Readers will know that I was a 15 year P.C. M.L.A. and a Cabinet Minister for 7 years in the early years of Alberta’s Progressive Conservative government. In fact, I labored hard on behalf of the Party for 29 years, including 6 years before the Party first formed the government. I was first elected in the election that saw the last change of government in Alberta (1971). My leader was that well-known extremist, Peter Lougheed. I am a small ‘p’, small ‘c’ progressive conservative.
Because I am a progressive conservative, I very publicly gave up my membership in the Party in the early years of Mr. Klein’s term as Premier. His tenure was bad for Alberta and began the long decline in the P.C. Party, which culminates in their current situation.
I offer my experience as an insight into some of the issues that Albertans must consider as they decide how to vote on election day.
There are many Alberta voters who are fairly new arrivals in the province. There are many native Alberta voters who were not even alive, or old enough to vote the last time the government changed. They may not be very familiar with our electoral history.
Fear is being promoted, either fear of the unknown, or fear of inexperience, or fear of extremism. The last refuge of weak campaigns is to argue, “better the devil you know than the unknown.”
In a series of posts, I have dealt with a number of issues in the light of my experience in provincial politics. Certainly, times have changed. Circumstances are quite different today than they were 43 (more or less) years ago. I hold to the conviction that there are some enduring truths about the Alberta community, no matter how much demographics, or technology or campaigning methods change.
Albertans are much more drawn by hope than they are driven by fear. I hope that voters will choose hope and reject the fear-mongers. (Change now, for good.)
Albertans are not gamblers, but they have demonstrated a willingness to move on into new and unknown territory when the status quo is impoverished and offers no reasonable hope of new and worthwhile opportunities. I hope that voters will decide to move on, rather than stick with the status quo, which is tired, unimaginative, beholden to old stories and old friends, entitled, and disrespectful of people. (The P.C. Party — a many-headed hydra)
Any party that forms a government, other than the P.C. Party, will be inexperienced, and their ideas will shift the apparent centre of the political spectrum either to the right (the W.R.P.) or to the left (the N.D.P.) The question is, should voters fear new and untested parties? The answer is “no”. Alberta has historic experience (three) with new and untested parties, and the experience has been universally successful, to the extent that all three parties were re-elected after their initial victory. My own experience validates this contention. The P.C. Party won six seats in the 1967 provincial general election, and formed the government following the next (1971) election, with 49 seats. The vast majority of the first Lougheed government had no legislative experience, and no one had Cabinet experience. Many scholars would say that government was one of the most innovative and effective governments of any province at any time.
Should Albertans fear extremism? Certainly, but, in my experience, neither the N.D.P. nor the W.R.P. is ‘extreme’. Shifting the apparent centre of the political spectrum does not represent ‘extremism’. Following the election, I expect every party that aspires to being ‘mainstream’ will work very hard to occupy the middle ground. The majority of Albertans occupy middle ground, and it is clearly the case that all parties are trying to occupy just that ground, even when charges of extremism are being made.
Based on my own political experience, I would say that – more than anything else — this election is about character and trust. The P.C. Party is corrupt and the campaign has demonstrated that the corruption is so pervasive and so deeply ingrained that it is beyond the capacity of any Leader — even a Paramount Leader – to heal. As Premier, Mr. Prentice determined how much time to give himself to overcome the corruption. When he decided to call an election he could have given himself 15 more months to remake the Party, discipline its arrogance and sense of entitlement, and imbue it with a sense of servant leadership. It is Mr. Prentice alone who decided that “this is as good as it gets” when it comes to the character and performance of the P.C. Party. It is Mr. Prentice alone who decided that he couldn’t do any better on behalf of Albertans by taking any more time to revitalize the P.C. Party.
On May 5th, Albertans have the opportunity to remind every candidate, of every party that character is still vitally important in politics, more important than any particular policy or plank. Albertans will be pleasantly surprised by what a vote for character can accomplish.
Next: one last Alberta election post, about what might happen after the election.