the folly of a canadian culture war.

“Cosmopolitanism versus parochialism, secularism versus moralism, Obama versus Palin, tolerance versus racism and homophobia, democracy versus autocracy. If the cranky old men in Alberta don’t like it, too bad. Go south and vote for Palin.” – EKOS Pollster Frank Graves‘ advice to the Liberal Party of Canada.

What a surprise, an Ottawa-based politico who called for a “culture war” in Canada shows his misunderstanding of western Canada. I generally try to avoid writing too much about the distant politics of Ottawa and I could really care less about what Mr. Graves thinks of Albertans, but it is the coverage by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on the above comments that concerns me. I am normally a defender of the CBC, but in this case, they got it all wrong.

During a taping of CBC’s Power and Politics with Evan Solomon last week, the broadcaster chose address Mr. Graves’ comment not by debunking them, but by perpetuating the myth of Albertans as a group of gun-toting crazy redneck oil barons by seeking a western response from an Albertan who is not just a conservative, but a fanatical conservative straw man. Enter Ezra Levant.

As a friend pointed out, none of the panelists on the program even discussed whether it was okay for the Liberal Party of Canada to use these kind of wedge issues in a “culture war,” as if to suggest that they simply accepted the idea that all Albertans were just as susceptible to these extreme wedge issues as Mr. Levant (to be fair, I did know Ian Capstick when he lived in Edmonton years ago and I hope that the politics of Ottawa have not diluted his memory).

Do Mr. Graves’ comments actually reflect an undercurrent within the Party he was advising? Whether or not it does, they do have an effect on that Party’s reputation in Western Canada. I am told that last week, the Liberal Party of Canada in Alberta cancelled a bus booked to travel from Edmonton to their upcoming annual convention in Lethbridge because they could not find 35 people in the 1 million person metro Edmonton region who wanted to make the trip.

Canada is a big country and it is easy, and dangerous, to allow regional divides define our already apathetic national politics. Just as most Ontarians are not latte drinking tax-loving socialists, most Albertans are not gun-toting crazy redneck oil barons. Mr. Graves’ “culture war” comments are not helpful for those he provides political advice for and they are not helpful for Canada.