Thursday, March 6, 2008

merger with the Liberals? - the case against

The first and most obvious problem is Kevin Taft.

One telling moment was Taft's reference to Albertans' sense of alienation from Ottawa and how it behooves us to be, if I might paraphrase, "bigger than that." It wouldn't surprise me at all if this really motivated the Liberal base, because this is exactly the sort of character that Liberals pride themselves in having. But for anyone who does feel the slightest twinge of resentment towards Toronto and the rest of the Centre, they feel they are being lectured to about what they value.

If you want to win votes, you take Albertan values for what they are and then demonstrate to Albertans that the other parties will not, in fact, serve those values even though the popular assumption is that they will. Argue that my assumptions are mistaken, fine, but don't argue that my values are fundamentally misguided because that is not, at the end of the day, any argument at all: it's a value judgment.

Example: the NDP talk about taking "big $$$ out of politics". This ultimately does nothing for the working man, and not least because of the gigantic loopholes the NDP isn't talking about, like the fact they take transfers from the federal party and the federal party can go on taking big $$$ from big unions. The "Libertarian Party' could adopt a plank from the Wildrose Alliance and raise the basic personal exemption to $20K while immediately eliminating health care premiums. The resulting near grand in savings for a worker making just 21 grand a year is actually something substantial for the struggling working man.

The other problem is many of the candidates. At a forum I attended during the campaign, the Liberal candidate for Highlands - Norwood was a union activist who wanted to tangle with me over rent control and free trade. Clearly, guys like him need to shuffle on over to the NDP if Wildrosers were to ever merge with the Alberta Liberals. But shuffle he will do without any pushing if enough Liberals were to stand up and say any and all business bashing must henceforth cease, not because there is no sympathy for the Maude Barlow crowd but because there is already a home for the idealists called the NDP, and no opposition party is going to truly threaten to form a new government in this province if it appears fundamentally suspicious of markets and business.

There are a variety of platform issues that would be difficult to reconcile. But I do not think it is impossible if both sides agree that policy should be evidence-based and informed by scientific and/or professional research. If all concerned commonly recognize the primacy of reason, differences can be ironed out by establishing what is more rational. I think Liberals would come around to the idea that CO2 mitigation should be lower on the priority list when all the problems of a unilateral solution are examined and when its shown that even the Greens talk more about other environmental moves.

On the other hand, one has to wonder how flexible Alberta Liberals are, if they are still carrying their cards while the P"C"s slide left. If the P"C" movement on various issues hasn't brought any Liberals over, how many Liberals would come over if the Wildrose Alliance made some moves? It could be that they simply continue to resist the P"C" Machine, and are less than keen to have to admit to themselves that they've been co-opted into the Borg. However, this is not a grievance they'd have with the Wildrose Alliance. Also, the left - right spectrum has its limitations as an interpretative tool such that saying the P"C"s have moved towards the Liberals is as much an obscuring analysis as it is enlightening.

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