Reviewing Rudy's complaints I find it difficult to see things Rudy's way. But why is that when I have also described myself as "disillusioned" with the party?
The first reason may be that an alternative to quitting is stepping back and seeing how the future plays out. In my own case I have taken myself "out of the loop" (not that I was ever that much of an insider) in recent months but I am still a party member. After all, things can change.
More important in my view is the rationale for taking issue with the party in front of a large audience. Rudy seems to be very upset with the procedures which led to what was voted on at the AGM. But how do the procedures really matter in the end if the policy that is generated in the end is acceptable? Nobody outside the party cares much about how the party came up with the policy planks it did.
Even more critically, what ends up in the party policy book is not that important anyway. How much of what contemporary western governments do follows from what is in the policy platforms of their governing political parties? I know Wildrose aspires to be different on that count, but if the party was really serious about holding its elected MLAs accountable it would ensure that the policy planks were written in such a way that a MLA couldn't possibly weasel out of what they called for. The current reality is that the Wildrose policy platform has oodles of wet noodles that couldn't nail down an ordinary person never mind a politician who has made a profession out evasive maneuvers. The other parties are even worse when it comes to taking a clear stand on what's controversial but that fact alone doesn't excuse anything.
But if professed policy (from a source that is unlikely to ever become a minister) is irrelevant, and procedure even more so, what does matter?
Which people? The caucus. The biggest change in the party between now and December is that it has 3 new caucus members and these people have had enormous influence over the party's communications. It is the party's people in the legislature who will ultimately decide the province's direction if the party forms government. I have issues with all four of the ones currently there. Lorne Gunter writes:
So where do I get off saying they’ve stalled?
Let’s start with the acquisition of Mr. Boutillier.
Gunter then proceeds to outline concerns that should be taken seriously. I am not quite so inclined to put the party in the gunsights as Gunter because I hold out hope that it is not, in fact, true that "getting him to cross over from the Independent seats will have come at the price of a post in any future Alliance cabinet." (Memo to Lorne: it is rival parties interested in tying the party to its Randy "referenda on abortion and gay marriage!" Thorsteinson days that describe it as "Alliance" alone) Given the sensitivity that was exhibited towards the floor crossers' personal interests in January, however, I don't hold out hope with much confidence.
Both Boutilier and Rob Anderson have politician written all over them. That isn't entirely a bad thing because it means they have people skills, skills I am quite jealous of. But I prefer the style of, say, Heather Forsyth who together with Danielle makes a good argument for getting more women into politics. While my differences with Rob are more or less summed up by the Canadian Press wire story that quotes me (twice, actually, since I believe I'm also the "one delegate" who objected to "wishy washy" resolutions), my problem with Heather is that she is just too far to the left fiscally. The Economist that went to press today had an article titled "an unavoidable clash" that said "[the public sector] unions may mobilise against the [British] government’s plans to curb public pay and pensions. But they are defending the indefensible." I cannot see Heather taking up the gauntlet on behalf of taxpayers despite the nobility and urgency of a showdown with the union lobby. Never mind the fact that every dollar that goes into a union member's pension is one less dollar for a school, a hospital bed, a library, etc. Heather has been a great champion for children's interests (named Reader's Digest' Canadian Hero for the year 2002) but had little of note to say about the neglect of the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund (and saving in general) despite chairing the Standing Committee for that fund when revenues were rolling in. As for Paul Hinman, I still have great respect for him. He is conscientious and a genuine conservative. But I'm afraid Paul's obsession with Legislature matters may have led to the party into becoming too interested in picking up floor-crossers. Wildrose may not be treated well by the governing party on the Leg grounds but as far as most Albertans are considered these scraps are inside baseball.
The final test for whether criticism is constructive is whether the damage complained of has already been done such that the problem can't be fixed anyway. The AGM cannot be done over again. But what we could and should yet see is the caucus leaving the limelight to the leader. The caucus cannot win over voters to anything like the extent the leader can but caucus (and this includes future candidates) can very much lose votes for the party. So... No issuing news releases that have not been thoroughly vetted by the leader, by party communications, and by some sort of policy committee or expert(s). No back room deals for floor crossers, or for caucus members lobbying for special interests, or the appearance of such. No more fawning over caucus members by party spokespeople. Continue to pay little heed to the Ken Chapmans and David Climenhagas who will not be shaken from the view that Wildrose is but a front for the oil lobby and intolerant extremists but do pay heed to observers like Lorne Gunter and the Alberta Altruist (on that note, somebody should ask Rob Anderson what happened to AA since he lives in Anderson's riding).