As has been the tradition since Alberta’s first settlers decided there was no way in heck they were going to take the kids through those frickin’ mountains, and instead opted to throw a mid-summer shindig, the 106th annual Calgary Pede of Stamps opened with the riding of the bully pulpits.
“Woooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooh,” shouted Jason Kenney, waving his spotlessly white cowboy hat in the air as he rode the contentious issue of whether or not Albertan parents must be notified by school officials if their children join a group promoting inclusion and acceptance, all the way into the hard, red earth.
“Yeeeew!” the would-be premier of Alberta hollered as the tired non-issue bucked hard to the left. “While I respect the more conservative members of my base, and their opiniiiiiioooooonnnnns,” he shouted, throwing a hand in the air to steady himself, “the UCP remains a big-tent coalitiooooooonnnnnnn.” And with that the provincial leader of the opposition was thrown, landing in a cloud of division.
Up next was Rachel Notley, and there were no surprises as she immediately leapt astride the largest, nastiest looking section of pipeline that has been seen in these parts since ol’ Bucky the Leaking Legend was retired for polluting in the ring.
Despite allegations that her particular segment of pipeline had been flown in from Ottawa, and calls from her own supporters to just get off of it already, Notley outlasted Kenney by nearly 15 seconds. The only complaint from some quarters was that she really could have smiled more. It was the only time during the event that this particular observation was made, despite all participants maintaining Resting Politics Face throughout.
The contest continued into the late afternoon, as the sun arced high overhead, and politicians stepped up to take a turn on the various wedge issues at hand.
Naheed Nenshi rode a bicycle ably and with abandon on a dedicated lane around the ring, earning guffaws from many rural attendees, and applause from the urban elites, chugging their ceremonial Hefeweizens with pinkies raised high into the summer sky.
Justin Trudeau tried to ride all the issues at once, leading to a nasty groin injury when the pipeline took a hard right, stringing the PM up between it and electoral reform, which didn’t make it out of the gate. Andrew Scheer then missed his slot, distracted by his live-tweeting of Trudeau’s failure, and apparently not having selected an issue of his own to brave.
And Stephen Harper performed in secret, somewhere in a back tent, releasing no details of his ride but assuring everyone it was completely on the up and up, and a very constructive meeting between himself and an ornery bull that he declined to name.
Without Derek Fildebrandt around to crash into any parked cars, that was the end of the event for this year. While the bull riders, equestrians, and hard-partiers all have the rest of the weekend left to wage their battles with gravity, physical limits, and the inexorable realities of the brain-blood barrier, the politicians were finished. Dusty, tired, and ready for a brew or two, they retired to their various trailers, another Stampede inaugurated. And with that, the greatest outdoor sow on earth was begun.