Sunday, December 21, 2014

Five Questions for Danielle Smith

Let's take a stroll down memory lane:

October 27, 2009: Wildrose office manager Heather McMullen advises a member, "As for floor crosses, we have a policy in place that any MLA wishing to cross the floor will have to first sit as an independent, then gain the support of the Executive of the party and Constituency Association, and prove that their decision is also supported by the residents of that riding."

January 5, 2010: Wildrose leader Danielle Smith tells Liza Yuzda of iNews 880 that " policy had been to require a by-election for 'floor crossers' but when it came to reality..." party policy didn't stop her from welcoming floor crossers Rob Anderson and Heather Forsyth without conditions.  Smith goes on to invite listeners to think of the financial needs of the crossers, saying that if they had to run in a by-election, there might be some period of time that they wouldn't be drawing their taxpayer funded salaries: "without an income for six months."  We later learn that in fact there were conditions, but not conditions demanded OF the crossers, rather, "Danielle Smith had agreed to give each of their constituency associations $20 000 prior to crossing."

December 18, 2014: Danielle is "moved to tears" recounting a November 15 policy vote where, in a close vote, the membership declined to revisit and enshrine as policy a motion about rights that the membership had approved the previous year.  "It really was a turning point.  It was one thing that made it impossible for me to continue as leader," she says.

Some questions for Danielle:

1) If you could ignore party policy in January 2010 in order to have Rob Anderson come over without conditions (and in fact even let Anderson set financial conditions in a secret deal), you could ignore last month's policy vote, no?  Never mind going even further and defending last month's vote saying "I think that the nature of the debate was that [the membership was] concerned there might be something excluded in that long list.  I think that's a reasonable position to take."  If your conscience was as troubled as you now say it is, you could have resigned, or replied to the vote by asking at the AGM for a democratic mandate for what you now demand, namely, a merger with the PCs, no?

2) In 2010 over at the Western Standard Matt Johnston complained about Heather Forsyth's social conservatism.  "Sadly, as an early defector to the Wildrose Alliance, Forsyth will likely be given prominence in the party that could put her in a position to shape policy," Johnston noted.  Why are you now complaining about the membership when it was your idea, not the membership's, to welcome Forsyth as a floor crosser?  More to the point, please explain that "Wildrose Statement on Ontario Court Prostitution Ruling."  I invite you to look again at the reaction on the Western Standard to that "Statement."  Colby Cosh, writing in Maclean's, complained about it.  I, no libertarian, complained about it as a gratuitous poke in the eye of libertarians.  Yet you, party leader, let that statement go out, without any evidence the membership wanted Wildrose to adopt such a position, and now complain that it's the so-cons in the rank and file membership that are bringing you to tears?  You've got Forsyth and Anderson's back, do you?  You reacted to Towle's and Donovan's crossing to the PCs by saying "Today I was proud to be in the legislature with Rob Anderson and Heather Forsyth at my side [two of the biggest so-cons in the Leg].  Rob and Heather crossed the floor from government to opposition because of principle [while Towle and Donovan did] the opposite [by joining the PCs]."

3) Rob "crossed the floor from government to opposition because of principle" and he crossed back because of principle, right?  Then explain his comment, "If only three or four decided to [cross the floor this month], I don't think it would have happened."  Why is it that the right thing would not have been done if only "three or four" of you decided to do it?  Why does it take a crowd?  Anderson, who brought the mass crossing idea to caucus (why wasn't it YOUR idea, Danielle, if you're the leader?  Anderson gave you, the leader, "an ultimatum to join the mass defection"???), successfully lobbies 8 people to join him in floor crossing.  To win those seats back, Wildrose campaign workers and donors will have to lobby well over 8 thousand voters, maybe 80 thousand.  Do you really think that's fair?  How about FIRST changing teams, openly, and THEN working to shrink the Wildrose caucus?

4) Last Thursday you said the plot had to go down in secret because, had there been an open effort to lobby ordinary Albertans to endorse the floor crossing, the official opposition and the government would have been in limbo for 4 months.  Yet you've admitted that "discussions have been going on for months" anyway!  If they could go on "for months" in secret, they could have gone on in the open, no?

5) This past week you complained that "the most radical elements show up and choose the policy direction."  You've attended more AGMs than I have, so I think you know that the truth is that, year after year, "the most radical" social conservatives have shown up to propose socially conservative planks and they routinely get outvoted.  As for the Allan Hunspergers in the party, yes, the most radical elements HAVE been known to get someone like Hunsperger nominated, but if you don't like that, then why wasn't more effort put into overseeing the development of consistency associations, since large associations are more likely to ensure due diligence is done with respect to nominations?  I was heavily involved in setting up Edmonton Whitemud's constituency association and I called on the party leadership at the time to get a separate association up and running south of the Anthony Henday as early as possible in order to keep motivated and moderate constituency workers involved yet I couldn't get any interest.  The result was a rump association relative to the north side of the Henday and Hunsperger's nomination.

In April 2012 when I ruefully recounted how Wildrose had arrived on the doorstep of government, I said "I trust Danielle."  I was mistaken about that, and the main reason I was mistaken is because I didn't fully appreciate just how weak your leadership was.  You abdicated party leadership over to the ring leader of this destruction of the Wildrose caucus, and then tried to come up with excuses like blaming social conservatives in the membership that you've never met while never confronting the caucus members you regularly see face-to-face.

It didn't have to be this way.  As Maurice Tougas observes, "Winning isn't the only thing that matters in politics.  There are a few corny old things like public service and honouring the people who voted for you that still matter.  Liberals and New Democrats run for office knowing their odds of winning their seats are long, and the odds of winning government are longer still; say, the distance from the Earth to Jupiter.  But they run anyway, because they feel they have something to offer, or something to say."