Sunday, November 29, 2009

a home for Bill 44 refugees?

Chris LaBossiere has resigned from Dave Hancock's constituency association board of directors, as well as from the board executive. Like most of us in Edmonton's southwest, Chris sees Dave Hancock as a good guy personally and the problem is not with our MLA so much as with the governing party in general. This resignation seemed to be some time in development, and since we are both in Edmonton Whitemud, I gave him a call earlier this month to get an idea of where he was at politically and what sort of stance he intended to assume towards the Wildrose Alliance. My thinking is that he should come out to a Wildrose Edmonton Whitemud event to see if he would feel at home with Edmonton-based Wildrosers and see if local Wildrosers would in turn feel at home with him. This is not to suggest that Chris ought to be considered some sort of celebrity but rather to exhibit a spirit of open invitation that ought to be extended to every voter in the riding. Although Chris has expressed no interest to date in serving on the Wildrose Alliance constituency board, there are a number of former PC board members who have expressed an interest in serving on the Wildrose board and these situations have to be lightly managed against the possibility that some politically active people are looking to become bigger fish by virtue of jumping to a smaller pond.

If Chris had finally just had enough of the governing party's economic and fiscal management, or more precisely the absence thereof, he would be an easy fit with the Wildrose. But if the primary reason for his defection is Bill 44, that is a more difficult, and some might say more interesting, question. The facts are that in the midst of a leadership race with someone who wore his social conservatism on his sleeve, Danielle Smith went to Nanton, arguably the heartland of Alberta social conservatism, to say

We didn't need to come through with a parental rights clause. The concern they have is free speech. They already know they had the right to pull their kids under the School Act. Now parents are concerned that if a student brings up a subject, that student or teacher could be hauled up on charges. Teachers have a lot to worry about without the Human Rights Commission. There was frustration by some parents that some basics are not being dealt with enough. We don't deal with it by giving an unelected body of bureaucrats the power to control it. We should be addressing it a different way.

If anyone needed evidence that Danielle does not pander to win votes, criticizing the opt-out clause at the time and place she did is it. Her position on Bill 44 is in line with that of the Sheldon Chumir Foundation, which takes its name from a former Liberal MLA.

Based on these facts alone, one could argue that the Wildrose Alliance is a proper refuge for Bill 44 refugees. But I think this could lead to a misunderstanding, a misunderstanding akin to the confusion that sometimes exists between left/liberalism and libertarianism. Just because the Wildrose Alliance is unlikely to be leading the charge on social conservative issues, that does not mean that the party is likely to aggressively advance a socially "progressive" agenda. The party's primary concern, at least as I envision it, is professional, accountable administration and conservative management of financial and economic affairs. If one considers the mountain of material that goes from the Assembly or the cabinet to the Queen's Printer, the Bill 44 opt-out clause is a small drop in a very big bucket.

If Chris had ever taken issue with section 3 of Bill 44, like the Sheldon Chumir Foundation has, in addition to the opt-out clause, that would be revealing. But he's avoided describing himself as "libertarian" to my knowledge and in my phone conversation I recall him expressing a concern that Danielle Smith may be "too corporate." If Chris kept his Facebook wall feed, amongst other things, private I would keep that remark confidential, but he seems to be as open as I am when it comes to political opinions. "Too corporate" suggests to me the sort of perspective that takes as its starting point a skeptical view of accomodating business interests. It implies that business is, on the most general or fundamental level, bad, but can be good in a controlled environment. This contrasts with the view, a view held by most economists, that business is, on the most general or fundamental level, good, but can be bad in an uncontrolled environment. I suspect Mr LaBossierie would insist that he is not as anti-capitalist I suggest here. But the immediate context in which his resignation has occurred is Ken Chapman's Reboot Alberta weekend, an event generally styled as a conference for Alberta "progressives." Dave Cournoyer was a big booster of Reboot Alberta and I am a big fan of Dave's. Fact is, concerned citizens like Dave make this province more dynamic, diverse, and, dare I say, democratic. But Daveberta and I do not see the world, what's wrong with it, and what the solutions are in the same way. Dave was a strong backer of Don Iveson's city council campaign and since his win over Mike Nickel, Iveson seems to have been urging the city to spend more taxpayer money at every opportunity.

The bottom line is that I see Chris LaBossiere's resignation as a bellwether of Albertans' increasing sense of alienation from all three traditional political parties. While Wildrosers position themselves as an answer to this, a successor system would still have to have at least two parties, not just the Wildrose Alliance. I see the Wildrose as a modernization of the centre-right, and it would be unhelpful to democracy for Wildrose to try to accomodate the centre-left as well. Albertans deserve a quality, left leaning political alternative with which a party like Wildrose competes respectfully and professionally. There is a difference between laudable post-partisan ideals and unrealistic post-party idealism.

I think Chris did the right thing in any case. One of the reasons I take a hostile tone whenever I communicate with Ken Chapman is that I think Ken is having it both ways when he calls for change and more idealism while remaining tied into the cynical old PC party network. Either **** or get off the pot.

If one were to take away just one thing from this latest resignation, it is that the Progressive Conservative party is neither progressive nor conservative. If the party were called what it is perhaps it would be known as the Alienating Alberta party.


Chris LaBossiere said...


I think you are missing the mark with your thoughts, and you should take the time to respond to my concerns about why your party has not been able to get it's story straight on Bill 44.

Anonymous said...

Bill 44 is in fact very if not completely libertarian. The children are in their parents ward, not the government's. If the Wildrose Alliance opposes a parent's right over a child, I'm going to go back to the PC party.

Chris LaBossiere said...

Anon (not surprising name):

How do you reconcile then that the leader of the WAP said it was completely overlapping and unnecassary legislation. Hence over-government and completely against the principals of libertarianism?

It's simple political appeasement to Social Conservatives. Why not just call a spade a spade?

RL said...


I don't think 'libertarian' means what you say it means. Bill 44 aggressively expanded the power of the state to get involved in education, increased funding for the HRC system, and utterly failed to address some very serious problems with free speech.

Parents already had the right to manage their childrens' education, Bill 44 achieved nothing in expanding or protecting that right, despite what Rob Anderson et al may insist.

Anonymous said...

Bill 44 is essential in a libertarian society to confirm parent's rights over their children. We simply need it and it's an amazing step forward. Rob Anderson deserves big kudos.

Brian Dell said...

"... libertarian society to confirm parent's rights over their children."

Generally speaking, a society where one group of people has unqualified "rights over" another group of people is not a "libertarian" society.

That's not say I can't appreciate your point, but rather to object to your contention that your values are libertarian as opposed to conservative.