Every election campaign offers the possibility of enriching or diminishing our understanding of the practice of democracy in a civil society governed on the Westminster model (of a representative parliamentary assembly).
The current campaign in Alberta offers citizens that fork in the road – a choice of new heights or depths. Albertans have the opportunity to change now, for good.
My interest, and my perspective, is shaped by a lengthy and unusual experience. I offer these — interest, perspective, and experience – for the consideration of Albertans preparing to vote.
I am a progressive conservative, and I joined the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta 50 years ago, six months after Peter Lougheed became Leader of the Party, and two years before he was elected as an M.L.A. I was immediately actively engaged as a volunteer, and in 1967, when Lougheed and five other P.C.s were elected to the Legislative Assembly, I was their second employee (after Wylla Walker, the secretary). For two years I was Lougheed’s Research Assistant, and in 1971, when the P.C.s formed the government, I was one of those who was elected as an M.L.A.. I served five years as Premier Lougheed’s (informal) legislative secretary and then six years as Minister of Education, upon his appointment.
I was an active and ardent member of the P.C. Party for 29 years, beginning when we were “in the desert“. (There aren’t many of us left.)
I’ve paid my dues to the Party and, of course, I always wanted the Party to succeed. But, in this context, success is not merely electoral success. Success means service to Albertans without fear or favour, justice for all, careful stewardship of resources, a strong public service, integrity and humility. Albertans are not getting these from their government now, and re-electing a Progressive Conservative government will not likely produce different outcomes. (As psychiatrists would say, the classic definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.)
While I continue to be a progressive conservative, I have not been a member of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta since 1994. In spite of my ancient roots in the Party, I believe that Albertans can and should elect a new government on May 5th. To put it another way, for the good of Albertans and for the good of the P.C. Party itself, the Party needs to have a Phoenix experience: it needs to crash in flames in order that it can be renewed. Nothing less will lead to the renewal of the Party.
The Progressive Conservative Party that presents itself to Albertans in this election is corrupt, by which I mean that it is in an advanced and irrecoverable state of decay. With another new Leader, and a sprinkling of new ‘star’ candidates, it can project vitality for another three weeks. But the projection is illusory and won’t last long past Election Day.
In the days that remain until Election Day, Albertans need to consider some important questions. In subsequent posts I will offer some thoughts.
- Do Albertans want more government that is dependent upon (insistent upon?) a paramount Leader, or has the time come to explore alternatives that are more open and more generative?
- Can Jim Prentice singlehandedly save the Tories – for the long haul – or are there systemic, cultural, and attitudinal problems inside the Tory Party that will overwhelm him as quickly as his predecessors were overwhelmed?
- Do Albertans want the government that is being put on offer by the PCs?
- If a ‘Jim Prentice’ government disappoints Albertans as quickly as the Redford or Stelmack Tory governments did, how will Albertans manage their frustration for 3 – 4 years?
- Are the (electorally) viable options too “extreme” to be considered by any thoughtful Albertans? Is there “no alternative”?
Alberta’s history and indeed the history of the Progressive Conservative Party itself suggests that this could be a wide-open election with a disruptive outcome that would serve the province well. Albertans have the opportunity to change now, for good.