Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Devil You Know: Alberta PCs

I'm not an Albertan, but my obsession with the rather unique strand of politics in Alberta has certainly brought me close to the province. Despite what many say, I don't believe Albertans are right-wing, semi-authoritarian, bluer-than-blue party stalwarts. Like the rest of Canada, views are diverse, and more often than not, they're moderate centrists just looking to live comfortably.

The key difference with Albertans is the sense of getting shafted by everyone else. Kind of similar to Quebec separatism's early stance, Albertans seem to feel like Central Canada and Ottawa are simply domineering and overriding Albertan interests, despite the province's hefty role in the country's economic and cultural systems. Like Quebec, I don't really view Albertans as a "distinct society" - they're just individuals who feel like they've been marginalized by others. Sometimes it has a basis in truth. Other times its an exaggeration. Most of the time, it doesn't matter either way. The idea gets rooted and its hard to pull it out.

But, I digress. In Alberta, the current Progressive Conservative government of Premier Ed Stelmach is in trouble. They're facing defections from every corner and institution; the polls show the upstart Wildrose Alliance and their wildly libertarian leader Danielle Smith far, far ahead; and Stelmach himself is being compared to Harry Strom, the last SoCred Premier, who, like Stelmach, came in after a popular leader left, faced many defections within the party, and lost pretty badly to Peter Lougheed's Progressive Conservatives in 1971.

So if this truly does end up being an election where the electorate shifts, which it does appear to be heading towards, what do we as fellow Canadians do? Alberta is one of our most important provinces, and the election of a party which comes out and threatens to pull the province out of the CPP and the Health Act, simply can't bode well for our federation's... let's call it "harmony."

Furthermore, as ideologues of liberal, social democratic and even whatever you'd call the Progressive Conservative ideology, seeing a party like the Wildrose Alliance get into power will sting. So what can we do to stop it as Canadians, as Albertans, as liberals, as whomever?

The answer might be a little unsettling: support Ed Stelmach and the Progressive Conservatives.

I know, I know: how could anyone who calls themselves "progressive" support them? Well, it's pretty simple: there are no other choices.

For it's no exaggeration to say the Alberta Liberals are pretty much dead in the water. Lord knows the fight David Swann and others will put up is going to be honourable and passionate. It'll also be a longshot, if not impossible, for them to have any position of power in Alberta in its current form. Because there will be no minority, there will be no new Decore to come out of the wilderness, and there will not be a rush of PC members running to them. They're not going to be a main vehicle for stopping the Wildrosers.

But what about the NDP? Granted that I think if Rachel Notley was leader, the NDP would do much better. But they aren't going to do any better than third party. There is simply not enough love for the NDP in Alberta that will propel them to power. I mean, if the NDP are still called "communists" in a suburban Ontario riding just north of a huge NDP bastion, I couldn't imagine the scene in some areas of Alberta.

That leaves the Progressive Conservatives. The party who has run the province for the past 40 years. The conservative party willing to go into deficit to save the province's economy. The party which openly flaunts environmental controls. The party which axed the regressive healthcare premiums. The party which totally screwed up other parts of Alberta's healthcare system. The party which put in a fairly progressive and substantial Human Rights act. The party which returned all-party committees to the legislature. Pro's and cons, to be sure.

This isn't a straight endorsement of Stelmach and the PCs, mind you. The Wildrosers do have an interesting and appealing platform, even for liberals. But the question remains if this platform will truly be the position of the Wildrosers, or whether its just a Potemkin village for us all. And if it does end up being the latter, well, suck it up and clip on that blue button, progressives - we've got some re-election to do.


  1. Nobody gets to hear David Swann because he's not propped up by the media. Wildrose and Danielle Smith are. (Note: The Sept. 26/09 CH link in the article no longer works, but you can find it here.)

  2. I agree that Swann and the Liberals don't nearly get enough media time as the other parties, and especially not as much as the Wildrosers. That changes during election time, of course, but the pre-writ period is telling; if Swann can't generate media attention, then the media won't follow his story. The closest the Liberals have gotten to sustained media coverage is when they announced their shift on the royalty issue.

  3. Once in a while the AB media feels guilty and interviews David Swann. It's hard to compete with Danielle Smith, though, as CPC Reformers are backing her (e.g. Anders.)

    She'll probably show up soon on gas station TV screens across the province. The other day on my AC flight, the media screen had (under TV - CBC shows), "Mansbridge One on One: Interview with Danielle Smith." That interview was done six months ago.

    Also if you type "Mansbridge One on One" on Google, her interview pops up, too. Someone's paying extra for that?