Saturday, March 8, 2008

lessons learned: #2

2. The Reform analogy does not apply

While going door to door, for a while I tried introducing the Wildrose Alliance by saying "to oversimplify, we're like a Reform party for the province." I see now that that was an association that was pushed more explicitly by candidates like Rand Sisson in 2004 under the Alberta Alliance banner.

Looking at the election results I think it's clear that the Reform movement's popularity had far more to do with the pervasiveness of "western alienation" than with deep enthusiasm for either democratic reform or fiscal conservatism. The provincial P"C" party has violated both of the latter principles to a greater extent than Mulroney's PCs ever did. The provincial civil service and the Alberta PC party have been conflating for close to 40 years now, and although the provincial P"C"s are not currently running a deficit, that is simply not an appropriate metric for assessing fiscal conservatism. A person who makes $30K a year and temporarily goes into deficit to put $5K into a RRSP is more fiscally conservative than someone who makes $100K and spends all of it on consumption. Even that analogy is misleading because, generally speaking, a harder working or more talented individual will make more money, whereas for goverments, it is the hard work and talents of the private sector that creates the revenue which governments spend!

I've seen "More Alberta, less Ottawa" or "Free the West" signs. But I've never seen "More Calgary, less Edmonton" or "Free the South" anywhere in the province. Yet the rural south and urban Calgary are precisely where the Wildrose Alliance was received best. Why? Because Stelmach is perceived as the north - central candidate. The sense of regional alienation within the province is not great enough to propel the Wildrose Alliance anywhere in particular, however. It isn't something we've run on, except for our plank about providing stable, reliable, and unconditional municipal funding and allowing service delivery at the local and community level wherever possible.

Moving Ed Stelmach into the premier's office appears to have been very effective politics for the P"C's, because the people most opposed to Ed were in ridings where the P"C"s had historically been running up such big wins they could afford to give away votes by the barrelful. Stelmach then picked up votes in marginal Edmonton area ridings such that the P"C" seat count increased.

Nowhere could the opposition to Ed be very intense. Why? Because he's ultimately an Albertan. Stephane Dion is not like any guys I know around here, Ed Stelmach is.

For Stelmach to end up in serious trouble, he'd have to go on such a spreading spree and/or make moves so anti-democratic that he'd be widely perceived as "un-Albertan". Given the way the Alberta P"C"s have managed to brand themselves as the symbol of this province and its prosperity, such sins are going to have to be especially egregious to not be forgiven.

When asked about his chief rival, Broyce Jacobs, an MLA in [the Cardston - Taber - Warner] riding himself from 2001 to 2004, replied gruffly: 'I don't talk about the Wildrose Alliance. I talk about me and Alberta and the PC government that built this province.'

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