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Celebrate Canada Day 2018 by driving the secret highways of Alberta

Entrance to the Sherwood Park Freeway (Photo: Found on the Internet, unattributed; modifications by the author).

Happy Canada Day! Why not celebrate by driving on Alberta's secret highways?

Frankly, I don't know how the Beaverton stays in business with the brutal competition they're facing nowadays from Wild Rose Country.

There's an expression we've all heard: "You can't make this stuff up!" In Alberta, you don't need to. The ambitious folks vying to become United Conservative Party candidates in the next provincial election will do it for you.

Consider Len Thom, aspiring UCP candidate in Sherwood Park. Until the Orange Wave of 2015, when NDP MLA Annie McKitrick was elected, the Sherwood Park riding was a mostly reliable Tory redoubt. Voters there elected Iris Evans, a minister in Ralph Klein's and Ed Stelmach's cabinets, four times consecutively after a Liberal represented the place for one term. So it's clearly in play in 2019 for whomever gets the UCP nomination.

Thom Tweeted Friday -- and I'm not making this up -- "If I am elected MLA for Sherwood Park I will ask @jkenney to get rid of nanny state speed limits on secret provincial highways."

Area 51, maybe! But who knew we had secret highways in Alberta? For that matter, who knew speed limits were an expression of the "nanny state," the venerable right-wing dogwhistle for any regulation, no matter how sensible, that someone finds inconvenient.

This prompted a storm of tweeted responses, many of them hilarious. This is why I reckon this could spell trouble for the Beaverton, the well-known Canadian online news parody site, since we're writing our own great stuff every day in Alberta now.

In a post on his campaign website, the would-be UCP candidate explained his point of view a little more. Apparently the part of the Sherwood Park Freeway west of the world's largest hamlet (population 70,000-plus, and I'm not making that up either) has a slightly higher speed limit inside the City of Edmonton than it does on the provincial section between Edmonton and the secret city.

Thom, a lawyer, former Conservative constituency association president, and federal and provincial candidate, thinks the 80 km/h speed limit on the provincial section (that is, what he calls the secret part) is too slow and the 100 km/h limit inside Edmonton is more like it. I have this straight from the horse's mouth.

"These low speed limits are little more than a nanny state cash cow which has already resulted in numerous speeding tickets for county residents," the would-be candidate complained on his web post, perhaps because he's collected a few of these expensive pieces of paper himself, as have we all, regardless of what political party is in power or which one we support.

Thom told me in a Twitter direct message that what he meant by "secret highway" is that "there are no posted signs indicating it is a numbered provincial highway and it does not appear on government road maps as a numbered provincial highway." His reference to the nanny state, he said, reflects his view "that certain rules and policies tend to not be needed where something can be safely done by virtually everyone without the rule or policy." (Like keeping your vehicle under 100 km/h in an 80 km/h speed zone, I guess.)

Now, this may or may not sound silly to you, especially if you've driven on a highway in Alberta, but I have no doubt many residents of Sherwood Park will agree with him and vote for him on the strength of this alone.

As an aside, readers should remember that while they can go east, and they can be eastbound, but they can't "go eastbound." This is a rule of grammar that apparently is now a secret, even to CBC traffic reporters.

"If I am chosen as the MLA for Sherwood Park I will pick up my cell phone on election night and call Jason Kenney and suggest we get rid of nanny state speed limits on secret provincial highways," Thom vowed. "I think I know what his answer will be."

This assumes Rachel Notley won't have been re-elected when Thom is making his imagined phone call, of course, but in that circumstance I'm pretty sure Kenney's response would actually be … "Tell Premier Mandel …" No! I'm joking. It would be … "My way or the secret highway!"

Just ask Derek Fildebrandt, the Honourable Member for the Road that Leads Nowhere, about that if you don't believe me.

Seriously … Regardless of whether Kenney gets the opportunity to talk to officials in the Secret Highways Department, short of passing legislation eliminating speed limits in Alberta, they'll throw invisible roadblocks in the way of change.

If they do, they may have the ear of UCP MLA Ric McIver. Back when he was transportation minister in Alison Redford's Conservative cabinet, McIver said he was prepared to consider just about anything to get Alberta drivers to slow down -- and, who knows, maybe that included secret highways with really slow speed limits! That's something for the NDP to look into if they really want to get up Kenney's nose in another critical cartoon.

Of course, if by some miracle Thom succeeds with his ambition, the Secret City of Sherwood Park (a.k.a the County of Strathcona) will likely be unhappy about any loss of revenue that now accrues to it from the inability of some of the worst drivers in Confederation, if you go by insurance statistics, to slow down.

If this story didn't tickle your funny bone, don't worry about it. There's bound to be another one like it soon.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca

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