Thursday, September 17, 2009

"Reforming" Alberta?

News from Calgary is that at the end of the Wednesday night debate Jeff Willerton announced that he was withdrawing from the leadership race and throwing his support to Mark Dyrholm.

A few days ago, a Dyrholm supporter told me
When identity politics means identifying your political background it is fair game.
"Fair game" in my books would be full disclosure. Dyrholm has selectively chosen to play up his federal election campaigning because for provincial elections he was campaigning on behalf of the very group he now says he opposes: P"C" Alberta. The one time he didn't, it was to support Craig Chandler in Calgary Egmont instead of Wildrose Alliance candidate Barry Chase, the father of one of the most heavily involved Calgarians in today's WRA, Travis Chase.

The Dyrholm supporter continued,
We've never tried the Reform Party policies in our own province and that's what Mark's campaign is all about...
Sorry, but that just isn't true. I would direct you to were it not for the fact that this Red Deer candidate for the Alberta Alliance in 2004 has let his campaign website expire sometime in the past year and a half. It was a typical 2004 Alberta Alliance campaign in that Rand made it very clear that he was a Reformer who wanted to apply the Reform model to Alberta. The only reason there wasn't a Reform Party of Alberta is because federal Reformers reserved the name to keep Reform focused on federal politics. The Canadian Alliance, however, did not register the Alliance name with provincial electoral officers and that, my friend, is why the word "Alliance" appears in the name of our party today.

Where was Mark Dyrholm when supporters of the federal Canadian Alliance were setting up the Alberta Alliance?

For the record, I was once a card carrying PC Alberta member too, but that was back in the misty depths of time when Klein was still a fiscal conservative. By 2003, when total spending had increased by more than 50% relative to 1996, my membership had long since lapsed. I was never a member of the Alberta Alliance, it being controlled, and I mean controlled, by Randy Thorsteinson and it not being a vehicle that was amenable to being "professionalized" and therefore taken seriously. I was nonetheless one of the earliest members of the Wildrose Party.

After last year's election I argued that "the Reform analogy does not apply." I may have been wrong about some things in the wake of what happened this week in Calgary Glenmore, such as my claim that "the sense of regional alienation within the province is not great enough to propel the Wildrose Alliance anywhere in particular," but I continue to believe that "western alienation" is something that the P"C" government has cynically exploited for many years and is accordingly not something we should be demagoguing. On truly substantive issues like equalization - a regional subsidy program that is demonstrably contrary to the net economic interests of Canadians - the Stelmach government and many others who trot out the Ottawa bogeyman have been notably silent. As Marc Lisac has written in "Alberta Politics Uncovered",
Western alienation grows out of real, or at least out of historical, roots. But, it has been transformed into an artificial and mysterious edifice. It is used now to further the power of the provincial government, and to further the political agendas of ideologically driven political activists who can no way be described as the 'grassroots.'

Jeff Willerton, for all his faults, is not someone who showed up at the doorstep of the Wildrose Alliance in the last six months because a competing party he supported made a policy move that affected his specific financial interests. To return to Lisac's book,
[W]hy would anyone with a solid position in the community want to run for the opposition? The prize for election is putting up with casual insults in question period, being largely ignored by the media, watching government backbenchers earn much more money by virtue of being appointed to this agency or that board, and knowing that one's future employability outside politics is likely being impaired. The most attractive choice is to fight for a nomination in the governing party.

You have to be a saint to run for the ragged, perpetually debt-ridden shells that pass for opposition parties in Alberta. A saint, or someone with the character of a stubborn, defiant buffalo facing directly into a stiff wind coming off the mountains. Most people in public life here are neither. Contrary to the stereotype of the defiant individual, the province is full of people who take the easier path and join the party (literally and figuratively).
Jeff Willerton never sought a nomination in the governing party. Mark Dryholm cannot say the same thing. Say what you will about Jeff, but he's a true Alberta "buffalo".


Craig B. Chandler said...

Well at least your consistent.

Anti something and never for anything.


It is clear that Dyrholm and Willerton support an extreme right wing social policy stance.

If Mark is able to secure the leadership, that stance will be the death of the party, and especially for any voters under the age of 35.

I think it is clear that most Albertan's want small government that stays out of their lives. Not a government interested in legislating morality based upon religion.

Danielle Smith is a leader that can appeal to the majority of Alberta voters, as indicated by her ability to generate by far the most applause at the debate. Every member that I have brought into the party (most below 30) have strongly agreed.

Doug said...

I have to agree with "Smith for Premier". If Dyrholm is elected leader the Wildrose Alliance will remain a rump party. Smith can attract credible candidates that actually stand a chance of winning.
I am usually not much of a joiner but feel so strongly about this I have taken out a membership so I can support Danielle Smith.

Graham said...

I don't get it. Your argument about staying in the PC Party for too long makes sense for Willerton, but both Smith and Dyrholm only joined the WAP quite recently. By that logic we would be alienating all the current PC members from joining the party by branding them as 'johnny-come-latelys'.

Besides which no one is saying the Reform Party was never tried provincially, we are saying the principles and policies of the Reform Party were never tried. Though I am sure we can agree that today many old Reform party supporters are joining the WAP.

Graham said...

I am sure there have been Alberta Alliance candidates advocating for Reform policies before - as the candidate who run in Red Deer that you made mention of. But without getting into the history of the Alberta Alliance, the point is that there has never been a provincial party that successfully took up the Reform banner and brought those Reform policies to the legislature. To this day federal Conservative members in Alberta are more conservative, and PC members less so - that means we've never had the kind of leadership provincially that we have had federally.