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Alberta Politics Guest Post

guest post: a liberal party perspective on the alberta party.

By: Justin Archer

Dave Cournoyer and I have known each other since 2005, when I got my first real job working in a junior staff position with the Alberta Liberals. Dave started working there shortly after I did, and the two of us became friends. He’s mentioned to me before that I could do a guest post at some point if there is a topic that seems to fit, but I’ve never asked to take him up on that offer until now.

Let me just explain first that I am the kind of person you’d probably expect to be in the Alberta Party. I live in a condo downtown and have a pretty good job in what is thought of as the “creative economy”. I’m politically active. I still like to think I’m young (though I did find my first grey hair the other day, which needless to say was traumatic.) I am a strong supporter of human rights, and a proponent of mostly free markets with some government intervention in the economy to protect the common good. I also know quite a few people involved in the Alberta Party, and I like them and respect them. I agree with them in a broad sense on how this province should be governed, because their values are my values.

I think they might be making a Big Mistake though, and that’s what I want to talk about here.

The first part of my argument is that there are a couple of no-such-things:
1. There is no such thing as a post-partisan political party.
2. There is no such thing as a political party that falls outside of the traditional left/right spectrum.

No-such-thing 1 is essentially self-evident. The word partisan basically means “someone who supports a cause and works to achieve some end associated with that cause” . If an organization is trying to get people elected and maybe even form a government, it’s a partisan group. It’s not even really open to interpretation, that’s just what “partisan” means. It has been suggested to me that perhaps the Alberta Party intends to introduce a less partisan style of politics to the debate. I don’t really understand what this means, but if it means something along the lines of “no talking bad about the other guys”, I would be shocked if that sentiment sticks around the nascent organization for long, if it is even there now. Which it probably isn’t. No-such-thing 2 is also quite simple: When you get down to it, what a government does is take in the money and then figure out how to spend it. If you look at how each government philosophically approaches this job, you can figure out where it sits on the spectrum.

It’s like this: Some people think that the government should take in lots of the money and make sure that everyone gets a nice amount. Those people often think that the government should be involved in lots of things and intervene in many economic transactions. Those people are on the left.

There are other people who think that the government should take in some of the money, and make sure that everyone gets at least a least a little bit. These people also usually think that the government should allow economic activity to take place free of government interference except where there is a real problem that needs fixing. Those people are in the centre.

Then there are people who think that the government should take in only a little bit of the money, and it’s up to individuals to get things for themselves. These people also usually think that the government should keep its damn nose out of pretty much everything (unless their rich friends are in trouble, in which case those rules no longer apply). These people are on the right.

I’ve heard it said by people in the Alberta Party that this party is not possible to pin down on the spectrum I’ve described above. It would be fun and exciting to think this, but it would be wrong. I haven’t seen the policy that the Alberta Party passed at its recent convention, but I would very surprised if an analysis of that policy wouldn’t reveal that the party is in the centre. In fact I’d almost guarantee it. I think if you follow Alberta politics closely and you know the people in that party and the sorts of things that those people tend to think, you’d have to agree with me.

So if the Alberta Party is in the centre, and it is partisan, it is basically the Alberta Liberal Party only cooler and better looking. What I mean is that the values are very similar, the policies are likely quite similar, but it’s a newer and more exciting organization. It has an ambitious and fun culture, lots of wonderful and smart people, and a great attitude about how to engage people in the political process. It has also embarked on a great citizen engagement process and done a great job of getting ink for its work. But the actual values, the guts of the party, are not very different from those of the Liberals.

I also think that the Alberta Party will take many votes from the Liberals. I do not buy the argument that the 60% of people who didn’t vote last time will be the deciders in the next election. I think that for the most part, people who didn’t vote last time won’t vote next time. From the inside of a political party it is easy to start to believe that there is something big happening out there, and people are getting turned on. Largely though, political activity in Alberta takes place outside of the notice of the majority of the population and people who don’t follow politics are not getting turned on. In my view the pool of votes might be a little bigger next time, but not much.

Now this is the part where it’s easy to say, “sure, well if the Liberals are so great, why aren’t all these engaged young difference makers joining up with them?” The truth is that the Liberals haven’t done a good job of answering that question. But I actually don’t know that it’s the right question to be asking.

You see, I think that we are on the cusp of one of those generational shifts in Alberta politics where a new government will come to power. If you are reading this blog you don’t need a primer in Alberta politics – we can all agree that historically there has been a one-party culture here, and when a change in government comes, it is fast and total. Many people, and particularly many rural constituencies, want to be on the side of the winning team, so support tends to move quickly to the party who looks like it may form government. I think that because of this, in the next election, small “c” conservative support will begin to drift from the PC Party to the Wildrose Alliance Party. In the election after that, that conservative support will firmly coalesce around the Wildrose Alliance Party, and that party could easily form a government at that time.

There is a strong parallel to federal politics here. Let’s be honest, the Chretien/Martin government years were made possible in large part by the split in the conservative family over much of that time period. Now that the federal conservatives are re-united under one banner, it’s not so easy for those in the centre to form a government, as we’ve continually seen. I think that this is probably one of the only times where we’ll have a similar political situation here provincially, and as moderates in this province it looks like we’re about to waste it by grouping in factions instead of realizing that we all pretty much agree on things. If centrist political organizers and voters are divided during the next five or six years between the Alberta Party, the Progressive Conservative Party and the Alberta Liberal Party, the moderates in this province will probably lose the opportunity to form a government for the next generation.

In summary my argument is this: We’re about to miss an opportunity while the conservative house is divided because of things like process and personality. I believe that process and personality are important in politics, but when you peel it all back, the values underneath are what really matter. And in the absence of a divergence on values, is it not foolish to have competing organizations?

I don’t know how to solve this. I’m not saying the Alberta Party should stop doing what they’re doing. I’m not saying the Liberals should fold up the tent. But I do think this is a real discussion that needs to take place on this side of the coming electoral opportunity, rather than a lament on the other side of it.

Anyway, thanks to Dave for letting me air this here. Please chime in in the comments.

——–

Justin Archer is a young guy in Edmonton who is involved in this and that around town. He grew up in Calgary but moved here about five years ago to take his first big kid job as a Liberal staffer. After a 2008 election night filled with tears and despair (but I thought we were gonna be the governm…….*sob* *sniffle*), he went to work for a Edmonton-based PR firm, where he is now a consultant. He believes that Alberta is a great place and most of the whole redneck thing is exaggerated. Follow him on Twitter @justin_archer.

Read other guest posts to this blog.

51 replies on “guest post: a liberal party perspective on the alberta party.”

The Liberal Party has had its chance, over and over again. The whole “vote splitting is mean” argument doesn’t hold water when the Libs have never once shown an inkling of being an actual government in waiting.

A political party is more than its list of policies. I supported and was a member of the Alberta Liberal Party but as it became more clear that they were unable to execute a coherent opposition or inspire people I walked away. The Big Difference that the Alberta Party has to have is the ability to execute and the ability to inspire. That’s where I’m my money and my vote.

Justin, I think your comments and analysis are intelligent and well-stated. I agree with your point that it would be better to engage in a thoughtful, hopefully productive, discussion before an election rather than lament the results after one. From my observations, the Alberta Party philosophy and the Liberal Party philosophy are so similar there is little or no reason these two seperate entities could not be merged into one – but not under the Liberal name.
The rights and wrongs of the mythology surrounding the name “Liberal” in Alberta doesn’t matter anymore – the reality is the name itself is a great political impediment. The Liberal principles and ideology and philosophy and the policies based upon them can more easily be moved forward successfully into the political arena by a party with another name. What holds us back from doing just that very thing? If too much time passes before any action is engaged, it will be too late to make any difference.

A few remarks:

1. Your “no-such-things” aren’t quite as clear as you might like to believe. Yes, it is impossible to be purely non-partisan in a party-based political system. However, in my understanding the term “post-partisan” refers to a more enlightened way of doing things. It doesn’t mean that you don’t ever say bad things about the other guys, but rather that you don’t automatically dismiss good ideas simply because they were presented by another party. Are we going to agree on everything? Not a chance, but there’s no reason why we can’t sit down together to come up with solutions to the problems that face us all.

2. It is possible to cross the spectrum. I understand the difference between traditional liberal and conservative ideologies, but it’s fair to say that the parties that bear those names have done a decent job of corrupting what they really mean. “Left” and “right” are constructions of the media and communications-professionals who prefer to easily label people or parties. The Alberta Party refuses to be labeled. People on the right will use its policies to classify them as “left”, but the policies will speak for themselves.

3. You should never count the traditional non-voters out. We saw that happen in Calgary’s mayoral race (and in the interests of full disclosure I was part of Nenshi’s campaign cabinet). Strategists that followed the traditional model have admitted that they didn’t see it coming. Voter turnout is down because most people figure it will be more of the same so why bother. Give them a reason to bother and they’ll show up. I spoke with one woman on election day who was crying (crying!) because she thought she had missed her chance to vote.

4. The sad reality is that any party with the word “Liberal” in its name is unlikely to form government in Alberta anytime soon. It has way too much baggage. Maybe this is just a rebranding exercise, similar to what took place in Saskatchewan where the old PCs came back as the Saskatchewan Party. Not a bad model to follow.

I forgot something (because my previous comment was long enough – sorry!). I feel it is important to note that many people, myself included, are excited about the Alberta Party because it’s the first time that we’ve felt that we’ve found a political home. The reasons for that are varied, but it is a very different party from the Liberals, similar though some policies may be.

While I support many of the policies of the Alberta Liberals, I am realistic of the fact that they have not ever and likely will not ever have a hope of gaining large numbers of seats or forming a government here in AB. A new name for the politically moderate in AB is the best chance of seeing progressive candidates elected and representing those progressive viewpoints in the legislature.

Additionally, I do not think it is fair to criticize the Alberta Party for their political and economic stance or ‘non-stance’ without first reviewing their policy documents. Even skimming the most recent policy documents released by the party would have demonstrated to you that some of your ideas regarding the party are flawed.

So if Archer thinks the ALP and AP are so similar, why didn’t he join the AP then? He made zero argument why the ALP is worth any of our time or money.

Archer assumes that there is some sort of capital L Liberal base in Alberta, but in truth, most people are loyal to the ALP only out of nowhere else to go. Nancy Mcbeath liberals, floor crossing PCs, etc.

It makes no sense to try and keep infusing blood into the ALP when the poor party is just bleeding out the femurs…

They have been the “NOT TORY” party for too long and now the Alberta Party offers an opportunity to actually draw people with forward thinking and vision going forward.

The few effective MLAs that the ALP and PCs do have, (Blakeman, Hehr, Grifiths, Taft (if he wasn’t retired)) would be smart to move their allegiance sooner to the Alberta Party rather than later.

You know, this same argument could be made by the Conservatives about the Wildrose Alliance (and probably has been).

I’m a relatively new resident of Alberta (3 years now) and I came to Alberta with few preconceived notions, other than I thought Ralph Klein was a doofus.

So the field was wide open as to where I might throw my political support. I’ve voted for virtually every party out there at various times, though proud to say, never Stephen Harper.

Since I have been in Alberta I have failed to see the Liberal Party of Alberta as an effective opposition. They have repeatedly failed to capitalize on opportunities to hold the inept Conservatives to account.

While the Liberals may be a natural fit philosophically, I suspect the history, baggage and internal politics of the organization contribute to its complete lack of effectiveness. I really can’t see it changing.

What has interested me about the Alberta Party is a new way of doing things. I see your piece here as simply a defense of the old way of doing politics. It’s no wonder people are searching for new options.

People are sick of the old way of doing politics. There is a quiet revolution happening in Canada, and the old political parties have failed to grasp its significance.

I am tired of rabid partisan politics. We can see its effects in completely ineffective federal and provincial governments. Alberta faces major issues that our current government are incapable of addressing. The provincial Liberals have not proven themselves to me in any way of being capable of taking over and addressing them either. God help us if the Wildrose Alliance replaces the Conservatives. It will be the same, but worse.

I am excited about the Alberta Party and the promise of doing politics differently. I think many Albertans feel the same way.

On Facebook I invited a number of people to ‘like’ the Alberta Party page. The next day I had a relative call me up and ask me about them. This relative identified themselves as a conservative, and they were sick and tired of the way politics has been conducted in Alberta to this point, thus their interest in the Alberta Party and a promise of doing things differently.

I don’t at all see right wing support switching over to the Wildrose. For that to happen they’d need to behave like real conservatives. Like, comeon. They say the legislature is undemocratic, yet only 1 of their 4 members was elected under the Wildrose banner?

The public has had enough of this two facedness. I’m ready to give the Alberta Party a try.

Well said, Justin.

I agree with the idea you can’t be post-partisan. Either you’re interested in getting elected and getting power, or you’re not. If you are, you’re going to be partisan.

Now, you might be the sort of party that wants to get into power to change how the game is played from the inside. But that would require the party to have an electoral reform policy, which the Alberta Party doesn’t.

As for there being only one spectrum, you’re wrong there. People have done research and have determined that our political views tend to be associated with at least two spectra. They are correlated, but distinct. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_spectrum

It’s not inconceivable that there could be something that voters cared more about than the relative size of government.

That’s if we assume that your definition of right and left is correct. In my experience, the difference between right and left has to do with two things. People on the left tend to see themselves as more similar to others, or tend to have a higher empathy toward people who are dissimilar. People on the right have a stronger correlation between similarity and empathy. People on the left also tend more to think that the world is chaotic, and people on the right tend to think that it is ordered. I think all of the stuff about how big government should be and how much money you should take from rich people is actually derivative of those two factors. If the world is ordered, and you prefer your close neighbours to the distant ones, then why should we be disturbing the order by taking money from you and your neighbours to spend on someone else?

Second, I don’t know that you’re right in saying that the Alberta Party is claiming to not be on the right-left spectrum. I think they pretty proudly claim the title of moderate.

They could be something else. Indeed, I would prefer if they had taken a position on a new spectrum. If they had taken the time to say what is good, and why it is good, and why the size of the government is only a secondary consideration to that good.

But they haven’t. So they are centrist and proud of it. If right and left don’t inspire, I don’t see how splitting the difference will.

So yes, they are competing with the Liberals for the centre of the spectrum, but not accidentally.

As for whether competing with the Liberals is a bad idea, let’s assume you’re right that there is some sort of generational change coming. I don’t see any signs of it. I think it’s going to be a tougher slog than all that. But let’s assume. Whether competing with the Liberals is a bad idea still depends on whether the Liberals show any signs of being able to do it on their own.

The fact that all these people are getting involved in the Alberta Party instead of the Liberal Party, despite their similarities, is evidence of precisely WHY the Liberals can’t do it on their own. They cannot attract the next generation of active Albertan political moderates.

That is because of two things. First, the Liberal Party, if it is even trying, has failed to commit itself to the idea of succession planning. It has not sought out and promoted the new blood that it needs to keep itself relevant. It is an old man and woman club.

Second, people get involved because they have some hope for change in the future. Hitching your hopes to a party that has lost every election for the last 80 years and refuses to make any changes (a party reform commission whose report is never released, a leader who puts the name on the table and then takes it off) does not seem like such a good idea. If what you want to do is bitch and complain and feel morally righteous? Fits the bill. But change things? No.

The Alberta Party, on the other hand, is centrist without being perceived as un-Albertan. It has literally and figuratively “renewed” itself, so it doesn’t have a history of losing that can be held against it. It’s a place that hopes for change can live, for at least a little while.

Plus, the Alberta Party is capable of attracting people who have been conservatives all their lives. The Liberal Party is not. A Conservative who joins the Alberta Party is a rebel. A Conservative who joins the Liberal Party is a traitor. And there are plenty of former PC members who have found their own reasons for leaving the PC party and joining the AB party. That’s not something that could have been accomplished in the Liberal Party.

So it’s not just about personality and process. It’s about possibility. There is a possibility that a centrist view can win the day if there is a centrist party that is capable of getting new and old energetic people from both sides of the political spectrum to join in. If the Liberal Party is all we had, that possibility was nil.

You are the person that I see as the epitome of the young people who are committed to the Liberal Party at this point. But your conclusion is basically that one or the other party needs to get out of the way.

What does that say about the Liberal Party’s ability to inspire youth? If their own biggest booster is ambivalent about whether they live or die?

Good post – My learned Liberal friend is bang on on many counts.

He’s correct in espousing what any political science student has likely been thinking. No left and right hmm? Well, I suppose you can blame the media (really – After all the ink they’ve spilled on you?), blame your wife, blame Ralph Klein or blame the voters next door, but c’mon, that’s balderdash. You cannot escape the realities of the political spectrum just by pretending they don’t exist – You either agree with a system of taxation and wealth redistribution or you don’t, with nearly all the mixed varieties of how much and how little in between, with environmentalism (and your party’s response to that) and the myriad of other issues we face thrown in.

As for the notion of “new” or “post-partisan”, the Alberta Greens made these claims as well, before their fiery implosion in what was probably the most basic example of partisanship among us political animals. Two cliques, an “us” versus “them” division of social organization couldn’t get along. And so Edwin got involved in a new party.

There were two other political parties who professed to do things differently, in a “new” style of practicing politics. The New Democratic Party and the Reform Party. Love ’em or hate ’em – they actually did do things differently. Before the CCF/NDP, the Liberals and Conservatives didn’t have things like policy conventions, nomination meetings – they rarely even had AGMs! A party membership was your ticket to a lucrative public works contract, or simply a way of belonging, to tuck in your wallet next to your Father (Catholic) or Minister’s (Protestant) phone number. Now, of course, every party has a convention, and some sort of democratic mechanism for selecting candidates locally (obviously, abused often by our friend Stephen Harper and before him, Paul Martin and Jean Chretien).

Reform was a Western response to an autocratic Progressive Conservative party founded on notions of populist fervour that really weren’t all that different from the old CCF/NDP, although the “other” they demonized was clearly worded a little differently.

Both parties have been extremely successful in their own way, and both made use of the “new” rhetoric (the NDP was referred to as ‘the New Party’ for years prior to its founding convention). Which is to say that the Alberta Party rhetoric is probably good strategy, good rhetoric, and they might even start showing up in provincial polling data soon, if the media love-in continues.

However, I think it’s important to remember that political parties are a little like rock song chord structures. Nothing is new – and somebody has probably played the same set of chords in the same way as you – and even more likely, played it a lot better.

Thanks for the post Justin.

I like the idea of “post-partisan” politics meaning it’s not about winning. A lot of people are used to, or need, easily identifiable categories (left, right) but, as you point out, governments across our country slide all over the spectrum. (Manitoba’s NDP government was recently cited as a top fiscal government, for example.)

You mention that the left or centre can’t come together federally to form government. If not for our Governor General we would have see a centre-left coalition governing the country.

Also, some of your comments smack of a Liberal (big L) fearing the one real vote-split on the right won’t benefit the party. I say, if people are choosing MLAs that represent their riding well, represent their values, it doesn’t matter which banner they fly. That, to me, is post-partisan.

Some of the floor-crossers are going to win. If their constituents are voting, even in a small part, for the person, they’re going to win no matter which colour their campaign sign is.

Perhaps, instead of bemoaning the fact majority governments are hard to come by federally and Albertans may have five (five!) legitimate ballot options in the next election (six if there are any independents) we should embrace the abundance of choice. Then we’ll have governments that MUST work together instead of towing party lines.

Moving away from that…

Your comment “…people who didn’t vote last time won’t vote next time.” does not inspire me to think about the Alberta Liberals as a viable choice.

Where’s the optimism? Where’s the push to engage, to get those people to vote? It’s something I see from the NDP, Alberta Party, and even the Wildrose. It appears our oldest political parties are too tired to care about moving beyond status quo.

Justin,
great post. You raise some serious issues that I think need discussing in a broader forum.
A couple of things. I’m very supportive of what the Alberta Party is about and what they’re attempting to do – reinvigorate politics in Alberta.
What I’m not that happy about is how the AP come off as some sort of ‘post-partisan’ ideal that wants to do politics differently when they have blatantly refused to work with the Swann Liberals. Swann has put his leadership on the line in trying to do politics differently numerous time. One of his first speeches in the assembly was on the need to quit the fighting and bickering in the legislature. He has now maddened people in his own party by trying to work with others. If the AP is so interested in doing politics differently, why don’t you practice what you preach and take him up on his offer. Maybe in this next election don’t run candidates where they have incumbents and run everywhere else. Your first two CA meetings were in Mountain-View and Edm Centre…
How many respondents on this blog (other than Dave) have really ever tried to work within the Liberals? David was elected as leader because he wanted to try and change things including the name. Unfortunately there were still a lot of people in the party that are committed to the name ‘Liberal’ and he was forced to back down. If enough young people had stepped up and got involved, an internal vote on a name change could have gone the other way I believe. And let’s be honest, new things are the fad these days. It’s true that the Liberals have lost, they have a lot of baggage and Swann is not an oil man, but at least be honest with yourselves in that it’s not so much about how bad the Libs are, it’s about a new fancy vehicle is on the market on our collective impulse towards consumerism tells us that we got to have it. Just at least be mindful of that is all I’m saying… and really politics is about branding and the AP brand is a better brand so I don’t think ditching the Liberal name and running with the AP is bad strategy in the long run.
But, I do think it’s bad strategy in the short term. Alain Saffel says, “I am tired of rabid partisan politics. We can see its effects in completely ineffective federal and provincial governments. Alberta faces major issues that our current government are incapable of addressing. The provincial Liberals have not proven themselves to me in any way of being capable of taking over and addressing them either. God help us if the Wildrose Alliance replaces the Conservatives. It will be the same, but worse.”
Well let me tell you, if you don’t want the wildrose alliance than trying to compete with the Libs in the next election is a sure way to make that happen.
Be smart AP people. Your party is the party of the future, no doubt. But with an election in a years time you will not be able to have the money and the candidates to be the go-to vote for moderates and progressives in the next election. The liberals will be on the TV debates, you will not be.
All I have to say is work with them somehow…Get them to fold their entity into yours even and run under the AP banner. If you all took out Liberal memberships and voted to merge, then you could possibly form government next election. Otherwise, be prepared for the incompetent conservatives or the DIY state of the alliance. As Justin said, the next election is an opportunity that cannot be squandered!

Justin, your post has been analyzed well. You really got great response. Good for you.

I want to note one of your statements… well… actually your second paragraph, that begins, “I’m the kind of person you would expect to be in the Alberta Party….”

Well… I’m not the sort of guy you’d expect to find in the Alberta Party. I’m middle-aged… I am a farmer and a labourer… Yesterday I butchered a deer… I don’t live in a condo downtown (I think I’d jump out the window if I did)… I don’t have enough money see theatre (unless it’s watching two daughters fight for one bathroom).

I’m in this party because it offers me hope. I don’t see it as perfect. I’m in it with people who are markedly different from me… different experiences… different backgrounds… different everything… but we are all in it because we are dissatisfied with the status quo, which has proven it does not work and we are prepared to find NEW ground to try and fix what is broken.

… and that’s the thing about the Alberta Party that you (I think) are missing; it’s new and fresh and is something Albertans can build together. It might always have to struggle to define itself and “post-partisan” and may sometimes be unsuccessful.

We await you with open arms whenever… if ever… you decide to join. Until then, good luck.

I found this post really interesting, and while i tend to agree with most of the comments, i find the first one really telling of a so-called “new” way of doing things in an extremely disappointing way.

Sorry Duncan, but your rhetoric sure seems to be spewing the same “partisan” bs the Alberta Party claims to be distancing itself from.

I don’t leave comments here very often, but like Justin I’ve trying to figure out just what the Alberta Party is playing at and where they’ll fall when election time comes.
I agree with a number of your statements: there’s no such thing as post-partisan politics—the Alberta Party will end up taking a position as a party. That to me will be a disappointment as I do hope they embody more a movement than a party, as someone pointed out, maybe it shouldn’t be about winning, maybe it’s about good policy and engaging and inspiring Albertans.
However I have to disagree that support of the Alberta Party is a mistake. And I don’t agree that conservatives, especially small-c, and Red Tory conservatives will flock to the Wildrose. I do think there is room for them in the Alberta Party, and that many of them (people like Hancock or Sherman) would be Liberals if Liberal meant a different thing in Alberta, and perhaps that “thing” is what the Alberta Party is becoming. (*note I’m not pretending Hancock or Sherman will move to the AB Party, just conservatives of their ilk) So in that vein there is room for the AB Party to engage that more mainstream fiscal conservative, socially liberal voter that the Liberal party has not managed to hold on to.
As well, I have to say that isn’t it a good thing to finally inspire people? It’s something the Liberals and NDs have failed to do in a good long time. There are numerous people I know who have taken out party memberships and become engaged where they’ve felt disenfranchised and isolated. Their involvement and re-involvement can only be a good thing for politics in Alberta, regardless of the outcome. But then I’ve always been called an idealist.

A thought-provoking post and I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the comments. I have little to add, except on the validity of a right-left political spectrum. I am not a student of political science, so either I don’t know what I’m talking about, or I haven’t tasted the Kool-aid.

I disagree that a party’s position on the political spectrum can be pinned down based on their fiscal policy. A commenter said that it fits closer to “empathy”, which I can see more easily. But I suspect that it’s a gross oversimplification. Why should a person support war, just because they support lower taxes? Why should a person support trade unions, just because they support government subsidies to the arts and R&D? The fact that the Alberta Party is willing to address each area of policy separately is a big part of what gives me hope and optimism.

As an aside, you should really read the policy document. It’s only 13 pages long and it’s not very dense.

to those who keep making the reference to the ALP is not an effective opposition party is out of touch with facts,1) how can an opposition be effective in a majority Government when all Bill’s, Acts, amendments are out voted by the majority, in this case it is a majority of corruption and arrogance, if it not their Idea they vote against it, but if you wait 5 years then they will bring it back in as their Idea and vote it in. I feel the ALP is doing a damn good job especially with the majority that they are facing, I have seen more intelligent discussion by the ALP in the Legislature then I seen from others, nor do they sit there making childish noises or rude childish comments while others are speaking, even when it is a continual dodge of answering the questions at hand, showing more of a Professional stance towards Politics.

This post raises interesting points deserving of discussion. The main thesis is that the Alberta Party will split the left in future elections. This argument is severely undermined by this sentence:

“I haven’t seen the policy that the Alberta Party passed at its recent convention.”

In my view, this is tantamount to judging a book by its cover. Or more precisely, judging a party based on your progressive urban friends who are involved in it.

Albertans from across the province and the political spectrum participated in the Alberta Party convention. We talked but more importantly we listened to people with different points of view.

Dave Cournoyer said it best: “it is not just about replacing Party A with Party B, what we need is a change in how governments operate in Alberta, we need to change the way we do politics.”

The problem with party driven politics in a left-right spectrum is that it does not allow individuals to hold views that are not a part of the party’s ideology. I’m strong supporter of green policies, anti-union, pro business and pro having some type of private health care in place, while still wanting better policies for homeless and education. I also support a single securities regulator and lowering of inter-provincial trade barriers. So which party do I go to? Currently none of the above.

At least with the Alberta Party there is a willingness to listen and compromise. Admittedly, this will change as the party matures and grows; views & policies will become more rigid.

With the way Alberta politics work, none of the current opposition parties have really tried to break with their pasts to attract new ideas and supporters, rather they prefer to stick with the current platforms, donors and supporters (like the AB NDP and its traditional ties to unions) and occasionally wave the topic du jour around (like the AB Liberals suddenly deciding to support green initiatives without really developing concrete goals or measurable actions).

So personally, I’d rather work with the Alberta Party and influence the party while it is still young and forming.

Oh, I’d also add that “vote-splitting” is a misnomer. It’s a democracy and I refuse to choose between the lesser of two evils, or choose to vote for a party just because it has a better chance at winning. I vote for what I believe in and if that “splits a vote” too bad. Maybe if more people voted for what they believe instead of who they think is going to win there might actually be some real change in our democratic system.

Excellent post, and excellent comments. Something I wanted to add to the discussion was a suggestion that we need to broaden the definition of ‘the spectrum’. The Left vs. Right dichotomy doesn’t really work anymore, because economic and social issues are too often considered seperately. We need (at least) two axes, one for socially conservative-progressive and another for free markets-state control.

Moving to two axes simplifies the Alberta political landscape, as it clearly seperates the NDP from the Liberals/Alberta Party/PCs and also serves to illustrate the gap between the WAP and the PCs. The fundamental point about vote splitting remains, of course, but I think the extra clarity is worthwhile.

Two final points. The first is that the Liberal party is, to a large extent, trapped in an electoral box created by its years of failure and the success of the PCs and Federal Conservatives in poisoning the Liberal brand here in Alberta. Secondly, I think that a lot of the Liberal party’s support is ‘soft’ – votes parked there as the best option for opposition to the PC party. With new options on the ‘right’ and in the ‘centre’ those votes may, if I am correct, be up for grabs. Both factors could play to the Alberta Party’s advantage, provided that it grows sufficiently as an organization to become a viable option.

A post-partisan party is possible because a post-partisan policy shop is possible. Take the civil service and remove the Ministers and their handful of political staff, and you’ve got a largely non-partisan entity capable of governing. Of course, it would be “non-partisan” within what I’d call the “professional consensus” such that it would likely get along very well with similar unelected entities like the IMF and OECD, and some people would call that partisanship on behalf of the corporate agenda or globalization agenda etc.

But it wouldn’t be partisan in my view because policy proposals would be evaluated on evidence and on efficacy as opposed to whether they represented a betrayal of certain values.

The idea of post-partisanship goes hand-in-hand with dismissing appeals to electability, however. Don’t like a carbon tax? Then either call attention to research against it or don’t object. This would have to be the prevailing culture in a post-partisan party.

Great post and great comments. I second Will’s remarks. I am neither a condo-dweller, nor a farmer/labourer. I am not naive about politics in Alberta – nor elsewhere, for that matter. I prefer to be hopeful rather than cynical.

I was impressed by the intelligence, civil dialogue, energy, creativity, compassion, passion, common sense, and diversity at the AP Policy Convention. I went to see if this group was naive and homogenous. It was not.

This was/is politics in the 21st century. Hoorah! The AP’s emergence will get people talking and voting. Interesting times in Alberta.

In theory the guest blogger grossly oversimplifies the policy spectrum. In practice it is debatable whether he has oversimplified. Someone who was professionally involved in large scale tax reform recently said, “It is impossible to make [the general public] understand that the optimum amount of tax to raise and the optimum way to raise that amount are separate questions.”

As something of a policy wonk myself, I absolutely agree with that quote I provide in that these are totally separate questions, and accordingly that reducing the policy debate to just the optimum amount of tax to raise is a gross oversimplification.

In practice, though, it is extremely difficult to get the public to move outside a single-dimension analysis. The HST was introduced to BC as a revenue neutral tax reform but it was next to impossible to get people to see it as anything other than a tax increase. BC’s carbon tax was also revenue neutral and functioned similarly in that it funded corporate tax cuts but got a somewhat easier ride simply because it had an environmental angle that allowed it proceed politically despite being wrongly perceived as a tax increase.

cut and paste from my facebook comments:

have to agree and disagree… I agree that it is impossible to be non partisan.. a political party has to “stand” for something.. and based on what i’ve seen and read the Alberta Party is a centrist party.
I disagree that this will split the progressive vote..
I believe the centre thinking progressive voters in Alberta see the Liberals as only slight to the right of the NDP,(true or not) and as such are virtually unelectable.
Further, they have had many years to engage the electorate, or make a coalition deal with the NDP, to at least form a viable opposition, and they have failed over and over again. Certainly they don’t act or look like a government in waiting.
I do agree that politics in Alberta is a grass roots movement, I disagree that the majority grassroots movement is in the Wildrose Party. More people here feel disenfranchised here who will turn out if they see a viable less ideologue laden party.
The Alberta Party, is finally engaging and exciting people who have felt left out of Alberta Politics for decades.

From a comment above:

“People on the left tend to see themselves as more similar to others, or tend to have a higher empathy toward people who are dissimilar.”

My one objection to this is that is doesn’t distinguish the traditional Liberal voter from the NDP voter. The Liberal voter is typically educated and has well developed powers of abstraction. He or she doesn’t necessarily “empathize” with others emotionally so much as he or she perceives others with different and/or unusual particulars as generic humans entitled to generic human rights as a matter of abstracted justice. Note that this often leads to some overlap with libertarians who are typically perceived as on the political right (just as big-L Liberals like John Manley or even certain versions of Ignatieff are sometimes seen as on the right). The NDP voter is more motivated by sentiment.

“People on the right have a stronger correlation between similarity and empathy.”

Again, I would exclude the libertarians, who generally dismiss all empathy as illogical, from this characterization which I think fairly describes the paleoconservative right, which has a depth psychology view of human nature that has a lot of time for the unconscious and a metaphysics of “us” and “other” that is rooted in immutable particulars like genetics or mostly immutable particulars like culture.

“People on the left also tend more to think that the world is chaotic, and people on the right tend to think that it is ordered.”

I’d say the left thinks the world is in need of more ordering effort whereas the right is either more accepting of the “natural” order or skeptical of the efficacy of ordering efforts.

I am going to have to disagree here. After the recent Calgary mayor race I beloved it is safe to say…at least calgarians are done with the policies of conservatives. McIver wasn’t voted in for a reason. I see the shift in Alberta moving left, not right.

Thanks for all the comments. I’m so glad this thread didn’t degenerate into the absurd today.

To those who say I should read the Alberta Party policy: You’re right. And I will. I actually wrote a draft of this piece last week before their policy was out, so that’s where that line came from.

I really appreciate in particular what Will and Esme have to say. I tend to think of the Alberta Party as mostly young urbanites like myself, so thanks for that reminder.

I realize that I’m kind of making a cheap argument by not explaining why people should join the ALP. My central point though is that we’re missing an opportunity while the right is divided by separating off into camps like this. What do you think about that, specifically?

I think Justin’s analysis is fantastic, and goes a long way to help those new and eager Alberta Party volunteers why there is so much hesitation and trepidation on behalf of their counterparts within the Alberta Liberals. And while the political scientist in me loves the debate on left vs. right (I’ve been a fan of the two axis left v. right and authoritarian v. libertarian schedule but I digress) Justin gets to the right point – what is the world view of your party? And to say you’re past the old tired debate of right v. left is a cop-out, as is stating you’re for progress or a better Alberta – every political party is out for a better Alberta, they just hold a different world view on how to get there.

Justin’s comments about vote splitting don’t come across as wistful or mean – they come across as factual. And it is a part of the reality of the Alberta Party – many of the votes they receive will have been votes the Liberals may have received (as well as some that may have gone PC or NDP, maybe even WAP).

All the same, I’m with Sam – vote your heart, vote your conscience, and for goodness sake vote – vote splitting be damned.

Thanks you Justin. You have put fingers to keyboard and stated exactly what I have thought since the reformation of the Alberta Party.

Knowing many of the players, it isn’t hard to see that calling themselves progressives is just a nice way for the Alberta Party to say, “We are liberals, but not THOSE liberals.”

Kudos

The problem with arguing people should vote for a given party, in this case the ALP, in order to defeat the PCs is that it is an inherently negative argument. This is the same fundamental argument, and suffers from the same problems, as that advanced by the Democratic Renewal Project. It assumes that there is a unity of vision among the non-PC, non-WAP voters of the province. What opportunity is being missed by an artificial union between widely divergent ideas? Change for the sake if change isn’t interesting to me – building a genuinely competitive alternative is, whether that be the Liberals or the Alberta Party.

Lets try this again with the right addy…

I found this post really interesting, and while i tend to agree with most of the comments, i find the first one really telling of a so-called “new” way of doing things in an extremely disappointing way.

Sorry Duncan, but your rhetoric sure seems to be spewing the same “partisan” BS the Alberta Party claims to be distancing itself from.

As an older member of the Alberta Party I have lived my entire adult life under the governance of the conservative party. My parents under the social credit party. I am thrilled with the idea of a party based on the needs of Albertans. Political alignment from Provincial to Federal with the current party formats also brings with history and associated baggage. The concept of taking the best ideas from Albertans for Albertans is what is important to me. The engagment by all on this forum is extremely impressive as you are discussing the future direction and needs of Albertans. The debate is interesting and please keep it up

Justin – I think @joshkjenner said it best in response to your question about the historic opportunities on Twitter, so I’ll just shamelessly repost it here:

‘I’d say we’re hoping to create something that doesn’t need a vote split on the right to win.’

I believe strongly that the Alberta Liberal party has well-meaning intentions for the people of this province. I believe that, if elected, they would form a good government with centrist values I agree with. And I know there are many talented and hard-working people involved with the Liberal Party.

However, the Liberal party has demonstrated a complete lack of ability to sell their message. What message, you ask? Exactly. They have done a very poor job communicating their policies and their vision for Alberta. They are unable to excite people. They are largely invisible, and are frequently overshadowed by the NDP in opposition, who seem to manage to get more media coverage than our Official Opposition.

On top of all this, the Liberals are saddled with a very (unjustifiably) tainted brand. It is my opinion that given the demographics of voter turnout (older individuals, mostly), that a provincial party with the name Liberal cannot win in Alberta. It’s wrong, but it’s true, and it’s too large an issue to fight.

Therefore, I believe moderates/centrists need a new political home, and a new brand to unite under to actually have a chance at forming a government in Alberta. Justin, this post’s author, implies that the Alberta Party may come along to split the centrist vote, making forming a government nearly impossible. I would argue it is not the Alberta Party holding back a centrist win in Alberta. Rather it’s the continued uninspired, poor-communicating, poorly branded Liberal party that is responsible for this. The underperformance and inabilities of the Liberal Party make the Alberta Party necessary. That may sound harsh, but the Liberals have had decades to make something work, and they have failed.

I basically agree with Justin.

My only quibble is with the implication the PCs are right wing (not stated, if i recall). They spend more than any provincial government, adjusted for population and inflation, at least most years. They just spend it on some different things than centrist or left wingers. Like their favourite causes or their friends’ projects. I believe we spend more on health care and education than any province but this does not mean we have the best health care system as the PCs do not seem to be good managers. Education does better in results.

As Justin states, right wingers don’t interfere in the market unless it is to favour their friends. PCs have done this in spades. Plenty of breaks for some parts of the oil and gas sector, breaks that other parts of our economy would love to have, or individuals would love to have. Huge funding to compensate for bad times in agriculture, support other sectors and people would love to have.
Like the tea partiers in the USA, the Wildrose

Alliance should be pressed to say what large cuts they will make to spend less. Like the tea partiers, they either can’t say or assume large cuts can come from outside education and health care.

The spending/taxing and ideological assessment is skewed in Alberta because so much of our revenue comes from the ground, far more than any North American jurisdiction. The government does not need to tax us for that part. But it is our resource, publicly owned, which in other places might be called socialist. It may look more right wing to tax less than elsewhere but spend more but it’s not. It’s resource revenue.

As for new voters coming out, we have little Canadian history of that happening. Obama did some of it by being one of the most exciting candidates in recent memory and the best funded political candidate in human history. Frankly, new and social media helped but not as much as thought by media connected people. People want more personal contact where possible. Then remember too that Obama did not win in a landslide. We don’t have that candidate or campaign here. That said, a few may come out to help turf the government.

Other choices will definitely split the vote. Those who say otherwise have not observed federal and provincial political history. Many ridings are only won by Tories with a plurality of votes, not a majority. That’s why many think Tories LOVE the Alberta party. Some speculated a few Tories may be helping out the Alberta party.

More in Alberta self identify as conservative, see a recent poll: pages 10-12
http://www.cbc.ca/news/pdf/ekos-data-tables-101125.pdf. As Justin says, the cowboy thing is exaggerated. Many of these self-identified conservatives would likely love centrist Liberal policies on health care and education, which are key issues in every election, top 3 issues for most voters. In fact, some of the most popular things the PC government does are similar to Liberal directions. We need to accept that better policies that most agree with is not enough to gain seats.

As for doing politics differently, the Reform party said that it would be less partisan and adversarial. That only lasted a few years. Check out that history. Some of the comments on this blog may reflect views that do not take history into account. This may be more likely if you did not live that history yourself.
Thanks for the chat here.

“I realize that I’m kind of making a cheap argument by not explaining why people should join the ALP. My central point though is that we’re missing an opportunity while the right is divided by separating off into camps like this. What do you think about that, specifically?”

I have to answer this with the @joshkjenner quote “…we’re hoping to create something that doesn’t need a vote split on the right to win.”

Old-style politics have not worked for the last 40 years to create even a viable opposition, let alone a new majority party. Things have to really change up. Alberta Party voters will hold the feet of their elected reps – once they’re in – to the fire. The AP will have to be very smart, nimble, transparent and responsive. It’s what I’ll demand. Albertans deserve no less.

To Brian Dell:

WIth regard to my post on the meaning of left vs. right above, I think your comments are spot on. The left vs. right spectrum is not the only one, and doesn’t account for the distinctions you point out. I didn’t mean to suggest otherwise, I just meant to suggest that the idea that left/right comes primarily from some abstract understanding of the appropriate role of government is flawed. It covers more from that, and it comes from something more primal. Your restatement of chaotic and ordered is exactly what I was trying to get across.

To Justin:

Your analogy about camps implies a zero-sum game. It’s not. The AB Party can attract people that none of the existing parties can. And it can attract people from places the existing parties can’t. So it’s not just splitting the pie, but also growing it.

You worry that an opportunity is being missed by this. But if you come to accept that the existing centre-left parties are moribund, as most non-participants do, you realize that NOT doing this is the missed opportunity, because it’s an opportunity the existing parties can’t take advantage of.

In my view, the “My party is the ONLY one” sentiment I read in many of the responses to this blog will only pave the way for the right wing to dominate Alberta for another 70 years, once again proving the centre-left to be its own worst enemy.

Political parties win because they employ the art of compromise and dialogue. Without intelligent and cleverly planned cooperative strategies to circumvent Canada’s first-past-the-post system, ALL Alberta progressive parties are DEAD in the water. Hope and elbow grease by any one party alone will NOT work. Not in this province.

While I fully understand the need for, and support the democratic right of, the Alberta Party and old Greens (Vision 2012 Society) to form as new parties, I hope their leaders, members, and other progressives understand how temporary cooperation in the goal of Proportional Representation has, by necessity, to be a HIGHER goal than the right to vote for one’s party in all ridings during the next election. PR is the only realistic path in Alberta to electoral reform and success, and needs to be won first, after which time party supporters can squabble and cancel out each others’ votes all they like.

If not… divided we fall, as per usual. (Perhaps Dave will do us the honor of running this same blog again the morning after the next election. With what I’m reading here, I dare say there’ll be a good bit of Ground Hog Day disappointment in the air.

I appreciate the candor and honesty of Justin’s post, and think that the breadth and depth of the discussion it has triggered is a testament not only to the vitality of progressive politics in Alberta, but the potential for change under any partisan banner in this province.

Before joining the Alberta Party a few weeks ago in advance of the policy convention in Red Deer, the only political party I’d joined was the PC’s a few years back and that was to ensure that the lesser of two evils in Stelmach and not Morton would be the new leader of that party. If memory serves me, PC membership got a boost from progressive people who registered to do what I did.

My membership expired and I didn’t attend one constituency meeting of the Progressive Conservatives.

Partisan politics is exactly what’s wrong with our democracy, but paradoxically it’s also the path to change as well.

It it naive or ignorant to consider to label a party, post-partisan?

Perhaps.

But the proof is in the pudding.

There is a reason why I became engaged in the Alberta Party this fall that goes beyond the policies we passed in Red Deer:

Process.

A process that spoke to me and said that despite my relative inexperience, obscurity and lack of seniority that I could have an impact – make a difference.

A process that is re-iterative, open and moderate.

A process that puts province before party.

A process that isn’t afraid to be bold.

I learned first hand in Red Deer what it means to be moderate, to listen and collaborate with others that don’t necessarily share my views on all the issues.

I can say first hand that the Alberta Party tent is big enough for the majority of Albertans to fit in and – get this – not compromise their core values.

I’ve traditionally voted for the NDP in the past several elections, and even volunteered for Notley’s campaigns – door knocking for a viable voice in the legislature. But I’ve not joined the party or been active outside of the election cycles.

With respect to Mr. Archer and other committed members of the Green, Liberal and NDP parties in Alberta, you can’t piss on MY tent and tell me it’s raining.

I can’t tell you why your parties failed to inspire me to become directly involved in your parties over the years, but I can tell you what has inspired me to join the Alberta Party now.

To put a twist on a cliche…

“It’s the process, stupid”.

For whatever reason the opposition parties were not able to come together and form a new left in this province since the last election. A step that would have definitely made the opposition more viable and could probably have formed a government within a cycle or two.

I hope that members of the Green, NDP and Liberal parties see the Alberta Party as an opportunity to join together and a big tent and actually make a difference for once.

More importantly, I hope that as the Alberta Party takes on candidates, members and supporters of the other “centre-left” parties, that we stay true to our process.

As soon as that is compromised, I’m out.

It has been very interesting to read and think about the many responses to Justin’s guest blog, and after most of the fuss has dissipated, I finally have a position to add. Two, actually – one in response to one of Justin’s points, and one in response to one of the responders. And finally, a word about post-partisanship.

As others in ths thread have commented, I think it is a very telling mind-set, that is not shared by the Alberta Party, to say there is no point in worrying about those who didn’t vote last time, because they likely won’t next time either. How many times have many of us heard, “I am not going to vote. I won’t vote for this government, but there is no alternative.” As a campaign manager in Drayton Valley/Calmar in 2008, I can tell you that we heard this many, many times throughout the campaign. We had a credible candidate, an impressive campaign, and our voter turnout was significantly above provincial average. We placed second, more than doubling our previous campaign, and we got the conversation going! Recently, in Rimbey (not known for rabid engagement in politics) the municipal voter turnout was something over 70%. A lot of people who didn’t vote in 2007 came to the polls this time. The Alberta Party will not turn its back on disaffected voters. Many of our Big Listen participants have been part of that 60%. Some of our new members come from this pool that you would ignore, as well. I am proud to be associated with a party that is committed to all Albertans, and interested in learning the pressures and hopes they have for our future. I share those hopes and concerns. The thing that separates me from them as a citizen of this province, right now, is the x I placed on a ballot nearly 3 years ago. A difference that can be remedied. (and no, I will not stay home from the polls.)

The second response is to Mike, who wrote: “Swann has put his leadership on the line in trying to do politics differently numerous time. One of his first speeches in the assembly was on the need to quit the fighting and bickering in the legislature. He has now maddened people in his own party by trying to work with others. If the AP is so interested in doing politics differently, why don’t you practice what you preach and take him up on his offer. Maybe in this next election don’t run candidates where they have incumbents and run everywhere else.” The Alberta Party’s response to this suggestion exhibits one of many values the Alberta Party does not share with the Alberta Liberals. The Alberta Party has stated very clearly that it does not serve democracy, or Albertans, to go into some board room and divide up the political pie. Removing choice from that ballot is fundamentally against the principles of the Alberta Party. Recently I heard Dr. Swann (who I do admire very much) make a presentation at a ReBoot Alberta conference. In his presentation, which the audience was given to understand was to be a discussion of the merits of the Liberal Party, he began by telling the crowd that now was the time to get together to beat the Conservatives. The rest of his presentation resembled a good, old fashioned stump speech about how terrible the PC’s are, and how we must beat them. In a setting such as that, where the talk had been so forward thinking, and had involved exchanges of ideas and affirmation of values, I could only think, “Wow, he has taken some really bad advice.” More than being about beating the PC’s, the Alberta Party is about developing practical, workable and responsible government for the good of the people of Alberta. This has been their MO for the past year. Going forward, I would expect nothing less. What does a prospective voter learn from someone who would talk trash? When I bought my car a few years ago, I do not recalll the salesman making his pitch, “Buy this Toyota, because all those other brands suck.” I sure did hear a lot about the virtues of the Toyota. Glad I bought it.

I think the term post-partisan is an unfortunate one. And sadly, it has become some sort of a beacon by which people try to define the Alberta Party. There are partisans in the party. They have come from every political colour and stripe. The glorious thing, though, is that they have the ability to share their perspectives, to speak and be heard, to give and take, and to let their ideas be improved by others at the table. The Alberta Party lives partisanship in the very broadest sense of the word, and because its organizers and volunteers adhere to a very clearly defined set of values, there is a conscious recognition of “why we are in it.” We are in it for Albertans. It’s the party for me. Everyone is welcome.

Why are Canadian politics so “partisan”? A brief history lesson would seem to be in order. Canada has not had a long tradition of highly ideological politics. Instead, it has always been about so-called “big-tent”, brokerage parties. Yes, there were ideological splits between the Macdonald Conservatives and the Mackenzie Liberals, for example, mostly centred around the relationships of the young nation with Great Britain and the US. But the Macdonald Tories would unrecognizable to today’s conservatives. Sir John A. recognized that the free market alone would never develop this sparsely populated nation, so he set this country on the road to the first “mega-project”, which was the CPR. The Liberals, on the other hand, were much more parsimonious in those early days. However, as the country grew, the distinctions between Tories & Grits grew less sharply defined, until they became about “us” and “them”; throwing the rascals out simply brought a new batch of rascals in.

The roots of Canadian partisanship are in the voters themselves. Canadian voters are very pragmatic. They tend to vote based more on their perceptions of the competence (or at least lack of corruption) of the competing parties and their leaders rather than along ideological grounds. They can swing from a Conservative Mulroney, to a Liberal Chretien, and back to a Conservative Harper in less than a generation. For this reason, the two major parties tend to get more traction among voters by arguing that their opponents are “bad” while they themselves are “good”, rather than by advocating strictly ideological principles. Even the NDP, which tends to be somewhat more ideological than either the Liberals or the old PCs, often argues more pragmatic positions than would be acceptable to a true dyed-in-the-wool socialist (as evidenced most recently by the long gun registry debate, which for a true leftist was a no-brainer in favour of keeping the registry). If voters had strongly-held ideological beliefs, those beliefs would sustain the parties that most closely align with them. It is the very lack of ideology that contributes to the “us against them” partisanship we decry so vociferously.

Here in Alberta, however, we have a political situation that is unique in the democratic world. Only the PRI in Mexico and the Liberal Democrats in Japan were as entrenched as the Alberta PC party has been; and both of them are now on the outs on those countries. Recall that there have only been four governments in the 105-year history of this province: the Liberals from province-hood in 1905 until 1921; the United Farmers from 1921 until the Dirty Thirties; Social Credit from 1935 until 1971; and the PCs from 1971 until now. Each of these governments has commanded a lopsided majority in the legislature; this province has a long tradition of tiny oppositions. The ineffectiveness of the opposition parties, combined with the ultimate “big tent” of the PC party, which incorporated several brands of conservatism into its ranks (from traditional big-business Tories to neo-Liberal small-government types to Evangelical social conservatives), has led to a situation in which only the most dedicated “true believers” are active in the opposition parties. It is not surprising that the Liberals and the NDP are unable to work together, no matter how sensible that might appear to be in the near term: both parties’ rank & file membership genuinely believe theirs is the only way, and are unwilling to even consider having any water in their wine.

A thoughtful post. Could the Albert Liberal Party and the Alberta Party merge? A number of the comments suggest the ALP will never get elected no matter their policies, leadership, etc. The baggage of the name (for whatever reason) is too much to overcome. And, it is true: if you look at the numbers, electoral turnout remains in a general range and it is a rare and unique convergence of events/personalities that trigger an increase in engagement. So, given a small variance in voter turnout and five parties on the ballot, I imagine that neither the ALP or the AP will do well. Why couldn’t these parties unite and shake up electoral interest? I encourage these parties to get past history, the need to be right, territorial claims on (centre/left) and get on with it.

Interesting view but. However there can be non-partisan view if you look at the way it applies to todays parties, they view thier ideas as the only way with out thinking of the citizen’s views and when you factor in those they may not mesh with what the MLA’s views are but they would be the ones put forward in this type of party’s agenda.
Now as far as being a Centerlist party the same holds true, I feel the way the party has set it up, its open to all spectrums of the political landscape. I think nthe old Left, Center and Right leaning voters will be redefined within the Alberta Party, leaving me to believe we will gather votes from this full spectrum and also engage the ones who normally don’t vote as now there is a party for all citizens.

Sorry Ken – but I’m not seeing it.

I recently resigned from involvement with the PC Party and was looking at somewhere to plant my feet.. and the Alberta Party has way too much owed to the left side of politics to make a serious run. They are courting NDP’s, when they need to court PC’s to take the centrist right needed to be taken seriously in Alberta.

I’m late to the party in responding to this, while I agree there’s no such thing as a ‘post-partisan’ party and to indulge in the term like many members have been doing has been somewhat misleading, I don’t think the traditional ‘left-right’ spectrum does do justice in describing the Alberta Party, or really any party for that matter. My take: http://bit.ly/fR8ol7

Insightful and bang on…from someone who has been been involved in Alberta grassroots politics for a long time.

Like Justin, I admire the players in the Alberta Party however, changing the name of the ALP or making it sexy is not what will change Alberta voters minds. The polls identify Alberta Party as gathering only 3% of the vote, PC’s at 36%, WR at 29%, ALP 14% and NDP at 13% This will bring about a minority government if trend continues.

The Alberta Party numbers are far too low to be considered relevant in decision making or having staff to field research. All the Alberta Party will achieve is splitting the vote, spending extra funds and people resources.

Once again those in the centre will be further from achieving a more responsible, fairer, and tolerant government in Alberta.

In light of what happened this week, the need for a unite-the-centre campaign is all the more evident, good on Justin for seeign this two years ago.

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