Epidemic of mass hysteria hits Alberta election campaign

By Don Braid, Calgary Herald April 16, 2012

6469112.bin

PC Leader Alison Redford, centre, at a Sikh temple on the weekend likely isn’t the only one praying for a quick end to the provincial election. Herald columnist Don Braid wants it over, too, now that all heck is breaking loose on the campaign trail.

Photograph by: Lorraine Hjalte , Calgary Herald

CALGARY — Can we please get this election over with, before Ottawa sends in troops to quarantine Alberta for an epidemic of mass hysteria?

The campaign has blown the lid off our fragile civic consensus. Many of Alberta’s divisions, stifled for decades under the PC overburden, are exploding into the open.

It was probably inevitable. Tops are ready to blow. And they do.

On the deeply divided conservative side, there’s a virtual moratorium on friendship.

I know one guy who might skip his own birthday celebration.

People who used to yak about politics no longer call each other.

Plants are suspected and outed.

People say, “Yeah, Fred and I have been playing bridge for 50 years, but now I think he’s finking for Wildrose.”

Raising the emotional stakes higher still, Ralph Klein’s wife and friends went public Sunday with their anger over seeming disrespect from the old progressive camp of Peter Lougheed.

PC Leader Alison Redford, who’s warmly backed by Lougheed, insisted there’s no disrespect toward Klein. If so, she could have made that clear sooner.

In the midst of this episode came a remark so comical that I almost hurt myself laughing when I heard about it.

Redford campaign strategist Stephen Carter said he knows for sure that Rod Love, one of Klein’s close friends and defenders, is a strategist for Wildrose.

And how does Carter know this?

When he was working for Wildrose himself, he says, he saw Love at meetings.

In the smaller camps, delusion is the main symptom of the spreading hysteria.

Liberal Leader Raj Sherman talks seriously not just about backing a PC or Wildrose minority, but entering a coalition government with either of them.

His price? Only the health minister’s job, the deputy premiership, and a seat on the government Treasury Board.

It would be fun to watch Raj shuffling into a cabinet meeting face-to-face with minority Premier Alison Redford, both afraid to turn their backs.

Sherman would do better with Wildrose and Danielle Smith; which is to say, he might survive the first meeting.

All this is goofy enough; but it’s religion, naturally, that has blown the top off of Alberta’s social circus tent.

Wildrose has enabled this, in a way, by suggesting that religious people aren’t actually evil and have a place in public life as long as they don’t try to legislate their versions of the Bible.

Unfortunately for Smith, her candidate in Edmonton-South West, Allan Hunsperger, is a bit too vivid for comfort.

A passionate evangelical, he wrote that gays “who live the way you were born, and die the way you were born, will suffer the rest of eternity in a lake of fire, hell, a place of eternal suffering.”

In short, not good.

The PCs’ own Ted Morton has done some lofty academic ranting against gay marriage, of course. Other Redford MLAs are also ardent evangelicals, but there’s never been anybody quite as graphic as Hunsperger.

Smile fixed, Smith stuck to her line — people of faith are welcome in her fold as long as they don’t try to legislate belief. Albertans who think they hear hate speech can call a cop.

Just when Smith’s candidates seemed pretty far out there, along came Artur Pawlowski of Calgary’s Street Church Ministries to nudge them back toward Alberta’s new mainstream.

Pawlowski spotted a photo of Smith at a Hindu ceremony, where she wore traditional garb and asked for blessings from the gods.

The pastor erupted. Smith will not have his vote, he wrote, because she “crossed the line from being tolerant of other people and their beliefs to actively participating in their idolatrous practices.”

This province needs an intervention. A regiment from Afghanistan should do it.

Don Braid’s column appears regularly in the Herald

dbraid@CalgaryHerald.com

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