Wildrose MLAs avoid questions on blog post linking carbon tax to Holodomor

Wildrose MLAs whose names appeared on a blog post comparing the NDP’s proposed carbon tax to the genocide of millions of Ukrainians refused to answer questions from reporters at the Alberta legislature Monday.
Wildrose MLA Rick Strankman was one of nine MLAs that put their name to a post linking the NDP's proposed carbon tax to the genocide of millions of Ukrainians. (CBC)

Wildrose MLAs whose names appeared on a blog post comparing the NDP's proposed carbon tax to the genocide of millions of Ukrainians refused to answer questions from reporters at the Alberta legislature Monday.

"Actually, I'm just on the phone right here," Wildrose MLA Grant Hunter said as he headed into the legislative assembly. 

"I've already talked to my constituents," he said, while keeping his cellphone to his ear.

Drayton Valley-Devon MLA Mark Smith also refused to talk. So did Don MacIntyre, the Wildrose MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake.

When asked why, MacIntyre replied, "Because I have to go in and get ready." MacIntyre then went into the opposition lounge about 10 minutes before the start of the afternoon session.

On Friday, Economic Development Minister Deron Bilous, who is of Ukrainian descent, expressed outrage over a post from nine Wildrose MLAs condemning the carbon tax.

The post from MLAs Hunter, MacIntyre, Smith, Rick Strankman, Dave Schneider, Wes Taylor, Ron Orr, Mark Smith, and Dave Hanson suggested that Soviet collectivism was responsible for a mass famine that killed millions of Ukrainians.

In 1932 and 1933, the Soviet regime under Joseph Stalin deliberately caused the famine, and the deaths are now recognized as genocide.

The offending paragraphs were removed and the party issued an apology on the part of the MLAs.

Millions perished in genocide

Hanson, the MLA for Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills MLA, used his members statement Monday to make a public apology. He told the legislature his great-grandmother was born in Kiev and came to Canada before the genocide. 

"Recently, a column went out with my name on it that inadvertently made light of not just my history, but the story of Albertans of Ukrainian heritage across this province," Hanson said. "This was wrong and I speak for all members involved. We apologize unreservedly for this post.

"We believe for any political party to try and push an agenda or an attack using the tragedy of the Ukrainian people and the Holodomor is deplorable."

The original Wildrose post quoted a statement by philosopher Thomas Sowell, who noted that people would do more for themselves than for the common good, which was more beneficial.

"Sowell points out how the early settlers to North America considered all lands common property with no incentive for an individual to produce," the Wildrose article originally said. "The same situation existed in Russia during the 1930s resulting in the starvation of nearly six million people that lived on some of the most fertile land on the planet.

"Time and again the incentive of the citizenry translates into the production they need to sustain themselves."

If passed, the carbon tax will come into effect on Jan. 1, 2017. Albertans will pay the direct costs of the tax at the gasoline pump and on their home heating bills.

The NDP government hopes the tax will compel Albertans to reduce consumption of fossil fuels. The Wildrose vehemently opposes the tax, saying it will hurt Alberta families at a time when the economy is in a downturn.

Debate on the bill is expected to continue into the early hours Tuesday.