Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Democracy mocked in Alberta

Chris Davis, Editorial

Their principles plummeted in sync with oil prices.  They touted democracy and accountability in a constant and unrelenting barrage of speeches, platform statements, and press releases.  Then, at almost exactly the moment that things started to get a little tough, a rarity in this province,  the exact moment when Alberta needed strong hands on the tiller and an effective opposition,  they bailed on their supporters, on their cause, on their responsibilities to their constituents.

I am of course talking about the Wildrose 9, those that most recently deserted their supporters and constituents in one of the ugliest displays of political manoeuvering in the history of this country.

Congratulations, PC party, you've won, Alberta will stay as far right as possible.

At least Pierre Trudeau meant it when he gave the west the finger all those years ago.  At least his actual opinion was clear. We knew where he stood. What can we know about people who betray everyone who supported them at the first sign of danger?  How can we deduce which words dripping so eloquently from their tongues and pens are truly meant and which ones are just meant to gull us?  I now assume everything Danielle Smith ever said was lies designed not to serve her constituents and "fellow Albertans" but were instead designed to serve one person: Danielle Smith. It's all fuddle duddle.  Don't ever "fellow Albertan" me again.  My Alberta is a representative democracy.  These aren't leaders and representatives, they're leeches on the spirit of democracy and on the efforts and pocketbooks of the very people who worked so very hard to get them elected in the first place.  There's a moral and financial debt there that none of the unprincipled 9 will ever be able to pay back, and I don't expect them to even try, or even acknowledge what is a clear fact to so many of us, the powerless pawns in their games.  It's not democracy when the electorate can't vote for someone who espouses their principles and then follows through on them with forthright fortitude.

These are unprincipled people, playing a cynical and unprincipled game.

Meanwhile, the Sunmedia spin doctors are revving up their engines again.  After the Calgary and Edmonton Suns almost guaranteed a Wildrose win in the last election even as the votes were being counted, now we get lines/lies like this one from Sunmedia/QMI pundit Fred Rinne: "When Alison Redford pulled off Stelmach 2.0, stunning the Tory establishment by becoming the first woman premier of the province, the foundation was poured for a new fiscally and socially right-leaning alternative with a strong base in the south. An assortment of disgruntled Tories banded together and Wildrose was born."  Well no, actually, Fred.  The Wildrose Party was founded in 2007. The Wildrose Alliance party ran in the 2008 election.  Redford became PC party leader in 2011 and Premier in 2012.  Wikipedia can be your friend, Fred.  Not too many people saw that coming, Fred, certainly not the Wildrose Alliance party of 2008.   If you're going to comment on politics as a knowing journalist, you've got to get those facts straight.  Are you lying to make the PC story better, or do you not actually know what's happened in Alberta politics in the last decade, Mr. Rinne?  Rinne adds another fallacious "fact" to his dissertation, saying "Redford’s odd decisions and ignominious departure must have felt like added insult to injury for Smith et al."  Gee, to almost everybody else in the province it seemed pretty obvious that knocking off Redford was a WIN for Smith et al, not an injury.  The Wildrose certainly worked very hard to make it happen, with Smith as the ringleader.  Tell us this lie over and over again for a year or so and maybe we'll start to believe it, but our memories are still sharp on this one and you just sound like a shill, Mr. Rinne, particularly when you follow that choice deviation from reality with this conclusion: "Bottom line: If Wildrose could not win then, they could never win."  

Given QMI/Sunmedia's dismal predictive abilities as demonstrated in the last election, an election their newspapers desperately tried to influence with a daily inundation of clearly biased punditry, and given the obvious fallaciousness of at least two of the quotes above, bring plenty of salt to take with their prognostications.  The Wildrose as it stood DID have a chance to at the very least take more seats in the next election.  Their leader betraying them in a deal that was apparently in the works for a long time has quite possibly destroyed that chance, but only an election determines what the electorate thinks. Rinne knows though, his column ends with this profound statement: "It is safe to say the rest of Canada should get used to the idea Alberta will have a Conservative government for many years to come."  He's probably right, but definitely not certainly right. Out here in the heart of conservative Alberta the electorate is as angry as I've ever seen us.  Conservatives have good reason to fear.  Their power base, built on big oil and big business, has taken a serious shock.  The longer oil prices remain this low the faster the emperor's old clothes will disappear.

Click here for Rinne's opinion piece.  It differs a great deal from this one.

For the record, the Pincher Creek Voice as an entity doesn't endorse any candidate in any election, as a rule that I believe is essential to our role as observers.   This situation has compelled me to step over the line and express my own point of view, so there you have it.  It might cost us some advertising, I suppose, but in actual fact we don't rely upon Government of Alberta advertising dollars to stay in business.  If we did, we wouldn't be in business.  To be clear, Livingstone Macleod MLA Pat Stier does order ads from us from time to time, ads for his constituency office that are paid for by the government.  Stier is indeed one of the remaining Wildrose MLAs.  However, he buys advertising from us while knowing that my personal political opinions are not necessarily his. I might be inclined to argue against some of his politics, primarily as a citizen and not as an editor, but I've to date never had any reason to question his integrity.  Thanks for that, Pat.  It means everything to the continued existence of the democracy concept.

I asked for feedback about this event in the coffee shops and on our Facebook page.  Not one person spoke in favour of the Wildrose defections.  "Fascinating - what people will do for power," said Janet Barkwith, a comment heard in many variations in the days that followed.  Cornell Van Ryk, a regular contributor to discussion in these pages, said "It's going to be very interesting to see the scope of the payoff...cabinet positions, no challenge for the PC nomination etc. I usually don't have a lot of good to say about Pat Stier but in this instance it would seem he has taken the higher road."

Pat Stier's assistant Rachel Miller commented on the effect it was having to the people behind the scenes, and the effect it was having on the democratic process  "As I watched what is being called 'the biggest betrayal' in Canadian political history unfold today, I had many thoughts and feelings," she said.  "By the end of the day, all I could think of were the people. The people who spent hours volunteering, donating their time, money and energy. Giving their hearts and souls to a cause they believed in, for a change they hoped to be part of. An effective opposition was formed and they worked even harder. To know that tonight, thousands of people sit devastated by the defection of nine Official Opposition Wildrose MLA's to the party they campaigned against, is heartbreaking. Many have lost their jobs, their organization and their leaders. But worst of all, they have lost faith in the democratic system. It was taken from them. One of their most fundamental rights, their vote, was thrown away, like garbage. It was an unforgettable day. It was an unforgivable decision."


What's next for Alberta?  My guess is less infrastructure maintenance and improvements, less healthcare, less care for our seniors, less help for our disadvantaged, less attention to the educational needs of our young during a time of great change when it is most needed.  MLA salaries and privileges aren't going to drop with the rest of the economy.  There will be no strong opposition, unless you vote for one next chance you get, and the excesses of those in power will no longer be questioned and exposed.  It turns out that Danielle Smith and her band of oath breakers only did that for their own gain anyway, not for the people they were supported by or elected to represent.  The Alberta advantage is, at least temporarily, gone.

2014 Danielle Smith Christmas greeting

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