Calgary’s culture of defeat

Brian Jones
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A deluge of hypocrisy has gushed out of Calgary and surrounding areas lately.

Floodwaters and their aftermath have put the region in national headlines for two weeks, and understandably so, as a massive spring runoff from the mountains swamped the city to an extent not seen in a lifetime.

When a critical mass of flooded basements was reached, thousands of residents of Calgary and nearby towns suddenly morphed from self-reliant pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstrappers into wailing, whining adherents of the formerly despised welfare state.

There were instant calls for government assistance, both provincial and federal.

The Tory premier pledged financial aid. The Conservative prime minister assured there would be federal financial assistance.

That would be the same Stephen Harper who once mocked Atlantic Canadians — including Newfoundlanders (and Labradorians) — for their “culture of defeat,” i.e., their relatively low standard of living and alleged reliance on government.

Awash in hypocrisy

The water has receded, but the hypocrisy keeps rising. The damage is estimated to be in the billions of dollars, and residents have been instructed about how to apply for government aid.

(I will briefly interrupt this lambasting to state that I support the giving of such aid; helping each other is part of citizenship, and if tax dollars flow from East to West for once, well, there might be some lessons learned, mostly on the latter side of the country.)

But back to the hypocrisy — it bobbed to the surface while the water was still rising.

Representatives of the insurance industry shamelessly announced that the majority of policies did not cover damage caused by water that entered a residence through its doors or windows. “Did I read that right?” millions of incredulous newspaper subscribers wondered.

So, in a city that owes its wealth to free enterprise and sanctimoniously preaches to other Canadians about the glory and gain of free enterprise, its soaked and ruined citizens were betrayed by the fine print on a freely-entered contract.

Sticklers will rightly point out that this is irony, not hypocrisy. But it is related.

New right

The deification of free enterprise and the devotion to ultraconservative ideology enabled the Reform party to be spawned in Calgary in the late 1980s.

This is a good way to put the Reform party’s founding in context: its supporters were so right-wing, even Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservatives weren’t conservative enough for their liking.

It began as a wing-nut movement, but within two decades

produced a PM (originally from Ontario, it must be pointed

out) who dismissed a significant region of the country as cultural defeatists.

Calgary foisted upon the nation a conservative creed that epitomizes selfishness and narrow-mindedness, and is mean-spirited at best and cruel at worst.

(Lest I be wrongfully accused of prejudice or discrimination — of being Calgaryist, as it were — I will state, for the record, that I was born and raised in Calgary, graduated from the University of Calgary and left at age 22 to attend the University of British Columbia.)

My knowledge of the place prompts me to point out, as a footnote, that it is also home to some of the most strident supporters of privatized health care, as Alberta in general is home to many opponents of Medicare, but let’s explore that raging river of hypocrisy another day.

There have been reports that the flow of spring runoff has permanently changed some watercourses. It will be interesting to see if there is a permanent change in Calgary’s political culture. Perhaps this disaster will make some people realize there is no such thing as a culture of defeat, and there are no welfare bums — just fellow citizens in need of aid.

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at

Organizations: Progressive Conservatives, University of Calgary, University of British Columbia The Telegram

Geographic location: Calgary, Ontario, Alberta

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Recent comments

  • The lack of workers to work Newfoundland and Labrador's industries is a result of Alberta getting the first go ahead to build its Oil economy
    July 09, 2013 - 08:25

    I would like to have an accounting of the Multi-Billions of dollars Newfoundland and Labrador's Oil Industry and its economy have been set back since first discovery of the Oil fields in 1979. Through Albertans wanting their dirty Oil Sands Crude developed before Newfoundland and Labrador's sweet crude came into production meant that Alberta had the prime advantage of enticing workers from Newfoundland and Labrador and other provinces of Canada into their oil industry almost 20 years before NL's oil industry got off the ground. What an advantage that was for Alberta! Of course, Albertans had Ottawa on side with them, so as usual Newfoundland and Labrador had to suffer once more the indignity of not being able to get its Oil industry containing much higher grade crude off the ground when it should have.

    • david
      July 14, 2013 - 08:26

      Alberta's business sector "enticed" workers by providing economic opportunity for as many people who wanted it. Newfoundland has never done that in my lifetime, which is why people leave. The Alberta goverrnment 'boogeyman' didn't "gang up on" Newfoundland....greedy Newfoundlanders (there's sadly not nearly enough of that constructive motivation around here, BTW) left in their own self-interest. Good on 'em, thank you Alberta, and good for Canada. Those who stay behind and live their lives on EI and politics, they get exactly what they deserve. Dependence, fear, helplessness, and systemic poverty.

  • Claude Daley
    July 09, 2013 - 07:06

    This article by Brian Jones is embarrassing and petty. Albertans have endured a massive hardship with great spirit, as shown by their getting the stampede going. I live in St. John's and I totally disagree with Jones. After reading Russel's article in today's telegram I would say that providing Jones with a platform to spout his opinions is providing a 'false balance' and misrepresents the views of the province. At least I really hope its a misrepresentation.

  • David Benson
    July 06, 2013 - 08:21

    If Ottawa had allowed us to have 100 percent of our oil royalties like it did Alberta, we would have been a "Have" province 30 years ago. But then, Alberta was an invention of Ottawa, a mollycoddled little offspring of the federal government, which even drew its boundaries for it.

    • david
      July 06, 2013 - 13:06

      Historian, are you? An unemployed one, I'd guess. At least you're in the right province for it.

  • RickyBobby
    July 06, 2013 - 01:56

    Basically you are using a natural disaster as an excuse to shoot back against something that happened a long time ago. Very insensitive article during a very sensitive time. If your $500 000 dollar home was written off and excluded from insurance coverage you'd be the first one looking for help from the same government you are trash talking. Insane that the Telegram would let you publish this article.

    • david
      July 06, 2013 - 13:10

      Welcome to Newfoundland, RickyB...where the skin is razor thin, the revisionism deep, the grudges long, and the media clueless, and spineless (to best suit its audience).

  • RickyBobby
    July 06, 2013 - 01:55

    Basically you are using a natural disaster as an excuse to shoot back against something that happened a long time ago. Very insensitive article during a very sensitive time. If your $500 000 dollar home was written off and excluded from insurance coverage you'd be the first one looking for help from the same government you are trash talking. Insane that the Telegram would let you publish this article.

  • I agree with Mr. Jones
    July 05, 2013 - 15:57

    I, too, agree with Mr. Jones. I cannot forget when in 1979 the Hibernia Oil fields were discovered and the Canadian dollar was constantly being referred to as the "Hibernia" dollar. Every evening for a while on The CBC National News the first story to be shown would be the burning flares from the oil fields in our offshore waters. We were led to believe that our economic time of Bliss had come, but Oilman Ian Doig of Calgary with his critical views on Newfoundland and Labrador's entry into the Oil economy, in some people's minds, set us back almost 20 years. The Calgary mindset stymied our province's Oil Economy for nearly 20 years. Wouldn't you say Calgary's Oil Man added to the culture of defeat in Newfoundland and Labrador by setting back our Oil Industry?

    • david
      July 06, 2013 - 13:04

      So you think Ian Doig is an idiot...join the club. Many people in Alberta's oil business laugh at him too. So....HE'S your reason to despise Alberta?! Well then, that makes "Townie" an even better reason for every Albertans to despise Newfoundland.

  • Doug Smith
    July 05, 2013 - 14:43

    Mr. Jones you are right. How many times have I heard that Alberta is wealthy because of the hard working people. Alberta is wealthy because of the oil just like NL is a have province because of the oil. The old Reform party MPs from Alberta said they weren’t going to accept the big pension MPs get. Well they did. The facts are that the people of Alberta will accept all the government money they can lay their hands on, just like any Canadian would. Hypocrisy is alive and well in Alberta. I just don’t know why people won’t accept the truth of matters. Doug Smith, Grand Falls-Windsor

    • Jeff
      July 05, 2013 - 15:13

      Absolutely correct, Doug. Alberta was a have-not province until the discovery of oil, then they became our moral superiors. Just like the Gulf Wars, 'It's the oil, stupid!'

    • david
      July 05, 2013 - 16:40

      How many Newfoundland (owned, operated and staffed) oil companies are at there? What's the high-tax paying head office count in St. John's? How many Newfoundland drilling service companies are there? How many Newfoundland geophysical surveying companies are there? How many Newfoundland well servicing companies are there? How many oilfield equipment manufacturers ? How many R&D, cutting-edge remote sensing or drilling technology ventures? You maroons cannot begin to even fathom the thousands of Alberta-grown jobs that Alberta has spawned. ....Here? There's some low-level manual labour jobs on rigs or supply boats, there's government royalties, and that's IT. Squadoosh, eejots.

    • Nathan
      July 06, 2013 - 13:31

      You're missing the point. Eejit. Now stop whining, David and crawl back into your hole.

  • J
    July 05, 2013 - 14:10

    What, don't think I ever met anyone this smug. You and your ilk are the reason I have to skip the first half a dozen or more pages in the Saturday telegram and refuse to get a subscription. Lived in Calgary for 8 years, beautiful city and people are only human.

  • Jay
    July 05, 2013 - 12:13

    Mr. Jones, The only evidence I've seen of a culture of defeat coming from Calgary is you. The province of Alberta has probably provided more benefits to Canada than any other. It is now entitled to the same disaster relief that any other province in Canada should expect. For example, this province received it after a hurricane, Ontario received Federal help to clean up a snowstorm. The national and international insurance companies aren't based in Calgary, so how is this an issue for Calgarians? You even admit that all provinces should be treated equitably.It just leaves me wondering why your petty jealousy is directed at your home province

  • Aunt Lizzie
    July 05, 2013 - 11:35

    Jones, you are being rather dishonest here. You know very well that neither Harper nor the defunct Reform Party ever criticized anyone for expecting the federal government to assist with disaster recovery. In fact, the Harper government has been very responsive to Newfoundland's needs in the aftermath of hurricanes and floods.

  • david
    July 05, 2013 - 11:29

    Who in their right mind expects anyone to pay into the system, and play a larger role than anyone else in subsidizing the rest of Canada for decades, and then be stupidly spiteful that they then make some sort of stupid point of extending their own suffering, and going without any sort of completely deserved, and already-prepaid-for-many-times-over assistance...Why would they? To try to shame lazy Newfies even more than they already should be (but aren't)?!? Well guess what? Albertans don't give a rat's pitutty about any ignorant, hateful, bitterly envious Newfoundland opinions...because in 65 years of confederation, you still haven't figured out how to earn the first morsel of political relevance.

  • david
    July 05, 2013 - 11:19

    Incredible. Simply incredible. The "culture of defeat" that remains so accurate a description for this region has now been officially challenged by another...the "power of delusional, offensive bile". Hooray, Brian Jones....for such perspective. BTW, Assad's Syrian regime could always use another speechwriter.

  • Freezing in the dark
    July 05, 2013 - 08:44

    Whatever you do, never, never suggest that global wariming had anything to do with this. It's just a natural cycle...a natural cycle...a natural cycle...a natural cycle...

  • Townie
    July 05, 2013 - 07:47

    Thank you for making the point. I just wonder why the media has not covered the response of the Wildrose Party to this disaster as they are the Official Opposition and have become the Provincial equivalent of the Reform Party.