It has been fascinating to observe how Alberta’s long-governing Progressive Conservatives have reacted to the challenge created by the Wildrose Alliance‘s rise in the polls. In most circumstances, the PCs appear to have kept a level head and tacted their policies to the centre to compete with Danielle Smith’s party’s more right-wing conservative policies, but there are exceptions.
Even though she was elected with 75% of the vote in 2008, Bonnyville-Cold Lake PC MLA Genia Leskiw appears to be feeling the pressure of the Wildrose within her own constituency. Ms. Smith recently toured the area and former PC MLA and current Bonnyville Mayor Ernie Isley is now supporting the Wildrosers. On her website, Ms. Leskiw recently published a long rant on her website about the dangers of the Wildrose Alliance in which she invokes union-busting, George W. Bush, and the fear of southern Alberta domination.
Be wary of the Wild Rose Alliance!
Very often the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence. When one looks deeper at the quality of grass that actually exists there, the extra greenness is usually an illusion. Politics is no different, as many Conservatives look at the Wildrose Alliance. Another old saying fits this situation is “Beware of a wolf in sheep’s clothing!”
All this attention to this new party is a result of their leader. A former broadcaster, she is articulate, and a master of the quick soundbite that the media eats up. As a result she has given her party much more publicity than it deserves. Her normalcy masks some of the lunacy of the platform of her upstart party. Her biggest challenge will be to try and hide some of the ridiculous promises in her party platform before critical Albertans see them for what they are. The party’s strength is in its timing. During harsh economic times, when tough decisions are being made, it is much easier to be a critic than a builder. We are in such a time now.
The platform of the party follows a shotgun approach to political planning. Promise everything to everybody, and hope no-one actually reads the whole platform. Some of their promises, like ending all homelessness in Alberta during their first term in office are naively simplistic. Some are dangerous, like striking down parts of our Human Rights and Multicultural Act that prevent discrimination. Other policies of the party are openly contradictory. They promise the oil companies they will slash our royalty system, other sectors they will slash taxes that affect input costs, yet promise Albertans they will keep a balanced budget.
Putting an end to public education by using ‘Alberta Opportunity Scholarships’ instead of per pupil student grants to public schools will set off alarm bells for those concerned about the future of public education. They promise standardized annual testing of students and teacher quality. This comes straight from George Bush’s American plans for school improvement. We all know how well that worked. During a time of labour peace, when all teachers are in a long term contract, this party wants to pick a fight and limit teacher’s labour rights. The only MLA in the party speaks of limiting teacher’s right to strike to weekends and holidays. A well thought out platform indeed. They also intend to punish teachers if their students do not perform to Wildrose standards. Pity the poor teacher of disadvantaged kids. It is critical that teachers everywhere have a close look at this platform before they remove the controversial parts until after they are elected! Most of the sane parts of their platform merely reflect what the current government is doing in education, such as enhancing online educational initiatives for students, or funding arts, music, and physical education. I analyze education first, because that was my career for thirty six years, and I know it well. I challenge every constituent in Bonnyville-Cold Lake to zero in on the area you are most familiar with, and read their platform carefully and critically. The problem with an all encompassing platform is that it may seem reasonable in areas you are unfamiliar with, but alarm bells should go off when you analyze your area of specialization. Beware of this party!
Teachers aren’t the only group they want to pick a fight with though. The Wildrose aim is to strip unions of any influence they currently have by setting up a situation that would ‘allow individual workers the choice to determine their membership in labour organizations’. It is difficult to imagine a union jobsite with workers who choose not to be union members!
Read the platform with a wary eye. Remember that this is a Calgary based, southern Alberta party. We can’t be certain if promises to ‘Develop and implement an on and off-stream fresh water storage plan.’ is code for inter-basin transfers of water from northern Alberta to southern Alberta. Scientists have told us this would be environmentally catastrophic. But we shouldn’t let science get in the way of sugar beet irrigation. Maybe Cold Lake water should be shipped to southern Alberta farms before Bonnyville.