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  • Not wildrose?

    As Alberta’s Progressive Conservative government continues to self-destruct, voters can at last imagine its defeat in the next election. The big question is, what should replace it?

    A centrist combination of traditional opposition parties is preferable to the new offerings on display.

    Many voters are dismissing the Liberal and New Democratic parties, as lacking the appeal or potential to challenge for government. This may be because of their leaders’ image, the ideological baggage implied by their names or history, or other reasons, but to date neither one, acting alone, has galvanized enough people to seem a credible alternative.

    There is a buzz around the Wildrose Alliance Party whose unexpected victory in the Calgary-Glenmore by-election and its new leader have added a new possibility to the mix. Dissatisfied voters may be parking their support with Wildrose, but is Wildrose the best choice to replace the present government? I don’t think so.

    Let’s take a look.

    Even at this early stage, we can sense the territory the Wildrose party will occupy. It will involve a distrust of big government, following the old saw that “that government is best which governs least.” It will lean toward the “watchman state” and stress rights-based individual freedoms over utilitarian considerations of “the greatest happiness of the greatest number.”

    Most Canadians prefer a judicious mix of these two ethical principles.

    In its most extreme form, neo-conservatism is deeply misanthropic - for example, Margaret Thatcher denied there is such a thing as society. For her, Britain consisted of atomistic individuals who compete for everything, mediated only by criminal law and the great market levers of supply and demand. Planning is out, government regulation is minimal, people sink or swim, aided largely by charitable organizations (like food banks), not government-funded social security.

    The implications for Alberta of such economistic market worship are ominous. There would be a continuation of the government’s hands-off approach to the timing or phasing of tar sands exploitation (even the new Minister of Energy questioned this approach, until the Premier hauled him into line), with mere exhortation to the oil patch to undertake voluntary improvement of environmental devastation. Apparently, royalties would be lowered even from their present unacceptably low level.

    Albertans want political change, but is Wildrose the flavour of government they want? Even former Premier Peter Lougheed has called for the government to “act more like an owner” and the whole province has become infamous for its “dirty oil.” Surely we have the right to demand better reclamation and more environmentally benign exploitation technologies, instead of saying “the market will decide.” Surely too, we should ensure a manageable pace of phased development of new tar sands projects, instead of wringing our hands while continuing a destructive boom-and-bust cycle.

    Most Albertans want a moderate, centrist government, one which is pragmatic but compassionate, not an ideologically driven one. We also want a mixed market economy, mediated by government regulation and the realization that some values cannot be monetized. We want sounder fiscal management, but not at the expense of savage social service cuts which will be borne by the most vulnerable. (For example, the present government’s slashing of mental health programs has added significantly to the unnecessary homelessness tragedy.)

    The best way to get a competent and caring government is for the moderate opposition to stop splitting the vote and work together. After the 2008 election, there could have been 22 or more opposition members, instead of only 11, if the Greens, Liberals and New Democrats had agreed not to run against each other where only one of the three had a chance. (In twelve seats, the combined vote for these three parties exceeded that cast for the victorious Conservative.) This kind of cooperation would encourage the legion of non-voters to realize their vote can make a difference if they turn out to cast their ballot in 2012.

    Moderate Albertans should pressure the Liberals, New Democrats and Greens (when they reorganize) to reach a “non-compete” agreement for a fair mix of exclusive candidacies. Conservatives have had their forty-year turn at government. It’s time for opposition parties with a track record to show Albertans that they’re ready to govern.

    Any centrist new party initiatives would play into the hands of Wildrose and the Conservatives, because they would split that vote even more than before. The Tories and Wildrose must be licking their chops as they watch the Renew group's attempt to found a new "progressive" party.

    The answer is electoral cooperation by Liberals, New Democrats, independent Greens and other centrists, who should let Wildrose and the Tories split the shrinking conservative vote and skate up the moderate electoral middle to victory.

    Phil Elder is Co-chair of the Alberta Democratic Renewal Project (Calgary) and a former New Democratic Party candidate. He resigned from the NDP when it refused to cooperate with the Liberals and Greens.


    -- Phil Elder

  • #2
    I am a bit tired of all these "theories" as to why "centre left" parties do so pitifully in elections in Alberta.

    There is no need for democratic renewal. We are in a democracy, people can set up parties, they can merge parties, and they choose who their representatives are. As to a merger, or agreement, I think people are kidding themselves if merging all these parties is going to produce something, generate a syngergy, that will create something that enough people here like.

    Right now, Albertans chose the PC's. Recently, per the polls they have shown a willingness to consider another centre right party, the Wild Rose Alliance. Some electorates where there are strong Liberal candidates (there aren't many), will vote Liberal. All is fine for everyone except those who don't like who Albertans are supporting in the polls. Don't like it, fine, set up your party (it can be humbling though). Or, if politics is so important to you, you might be happier living somewhere that the electorate is more left wing. I know that one of the reasons I was happy to move to Alberta was the conservative nature of politics, and I have no doubt many other immigrants who are "refugees" from left wing provinces feel the same way.

    Pure centrist, or "moderate centrist" parties never do well anywhere without political stripes. People don't like fence sitters, they like leaders who make decisions. Even as a conservative, I'd rather have a left wing government that is trying to do something based on its philosophies than a middling "no-direction" government that has no ideological basis. I'd go so far as to say this is what is killing the PC's right now, a lack of ideology, they have gone to far centre, away from the ideology they had under Klein which was closer to where most Albertans are. IMO it is big part of why the PC's are losing their support to the WRA right now.
    Last edited by moahunter; 18-06-2010, 09:43 AM.

    Comment


    • #3
      Perhaps the Liberal and New Democratic brands are too broken to ever work in Alberta. The Greens dissolved about a year ago.

      I don't think winning 22 seats, instead of 11, is the goal for progressive-minded people. To form a government, a new coalition will have to include so-called "Red" Tories. The model proposed above does not do that. If Ted Morton emerges as the next Premier, perhaps Dave Hancock and others will be searching for a new home.

      In the event of a fundamental reorganization of politics in Alberta, we have to be open to new options, not just stick with the established parties.
      http://www.twitter.com/ckls

      Comment


      • #4
        ^
        The Wild Rose are far from moderate right. They claim the PC's are lefties.
        I read Ms. Smith's comments. I even read Rob Anderson's letter in the journal. I even follow their blogs on occasion.

        My conclusion is that the Wild Rose woud be the absolutely worst choice for a government anywhere.

        That whole idea about saving taxes so that communities with more money can reinvest in their community is one of the worst ideas ever since it builds fences instead of working to support the overall community. It's isolated and caters to people who live in gated commnities.

        Oil is a dying commodity. BP cracked the seal. Now everyone has a hate on for oil and Alberta will be a pariah if we stay stuck to one industry. Under the WRA, it would oil companies to expand production while increasing pollution. If they think the industry will regulate itself properly, they should go for a swim in the Gulf.

        Alberta isn't even all that conservative. That's part of their manipulative sloganeering. We had gay marriage, abortion, and a socialized health care system years ago. None of those values are conservative so really, they're blowing smoke up Canada's collective bum.

        My Dad was around before the conservatives. The only mention of him online is by Preston Manning, but he helped start the seperatist movement. My Dad never mentioned God ever. There was no religious interference except for that put out by the social credit party people.

        I grew up with all that stuff drilled into me and the only thing it did was make me a hardcore agnostic centrist. I believe in fiscal conservatism where the government actively looks to reduce spending while still providing the services they were voted in to tend to.

        We need a smaller government; that's obvious. However, we also need a responsible government that is capable of providing for us. We need efficiency. We need transparency, and we need to get away from the corporate domination.

        I disagree that centrist parties do poorly. We've just never seen one. The closest we have would be the NDP or Greens and you could hardly call them moderate.
        Given half the chance and a decent platform and it'd be an easy sweep.

        Comment


        • #5
          The Progressive Conservatives have been a centrist party. Where is the evidence otherwise? Because they haven't been extreme left? That hardly qualifies.

          Look, the PCs will celebrate 40 years in power next year. That's your starting point. The second is that there has been no competing centrist party in Alberta. The Liberals have been an "oppose whatever the government does" party since after Decore. The NDP is too left for most voters because people believe that there are some things that people can bloody well do for themselves.

          That's left the PCs. And the populist rhetoric coming from the WA is no shocker. The PCs have governed from the centre-left for a long time now. They spend a tonne. More per-capita on health and education than most provinces. But they don't manage particularly well and the public sector unions hate them because they hated Klein and too much is never enough. Easy fodder for people spouting "lower taxes and smaller government".

          Nobody bothers to stand up in the PC party and say "10% single rate with 20k free IS low taxes!!!" or "Of COURSE we're spending a tonne! We're adding 100,000 people a year!!!"

          Let's face it, it's not like the province is falling apart, is it? But these guys are attacked, often unfairly, from both the left and the right.

          The left hates the oil sands and the government knows that diversification doesn't happen overnight. Shutting down the oilsands when the rest of the planet is hardly doing anything about CO2 makes no sense to them. Rightly so.

          The right thinks they spend too much even though spending is actually needed.

          They really can't win, can they? Unless they start managing better and standing up for themselves in a more forceful, honest way, the WA will be government because that garbage populist rhetoric is meaningful in a province where the opposition hasn't told anybody what they stand for other than spend more and cut oil jobs.

          Comment


          • #6
            I don't agree that Albertans currently enjoy good services from their government. Parkland Institute research demonstrates that Alberta's funding for health and education are inferior to other provinces. If you or a loved one need homecare, daycare, or psychiatric care, this province's cheap ways will fail you unless you are independently wealthy. Our environmental protection and our support for green alternatives are mediocre. None of this matters to those who support minimalist government. But for the 40 percent of Albertans who vote for a more active government and the many others who decline to vote because they think that only right-wingers can win elections in Alberta, it all matters a great deal. For those of you who are in that minority-seeking-to-be-a-majority camp, please check us out at drp.ca

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by JasonR View Post
              Let's face it, it's not like the province is falling apart, is it? But these guys are attacked, often unfairly, from both the left and the right.
              The province is not falling apart, but I think you are deluding yourself if you think the PC's are perfect, or that not having things falling apart is the best we can do. I don't think it is ever healthy for any government at any level to be in power too long, you always, without exception, get fat, wastage and patronage. The perfect example is the size of the cabinet, which is larger than many countries, totally obscene given the size of Alberta and the responsibilities of the Province. I'd like to see a change of government, and WRA is the most likely to achieve that. I'm sure the PC's will come back, but they will then come back a leaner better party for a leaner better government. It is just time for a change and like it or not, that means a shift a little right.

              Comment


              • #8
                Good posts Phil Elder and Alvin Finkel

                Thank you DRP and congratulations to the Alberta Liberal Party for its passage of the DRP motion for progressive parties to work out a non-compete plan for the next election—this is a progressive step towards strengthening democracy in the Alberta legislature. I hope the DRP can continue to persuade progressive politicians and the electorate that the only way we can bring about political change in Alberta is by suspending our own entrenched loyalties to party ideology. The larger ideology at stake here is the preservation and reinforcement of democracy, so let’s put our ideological attachments on hold and open our minds to new possibilities. By dogmatically adhering to party allegiances I fear the outcome of the next election will provide little opposition to the woefully inadequate balance of power in the Alberta legislature.
                Many Liberals, New Democrats, Greens, and others favour a fiscally responsible government that implements fair but adequate taxation policies to provide sufficient funding for core social programs—programs that are publicly administered and regulated. Given that political analysts have compared the Liberal and NDP policies and found about a 95% overlap, surely their members can provisionally put the 5% differences aside so that both parties can form a viable opposition in 2012 and put an end to the Conservative juggernaut. After that success, we can all return to our preferred parties. Then again, as a consequence of a non-compete strategy, such a change of experience could change Albertans’ views enough to form a new, progressive amalgamation. However this plays out, the DRP’s proposal is a visionary, temporary solution, without which Albertans will have an ongoing, long-term problem–one that could move this province even further to the right.
                To prevent that, the DRP has a plan to jump-start the process of creating a viable opposition (or defeating the Conservatives) and paving a path to proportionate representation—a win-win solution for progressive parties, the people, and the province.
                I wish them much success.
                Judy J. Johnson, Calgary
                Last edited by Judy J. Johnson; 19-06-2010, 12:41 PM. Reason: deleted the [SIZE 3] tags
                Judy J. Johnson, Calgary

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by moahunter View Post
                  Originally posted by JasonR View Post
                  Let's face it, it's not like the province is falling apart, is it? But these guys are attacked, often unfairly, from both the left and the right.
                  The province is not falling apart, but I think you are deluding yourself if you think the PC's are perfect, or that not having things falling apart is the best we can do. I don't think it is ever healthy for any government at any level to be in power too long, you always, without exception, get fat, wastage and patronage. The perfect example is the size of the cabinet, which is larger than many countries, totally obscene given the size of Alberta and the responsibilities of the Province. I'd like to see a change of government, and WRA is the most likely to achieve that. I'm sure the PC's will come back, but they will then come back a leaner better party for a leaner better government. It is just time for a change and like it or not, that means a shift a little right.
                  Re-read my post, my friend. I certainly didn't say they were perfect.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by moahunter View Post
                    It is just time for a change and like it or not, that means a shift a little right.
                    I agree that there is a need to pursue change, but moving back to the Klein ideology is not a positive option. Indeed, ideology itself is not a positive option.

                    On some issues, such as education, Wildrose policy can't be qualified as a "little right." It borders on wing-nut territory.
                    http://www.twitter.com/ckls

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      ^
                      We agree on something at least GG.

                      We need to go more 'militant' centrist if we're going to fix the province personally. This 'rightwing' attitude is self serving to include only those with the means. Everyone else can fight for the scraps.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by armin View Post
                        ^
                        We agree on something at least GG.

                        We need to go more 'militant' centrist if we're going to fix the province personally. This 'rightwing' attitude is self serving to include only those with the means. Everyone else can fight for the scraps.
                        Just as the leftwing attitude would have us all equally poor and miserable. Funny how centrist seems to mean "left" to so many.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          ^just as "low taxes" and "less waste" (e.g. reasonable sized cabinets) means "right" to so many.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by armin View Post
                            We agree on something at least GG.

                            We need to go more 'militant' centrist if we're going to fix the province personally.
                            I'd probably choose "principled" instead "militant," armin, but I think I see where you are going with this. Being a centrist doesn't mean a person lack values. Rather, the goal is to do the right thing, moving beyond the limitations imposed by ideology. A solution to a problem may involve government, or it may involve business, or most likely it will involve both.
                            http://www.twitter.com/ckls

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Green Grovenor View Post
                              Originally posted by armin View Post
                              We agree on something at least GG.

                              We need to go more 'militant' centrist if we're going to fix the province personally.
                              I'd probably choose "principled" instead "militant," armin, but I think I see where you are going with this. Being a centrist doesn't mean a person lack values. Rather, the goal is to do the right thing, moving beyond the limitations imposed by ideology. A solution to a problem may involve government, or it may involve business, or most likely it will involve both.

                              That is a much better choice of word.

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