Monday, October 19, 2009

"major policy announcement"?

I had to shudder a bit when the Calgary Herald reported this afternoon that newly minted Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith had indicated this morning that "she'll make a major policy announcement in the coming weeks..."

I had visions of a "stage[d] message event and photo op" for some "catchy, highly-visible, easy-to-communicate" gimmick that would be most distinguished by how far it was from a serious, technical policy plank like, to take a contrasting example, "a decrease in the marginal rate of the third bracket in personal income tax." Again, my concern followed from the fact that my raison d'ĂȘtre for getting more politically involved was to oppose the dumbing down of the policy debate and get more of the technical debates that were occurring in places like government central agencies, academia, and think tanks into the mass market arena, not less.

While I have 99% confidence in Danielle herself on policy (the remaining 1% being held back at present because her ties to Calgary and Edmonton are in the process of being balanced as opposed to starting out that way, and there isn't an urban wonk like Mike Percy from the capital city who has her ear to my knowledge) some of my concern was, I think, well founded given that all of the quotes in the above paragraph are by someone who not only was the keynote speaker at the last Wildrose Alliance AGM but someone who has been mentioned in association with the party leader in a number of media reports. Another person who may have influence with Danielle once asked me about policies that would appeal to rural voters. I provided some names of those who worked in the field of rural economy at the U of A, but didn't really have much to say about a specific idea of his that would have involved a claim on the taxpayer. I did my MBA with a guy on the inside of the Alberta Agriculture and I could only shake my head at some of the boondoggles going on. "The reality is that the government knows that it is elected by rural voters," my fellow student would explain. If a fellow Wildrose Alliance candidate should then ask me how to out-boondoggle the Tories when it comes to rural Alberta what was I supposed to say?

But looking at what Danielle actually said it appears that I was being paranoid that a provincial version of Harper surrounded by 5% GST stickers would be coming down the pipe, or that some less gimmicky but no less airy announcement was in the works like a declaration that a certain component of provincial revenues will be dedicated to the Heritage Fund, which would be an easy lay-up precisely because there would be no acknowledgement of who would be the losers from such a move; indeed, the provincial Tories have had this plank for decades but just changed it or ignored it whenever there might actually be a loser (which was, of course, every time it actually mattered!) and would stand in contrast to a tax reform that would truly force a diversion of income coming to the private and/or public sectors away from current consumption and into an accumulating capital stock (typically, the easier the win in politics, the less that is won). She in fact said that "we will making a major policy address in November." An "address" could mean something about the procedure of policy development. Indeed, a few media sources say that that is exactly what is involved here.

Bottom line is that my understanding as reflected in my last post seems to be the correct one: some sort of convention or consultative roundtables are going to be announced.

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