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Rats! Alberta’s Rat-free Status is in Jeopardy

Alberta’s rat-free status is in jeopardy, causing me many a sleepless night this past week.bigstock-stop-rat-race-stressful-modern-42062869

What will become of our bragging rights, if we can’t trumpet our rat-less-ness?

After all, our rat-free status has been a source of pride second only to our absence of any provincial sales tax. In fact, here’s a conversation I overheard recently on a flight to Toronto:

Non-Albertan: “So where are you from?”

Albertan: “Alberta. We don’t have any provincial sales tax.”

Non-Albertan: “I know, I know.”

Albertan: “But did you also know that we don’t have any rats either? None. Zippo. Nada. So, where are you from?”

Non-Albertan: “Toronto.”

Albertan (after the laughter subsides): “Toronto? Oh my goodness, you’re crawling in rats! You’ve got more rats than people don’t you? You know, we have no rats in Alberta.”

Non-Albertan: “What do you mean ‘no rats?’ That’s impossible.”

Albertan: “No, no it’s not. We have none. It’s in our constitution.”

Non-Albertan: “You have a constitution?”

Albertan: “Of course, it’s Alberta. We have everything! Except a provincial sales tax. And rats.”

Of course, not all conversations go like this. Sometimes the people are from Newfoundland.

But just imagine this for a moment: No sales tax. And no rats. And even if we had rats, we wouldn’t have to pay any provincial sales tax to purchase one. Is your head reeling? I mean, is Alberta paradise or what? I bet you’re thinking: “Is this some sort of utopian dreamland?”

Nope. It’s just little old Alberta. PST-free … rat-free … and proud of it.

So why has Alberta been-up until this recent infestation of seemingly Biblical proportions-rat-free for so long? According to a Government of Alberta website, they don’t enter Alberta from the south because of the sparse southern population (rats evidently enjoy spending quality time with people) and, presumably, because of the tight anti-terrorist restrictions now in place along the U.S. border. The felonious furballs don’t scurry in from the west be-cause our mountains prove to be a formidable barrier to rats (not to mention to a few British Columbians). And from the north we’re covered because of the sparse population (seriously-when was the last time you were north of Red Deer? It’s a virtual ghost town up there).

Which just leaves the east as our only serious problem (like that’s a big surprise). Yes, once again, the east is our weakest link: our Achilles heel, or, in this case, Achilles paw. The Saskatchewan-Alberta border is the longest, unprotected straight border in the world, and like Feds drawn to burgeoning oil revenues, the rats can smell this from miles away. This is the front line for Alberta’s ongoing “WAR ON RATS.” (It’s much more dramatic if you capitalize it.)

And although many rats, anxious to see the new world, came to Canada in 1775, and subsequently entered Saskatchewan in the 1920s, until recently we’ve managed to keep the rats at bay. In fact, here’s an amazing example of just how far-sighted our government was when it came to rats: the government had legislation already in place authorizing an anti-rat program even before we had rats. (If only they had the same foresight when it came to health care and education, but I digress).

But as we’ve seen these last few weeks, we must remain vigilant. Our trusty rat patrol squad can’t do it alone. Which is where you folks come in. (I know, it sort of worries me as well.)

The first thing you need to remember is that it is illegal to own a rat in Alberta, or even to just to bring one into Alberta, for that matter. Which raises two questions: Why would anyone want to own a rat? And second, what’s wrong with you people, anyway?

Beyond obeying all rat-related legislation, the second thing Albertans can do is tidy up a bit. I’m especially speaking now to you, Medicine Hat. Everyone knows that rats, like nature, abhor a vacuum. So it’s time to break out the old vacuum and clean up the eastern front.

Finally, all Albertans need to be vigilant. We need as many human eyes, ears and whiskers along the eastern front as possible. In fact, I’d suggest you start taking shifts. But before you do, make sure you understand what it is you are looking for. A lot of well-intentioned Albertans have trouble identifying rats, because, well, we don’t have any (please see above).

So the anti-rat patrol team routinely receives false alarms from Albertans mistaking gophers, mice, Chihuahuas, and men with really bad toupees, with the dreaded Norway rats.

Remember, the sooner we oust these eastern interlopers (to be clear, I’m still speaking of the rats), the quicker Alberta will restore its rightful place in our country as guaranteed under our constitution: a rat-free, tax-free, paradise.

Michael Kerr is a Canmore writer and one of Canada’s most in-demand motivational business speakers. The above column was adapted from the book, “What’s So Funny About Alberta?”  This article appeared in the Calgary Herald, August, 2012. 


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