I wish to sincerely thank Dave for giving me the chance to post on his blog. I normally write about boring stuff like Alberta’s labour market over in my own blog. Dave is giving me a chance to write about politics, a topic I love but isn’t appropriate in my blog.
Alberta has a reputation of being the most conservative province in the country. Indeed, provincially we have elected a conservative government since the 1930’s and this province has sent many conservative politicians and parties to Ottawa. When it comes to the bluster and rhetoric of the campaign, Alberta’s conservative base tends to dominate. Conservative values tend to appeal to Albertans after dominating the discourse of this province for so long.
But Alberta is also the birth place of the CCF – the forerunner of the NDP – Canada’s left wing party. It was founded in Calgary in 1932. In the 1920’s Alberta, through the United Farmers movement, was responsible for sending ‘Progressives’ to Ottawa and caused probably the biggest constitutional crisis (and huge parliamentry drama) in Canada’s history.
This post is not a history lesson. But the truth is that Alberta does have a number of active ‘progressive’ movements to counterbalance the conservative movements that get elected. While the parties may campaign from the right, they most often govern from the centre.
Much is being made about the ascendency of the Wild Rose Alliance. Indeed, this party probably represents the biggest threat to the governing Conservatives since Laurence Decore and the Liberals forced the Tories to rebrand themselves in 1992. I believe Danielle Smith is doing everything right to unseat the Tories. One of her primary spokespeople is Ernie Isely and his message has recently been that the new party needs to ‘moderate’. Indeed, the two defections this week were not from hard core raging social conservatives but from moderate tories who have problems with Ed Stelmach‘s leadership style and the apparent lack of democracy in their old party.
The ‘progressive’ parties can’t seem to get any traction on Ed or Danielle though. The Liberals can’t seem to shake the ghost of the NEP from 30 years ago and nobody wants to listen to the NDP outside of a few ridings in Edmonton. In my opinion, the problem for the progressive side is leadership. They just cannot get a leader who is articulate in front of the camera and can play the political game. Instead, the Wild Rose elected that very leader and is able to capitlize on the province’s disaffection of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta.
So while Danielle says all the right things, the progressives are trying to figure out what the right things are to say. While I agree with the spirit of such movements like Reboot or Renew Alberta, they will not be able to develop a coherant message and organization in time for the 2012 election.
For any Alberta party to be elected they need to build a ‘big tent’ to bring in a wide range of Albertans. If Danielle and the Wild Rose Alliance continue to do everything right, I see this tent collapsing around Ed Stelmach as hard core and moderate conservative alike move to the WIld Rose. I’m afraid that Ed does not have a lot of appeal to many of the progressives still in his party so I see a lot of the ‘red tories’ moving to other parties. Alberta history (and Alberta voters) is not kind to former ruling parties.
It might be too late for the progressives to develop a counter offensive to the momentum already enjoyed by the Wild Rose for 2012. But they can’t lie down and die. I believe that there is support for progressive values in Alberta, if we had the right people and the right organization promoting them. There is nothing in Alberta’s law that says we need to keep electing the same government for 40 years. If Danielle and her party do get elected, they could be unseated. Realistically, I think Albertans give a particular political brand that they have bought into 12 to 15 years before they tire of it. But now is still the time to build up a movement to rival the conservatives in Alberta. But the message needs to be coherant and it needs to come from one organization, not 2 or 3 or 4. If this happens, then hopefully the Wild Rose Alliance isn’t given a mandate to rule Alberta until my own children have children.
Again, I sincerely thank Dave for giving me a chance to post my views here. And if you want to check out my opinions on Alberta’s economy and labour market, check out my blog ‘Gas, Cows and Oilsands – Alberta’s Labour Market?’
Jason is a born and raised Albertan. He is currently raising a family in Edmonton. He normally writes on labour market issues at trvhtseeker.blogspot.com.