In the coming months, I intend to advocate for the following policies:
1) cut the provincial corporate tax rate from 10% to 3% and income tax rate from 10% to 5%, making up the difference in revenue loss with a VAT that excludes all capital inputs. Empower an independent overseer to enforce the revenue neutrality of this reform.
2) adopt an innovation agenda that draws on endogenous growth theory
3) adopt a hedging program for natural resource related revenues
I had originally assumed that after consulting with economists and assorted experts with respect to details and the possibilities of securing their endorsements for these policies, I and like-minded entities would be lobbying the membership with calls, mailouts, and social media efforts prior to the next AGM at which time the policies would be voted on by the membership.
But according to my conversation with the VP Policy yesterday, one or more policy conferences are likely to be held. And from what Danielle said, it sounded like this would happen in both November and March.
This could either help or hinder in terms of my view of the party's direction. If Jack Mintz, who appears 9200 times on scholar.google.com, were invited to speak at the policy conference to whatever reform he thinks ought to be highest priority, it could help (a lot). If Nadeem Ismail, who appears 407 times on scholar.google.com, were invited to give his presentation about the need for more private healthcare to the party membership for the third time this year, well, no offence to Mr Ismail or his research, but given the opportunity cost of not hearing on another topic, it could hinder.
The reason we've heard from Mr Ismail repeatedly is obviously because one or more persons on the party executive is sympathetic to the idea of more private healthcare in Alberta. Which is, of course, an entirely permissible view. Mr Ismail's contention that Canada spends 22% more per capita on healthcare on a demographic adjusted basis than the OECD average and that Alberta spends a further 22% more than the Canadian average is a contention in need of dissemination, particularly in the context of negotiations with the unions. But who exactly is behind Mr Ismail's invitation? Nobody outside of the party's inner circle really knows (although I have my suspicions). If a widely cited university or government employed economist gave a presentation there needn't be any doubt that, whether Brian Dell had the power to make that happen or not, I liked the idea because of the sweet love I display here in the cybersphere for the scholarly (as a general rule, these people are much less likely to serve a special interest than someone from an organization calling for specific government interventions or spending, somewhat less likely to serve a special interest than a person representing industry exposed to general tax and regulatory constraints, and slightly less likely to serve a special interest than a think tank person).
My ax to grind, if you can call it that, had long been for transparency. My enthusiasm for secretive types in politics is most definitively limited. I'd rather have no vote in a state where the machinery of government and machinations of the decision makers were totally transparent than regular ballot opportunities in a state that was opaque. Why should China's leadership be so interested in censorship when the people can't vote them out anyway? Because it is the control of information, not ballot casting, that constitutes real power.
Given the way I have attacked populism in the past, readers are forgiven for concluding that I believe the secret of government is saving it from the daily mob. But I would like to suggest that there is a reasonable concern for authenticity here. "Output democracy" is basically how people vote in real life. It's why Premier Stelmach is in political trouble now instead of when he should have been in trouble, which was 2 years ago. While I was involved in the Wildrose Party, much was made of being more grassroots than the PC Party, when the real problem with the PC Party was a lack of the information sharing that would have facilitated wider participation. If decision makers like Dave Hancock were to, say, operate a real blog instead of a propaganda blog that provides no substantive information, the PC party membership could discuss policy in an informed fashion and know which personalities at the senior levels are the primary advocates for or obstacles to various policies. As it happened with the Wildrose Party, the party's first announcement on the royalties issue was made by the executive. When validation was then sought from the membership at the AGM, two experts were brought up from Calgary to advise the membership that the right move was to oppose a royalties increase. Not a few Edmontonians were skeptical and demanded to see the reports by financial analysts and other evidence that the experts were citing. The Party membership ultimately voted to endorse a policy of opposing a royalty increase, and, as far as I'm concerned, the party executive managed the situation quite rightly. But let's call it what it is, namely, representative democracy as opposed to what is normally assumed by "grassroots democracy." As for the Alberta Alliance, again, for all the talk about being grassroots, many of the important policy stands were effectively dictated by one person: Randy Thorsteinson.
Another way to think about this is to step back and think about how important the vote for the leader would be if the party was truly "grassroots." It ought to make next to no difference at all who the leader is in that case. After all, it is bottom-up, not top-down, right? Yet we know that the leader does matter.
So to all the Wildrosers who are feel a little uncomfortable about whether my blogging serves the interests of the party, my excuse is that what Albertans really want is transparency and the most ethical is not the one who insists on his own virtue the loudest but the one who conducts as much of his business as possible in the public eye. For my part, I am a little uncomfortable with idea that the "grassroots" concept is in the interests of the party. The idea of the self-determining, self-informing sovereign individual is not, in fact, a conservative concept since conservatives appreciate how the decisions of the conscious mind are influenced, framed, and constrained by the unconscious and by a whole slew of antecedents ranging from culture to the myriad connections that tie us not just to each other but to the very earth itself. What emancipates us is not the grant of an illusory choice, but consciousness of what constrains us. I am of the opinion that the conservative view of human nature is the most authentic, and if there is any one phrase that describes a conservative, it is a person who sees the world for what it is. Grassroots democracy strikes me as wishful thinking, while "output democracy" is the real thing, like it or not. In the end, we can both be right, since whether it is my disclosure or it is "grassroots" policy making, what matters is the details.