Friday, March 12, 2010

Oh, Canada....

Apparently, a few Canadians are "Going Rogue":

Last weekend, Sarah Palin made her first foray into Canada since she stepped down as governor of Alaska in July. Reports say Palin's mix of folksy humor and conservative nostrums was a hit with the sold-out crowd in Calgary, Alberta. Calgary, after all, is Canada's oil and gas capital, and Canada is the number one energy provider to the United States. The woman known famously for her "drill, baby, drill" quip, would have felt right at home. Palin made a point of saluting Calgary-based TransCanada Corp for its bid to build a $30 billion pipeline between Alberta and Prudhoe Bay, Alaska....

The former vice-presidential nominee cited another Canadian link: two great-grandfathers hailed from the Great White North, including one from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Said Palin, "That must be where my love of moose came from."

There's another Palin Canadian reflection. In the crowd for the event was a woman who has drawn more than a few comparisons to the "rogue" from Wasilla. Danielle Smith, 42, is the leader of the Wildrose Alliance, a conservative party that emerged two years ago hoping to fill space on the right side of the Alberta political spectrum adherents feel has been vacated by the ruling Progressive Conservative Party, and its leader Ed Stelmach.

Smith's path to the corridors of power followed a somewhat similar path to Palin's in the sense they both developed a profile in the media before getting involved in active politics. Whereas Palin went from town mayor to state governor, Smith took a stab at school-board politics before making the leap to leader of a fledgling political party, winning the post last fall. Her timing was propitious, as Wildrose won its first seat in the Alberta Legislature in a by-election at about the same time.

With the Wildrose Alliance rising in the polls, two members of the Conservative caucus bolted and joined the new party, causing the ruling party and the opposition Liberals serious concern even though a provincial election is not likely until 2013.

Just as Palin and Smith seem cut from the same conservative cloth, observers inevitably draw parallels between Wildrose and the Tea Party — some might even make jokes about a continental merger called the Wildrose Tea Party. This resemblance has even caught the notice of The Economist, which in a recent edition observed that Smith's "calls for smaller government are popular with Albertans, whose views often align more closely with American Republicans (of the tea-party persuasion) than with eastern Canadians."

Smith is still a long way from the premier's office, and should she eventually win she would be only the second woman to lead a party to power in a province of Canada - the other was Liberal Catherine Callbeck in Prince Edward Island in 1993. But, in the meantime, she is attracting curious attention — and some scorn and derision — inside and outside Alberta. The Palin comparison for her may be a double-edged sword.

Oddly enough, Danielle Smith is not alone in the Sarah Palin think-alike contest, Canadian edition. Right here in Quebec, Maxime Bernier, a former cabinet minister in Stephen Harper's government, last week earned a "Canada's Sarah Palin" tag — albeit from a Liberal critic — for his public scepticism of the science of global warming.

Bernier, pushed two years ago from his Foreign Affairs post over some misplaced documents and a girlfriend with some shady former friends, is attracting attention for taking some roguish stands on issues besides the environment. Some pundits figure the popular Quebecer is positioning himself to replace Harper as Conservative leader whenever that job should become available.

If being Sarah Palin is to be youngish, attractive, populist and a true blue conservative, Canada seems to have found at least two examples in Danielle Smith and Max Bernier.

And Luke Dittrich who did some previous pieces on the Palins in the wake of the election, has an article up defending Sarah on the Canadaian health care non-issue:

As someone who both lives in Whitehorse and has spent time with the Palin family, I'd like to take this opportunity to do something I've never felt moved to do before: defend Sarah Palin.

First, I've got to confess that I learned about these trips she took to Whitehorse more than a year ago, and never reported them. Evidently, gauging strictly on a page-view scale, that was an oversight on my part. On a scale of newsworthiness, though, I still don't think the facts add up to anything at all.

Palin's parents, Chuck and Sally Heath, were the ones who let the story slip. Chuck had met me at the front door of their home in Wasilla, and I'd been in their living room less than three minutes, still gawking at their taxidermied menagerie of wolves, foxes, beavers, goats and wolverines, when Sally came in from the garage.

"Luke's a Whitehorse Indian," Chuck joked to Sally when he introduced us.

"Whitehorse!" she said, smiling.

"We lived in Skagway for five years," Chuck said. "And at that time the railroad went from Skagway to Whitehorse, and that was our lifeline. There was no road out of Skagway when we lived there."

"We appreciated it so much," Sally said. "Anytime there was something serious, we'd get on the train and go to the hospital there, and they'd be so kind to take care of us."

And that was it: a simple admission that I didn't think much of then, and still don't think much of now. Whitehorse General Hospital, where my own daughter was born three years ago, remains, to this day, the closest major hospital to Skagway. When Chuck and Sally chose to take their kids there, it would have been a choice dictated strictly by geography, not politics. There are many things one could criticize about Sarah Palin's views of health care in the United States. That she once participated in cross-border medical tourism to Canada is not one of them.

Yesterday morning, re-listening to the tape of my conversation with Chuck and Sally, I found another unreported tidbit, one concerning the first of the many Internet controversies that have swirled in Sarah Palin's wake since her emergence eighteen short months ago. I might as well throw it in here.

Chuck had just told me that he usually didn't talk with reporters — that, in fact, he'd just hung up on one fifteen minutes before I'd arrived.

"The Anchorage Daily News is doing a story," he said. "Is Trig Really Sarah's Son?"

"I am so disgusted," Sally said.

Chuck shook his head.

"I was in the room when he was born, for Chrissakes!"

A few more good thoughts from Kevin Libin:

At a Calgary speech on Saturday, she repeatedly mocked their ignorance about anything north of the Bronx. “We lost the [American] reporters on the way up here, because we usually have folks following us with cameras and pens and paper, they want to write something about what we're doing. I told them we were flying up north, but they misunderstood and they booked their flights to New Hampshire," she joked to great laughter. She may have been on to something....

In any case, as there’s certainly no evidence the Heaths didn’t pay for the care they received in Canada. In fact, visiting Americans typically did (and still do). Actually, in the ‘60s, Canadians often did. U.S. journalists seem happy to take it for granted that health care up here has always looked exactly like it does today, but it hasn’t. As blogger Matthew Campbell rightly points out “if Palin’s family did travel in the mid-1960s, they would not have used the same state-run system that Canada uses today.” Rather, they would have used a system that looked and operated much like the American system at the time....

When Palin called it “ironic” that her family once traveled to Canada for health care, she clearly meant that Canada’s system was at one time as good, or perhaps even superior to America’s, but changes to socialization had changed things dramatically since then. Whether you think Canada’s system is better than the U.S.’s or the other way around doesn’t matter: the fact is we’re talking about a very different system than the one that existed here nearly 40 years ago. Journalists who are so inclined need not look far to find signs of pretense in the Sarah Palin shtick (I considered a few myself in my column this week on her Calgary visit). Her stance on Canadian health care isn’t one of them.

1 comment:

Octagonian said...

Dude, please.

Nobody went ga ga over Palin.

Calgary is a city of about 1.3 million, and fewer than 1000 showed up -- on mostly comped tickets -- to hear her.

Of those who did, fewer than half exhibited anything remotely comparable to enthusiasm for her talk.

The fact is, Palin is the worst kind of Big Government socialist "conservative" there is.

Even in Canada, conservatism is not supposed to include worship of the public schools, energy "independence" and energy "security", nor is it supposed to include centrally planned pipelines, and on and on.

Palin is no conservative. Whatever 'conservative' means these days.

She is a sideshow, plain and simple.