Alberta Politics

time to reboot, reboot alberta?

It has become fashionable among many groups of progressives to attack the growth of the Wildrose Alliance as a scary oil-sector conspiracy or an evil paleoconservative movement. This sentiment was highlighted in two recent blog posts by Reboot Alberta co-founder Ken Chapman (here and here).

You can disagree with the Wildrose Alliance, their policies, and their politics – to disagree and debate is healthy in a democracy – but playing the “be afraid of the hidden agenda card” reeks of old school politics.

These kind of old school politically-charged accusations defeat the purpose of what I was trying to achieve by participating in groups like Reboot Alberta, which were created to foster “a new kind of politics.” I disagree with many of the policies of the Wildrose Alliance, but I respect that we live in a democratic society.

Progressive-thinking Albertans need to wake up and realize that elements of the Wildrose Alliance pose a threat to how we want our province to be shaped in the future, but if we respond by using the same old style political tactics, then we are no healthier a democracy. Nothing will have changed.

Let’s not fall into the old style political trap of name-calling and character-assasination. Let’s pick up our game and prove that we can define our politics not through cheap-shots, but that politics can actually be based on integrity, honesty, accountability, and transparency.

27 replies on “time to reboot, reboot alberta?”

It feels like you’re damned if you do (use old school political attacks) and you’re damned if you don’t. Being a progressive in Alberta means reconciling yourself to the fact that you are in the minority. No matter which kind of tactics you employ, whether it’s Chapman-esque name calling and fear mongering, or Cournoyer-esque stoic preservation, you won’t be forming government or influencing policy anytime soon.

As someone with occasional progressive tendencies, I feel the pain. At some point progressives in Alberta need to either decide that small victories in an opposition role are enough to live on, or perhaps decide to live somewhere else. The political climate is stagnant and the only shake-up that might happen is a move from right to further right. *Yawn*

I don’t think calling the Wildrose out for a secret agenda is character-assassination any more than I think yelling “Fire” when the building is actually burning to the ground is irresponsible.

I would agree with you Dave only if there was evidence that there was a conspiracy to label WRA in the absence of the very reasons that would deserve the label in the first place.

It’s kinda of a chicken and egg argument in that what came first the “scary” label or the percolating details of the WRA that gave rise to the “hidden agenda card” you wrote about.

For some of us it’s not hard to conceptualize the consequences of what the WRA could do to Alberta and it’s based on our collective experience that at least on this social media platform has been discussed at length.

Having said that the WRA does offer a lot of the discussion. Danielle’s speech last weekend was inspiring although filled with some contradiction that I don’t know if you picked up on. I was a conservative, and have voted so for many years, both provincially and federally, but the time had come for evidence based policy that promotes the public good and not the agenda of secret funders that WAP still refuses to disclose.

I agree with what everyone has to say on Danielle’s speech, they may be playing to the centre, they may be trying to hide a more controversial agenda. Either way, the speech spoke to people in Alberta, and the Wildrose Party is speaking to people.
I don’t think anyone wants to listen to people fight though, and using the “time to reboot, reboot alberta?” title, to me, seems like a subtle dig, attention grabber and invokes all people involved in Reboot Alberta as voicing Ken’s opinion. So, doesn’t that not make it part of “old style politics?”
Being able to speak your mind is part of a healthy democracy, wanting to know full disclosure on what a party wants to implement as policy and voicing concern about that is part of it.
Keep talking everyone!

“Be afraid Alberta. Be very afraid. We need transformative change in Alberta’s political culture for sure. We don’t need to return to the ways of thinking and acting back in Eisenhower’s and Nixon’s days. That is where the WAP would take us – back and backwards.”

“So much for integrity, honesty, transparency, accountability and trustworthiness of the WAP approach to a different kind of politics. It’s the politics of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld being imported into Alberta.”

Don’t forget it’s the politics of Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, Brian Mulroney and Calvin Coolidge. Silly comparisons, Ken Chapman.

Xanthe: Thanks for the comment.

Of course the title of the post is meant to provoke a response. That was my intention. Perhaps the kind of unhelpful conversations that I mentioned in this post are a signal that progressive-thinking Albertans need to re-group. This is not a slight against Ken or Reboot Alberta, merely an observation from someone who participated in many of the original discussions about what Reboot Alberta could become.

Being able to speak your mind is part of a healthy discussion, as is debate and disagreement. The issue I raised were the unhelpful allegations that attempt to brand the Wildrose Alliance as a scary fringe-movement, rather than a political party that has the ability to draw 700 Albertans to a policy conference.

I fundamentally disagree with many of the Wildrose Alliance party’s policies, but I also believe that the citizens participating in the democratic process deserve my respect.

It’s funny, anytime a right of center party gains in popularity, they’re accused of hiding the real agenda, and that people should be afraid of their real nature. Maybe the same can be said for “progressives,” that they are only claiming to be all about transparency and good government but their hidden agenda is to funnel money to their friends through kickbacks and corruption. Be Afraid, Be Afraid!!!

From what I’ve seen of the whole Reboot thing it appeals to the sector of the economy that relies on government funding. Teachers, health care workers, students, anyone who relies on government money for their income, the “spenders” of government money. Certainly, their input is important but they are not the majority. Therefore any ideology that appeals only to them will never succeed. You need to appeal to the people who “generate” government money. Small and large business owners, self-employed, middle class, blue and white collar workers. These people aren’t redneck rubes, many are actually quite smart, after all, it takes some expertise to start and grow a business. You need to prove to them you plan on spending THEIR money responsibly and frugally, not throwing cash at problems in a reactionary, knee-jerk way. That’s what’s happening now and that’s one of the reasons the Tories are tanking in the polls.
You need to build your policies within the confines of a fiscally responsible budget. It’s not how much you have to spend, it’s how you spend what you have.

“What ever you say about the Wildrose, at least they’ve got things shaken up in Alberta”
(not-quite verbatum quote from the leader of the Alberta Party, Edwin Erickson, talking to Dave Rutherford.

Finally, after 40 years.

I agree – doesn’t matter too much what the discussion is, now at least we are talking, and paying attention. Isn’t that one of the goals of Reboot? Or of any one who is concerned with the apathy in the last election?

Lets keep talking, maybe we will be able to figure out what we DO want

Interesting Darren. Your comment only puts people into a box under broad categorizes of convenience that makes it easy for you to dismiss them, all in the absence of the evidence based policy approach that would achieve the outcomes that policy makers are looking for.

You speak of ideology, even the WAP leader said “. . . don¶t define themselves by the ideology of their health care system. They just want it to
work.” Could I suggest to you that the way it begins to work is that we settle on who we are, what we want, and commit to evidence based approach policy approaches, not just simply what we think worked in the past.

Consider the work of Michael Porter of Harvard, and and you might realize that to “build your policies within the confines of a fiscally responsible budget” sounds good in theory, but is not the only responsible policy approach to creating wealth, in fact it might be irresponsible.

ONe must be cautious about accusing a party of having a “hidden agenda” based only on proposals being brought forward to a policy convention. I’m sure if I were to look at past NDP Conventions I could find similarly controversial proposals from the hard left. A grassroots party’s policies are decided by those proposals that are actually adopted by the convention. Those are the policies that should be scrutinized by the media and the voting public. The WildRosers’ policies that were adopted at their convention are scary enough in themselves, without having to look elsewhere.

As to “stage-managing” and what fraction of the overall proposals actually made it to the convention floor to be debated and voted on, some of this is simply a matter of necessity. No party or similar member-governed organization can debate every policy resolution in a reasonable time frame; they would need a week-long convention to get through them all, and the cost for one of such an event would be prohibitive. There needs to be some degree of “stage-management” to ensure that there is time to get through the business of the convention in the time allotted. There is nothing undemocratic about that; indeed it strengthens democracy to ensure that significant proposals can receive a full airing rather than being rushed through in the interests of time.

I dislike the WildRose and everything it stands for, but fair is fair.

The Wildrose Alliance is scary. Right to work legislation? Comeon we’re not the southern USA. This is Alberta, not Alabama.

Historically, pretty much everywhere, party policies announced before an election have been at best a rough guide as to what a party will actually do as a government, especially when the government has a large majority. So it is in fact unwise NOT to try to figure out what a particular party or constellation of parties will actually do if it forms government. I have no idea what Dave’s high-minded “don’t just in advance” advice is meant to achieve: parking your brains until it is too late to drive them away from danger makes little sense.

In the case of the WRA, however, their OPEN agenda is an appalling one. In the same week as the Calgary Herald provided gruesome evidence of the impact of the Tories’ anti-worker, pro-business enforcement of worker safety legislation, the WRA announced that the unions, the major organizations trying to protect workers, would be decimated under a WRA government. Bad enough that Socred and Tory policies made unionization difficult and left Alberta with the lowest percentage of workers in unions of any province. There will be a large increase in private delivery of health services which everywhere leads to the most profitable health services being cherrypicked by private industry with the state stuck with the money-losing stuff; eventually the privatized services are not covered fully by medicare, leading us back to the two-tier medicine we had before universal medicare.

Danielle Smith calls Ed Stelmach a “socialist.” For those who think that the policies of the Stelmach government are in fact pro-corporate and anti-people, that has to indeed be scary. Just how much more does Ms. Smith plan to cut from education, health, disabilities, children’s programs, seniors’ programs? In a province that has experienced Ralph Klein and his unnecessary and harmful cuts, is it not prudent to be very worried about a party and a leader who think that Stelmach’s reasonably sharp knife needs to be augmented with a pole-ax?

The one reason to vote for the WRA is the freedom behind progressive, right to work, worker-choice legislation. Unions have no right to impose full membership upon workers. It’s undemocratic and borderline communist.

Look at the economic impact that right to work legislation has had across the world. The time is now and the Tories are too Phony Conservative to do it.

Some of the major reasons why workers join trade unions are:
• Increase bargaining power from the individual to the group of individuals in order ‘to get a better deal’ by negotiating higher wages and achieving health care and other benefits;
• To ‘take wages out of competition’ by protecting workers from the competitive impulses amongst firms causing management to lower labour costs in response to fluctuations in the industry or market place;
• To ensure ‘fairness and equity’ considerations and rewards when firms are highly profitable thereby ensuring by balancing internal inequity within the firm (within the bargaining unit and between the bargaining unit and management) and externally in the industry;
• The countervailing power rationale, thereby gaining some level of control in the workplace by using the union as a vehicle for the exercise of power to lobby the decision makers and take political action;
• To increase justice and protection in the workplace by bringing a system of workplace based representation that is protected by law and is recognized by persons (stewards) to resolve contractual disputes with legal sanction;
• To provide workers meaningful participation in the workplace through union activity as an outlet to fulfill needs, ideals and contentment in everyday life;
• To create a ‘voice’ for workers in the workplace as a potential to improve job conditions, open channels of communication within the firm with management and establishes a forum for management decisions to be challenged.

And the WAP wants to take that away.

If I weren’t so concerned about rabid Wildrosers eating my children and crucifying the family pet, I’d probably pause to interject a comment re. the hilarity of the centre left finally realizing that total relativism lasts only as long as nobody disagrees…

But, I won’t. And Dave, give Chapman a hug. In the coming times of religious ultra-fundamentalism, don’t you think he’ll need it? I think you’ve hurt the little fella.

Wayne, you are correct. It would appear that the person posting as Joe Albertan is trying to discredit the person we know as the real “Joe Albertan”. What I do is, when I see his name on this blog, I do not read what he has written.

The term Joe Albertan is generic. To me the handle tries to convey that the comment attached is that of the average citizen. Average Joe, Regular Joe etc. Some brief observations. Joe Albertan doesn’t speak for me and I don’t think his/her comments reflect the majority of Albertans. Second, I think it is annoying that half this persons comments are about who is the real Joe Albertan. Who cares? You are anonymous. And third, I find it really odd that two different people posted on this comment section because they thought it was important to identify the real Joe Albertan, but in the last 14 posts on the Joe Albertan website only one of the posts have any comments. I don’t begrudge Joe Albertan from speaking his/her mind. I think it is great he/she takes the time. The constant explaining about who Joe Albertan is – is stupid.

Ken Chapman is mischaracterizing the Wildrose AGM.

I was there and there were 196 votes for card check, and the party’s support for workers’ right to a secret ballot was only preserved because 254 votes edged out the 196. Given that it was caucus that initiated the union friendly proposals, there is little comfort for right to work supporters like myself because the party’s MLAs will presumably try and interpret the party policy in a union-friendly way when it comes to what is actually done in the Leg.

They cannot even get card check passed in the public sector union paradise of California yet it almost got the thumbs up from the Wildrose Alliance!

The same vote would have killed off Wildrose’s opposition to closed shops. Yet all forms of closed shops are strictly illegal in the United Kingdom.

I have to agree with one of the above posters that a party that views our current government as “socialist” must place itself pretty far along the right-wing spectrum. In another connection, Ms. Smith’s apparent disdain for economic diversification–in an interview she suggested that research into nano-technology is silly if it doesn’t benefit the oil industry–suggests that the WRA, like the incumbent tories, is committed to keeping this province one big company store.

One point WRT the WRA party and ‘hidden agendas’. Alberta has a long history of new parties emerging, only to be hijacked by the reactionary conservatives.

Until the WRA has been around a while, and shows itself to be unambiguously not dominated by the extremists, I think Albertans are quite right to be skeptical.

The recent policy convention outcomes were a (relatively) promising start, but far from enough to convince me that the hard-liners aren’t still working to drag the party further to the far right.

Skeptically yours…

I was at the AGM last weekend, and am still amazed at the obsession some party members hold with creating a media friendly policy handbook.

When we were discussing the resolution on firearms, a fellow expressed his disapproval, not on principal, but because of how it might appear in the press. The party shouldn’t be focusing on making itself appear amenable to the press, but on developing the policies responsible for its initial success.

The policies the WAP stood for offered a valuable voice in the political dialogue. You’d be hard pressed to find an Albertan not supportive of more accountability and transparency in government. While we disagree on the specifics of education and health care policy, we all desire a system that works.

Honest debate will offend voters, but that is the cost of doing business. Voters with strong opinions are more likely to show up and cast their ballot.
I’d rather lose an election with 90% voter turnout built on involved debate, than win a race with 45% turnout. WAP should be proud of what it stands for, and seek to offer a constructive voice.

Reboot Alberta has been successful because it has provided a way for people to actively involve themselves in the democratic process. If they aren’t successful in creating another functioning party on the center-left, I’d love to see the movement promoting democratic involvement.

Completely behind the times here, but re. the “Joe Albertan” thing…

WHY in the name of Sweet Baby Jesus is everyone fighting over the rights to the village idiot? Anyone who hasn’t read the Joe Albertan blog owes it to themselves to do so, if only to experience firsthand why an IQ test should be mandatory prior to the purhchase of a computer.


While I strongly disagree with many WAP positions, and have what I consider to be legitimate skepticism towards how a WAP government would govern in practice, I also greatly respect the tone and spirit of your comment. Kudos.

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