Alberta PC Party

“…what Alison Redford taketh away….. Alison Redford giveth back?”

Well… you might say… here we go again.

Since the 2012 election, I have been somewhat of a political agnostic. My experience helping build the Alberta Party into a new moderate option for Albertans was an experience I would never give back, yet one that opened my eyes to the difficulties and challenges of partisan politics.

Let’s not go into the story on why it didn’t find greater success, as it would take a book to do it justice; but I can summarize pretty much where I feel the movement Peaked: Just prior to The selection of Alison Redford as PC Party leader. It made sense really. On paper, the Premier was the perfect blend of potential. Our first woman Premier, young, a human rights lawyer with international experience, and yet a reputation for sternness when needed.

But perhaps what Alison Redford taketh away….. Alison Redford giveth back?

After a couple years of an Alison Redford PC Government, it’s possible the conditions are emerging for the Alberta Party to be considered again as an option in the provincial political landscape? What are some of those things?

  1.  The likelihood of a Wildrose government. Danielle Smith is leading the only real organized opposition to the government, and on many issues, is looking more like a Premier than the Premier. They are beating the PC’s at their own game, raising piles of money from a very broad base of support, and they have very much softened their policy positions. The Wildrose will not make the same mistakes the next election, they did the last one.
  2.  The Alberta Liberals seem to be struggling with sustainability. Under the highly polarizing and some might say damaging ego leader Raj Sherman, it seems almost all large donors have left and so too much of the new blood needed to backfill this vacuum.
  3.  The PC Government under Alison Redford has acted erratically on many huge issues, and less than ever, we really don’t know their vision. They have tried to be everything along the political spectrum, and seemingly are beating themselves in the process. Even some bright lights in the party (yes they are there), have been dulled by the overbearing control from a Madame Premier who calls all the shots. These are the last couple years:

 

But… back to my point. The Alberta Party. What to do with this table scrap of the past election?

Firstly, I am happily surprised the experiment from 2009, 2010 and 2011 has somehow persisted. The retail support of the party has virtually disappeared, but as I revisited it over the last month, what I saw surprised me. Several new faces among their support and a fresh commitment to stay the course; build it responsibly, and maintain commitment for a fresh political palate. A new home for moderately minded political Albertans.

** Special shout-out to current Alberta Party President Will Munsey, who seems to personally embody almost every example of the Province. A rural farmer, who also works as a unionized train engineer; an entrepreneur who fits perfectly selling his fresh foods and plants to Urban local-food enthusiasts. Will holds a masters degree and has lived for two-decades abroad. He speaks fluent Japanese and knows a thing or two about the colourful language of hardworking Albertans as well. This man has been instrumental in holding the party up, even if just above the waterline, saving it from possibly drowning.

Candidate Greg Clark, Party President Will Munsey, Candidate Troy Millington

Candidate Greg Clark, Party President Will Munsey, Candidate Troy Millington

That said, the Alberta Party will not form the next government of Alberta and it would be a twice in a century story for them to form government in even two elections. But when I spent some time talking to each of the candidates currently running for leader of this boutique movement, I found a whole new extreme practicality. The two Calgary based candidates are similar in professional background, as computer and technology service consultants, yet they are also unique in their own approach. Yet again, as they are diverse, they also seem to typify the party in several ways. Fresh, young, new to the scene and VERY gosh-shucks idealistic.

So where am I going with this? Well I am asking myself once again, is it time to give the next chapter of this young book, another look? As I said, can the Alberta Party form the next Government, of course not. The real questions, which I WILL be asking at the only Edmonton leadership forum event, will be around how each of these men will lead the party over the next couple years to continue it’s growth?

How will they make it more sustainable, perhaps more applicable to all Albertans? When will Albertans understand the policy of the party in practical terms? How will that be developed? Finally, how will they afford to keep the lights on, or better said, how will the Party get better at the Business of Politics. Something it has prided itself on shunning… clearly a mistake if it wants to bridge itself to the mainstream.

So… I invite you to join me as I ask those tough questions of each candidate.   On Wednesday September 4th, (The Facebook event link for more information) – Edmonton will have it’s only opportunity to meet the candidates, ask them some tough questions, before you decide if you want to buy a membership, which is required to vote in this race.

A race that by many will be considered irrelevant… unless you love the challenge and risk of building something new… and some of us Albertans certainly do.

The Wildrose Reinvented. Maybe it’s time?

Maybe it’s time?

Danielle Smith

Danielle Smith - WRP Leader

Yesterday the Wildrose Party of Alberta came together and laid the foundation for a more moderate policy framework, mostly by removing or clarifying their contentious social policy. It has yet to be submitted to the approval of the membership, but I think that’s a formality.

By doing this, the rigid social conservatives, those who joined the party to protect ideologically based “Family / Christian Values” will simply be made to feel unwelcome. Which is tough; but the choice of the ideologue, not the Party who strives to align itself with the majority of those it wants to represent. These beliefs fit in a home or a church, but not in a government, which must be responsible to a diverse constituency. Surely Danielle Smith has always known this and now the Party looks to be bending to her will. Which it must if it wants to form government.

I don’t begrudge this. I believe that this is the basic principle of representative government. Go where the people want you to go. The ancient social beliefs of the party were again and again contrary to what the majority of Albertans believe. From climate change to conscience rights… they were offside.  The Wildrose are doing what they are supposed to do… we can’t criticize them for that.

What will obviously happen, is a fracture in their party along the right side, but that is certainly expected; and I suspect Danielle Smith is discreetly thankful for it.

The big story is not that the Wildrose are doing late what every other party has done before them. That was inevitable. The big story is that by doing this, they eliminated the only legitimate reason that most rigid fiscal conservatives were staying away.  These people, have been holding their nose and staying with the Alberta PC Party, which really has become a confused home for everybody who was against the “old version of the Wildrose”, from forming government.

Maybe it’s time?

Maybe it’s time to break apart what is a tired and ill-focused PC government. Maybe it’s time to have a healthy debate about what the solution to our deficit and debt problems should be. Maybe it’s time to challenge how big or small government should be, how ever-expanding health care delivery costs can be controlled, what it means to make meaningful long-term budgets and business plans, and of course how services can be improved.

There are so many of these debates we have avoided for the last 6-8 years, because the PC Party has built their entire existence around being against the Wildrose and not for a better, bigger future for the Province. All it takes is one look at the way they campaigned just a year ago, and the polar opposite positions they have taken since gaining power. They simple expended every bit of energy and political capital they had to hold onto power…. now they are in trouble.

At least the Wildrose have clarified where they stand in the political debate.  They have dropped the ideological background noise that was hurting them and will be fighting on ideas. These ideas will be about smaller government, cost reduction – over any new revenue streams, and a culture of personal responsibility as a cornerstone of the social safety net. Agree or disagree with where they stand; agree with me that these are the debates that we need to be having. One’s really worth having.

The PC Party had better realize what happened to them yesterday and find some ways quickly to define what they really stand for. Why their ideas are better than the Wildrose’s.

Or maybe it’s time?

Maybe the PC Party needs to recognize the dissonance that exists within it. The rigid fiscal conservatives who have only ever stayed to hold onto shortening strings of power, or because they couldn’t live within the social conservative confines of the old Wildose Party…. or… the Lougheed-modelled Progressive Conservatives who hope to find a vision in the balance between smart government and enabling a vision for the future of a post-energy Province. The PC Party of today is neither of these things and rest assured, the mandatory Leadership Review of the Premier this fall will expose and likely exacerbate this dissonance.

Or just maybe… a complete explosion of the Party might be the best thing for the Province and its political landscape. Let new lines be drawn and reestablish for Albertans where they might fit if they were looking for something to believe in.