Hello from Oman. I have been watching the Alberta political scene for several months from afar, having arrived in the Sultanate of Oman the 24th of October last year.
I prepared some comments for your edification and am prompted to publish now based on the recent comments by Ken Chapman on the matter of Raj Sherman (http://ken-chapman.blogspot.com/2011/01/what-raj-sherman-should-do-and-why.html).
Therefore, while I want to discuss the action or inaction of all of the provincial political parties, I will also be commenting on Ken Chapman’s piece.
First, allow me to reference those who feel the need to do a little research.
On October 21st, 2009 in my Blog, Donn to Dusk (http://donntodusk.blogspot.com) I wrote The Future of Alberta Politics – One Person’s Opinion (http://donntodusk.blogspot.com/2009/10/future-of-alberta-politics-one-persons.html). In this piece I discussed the political Centre in Alberta Politics and the advantage of capturing that ground.
Then on February 3rd, 2010 I wrote, The Liberals Have Their Chance to Make It Right (Centre (http://donntodusk.blogspot.com/2010/02/here-is-httpwww.html). Essentially what they needed to do to capture the centre and failed.
Both of these suggested that Albertans by-and-large exist in the political centre. This may explain why we only see a 40% voter turnout; at present, no party represents the views of the majority of Albertans.
So let’s discuss the current status of the various political parties.
Progressive Conservative Party (PCs)
The PCs exist in a world best described as follows;
Imagine the older couple living in the mansion on the hill with servants preparing their meals and cleaning the house. They are always having guests to dinner to discuss matters of concern only to them. After the meal the men retire to a room to drink a little brandy, smoke a cigar and discuss the power they hold. The women retire to another room to sip sherry and discuss matters that, in fact, the men neither understand nor really care about, perhaps healthcare, education, etc…
Sometimes people appear on the lawn and raise their voices, while disturbing to the people in the house, as long as they do not break things or crap on the grass, they are tolerated. This is the political opposition in Alberta.
So the reality is, the Tories are out of touch with what Albertans care about, have an entitlement thought process and are ill-prepared to fight any real, organized and serious opposition. This is reflected in recent polling and in the accurate reflections of Janet Brown and her seat projection model. Presently, the PCs are on the cusp of majority and minority, with the Wildrose in opposition.
Wildrose Alliance Party (WAP)
In keeping with the mansion scenario WAP started out as a protest Party, jumping up and down on the lawn and screaming that the PCs were not in touch with the people albeit those people on the far right. Having learned the futility of that behavior WAP is beginning to understand the discussion of the Centre, where most Albertans live.
Therefore, Wildrose, having effectively captured support in the more right-wing rural constituencies is now in mind to moderate their appearance in order to capture support in the urban centres. Once again, the way to capture the support of Albertans is through the Centre.
In my estimation, this is a major trend to watch in the coming months leading to the next provincial election.
Alberta Liberal Party (ALP)
Once again, the ALP protested on the lawn of the mansion after they actually discovered where the PCs lived. However, they were more concerned about whether the water they were drinking came from a tap or was the awful bottled water so dramatically bad for the environment to discuss what Albertans really cared about.
They also spent more time trying to arrange the timing on the lawn with their friends from the New Democrats rather than examining what Albertans wanted to talk about.
One member of the ALP figured out if he talked to Albertans about matters they wanted to discuss, they would engage. Once he figured this out, he also figured out The Alberta Liberal Party would never get to that point and decided to sit as an Independent.
Recently, the ALP dismissed their mouthpiece but unless substantial communication changes are made their future is bleak,
New Democrats (NDs)
When the NDs go on the lawn to protest, they scream so loud no one understands what they are saying.
They have a firm grip on the left, not interested in moving off that position and one can argue that of all the parties, they are true to their support base. They do not appeal to a significant number of Albertans to make a major change in their status.
Alberta Party (AP)
The Alberta Party is work in progress and it will be interesting to see what they become when they grow up.
At present, they are too new to cause any major disruption in Alberta politics more than the writings of the pundits lacking anything else to say. Frustrated Liberals have moved to the Alberta party leaving the ALP with a membership base of 2 or 3 thousand members. Since the Alberta Party membership seems to be only a few hundred, my sense is that Liberals are still looking for an alternative.
The AP has a long way to go and any person getting involved needs to have the time, energy and inclination to build a new party in Alberta, not an easy task.
Where are we headed and what will happen between now and March 2012, the expected timing for the next provincial election.
The Tories will struggle with who they are and what to do to maintain power. Their Achilles heel is healthcare. Fix it or fight the next election on healthcare. I am not convinced they can recover.
Wildrose will continue to attempt to moderate their party to appeal to the urban voters while not upsetting the rural support they have managed to capture, an interesting balancing act and the major show for the view of the political junkie in Alberta. The easiest way to achieve moderation is to bring Raj Sherman in Edmonton and Dave Taylor in Calgary into the Party.
Will they be successful? Time will tell!
The Alberta Liberal Party is on life support. The dumping of the Communication Director is a step in the right direction. The next major decision needs to be; change the Leader, either physically or otherwise so from the perspective of Alberta voters the leadership understands what it is that Albertans want to discuss. Personally, I am not holding my breath.
The New Democrats want to be called when all changes are complete, they are fine and no changes required from their side.
The Alberta Party needs to dramatically increase their efforts if they hope to make an impact on the Alberta Political scene. If they do hope to be a credible alternative they will have to plan for the next election, not the upcoming one. The caveat here is the Nenshi Campaign for Mayor in Calgary. Can the Alberta Party create the enthusiasm that was created for Nenshi and make a remarkable surge? And so it goes….
Now to Ken Chapman: Any direct comments from Ken’s piece will be highlighted.
Ken states the obvious up-front, this is a non-scientific sampling of 174 self-selecting anonymous people. I suspect even more so the respondents are Alberta Party supporters grasping at the notion that Raj may join them.
From here we see the next obvious step, attack your enemy as being the worst possible thing that could happen to Alberta and Albertans. Hence his comment, The Wildrose is a political force with a core of supporters. The Wildrose is a political force with a core of supporters. My sense is their protest support is as deep as a dime and there is a lingering mistrust that pervades them. They have a history and we are not sure what they really stand for anymore. We are cautious about what the strong social conservative element might do to Alberta, once in power.
He then goes on to add the following; Look at Bill 44 that targeted homosexuals and teachers as an example of social conservative influence on politics and policy. In this case this was a Bill coming from the very party that Ken belonged to for many years; however let’s try to make it appear that this was a Wildrose initiative.
Although there is little evidence to support this Wildrose position on healthcare Ken adds, despite protest to the contrary, no thoughtful observer of the Wildrose Alliance Party could conclude that they would not also privatize health care...once in power. They are not stupid. Ken, if in fact, you believe they are not stupid why you would suggest WAP would move to privatize healthcare if Albertans do not support the initiative is a tremendous leap?
Then he jumps to the conspiracy theory approach by suggesting that, they will campaign on a middle of the road policy platform but their behind-the-scenes brain trust is pure Stephen Harper.
Now we can discus Chapman’s wooing of Raj Sherman to the Alberta Party. Initially he defeats his own argument by stating that as for the NDP, you can't fix health care with influence alone, you need power. So to extend this thought Ken must believe that the Alberta Party will form the next Government, I suggest not. To continue to defeat his argument Ken makes the following comment, The Liberal Party is a definite option for Raj to consider. Ken, if power is what Raj needs why would he align himself with the ALP?
Now to his rationale for Raj joining the Alberta Power; The Alberta Party is new. In fact it is so new that it is just now forming constituency organizations all over the province, and is just starting its leadership process. He adds, by joining the Alberta Party he can shift public attention, trigger some imagination and bring a new meaning to political participation in our province. What he really suggesting is that Raj Sherman can spend all of his energies building a new party and forget about his initiatives in healthcare.
Then back to the comments about the Devil; The Ayn Rand inspired, Libertarian influenced Wildrose Alliance Party conjures some serious suspicions about their real political intentions and where they would take us if they had power. Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my or the ever popular paranoid argument that the sky is falling.
Finally Chapman suggests; So what is Raj Sherman going to do? My advice is stay independent for a bit and go out and talk to Albertans as a non-partisan. Great suggestion but how does he do this if folks like you publically make the case he is joining the Alberta Party, huh?
Now I get to make suggestions. Ken and I agree on initial timing, Raj Sherman and Dave Taylor should remain as Independents, co-operate on issues where they can and seen to be above the fray of nasty politics. However, as we get closer to the next election consideration needs to be made with respect to joining a political party. At this time it’s a matter of Let’s Make a Deal.
Will they stay as Independents, join the Alberta Party and continue in the oblivion of Alberta politics albeit feeling the warmth of waving at the windmill or will they succumb to the opportunity to make a difference within Government and join the Wildrose. Time will tell!
One Person’s Opinion