Quill and Quire


« Back to
Book Reviews

Against the Grain: An Irreverent View of Alberta

by Catherine Ford

If you buy into the stereotype of Albertans as a bunch of redneck, fundamentalist, rural yahoos whose solution to everything is to cut taxes and put the snakeskin cowboy boots to the liberal elites of Central Canada, then longtime Calgary Herald columnist Catherine Ford’s book, with its gently leftish perspective, is indeed an irreverent view.

A meandering paean to and a short history of the province of Alberta, Against the Grain touches on topics ranging from the federal gun registry, oil, and tourism to religion and Keynesian economics. It is held together by the tension between the no-nonsense, hard-working individualists who populate the province and the often churlish, mean-spirited, xenophobic politics of Ralph Klein that govern it.

Distrust of the federal government, says Ford, is all but a genetic trait in Wild Rose Country, though “it is passing strange that Albertans think the federal government can do no right and the Alberta government can do no wrong.” Pierre Trudeau’s 1980 National Energy Program has a lot to do with the former sentiment. It would appear that unlike separatist Quebeckers, Albertans just want to be heard, but the author has a provocative take on this: “Few Albertans would look upon their province as Quebec’s twin, but the only real difference between Albertans and Quebeckers is that the latter have the guts to put their alienation to a vote.”

Now that the province is awash in oil revenues and, as of March of this year, has paid down its debt, its 100th anniversary in Confederation could not be better timed. In boardrooms and caucus meetings, people are listening more closely than ever to what Alberta is saying.

Like any good columnist, Ford is passionate about her subject, be it racism, fluoride in the drinking water, or the cynicism and opportunism of modern politicians, who tend to reflexively foment, and then exploit, fear in order to cash in at the ballot box. There’s little in the way of a discernible order to the book, but that doesn’t get too much in the way of a fun read.


Reviewer: Stephen Knight

Publisher: McClelland & Stewart


Price: $34.99

Page Count: 300 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 0-7710-4775-4

Released: Sept.

Issue Date: 2005-10

Categories: Children and YA Non-fiction, Reference