Notley’s NDP can’t afford to ignore Wildrose attacks

‘Risky,’ ‘ideological,’ ‘experimental,’ and ‘uncertain’ are all words that the conservative Wildrose Party opposition is using to describe Alberta’s New Democratic Party government.

Sarah Hoffman NDP MLA Edmonton-Glenora

Sarah Hoffman

Responding to Health Minister Sarah Hoffman‘s decision to cancel a $3 billion laboratory services contract with the Australian-based Sonic corporation, the Wildrose claimed the New Democratic Party government was imposing an “ideological” agenda.

The Wildrose appear to have succeeded in turning the tables on the NDP, who, while in opposition criticized the old conservative government of an ideological obsession with privatization of laboratory services. All of a sudden, the government is being accused of being too ideological for protecting Alberta’s public health care system.

Like the old Progressive Conservative government, I am sure the Wildrose would like to increase privatization of the health care system. The NDP could have framed this debate as one of protecting Alberta jobs and an Alberta-based company, rather than just about cancelling a contract with a giant Australian company (it was later announced that an appeal panel determined that Alberta Health Services breached its duty of procedural fairness in the RFP process in a substantive manner).

Vitor Marciano Wildrose

Vitor Marciano

Premier Rachel Notley‘s three-month old NDP government need to understand that the Wildrose Party is running a permanent negative campaign, and their track record as an attack-based opposition is impressive. The Wildrose Party can lay claim to playing a central role in ending the careers of PC Party premiers Ed Stelmach, Alison Redford and Jim Prentice.

And while the Wildrose Party’s purpose for existence was momentarily questioned during the infamous MLA floor crossings, the demise of the PC government and rise of the Alberta NDP has given the party a new lease on life and a new target to attack. And the conservative opposition has many right-wing allies in its fight against the new government spanning from the editorial pages of the Financial Post to the far corners of the internet.

While Brian Jean is party leader, one of the real brains behind the operation is the venerable press secretary Vitor Marciano. Perhaps the largest mistake that Mr. Prentice and Danielle Smith made during the floor crossings was not to secure Mr. Marciano in a government job where the PCs could keep a close eye on him.

Joe Ceci Calgary NDP

Joe Ceci

After retreating into political exile for a few months, the veteran political operator returned with a vengeance to lead the Wildrose election campaign that brought the party from the depths of the abyss to 21 MLAs, more than they won in 2012.

But despite the Wildrose’s part in destroying the PC dynasty, they lost 81,814 votes in the recent election, while the NDP gained an astonishing 477,441 and formed government.

The Wildrose is attempting to tie the new government to economic conditions caused by the decline of the international price of oil, but the Alberta NDP was elected on a moderate progressive platform and have moved swiftly to implement it. Funding was returned to health care, education and human services, two panels studying climate change and natural resource royalties were struck, corporate taxes were increased, a 3-year minimum wage increase was implemented, and a provincial budget is expected to be tabled in the fall.

Brian Jean Wildrose

Brian Jean

There is no doubt the new government faces challenging economic and revenue challenges but after a summer of reading briefing binders and moving into new offices, the NDP need to reengage in the political debate.

The recent verbal skirmish between federal Conservative leader Stephen Harper and Finance Minister Joe Ceci shows the new government does have cabinet ministers who can articulately respond to the partisan barbs of critics. Along with Ms. Notley and Mr. Ceci, I would also add Environment Minister Shannon Phillips, Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley , Education Minister David Eggen and Infrastructure Minister Brian Mason in this category.

When the legislature returns on October 26, the twenty-one Wildrose MLAs will have a daily platform in Question Period to target government ministers. The NDP can learn from some of the major communications mistakes made by the PC Party and respond promptly to the Wildrose attacks, otherwise the opposition and its conservative allies will set the agenda.

Here are a few examples of Wildrose attacks in recent press releases:

  • August 20, 2015 “Bad economic policies from the NDP continue to harm Alberta’s economy…”
  • August 19, 2015: “…the NDP government must move away from their risky, ideological experiments that will drive jobs out of Alberta…
  • August 18, 2015: “…Ms. Hoffman wants Albertans to believe she made the decision based on a lack of information, but it’s clear she made it based on ideology.
  • August 14, 2015: “…the actions this government decides to take cannot keep kicking our economy while it is down.”
  • August 13, 2015: “While Albertans are losing jobs by the thousands with the NDP piling on with damaging economic policies…”
  • August 13, 2015: “…driven by ideology and not evidence-based decision making…”
  • August 13, 2015: “…NDP government has contributed directly to uncertainty and job losses…“
  • August 13, 2015: “…more ideologically driven experiments from the NDP and career politicians…”
Social Credit was risky and ideological
William Aberhart

William Aberhart

August 22, 2015 marks eighty years since the Social Credit League formed government in Alberta. In the 1935 election, the party went from zero to fifty-six MLAs and did not even have a leader during the election campaign (William Aberhart was chosen as Premier on September 3, 1935).

During its first decade in government, Mr. Aberhart’s administration tried to print its own currency, legislate control over the media, tried to nationalize the banking system and banned alcohol sales.

16 thoughts on “Notley’s NDP can’t afford to ignore Wildrose attacks

  1. Midge

    “Ms. Hoffman wants Albertans to believe she made the decision based on a lack of information, but it’s clear she made it based on ideology.”

    Because no #wrp decisions would EVER be based on ideology. Ever.

    Reply
  2. Rob

    The Wildrose is effective as an opposition, yes, but will never form government. No urban seats, and dead last in popular vote. The PC’s have much more potential to harm Notley.

    Reply
  3. Mark

    This is funny:

    “”I’m of the opinion that this would have been an experiment. And I’m not prepared to experiment with people’s health and well-being.””

    So yes, she’s basing her decisions on ideology, just as the WR has said.

    But the funny part is her comment about “not prepared to experiment with people’s health and well being”; most especially her own. Is she not obese, or close to?

    And she’s in charge Alberta HEALTH.

    Am I the only one who sees the irony?

    Reply
  4. Slackjaw Dipper

    Tories wanted to contract out important lab services to an overseas company. I’m glad the NDP are protecting our public health care system and protecting Alberta jobs at the same time. The Wildrose would have us sell the farm to big corporations.

    Wildrose, Tory, same old story.

    Reply
  5. Slackjaw Dipper

    Great point Midge. The Wildrose are the ideological and hyper partisans who want to privatize health care. Good thing Albertans firmly rejected the dangerous Wildrose agenda in the last election.

    Reply
  6. David

    Yes, the NDP would be smart not to underestimate the Wildrose. The PC’s did that and look what happened to them. The Wildrose was always a very effective opposition, perhaps too ideological to have been chosen as a government last time, but they are not stupid, they have mostly recovered from the debacle of last December and they are still well financed.

    Over the next few years, in addition to continuing devastating attacks, they will try to sound moderate enough to get more voters to support them. This will also be easier now that the PC’s are in such a shambles. The Wildrose has a lots of resources and enough supporters to be a very serious threat.

    Voters on the left often make the fatal mistake of dismissing right wing ideologues too easily. Back when Paul Martin was still Prime Minister, many were dismissing the federal Harper Conservatives as too right wing to get elected by Ontario voters and then after that happened, they said his government would never last. The right wing parties are experts at attacking others. They also have the financial resources and powerful supporters to help them out.

    The recent attacks are just opening shots. An attack that is not effectively responded to can eventually become the truth in public opinion (just ask Michael Ignatieff or now perhaps Justin Trudeau). Expect to see real fire after the legislature is in session and after the provincial budget is presented.

    Reply
  7. Sheila

    The NDP need not pay any attention to the Wildrose. They came in a distant third last election and are full of a bunch of nutty social conservatives.

    The PC’s are again on the move and the ones to watch.

    Reply
  8. David Bridger

    An opposition’s role is to propose alternatives. Fair enough, but for them to holler ideological about other parties is to overlook their own ideological past, present and likely future.

    They may be an effective opposition but attacking without common sense alternatives exposes them as chronic bitchers.

    Reply
  9. reflective albertan

    Mr. Jean needs to he careful in how he crafts his messages. If he wants to he taken seriously as a real possible alternative, he and his crew need to show real, deliberative, calm intelligence vs. shallow, jingoistic, ideologically driven drive by political smears, hoping to attract the love of low information bumpkin ruralites. Mr. Jean needs to move his party more to the centre and he needs to get his base to acknowledge the urban vite is critical to get mainstream acceptance. Ruralite supporters, take note of that.

    The past and current political methods will be self limiting for the Wildrose. Mrs. Notley would be best serving her cause by responding to opposition attacks in due time, she should not stay silent too long on shallow conservative attacks, it may send the wrong message.

    The face of Alberta has changed forever, no party can be complacent anymore they cannot take anything for granted, voters are aware and expect real solutions and they expect to see intelligence from their voted MLA’s. Voters are willing to throw governments out easily, the days of 44 year governments are gone.

    Reply
  10. jes

    There never should have been a private contract .Having worked in system for 40 plus yrs I can tell you that when PCs changed to a business model costs in the system exploded. The other factor was within the month following Brian Mulroonys deal with drug companies the unit budget went into a deficit by 30%. Then everything become privatized, lab, cleaning, and kitchen ie dietary. After the first contact pricing became worse. To get some of these costs under control they need to go back into the public system. Just for people to know go onto website to see the earning of the Drs who own them. They are the highest earner of MDs in Alberta. Decision is commonsense not ideology.

    Reply
  11. tom

    We are clearly seeing a return to ideologically-based politics in Alberta, with the NDP on the pro-union socialist left side leading the way. The return to ideology in our political system will be very positive for Alberta, and provide voters with a clear choice on either side.

    Reply
  12. Jerrymacgp

    @Mark: it is totally inappropriate, insensitive and ignorant to make that sort of comment about Minister Hoffman’s body size. This demonstrates the sort of weight bias that we in health care are trying to educate out of the system, as it can be a deterrent to effective and compassionate care.

    According to a recent report from the Health Quality Council of Alberta (http://hqca.ca/news/2015/07/overweight-obesity-in-adult-albertans-a-role-for-primary-healthcare/), 6 in 10 Albertans are either overweight or obese. This means Ms Hoffman is actually representative of the population.

    Remember, as Dr Arye Sharma, obesity expert, has said on numerous occasions, obesity is not smoking; one is a behaviour, the other is not. Obesity is a chronic condition with a complex web of social, psychological and physiological contributing factors.

    Reply
  13. reflective albertan

    Somebody throw Mark some rope to floss that one tooth. Mark you so called conservatives are corporate welfare bums, the truth is, none of you cons actually believe in a free market competition or competitive pricing to get a contract through sole sourcing at the public’s teets for decades. Cons. in Alberta have a culture of corruption, nepotism, lieing and cheating to make money. True cons live and operate by pure free market principles, they don’t have to own patsy politicians who push revenue generating policies to their wealthy donors. Cons. see a dumb and complacent public to use and plunder and suck their cash dry, deny them healthcare and education, and claim they are conservative…. In case you cons don’t get it, we just gave a big double middle finger last election. The only true cons in Alberta are small and medium sized businesses. The rest, expect mega sized sole sourced publically welfared contracts, to which all the details are always secret from the taxpayers and opposition.

    Reply
  14. Darren

    The fact that it’s a debate amongst AB NDP as to who to ‘watch out for’, tells me what I believed all along. They are incompetent of leading this province to a better tomorrow and are going to learn the hard lesson that leading is much different that opposing.

    Ultimately the AB NDP will be the masters of their own undoing.

    Reply

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