Success comes with challenges, and for Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives, forty-two years of electoral success has come with its own unique set of challenges.
One of the PC Party’s biggest successes has been its ability to reinvent itself over its more than four decades in power. It is sometimes difficult to explain to someone from outside Alberta how the same party has been led by the very different leadership styles of Peter Lougheed, Don Getty, Ralph Klein, Ed Stelmach, and now Premier Alison Redford.
What does today’s version of the PC Party stand for? I am not sure its leaders have a clear idea what the latest reinvention embodies.
While Premier Redford’s clear focus has been on the international stage, her government has presented a confusing domestic agenda.
The PC Party under Premier Redford claims to be progressive (though it fights with unions, and has made deep funding cuts to post-secondary education and support for persons with developmental disabilities). The PC Party under Premier Redford also claims to be conservative (despite running deficit budgets).
Confusion appears to be another challenge of being the Natural Governing Party.
The PC Party is also less of a real political party and more of an amorphous blob that exists to sustain power.
Recognizing the need to connect with its base of activists ahead of November’s leadership review vote, Premier Redford announced at last weekend’s party policy conference in Edmonton the formation of new committees that will help connect party policy with the government’s agenda. This is a tricky goal to accomplish, as the PC Government is expected to represent all Albertans, not just those who hold a membership with the Premier’s political party.
This is also not the first time the PC Party has boldly attempted to make party membership relevant outside of leadership races or nomination contests. In the early 2000’s, Premier Klein commissioned numerous initiatives with his party’s base of activists to try to reengage with them. The success of those particular initiatives was questionable.
Following last year’s election, the latest reinvention of the PC Party is largely urban-based and faces a rural-based official opposition. The PC Party’s recent attacks on the Wildrose Party’s more extreme social conservative-base, which until recently played a significant role in the governing coalition, have demonstrated that Alberta’s Natural Governing Party might not be sure what its latest reinvention is, it is starting to show what it does not want to be.