Alberta Politics

Sewer Rats. Really.

Monday’s Question Period in the Legislature yielded a surprising statement from the Deputy Premier, Sarah Hoffman, that sparked an immediate backlash and gave rise to a number of interpretations from across the political spectrum.  I had some initial misgivings about searching both “youtube” and “sewer rats” but I wasn’t disappointed.  The first offering was a video titled “NDP: You’re all sewer rats!”.  And that seems like as good a place to start as any.

Remy and Linguine ~ Ratatouille

In case you haven’t heard, in response to Jason Nixon (WR – Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre), Sarah Hoffman (ND – Edmonton – Glenora, Alberta Health Minister, Deputy Premier) replied “…while we’re focused on hard hats, they’re spending time with sewer rats”.  Brian Jean took to Twitter to claim this was a direct insult to Albertans and many people agreed with him.

On the other side of the debate was a confident and unapologetic interpretation of “sewer rats” referring to bigots, xenophobes, racists and the like, along with their sympathizers, fans and/or subscribers.  Hoffman has since apologized, saying only that it “certainly did not refer to Albertans”.  Was it a dumb comment?  I think so.  Was it as outrageous as some are making it out to be?  Not so much.

I tend to check out Urban Dictionary when I want to know what the cool kids are saying (and I know what I’ll get if I use an actual dictionary to find a definition for “sewer rat”).  In summary, even Urban Dictionary had an entry for the literal term and none of the definitions seemed to fit either description from the political right or left.  The short list is rat-like features, “greasy, short male”, “Ja Rule” (I don’t even want to know) “Underground (secretive)” and my personal favourite “A punk ass scrap tryin (sic) to be hard”.

Disney’s “Ratatouille”

The examples are extraordinarily specific but if I put it all together, I would go with “unsavoury character” which is what a few people were saying at the time.  I, for one, think it relates to last week’s Wildrose on Campus dumpster fire.  I have to note that issue itself received zero coverage from the opinion outlets; so much for “we report what the mainstream media won’t” except when they want to provide some fuel for fired up … Wildrosers?

Even though it wasn’t quite on the same level as “Feminism is Cancer”, the Wildrose corner the market on outrage.  They also corner the market on correct interpretations, apparently.  According to the #ableg feed from Monday night, only Brian Jean and fellow Wildrosers could accurately interpret Hoffman’s meaning and all others who attempted were called “mind readers” and “clairvoyants”.

The Wildrose blunder had more to do with timing; it was two days before International Women’s Day.  Would it have sparked outrage anyway?  Likely.  Would it have been soooooo bad if it happened in April?  Probably not.  I would also recommend taking a look at the Red Pill if you get a chance as it’s not about the men’s movement that advocates for repeal of rape laws (surprise! That’s a thing… a white guy thing).

Do I consider Hoffman’s outburst to be worthy of the right wing drama?  Not really.  I highly doubted she was referring to Albertans at the time and I haven’t been convinced by the Wildrose or opinion commentators who assert that she was.  All I can say is, if it speaks to you, then maybe you are one.  Wallow in it, whine about it, wear the badge with whatever pride this gives you.  I know she wasn’t referring to me.

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