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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- The PC’s have completely abandoned any sense of good fiscal governance. With consecutive multi-billion dollar deficits, the Premier ridiculously projects a policy that there can be no new taxes, there will be more savings, and all while unprecedented spending, amazingly outpacing our rapid population growth.
- The PC’s seems to have alienated much of their large urban base, with erratic stances on things like the Edmonton Arena District and University funding, the PC’s and Edmonton’s Mayor (and his supporters) have lost some love for each other. In Calgary, the erratic and knee-jerk Flood response zoning policy failed to consult the City and it’s very popular Mayor . Both Mayors were snubbed by the Premier’s office as she created it’s “Annual Economic Summit” to talk about the provinces future economy. Two very popular mayors, in two very centrist/PC towns. (Let’s be honest. Calgary and Edmonton and urban Alberta SAVED the party from a Wildrose onslaught in the last election).
- Major political crises, handled with knee-jerk reaction, abandoning most forms of good governance and their own politically appointed support base. The AHS Board debacle, and the recent disturbing pattern of interference with their own appointed post-secondary governance, and backtracking on “do-nothing committees“… and on and on.
- Beyond all the erratic governing, not surprisingly, the party is losing its once formidable machine. Donations and membership are waning; and what were once high-profile positions, local CA boards and the Provincial Board, has been filled with supporters that although surely well-intended and impressive in their own right, lack the big-name sparkle a governing party would want as beacons in the community. When I look around, there may still be loud support at the lower levels of the party, but among the high-profile and influential in each major community, the Party (or maybe better said the Premier) has lost many outspoken positive evangelists.
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.
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.