[Editor’s note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a PhD in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible. ]
Dear Dr. Steve,
Alberta United Conservative Party leadership candidate Danielle Smith recently suggested that anything preceding stage four cancer is in the patient's own control.
Smith has also argued that Alberta should pursue sovereignty, while rival Brian Jean has merely suggested “autonomy.” All three leading candidates — Smith, Jean and Travis Toews — have attacked vaccine mandates. Is the UCP leadership train choo-choo-chooing into Crazytown station?
The October UCP leadership vote is being conducted by mail. That's probably a relief for everyone — seeing all those voters gathered in one room might trigger the emergency alert system.
All the same if you were looking to place this event at a specific location on the map, a Brit might advise you to look two stops short of Dagenham. For many years on the London Tube that meant Barking station. “Two stops short of Dagenham” was thus slang for “barking mad.” We officially arrived there this weekend. Mind the gap.
Premier Jason Kenney's planned departure is beginning to look like a wildcat strike by the Alberta Zookeepers Union. To be fair, a lot of the weirdness is coming from one candidate, but she's the current poll leader. Former Wildrose party boss Danielle Smith is a vaccine conspiracy theorist who once pushed Trump's pet cure hydroxychloroquine on her radio show.
But last week she outdid herself in a lengthy video chat with a naturopath. In discussing cancer Smith acknowledged that stage four requires serious medical intervention. But, she said, “I think about everything that built before you got to stage four and that diagnosis, that's completely within your control and there is something you can do about that that is different.”
Yes, shame on you, malignant slackers.
Still, Smith is tapping into some traditional values here, finding that sweet spot where new age medicine blends with ancient belief. The Book of Leviticus declares of lepers, “The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’” And the Bible represents just one of many venerable cultural traditions that once associated serious illness with divine displeasure. If you didn't want cancer or leprosy, maybe you shouldn't have angered the Lord. Or in this modern version of the concept, maybe you should have eaten more salad. Either way, it's on you, sicko.
Toronto Blue Jays announcer Buck Martinez was able to return to the broadcast booth this week after cancer treatment. He's probably lucky the Jays aren't based in Calgary, where under a Smith regime he might face disciplinary action.
Brian Jean, whose son Michael died of cancer in 2015, was rightfully indignant. "You saying to someone that their cancer is 'completely within your control' before stage four is insensitive, hurtful and outright untrue," Jean tweeted. "Please stop." But Jean has previously attacked vaccine mandates and so has current third-place candidate Toews. None of the leading UCP candidates would look out of place selling Dr. Morgana’s Magic Elixir of Morpheus from the back of a covered wagon.
Smith has had to run hard to stay to the right of her rivals but she has her carbon-fibre running shoes on. She has proposed creating a quasi-independent Alberta that will shrug off federal laws it does not like. This will have repercussions for B.C. of course, including the possibility that Smith's sovereign Alberta will escort its careless and selfish cancer patients to the border and lock the gates behind them.
It is difficult for Dr. Steve to admit this. But it may be time to reconsider the leadership of Premier Jason Kenney. Yes, his regime was ill-starred. Future generations are unlikely ever to see his face on bank notes. But when you consider the historical parallels, Kenney's departure begins to take on a different look.
Josip Broz Tito ruled the European nation of Yugoslavia from 1945 to 1980. A dictator, it's true, but in the decade after his death the country dissolved into warring factions and eventually disintegrated. Now the prospect of a Danielle Smith-led Alberta summons visions of a balkanized province with medical refugees flooding into the breakaway Republic of Edmonton for proper treatment that does not involve injections of horse paste.
My friends, we may yet sigh for the good old days of Jason Kenney, those free and easy times when you could drive from Calgary to the (former) capital without bluffing your way past the Red Deer checkpoint guard and bribing some warlord in Leduc.
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