this dominance for so long. The end of the world war brought a new influx from Europe, this time mostly refugees rather than free immigrants. A problem with post war refugees from Europe was that a lot of them were fleeing justice for crimes committed in support of various fascist regimes.
A large proportion of these people found their way to Alberta. They were just what Manning needed to intimidate socialists and other opposition. A problem with sustaining opposition to the right wing in Alberta was that it was always easier to simply leave than to stay and fight.
Some have observed that the worst thing to ever happen to Alberta was the discovery of oil. One could take this a step further back and say that one of the worst things to happen in Canada was to give the provinces control of natural resources. This was unjust and corrupting in so many ways it deserves a blog post by itself.
The Socreds soon learned to pander to the oil business and use the revenue to buy support. In some ways the province benefited from the infrastructure spending, but a ‘resource curse’ problem developed and has continued to this day. That is, a crowding out of other forms of development, a boom/bust economic cycle, corruption, and speculative real estate inflation.
Eventually the Lougheed conservatives drove the Socreds out. Initially, they included some ‘red tory’ people and did some red tory things. Their basic point was to maintain the status quo but end the more ridiculous ideas, based on religion and anti socialism, which the Socreds imposed.
Since the Lougheed times, and the development of neoliberalism from the 1980s, a pattern has become established in Alberta and intensified over time. Two cycles are at work. Some believe they are connected, but I believe that while they often converge, they are separate.
One is the boom bust cycle in oil and gas prices. Extravagant spending will peak on the up side. Frantic, destructive budget slashing will occur on the down side.
The other is the spazz cycle within the establishment party, originally the Socreds, then the PCs, and now the United Conservative party. The extreme right gradually gets control of the party. Public policy becomes ever crazier.
Resistance begins to develop and there is danger that an opposition party might take office. Saner people are able to regain control of the establishment party and repair the damage caused. The Alberta public goes back to sleep and soon the opposition parties have half a dozen seats again.
A feature of spazz cycles will be attempts to privatize health care, to eliminate social programs, even when they are legally obligated to provide them, and to scapegoat the federal government. There will be a denigration and persecution of the old, sick, and poor, and efforts to drive them out of the province. There will also be efforts to create quasi secret police organizations, or ‘war rooms’.
The Alberta NDP won election in 2015, when a number of factors coincided to their advantage. Troughs in both the spazz cycle and the oil market cycle coincided. However, Alison Redford had become tory leader and premier and was effective in once more driving the crypto nazi lunatics out of the party.
Yet something different happened this time. The spazzes seemed to have support and funding from somewhere, and were able to form the Wild Rose Party, led by Danielle Smith. Shortly before the election, Smith led a group of WRP MLAs (Members of Legislative Assembly) over to the tories.
Meanwhile, the business conservatives under Jim Prentice shoved out Alison Redford as Premier, supposedly because of her personal use of public resources, a big joke given the style in which Alberta tory politicians customarily rolled, but really because she was a bit too ‘left’ for them. Brian Jean took over Wildrose and won a good number of seats, which split the conservative vote and allowed Rachel Notley’s NDP to win.
This was very frustrating for Preston Manning. He had made a career out of keeping the right wing united so as to keep the left out of office, federally and in Alberta. The lesson of the past ten years in Alberta politics may be that this is no longer possible.
Presto has long been the lynchpin which keeps the business right and the crypto fascist right working together. He is clearly one of the factors which went into motion to drive Wild Rosers and Conservatives back together. This was made simpler when Prentice died in a plane crash in 2016.
After a very nasty campaign, Brian Jean was shoved aside. All rival candidates to Jason Kenney were sandbagged in very underhanded ways. The United Conservative Party (UCP) was born.
Meanwhile the Notley NDP acted like the NDP typically does whenever it gets into office in spite of itself. It keeps being said in their defence that they ran things in a reasonably competent way. Notley’s informal campaign message had been; “We’re not crooked. We’re not crazy. Why not give us a try?”
This is not good enough in these times, however. I could write a blog or two about the problems with the NDP. Basically, they have no new ideas in a time when things are breaking down and serious change is required.
In the 2019 election, with the right once again united, the polite NDP was defeated by the rude Kenney conservatives.
Within three years, the friendly Fascists led by Danielle Smith had driven out Kenney and taken control of UCP. The lesson here is that the cryptofascists are becoming too powerful for the business conservatives to keep under control. This is also seen in Federal politics and in the USA.
To repeat, Alberta is the home base in Canada of this right wing extremist upsurge. Due to the way history worked out, Alberta has long been the breeding ground for much of what is toxic in the Canadian polity.
The old liberal and conservative establishments are failing in Canada as everywhere in the western world. There is no serious left option available. The road is open for the extreme right in Alberta and in Canada.
These neofascists are not a monolith. They tend to break down into factional quarrels. However, there is a lot of ‘dark money’, which is usually oil money, behind them, using them as a tool, and who keep them together and on track.
Other than their own incompetence and craziness, the only thing standing in the way of the neofascists in Alberta is Rachel Notley’s NDP. There are eleven NDP parties in Canada and the Alberta NDP is thought to be the most conservative of them. Notley is said to be economically conservative but socially “moderate”.
Other than having no real ideas and nothing to offer except not being the ‘other’, the old problem with the NDP has been an unwillingness to campaign seriously. This is why Danielle Smith and her UCP have been ahead in the polls despite their obvious unfitness for government. It appears that voting intentions are starting to shift against UCP at midpoint in the campaign because Notley woke up and started campaigning.
That is, she called attention to Smith’s crazy behaviour and utterances, and to her connections to odious people like the organizers of the ‘Honkie Convoy’. She brought to mind what the Alberta public have to lose if the screw head element that has been howling in the margins for decades finally get full scope to carry out their vicious ideas. She has managed to get the ‘woke’ type loonies, which infest NDP these days, to shut up.
Even this modest effort to oppose the far right is bringing the Alberta public to her side. This has astounded the Alberta right wing, who have for so long been accustomed to having no opposition. Only they are allowed to engage in personal attacks on their opponents and critics, no one is supposed to shine the light on them.
The idea of trying to be above “attack politics” is deeply rooted in the NDP’s organizational culture. It is why they normally never win except when the right wing falls apart. I believe Notley had to make a break with the NDP establishment in 2015 and this year in order to start seriously going after the screw heads.
The whole country should hope she is successful. UCP could be, and deserves to be, wiped off the map of Alberta. But then there is the question of what happens once NDP are in government.
We will see if this time, against the tradition of the NDP, once they are ‘the government’ they will actually try to govern. I do not need here to get into a “what would I do if I were Premier of Alberta” tract. That would be a blog by itself.
The immediate need is to protect the public and its vital services from the extreme right agenda. All measures must be taken to curb it. These people must be defunded and criminalized to the greatest possible extent.
Publicly funded media must be developed with a specific goal of countering right wing information warfare on society. The problem here is, this requires a compelling alternative view of society. This could be a problem for the NDP and for ‘the left’, such as it is, in Canada.
If the far right loses this election, it will regroup and try again. If they are not suppressed, and the rules of the game not changed, eventually they will get back into office. They may not be as easy to remove the next time.
The Smithian UCP may still win this election. That would be a calamity for Canada; a critical point in the breakdown of government. I say breakdown of government, not breakdown of the country. Canada is more resilient that many political types seem to think.
Eventually, the screwhead right will fail and fall back into relative obscurity, in Alberta, Canada, and world wide. But we are going to live through a hard and dangerous time. It will be even worse to the extent that the neofascists are allowed to temporarily prevail.
The lesson from Alberta history is that the screwheads will always prevail if there is nothing opposing them. As with all bullies, their only strength is the weakness of others.
Enough said about the present election in Alberta.
But to sum up the answer to the original question about what exactly is wrong with Alberta. It is this; the accidents of history created a perfect distillation of negative influences in Alberta. It is like a cancer poisoning the rest of the country.
There were the unrealistic expectations during early settlement.
On top of that was the effect of the depression, which went the wrong way in Alberta. Saskatchewan brought a more communitarian outlook from the depression. In comparison, Alberta was captured by the fascistic social credit party.
On top of these were the effects of the immediate post war, when Alberta was a receiving zone for defeated fascists who never should have been let into the country.
Add to this the oil discoveries, which led to a resource economy and all the socionomic problems which result from that.
All this created a society particularly receptive to the neoliberalism which swept the world from the 1970s on.
Then, with the beginning of the real collapse of the western world after 2020, Alberta was the ideal Canadian base for the revanchist conservatism sweeping the Anglosphere.
All this has been within a country with weak central government, which has failed to mitigate these traumas. Or, to stand up to the negative tendencies.
The solution for the Alberta syndrome is, in part, for the legitimate grievances and traumas of Alberta to be ameliorated. But the powerful negative element which has grown in Alberta must finally be taken on and taken out, their punk permits revoked.
The question now is, from where comes the political force to do this? That question gets beyond the scope of this blog.