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Carlson’s Edmonton fail

John Bell

January 19, 2024

I guess it seemed like a good idea at the time: rent Edmonton’s (capacity approximately 25,000) hockey arena for the evening. Invite right-wing icons Tucker Carlson, Rex Murphy and Conrad Black to pontificate. Yokels from all over the province will be hanging from the rafters, right?

It would happen on the heels of another Carlson show, in a smaller Calgary venue, where Alberta Premier Danielle Smith would join the far-right “pundit” in “conversation”. Smith’s office insists her presence does not mean agreement with Carlson’s views, and any way is purely a matter of free speech.

It is worth noting that Smith never exercises her right to free speech by sharing the stage with a left of centre speaker 

Organizers said the Calgary show was “sold out” but plenty of tickets are available on-line at deep discounts. Then organizers decide to go for broke and take the show on the road. The Edmonton event, sponsored by the far-right Take Back Alberta group, is ominously called “The Coming Storm.” 

Stormy, maybe. Coming, not so much.

Maybe it was the initial $400/ticket price tag. Maybe it was the fact that adding the Edmonton show after a noon-time meeting at Calgary’s convention centre on the same date was a bridge too far. Maybe it was the always daunting prospect of driving from Brooks, or Grand Prairie, or Red Deer in late January. Or maybe it was the fact that all these “icons” are already yesterday’s men.

Whatever the reason, tickets are not exactly flying out the door. Prices are being reduced, some offered at “pay what you can”. One wealthy supporter bought 3,000 tickets to give away specifically to Edmonton fans, to entice them to come.

A message from the group Citizens for Brooks/Medicine Hat practically begs supporters to come the Calgary event, offering free buses and discounted seats: “Please do this for me! We have buses going to Calgary so you can get a ride there and back! Seeing Tucker Carlson, Rex Murphy and Conrad Black all in one room is a once in a life time opportunity.”

According to The Coming Storm facebook Edmonton event page, 92 people are grabbing that opportunity.

In the end these events will probably boast a “respectable” turnout, based on free tickets handed out by wealthy supporters and organizers who know they can’t afford a high profile failure. It is getting harder to provide a focus for right-wing groups, as enthusiasm of the truckers movement recedes in the rear view mirror, and the divisions among the right re-emerge. Is simple hatred of Ottawa and Trudeau enough to hold them together?

It is a pleasure to see this Edmonton dinosaur-palooza cause sleepless nights, a spike in blood pressure, and financial panic in the Take Back Alberta war-room. 

But make no mistake, the far-right organizing in the prairies, as elsewhere, is no laughing matter. Hate crimes and Islamophobic and anti-Semitic attacks are on the rise across the province. And despite attacks on workers, like her recent pledge to lay off 10% of Alberta's nursing staff, Smith remains disturbingly popular.




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