The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Alberta Assumption

by CWC alumnus, Jen McDougall

A word from out west about assumption. Specifically in Alberta, it's assumed that everyone you come in contact with is a Conservative Party supporter—your neighbours, your friends, your babysitter, your babysitter's parents, the people at the gym, the couple sitting next to you at Earl's, the mechanic on the phone—every one of them obedient Albertans ready to recite our provincial mantra: "the west wants in." For this reason it is not uncommon for an exchange between complete strangers in a Tim Horton's line-up to go something like this:

"What do you think of the three stooges?"
"It's a disgrace, totally embarrassing."
"Harper was voted Prime Minister, skewed CBC statistics won't change that."
"I know! I thought Canada was a democracy."
"This will hit Alberta very hard; we will send out billions more, probably already earmarked for another stupid plan like the gun registry."
"At least Trudeau spoke both of our official languages."
"It's time Alberta separated..."

These comments could come from educated, successful business people but they rarely get involved in politics and I question whether they truly understand how Canadian government works. It doesn't occur to many Albertans that there could be another way, another reasonable view. If you live and breathe Alberta air, you consume the Tory rhetoric, pass it on to your fellow Albertans, and never let anyone dare to question it.

I don't think I can accurately describe the social risks an Albertan takes should he suggest "Harper kind of had it coming," or "Actually, the country didn't elect our Prime Minister, he just came with the party." Should this conversation occur at your son's hockey game, make no mistake—the eyes of every parent within earshot will be trained on you. They're watching to see how far you venture beyond boundaries of acceptable debate in the land of the Conservatives. You feel as conspicuous as if you had suddenly begun singing a show tune.

The Alberta assumption doesn't end when you get to work. It is assumed that if your employees are supporters, so too is your employer. This is why you shouldn't be overly surprised to receive emails aimed at bullying potential opponents. Emails that have been forwarded to your entire firm. By your boss.

Are other provinces in Canada like ours? Void of any real democratic debate? Seriously. I've lived here all my life and I honestly don't know if this is normal in a particular region. The only voices tolerated around here are those echoing the rhetoric of the head bully, Harper. The criticism of the opposition is meant to do two things: intimidate and deflect attention from reality. Try suggesting that the real issue today is the economy and Harper's initial misguided response and you're done.

If you are part of the silent minority in Alberta, you've probably retreated even further this past week. And if you're undecided, well, good luck in gathering information from both sides.


Blogger t said...

This is such a comfort. If I were just judging by the commentaries, I'd think all of BC were pro Harper too. It's certainly a new age. And if nothing else, for a brief moment in Canadian contemporary politics, people seem passionate. Thank you for the post!

Sun Dec 07, 03:05:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Martin Heavisides said...

So who's the audience in Alberta for One Yellow Rabbit and some of the other radical theatre companies out there? Or is there a ghetto population of progressives in the cities?
(Jenn, if you'd like to receive my Christmas ebook, write me at with an address I can send it to. Same goes for other CWCers.)

Sun Dec 07, 03:27:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

This exactly the problem, Martin. There are progressive thinkers out here but either they are silenced by the pro-blue sentiments or they choose not to pay any attention to politics leaving them uninformed and therefore unable to form arguments to battle the scare mongering. I think it is pretty easy to become complacent in a have province where everything is rosy.

Sun Dec 07, 03:36:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

Thanks Jenn, its refreshing to hear this!

Sun Dec 07, 05:04:00 pm GMT-5  

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