A few days ago, the Wildrose Party—Alberta's Official Opposition—posted a seemingly innocuous picture on its Facebook page of a big-ass boat leaving a harbor with vague phrases typed on top like "I support the Northern Gateway pipeline" and "tell [Premier] Rachel [Notley] to secure our economic future." It was autographed by Brian Jean, a full-time William H. Macy cosplayer who also happens to lead the ultra-conservative party.
That was all mostly par for the course. The Wildrose Party (WRP), inaugurated in 2008, loves Alberta's tar sands. They've gone so far as to "reject" facts about the emissions intensity of extracting bitumen and suggest that Quebec's ability to ensnare the Energy East pipeline in a barbed-wire tumbleweed of bureaucracy should be revoked because Montreal is dumping literal shit in the St. Lawrence River. This is an assertion which seems to more-or-less reject the fundamental tenets of federalism. The WRP also sports an intense fondness for shitty posters and memes and straw man arguments.
But there were a few out-of-the-ordinary issues with the recent Facebook post that seemed to represent a slight aberration in Wildrose messaging and hint at a much deeper plot: a) the premier's last name was spelled incorrectly ("Notely" instead of "Notley"); b) the aforementioned big-ass boat was a container ship, not an oil tanker; and c) the container ship was depicted leaving Vancouver, not Kitimat (where the Northern Gateway pipeline would conclude if completed).
Now, it would be very simple to dismiss this as yet another instance of stunning levels of ineptitude in the Wildrose ranks. But that would more than miss the point. Such a conclusion would ignore what is almost certainly a desperate attempt by 22 parodists masquerading as Wildrose MLAs with the intent of creating a caricature of conservative politics that far exceeds anything hatched from the imagination of Stephen Colbert.
Albertans have, until now, mostly missed the cues. To be fair, such hints were fairly subtle until 2014's Week Before Christmas, when then-leader Danielle Smith took a flaming axe to the TAXATION IS THEFT-emblazoned hull of the ship by crossing the floor along with eight of her fellow MLAs to join the then-ruling Progressive Conservatives. It was a daring but ultimately doomed move, one which seemed to represent a tactical fracture in the pinko thespian collective: Smith and Co. seemed convinced their work of sabotaging of the Wildrose was complete and moved on to body the PC behemoth. As we now know, the move backfired horribly and injected the Ayn Rand-adoring fanbase with exceptional levels of energy, consequently cursing the remaining members to many more years of potentially unrecognized satire.
That's why the now-deleted Facebook post matters: It seems to represent the breaking point for the more devout members of the comedy troupe, who spiked the levels of absurdity to new heights in a hope that people will finally decipher the joke and fulfill the destiny of an astonishingly long con and let them visit their actual families for the first time in years.
But this didn't come from nowhere. Over the past few weeks, there's been a steady rise in incidents that, when compiled, should help prove the Wildrose Party is in fact an impressive crew of performance artists who are trying their very best to KO Alberta's wounded conservative movement and make way for a full-blown socialist utopia.
1) Two Wildrose MLAs are currently impersonating Harry and Lloyd from Dumb and Dumber. Meta satire.
2) Strangely, rhetoric about the Media Party (a hilarious trope deployed by far-right activists that asserts, in spite of all available evidence, that media outlets are explicitly working against conservative causes) has been mostly absent from Alberta politics. But desperate times call for desperate measures. Earlier in the month, Derek Fildebrandt, the parody all-star who performs as finance critic, was directly quoted in the Globe & Mail as stating, "The NDP platform was never intended to ever be implemented. The NDP platform was a hard-core ideological document." It was a carefully curated statement of ridiculous proportions, designed to draw a shit-ton of attention.
Upon receiving criticism for the silly statement, Fildebrandt doubled down and called veteran journalist Carrie Tait a "B-list reporter" who "intentionally torqued a story." On October 27, when the budget was released, Jean and Fildebrandt took questions from reporters about the budget. Obviously, they weren't fans of it, as the Wildrose project mandates they exclusively advocate for the erasure of all tax mechanisms and subsequent dissolution of governed civilization. Tait asked Fildebrandt a question. Having perfected the role of the manchild, Fildebrandt refused to answer the question, stating, "I'm not taking questions from people who don't conduct themselves professionally, thank you." A real politician would know how important it is to play nice with a huge newspaper like the Globe and would love the opportunity to get an anti-tax message out there. Fildebrandt, realizing the opportunity to soil his alleged ideology's reputation, didn't have time for that. Ku-fucking-dos.
3) For almost six months, the party—represented mostly by Fildebrandt—whined about how long it was taking for the NDP to publish its 2015-16 budget and the fact it would likely include borrowing money to plug the gaping fiscal hole created by crashing oil prices as opposed to firing all the doctors in the province or something. It was was a mighty fine showing.
That's because these artists know that conservatives offer only two options for budgeting—cut spending and cut taxes—so it was important to play the part and bleat such rhetoric for a while. But if the Wildrose was comprised of legitimate conservative politicians who care about money-related stuff, it would have countered the release of the NDP budget with a "shadow budget," or a proposed alternative for how the government should raise and spend money. But, for completely unexplained reasons, the Wildrose did not. Meanwhile, the Alberta Party—represented by a single fucking MLA—released its own. It's lunacy to think an actual Official Opposition would spend half a year complaining about the lack of a budget and not release its own. Some political watchers were very confused. But we should know better: refusing to release a counter-budget was when the Wildrose parodists fired off its second emergency flare to try to get our attention.
4) Fildebrandt recently misspelled the word "conservative" in a tweet and a few days later simply posted "tomorrow?" as if he was musing to himself about when he would break character and return to being the soft-spoken bike-lane boosting vegan Trotskyite we all know he is.
5) Then came the slam-dunk moment, when the Wildrose performed a very flaccid filibuster of the legislature because the NDP wanted sessions to begin at 9 AM instead of 10 AM. The NDP suggested a tweak to the rules so that evening sessions could be avoided in order for MLAs to go home and chill with their families. Seemed reasonable enough. After all, as pointed out by a fair few commentators, most people in the province start their workdays at 9 AM. Especially rural Albertans—the demographic the Wildrose almost entirely represents—who often brew their morning coffee at, like 4-in-the-fucking-morning. Also, there's that whole family values shtick the far-right likes to boast about: someone has to remind us all of what an adorable 1950s nuclear family looks like, and it seems fair to think Wildrose MLAs would be up for the task of serving as role models. But that's assuming the Wildrose is actually composed of conservative politicians and not methods actors, who wake up for pour-over coffee at noon.
Instead, the apparently legitimate caucus went batshit, pulling cards like "if I have a technological problem [at 6 AM], you all know IT isn't going to be there to give me a hand and I am technologically illiterate," which is a real-life quote. Six parodists playing Wildrose MLAs who have watched too much C-SPAN footage of Ted Cruz then took turns over the span of an hour of talking about why they don't like waking up early or something along those lines. Graham Thomson, political columnist for the Edmonton Journal, suggested "Wildrose picks wrong hill to die on." But that's the thing. This feeble-ass filibuster, triggered over a legislative technicality that literally no voter cares about, makes the Wildrose look like a pack of moody toddlers who don't want to follow a good suggestion solely because someone in authority made it. The party was skewered by people across the political spectrum, including Wildrose supporters. It was a masterly executed plan.
What's next: The WRP's AGM takes place today in Calgary. While it's unclear if any of the pseudo-MLAs will break character in public, it seems reasonable to conclude the troupe will have to re-evaluate its strategy in coming weeks and months. After all, the PC Party has been decimated, leaving the Wildrose as the lone right-leaning entity in the province. Given that two-thirds of Albertans favor conservative politics, the crew could ostensibly consider holding the line on its performance until the next election, at which point it could bait-and-switch voters, continuing to promise tax cuts and service cuts while actually plotting to nationalize the oil industry and create hundreds of small-scale, worker-owned cooperatives that grow organic veggies and play Ultimate Frisbee against each other on weekends.
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