Since Halloween is upon us, it’s time to have a little fun. If politicians, columnists or events were monsters, what type of monsters would they be? Our crack investigative team got to work and compiled a list of the scariest, spookiest or weirdest collection of faces (or faceless blobs) we could think of. Be warned, reading on may cause night terrors.
Heard of John Mar? Probably. If you’ve seen him, you likely won’t forget what he looks like. Ever heard of Peter Demong? Shane Keating? Jim Stevenson? Ray Jones? They’re all Calgary aldermen, but Mar is the most prominent of the zombie council. No one who looks like that should have achieved so little in office.
Mar likes to talk, and that’s good. But he comes off as a political zombie when you compare his puckish personality to his blah performance in council.
Since being elected in 2007, he’s sat on 11 city policy committees, as well as the boards of the Calgary Police Commission, the Calgary Housing Company and Simon House. And the result has been a yawn. In five years of office he’s pioneered blocking off sections of city streets to create temporary parks, lent his support to modifying the noise pollution bylaw, suggested increasing graffiti fines and helping property owners clean graffiti up, and thwarted activist Donna Clarke’s illicit potato garden. A zombie can go to countless committee meetings — anyone who’s ever attended one would agree being a zombie is an asset there — but Mar can do more than warm his seat. He oversees a cool core riding, so he can promote much bolder ideas and be a lot more aggressive in pursuing them publicly rather than eating brains, which is presumably what committee work entails. Since zombies are herd animals, Demong, Stevenson and all the other unremarkable aldermen at city hall may follow suit.
As surely as Victor Frankenstein regretted his creation the moment he gave it life, so must the Conservative Party regret Rob Anders.
Anders is the product of people who thought they could fashion a better conservative. After they created him, they turned him loose on the world to act out his bizarre programming. Since first coming to office in 1997 at the age of 25, Anders has proven to be a wretchedly mindless conservabot, spewing his twisted ideology seemingly beyond his creator’s control.
He alone in Parliament has voted for Quebec separatism, condemned Nelson Mandela as a communist terrorist, accused transgendered women of trying to gain access to public washrooms in order to molest children, advised soldiers that “when in doubt, pull the trigger,” lobbied the government to pull CBC funding, opposed funding for a Norman Bethune visitor centre, and accused NDP leader Thomas Mulcair of hastening the death of late party leader Jack Layton.
The present-day Conservatives don’t deserve all the blame for their creature. He’s a product of Preston Manning’s Reform movement and the University of Calgary’s uniquely right-wing school of political science. But as a democratically empowered monster, the blame for Anders falls first on his electors, who have voted him into office six times in a row. Anders said it best when he defended himself during a 2011 campaign speech: “Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? Satan had his companions, fellow devils, to admire and encourage him, but I am solitary and abhorred.” Or maybe that was Frankenstein’s monster.
Was she always a ghost, or did the media forget to report Alison Redford’s death after she was appointed premier last October? She came to office on a campaign promise of increased government transparency. While the government seems as opaque as ever, Redford is nearly invisible. In one year she has been out of the legislature, out of the province and out of the country more than any previous Alberta premier. To catch sight of her ghostly apparition in Edmonton is actually startling.
Where does a ghost go when it disappears? Usually the States. Redford has been on six international trips in 12 months, visiting New York, D.C., Virginia, Chicago, Washington state, Beijing, Hong Kong and London. She has also made numerous appearances in other provinces.
One would expect a provincial premier to focus on the province they were elected to run, but leaving only spectral traces in Alberta is par for the course for Redford. Prior to becoming an MLA in 2008, she worked in Bosnia, Serbia, Mozambique, Namibia, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Vietnam and the Philippines. It makes for an exciting resumé, but not one that displays her interest in local politics. Nor do the mere 31 days she called the legislature to sit over the year (many of which she was absent for) — fewer than any other jurisdiction save Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.
The ghost of Hamlet’s dad spent more time running his kingdom than she does hers, and Redford has a lot more work to do than he did. Hopefully she’ll assume a corporeal form for her second year in office.
The Devil is known as a tempter, a malevolent entity that steers mankind away from the righteous path. It’s not hard to stretch that meaning to Canada and the influence of the prime minister on its direction.
Once viewed as a peacekeeper with strong social values, today’s Canada is being completely reshaped in Harpers mould. No longer interested in keeping the peace, Canada now enforces it (whether you like it or not). Bombing in Libya, years of war in Afghanistan, pulling away from the UN; these are all radical departures from the role Canada used to play.
But it’s not just warfare. Harper’s Conservatives have launched an all-out assault on science and evidence. They’ve turfed the long-form census, destroyed environmental research, attacked those whose findings disagree with their world view and ignored relevant research. To cap it off, the government has decimated environmental regulations and labelled those who wish to see a greater balance between development and sustainability as foreign radicals. Nice.
We could also get into the attack on Parliament (proroguing, omnibus bills, angry rhetoric and an unwillingness to talk to the media), but we’re almost out of room here.
Although he doesn’t walk about with horns pointing out of his sturdy hairdo, his strict control of the Conservative party and his disdain for evidence and dialogue clearly demonstrate a sinister side worthy of the dark lord.
Okay, okay, not a person, but then again, neither was the Blob. Like the horror flick ooze, the oilsands are creeping their way across the north of the province, hungrily gobbling up any animals, peoples, plants and rivers that get in their way.
The oilsands in northwestern Alberta cover 140,000 square kilometres, and as they slop forward they’re decimating boreal forest and (as you can read on the next page) putting a strain on species including Alberta’s caribou herds. The industry has only disturbed approximately 530 square kilometres as this point, but production is expected to ramp up considerably as new operations continue to be approved and constructed. Current output is approximately 1.65 million barrels per day, but forecasts suggest a surge anywhere from 1.4 million to 3.5 million extra barrels a day by 2020. Stephen Harper has said his goal is to reach six million barrels per day.
But it’s not just wildlife that the blob consumes. According to the Alberta Geological Survey, “it takes approximately 28 cubic metres of natural gas and from 2.5 to four barrels of water to produce one barrel of bitumen.” Spooky stuff.
Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble; Round about the cauldron go; In the poison’d words do throw. Fact, that under no light shone, Days and nights has thirty-some; Swelter’d venom phoning got, Boil thou thoughts i’ the charmed pot!
Okay, so there’s always going to be a place for opinion columnists and there damn well should be, particularly the ones you don’t agree with. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take them to task. Licia Corbella is a caster of right-wing spells who rants against climate change and multiculturalism (particularly relishing verbal attacks on Muslims), all while celebrating some mythical Canadian identity and heritage.
In a recent rant against the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Corbella highlights the research of an investigative journalist named Donna Laframboise, who breathlessly talks about examples of lesser experienced authors writing for the IPCC. The column is full of disbelief about the structure of the IPCC, and doesn’t once mention that authors aren’t actually part of the organization proper, they work on a volunteer basis and they represent the lowest rung on the org chart. But oh well, it’s good fodder for the climate change deniers.
Another recent column says that euthanasia supporters should be dancing in the street because more people are being euthanized in the Netherlands. Just let that one sink in.
The richest of her rhetoric appears when she rails against multiculturalism in one breath only to support conscience rights in the next. Protection of her beliefs are fine, protection of the “other” isn’t. For her ability to pick and choose her examples (often with a small sampling of people and events), she gets a nod as a conjurer of muddled logic.
Illustrations by Samantha Lucy Haslam