Saturday, April 6, 2019

Alberta Election 2019

Why haven't I blogged since 2014?  Short answer is that I got married and have a little girl who turns 3 this summer. For those of you who have several kids under age 5, if you have have time for anything besides work and family matters I'm impressed!  It's one thing to find 5 minutes to tweet and another to find an hour to blog.

So we have a provincial election a week from this coming Tuesday (on April 16).  When I was heavily involved in the Wildrose Party a decade ago I ended up running in Edmonton Beverly-Clareview for the 2008 election as the Wildrose Alliance candidate.  At the time I was only nominally living in the constituency and was planning to buy a home in Edmonton's southwest.  In the end, though, I couldn't justify paying a lot more for the same property but in the southwest instead of the northeast, and ended up buying a new townhouse right in the middle of Beverly-Clareview (although on the east side of Victoria Trail).  

This riding would be considered a safe NDP seat, especially if the NDP has inherited the Liberal vote, but nonetheless has enough curving residential roads that a centrist suburbanite could conceivably be elected in the right circumstances.

Which brings me to the question of who to vote for.  If the NDP's apparent view of the election is the correct one, then it's a referendum on whether to persecute LGBTQ2S+ people or not.  If homosexual acts were being criminalized I'd be inclined to think they are quite right to be taking the lead in giving more people their liberty.  

But of course that's not what's going on.  We've instead got what Licia Corbella calls out here.  If every Albertan read Corbella's piece, it would drive BIG turnout against the NDP at the polls.  It's one thing to threaten religious schools with a loss of funding, and quite another to go after them saying expressing a belief in the "unchangeable and infallible truth of the Word of God" is violation of provincial law.  

We have to give religious communities some space.  That doesn't mean tolerating Branch Davidians in the province where the group leader takes 12 year olds as wives.  It means stopping somewhere short, and I suggest well short, of basically declaring their belief system illegal.  Trudeau-appointed Senator Paula Simons (who isn't doing a very convincing job of rebutting the Notley-Trudeau nexus allegation when she's acting as de facto NDP spokesperson in Ottawa) at least has acknowledged a conflict of rights:

The only problem with this (besides the strawman that deciding not to criminalize an action is akin to "wanting" that action) is that there's no Charter right to never be let go by a private sector employer.  There's a good reason for this, of course, and that's the general principle that government stays out of interactions between citizens unless there is a sound reason to meddle.  So it is that a religious organization's right to take an action for religious reasons without government interference isn't on the same level as the right of citizen to call on the government to get involved and exercise its coercion.  There's a balance that has to be struck here between freedom of religion and other considerations and it ought to lean against bringing in the power of the state.

With public opinion having moved as far as it has it terms of normalizing LGBTQ2S+ self-identification or behaviour (however one looks at the question of whether it's a dispute over behaviour as opposed to identity, I disagree with those who contend it's just behaviour), the NDP inevitably has to keep reaching further and further if it's to maintain outrage levels and, by extension, political turn-out.  Eventually it gets to the point where the majority of citizens ask if the Education Minister is making the most productive of use of his time.

I'll nonetheless say this for the NDP: Notley is genuinely trying to get a pipeline and it's really not fair to contend otherwise.  But if Albertans trust the Conservatives more on that, well, what goes around comes around.  The NDP has gone too hard for too long on the idea that Conservatives are not to be trusted on social issues to complain about how unfair it is to be perceived as anti- the energy business.

This isn't to say that I stand four-square behind the social policies of Kenney's UCP.  It's rather to say that if one party is going to one extreme and another party to the other, the NDP is the more motivated to push the envelope and not admit that there's another side to the issue.

Which brings me to the question of whether I'm voting UCP.  I must be right?  I mean, I'm a former Wildroser and the Wildrose has been softened by its merger with the more centrist Progressive Conservatives such that if I have any objections to the UCP, it's that they are not right wing enough, no?

Here's the thing about that mis-perception of that Wildrose-PC merger: it's in fact Wildrose that was "softer" when it came to what matters, not with respect to the Prentice and earlier PCs so much as with respect to the Harper/Kenney crowd who represent current Conservatism in Alberta as surely as Trump = Republicanism south of the border.  It was the political hardball practices and general Machiavellianism of the federal Conservative types moving into the Alberta conservative space that drove me out of provincial politics.  Some might say I'm exaggerating the menace they represented and the issue was more my simply not liking populism and the international trend in right-of-centre politics to move downscale.  But this is kind of like calling the Trump movement populist and leaving it at that.  It is, but it's also nasty and most nasty for me is the epidemic of lying that's come with it.  So, yeah, I do apply a value judgment to it that, for me, transcends ideology.  I got into politics for what you might call ideological fiscal policy reasons, namely trying to call attention to the issues that Brooks DeCillia calls attention to here (early 2008, when I quixotically stood for office, would have been prime time to control spending) but after some time on the inside realized that policy doesn't matter as much as the typical outside voter thinks it does.

So of course I am not surprised in the least that the Kenney crowd cheated their way to control of the merged party.  I would have been surprised if they didn't.  When I was with Wildrose I'd heard about what was going on at federal Conservative nomination meetings and was thankful they are not happening at the provincial level.  I then saw the writing on the wall saying it was just a matter of time.

So where does that leave me on the 16th?  There are circumstances under which I might conceivably vote Liberal at the federal level.  Some might consider that disloyalty to conservatism but my experience as a political activist taught me that a common ideology isn't enough to support affiliating with the unintelligent and unscrupulous.  It won't happen with Trudeau and it would depend a lot on the other options but it's theoretically possible.  Provincially, though, no, not since Kevin Taft was succeeded by David Swann anyway.  There's a reason why the Liberal vote has largely gone to the NDP since then.

I understand the argument that marking one's X for the Alberta Party is throwing away your vote or splitting the vote.  But when I ran myself in 2008 I had no hope at all of even getting a tenth of the vote never mind winning, so that argument doesn't go far with me.  The AB Party has come up with a good marketing line and that's that the NDP and UCP are the vote splitters taking support from the centre.  You can see this phenomenon clearly developing in the U.S. The fact is that if you vote for Kenney or vote for Trump, they're just going to double down on whatever they did to get as far as they have.  Why wouldn't they?  It doesn't mean never voting for the Conservative or the Republicans again, it means trying to stop a particular group from taking total control of the party or movement.  The point isn't just to put a particular party in power but to make a political statement.

Here in my particular riding, the Alberta Party candidate, Jeff Walters, isn't just a name on the ballot.  He's running a serious campaign.  He also doesn't seem to have been sniffing around for an NDP nomination in the city where that would be the thing to do if you just want to get elected.  He seems to have soured on a Kenney party he might have otherwise run for over the social issues hubbub which happens to be the one point on which I think the UCP may be unfairly perceived, but I'll nonetheless endorse him, not least because I've spent most of this post arguing that personal character matters and however much the riding's incumbent may be a nice guy with reasonable policy preferences (for an NDP man), we could use an upgrade and I think Jeff Walters will deliver it.  I haven't met Mr Walters so will grant that I'm just guessing to an extent but I do think that for the first time ever this is the provincial election for me look past a party with "conservative" (or "Wildrose") in the name and to the party with Alberta in the name.