Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Democracy and defection along the road to a possible dictatorship?

Rob Bernshaw

Well folks it seems there is never a dull moment on the Alberta political scene these days. It is now a brand new year of 2015 and in the closing days of 2014 the political landscape of Alberta and Canada was shaken to it’s democratic foundations. In the latter part of December 2014 there was an unprecedented floor crossing of 9 former Wildrose (WR) MLA’s led by Danielle Smith, that on the face of it does not know how to keep her word to the Alberta taxpayer and people that supported her with heart, soul and massive financial support. There was also the double floor crossing MLA Rob Anderson that may or may not have the expected support in the next provincial election that he is hoping for or expects. They both led this mass exodus of lemming MLAs to a side of the house that they abhorred for many years with their constant opposition and holding feet to the fire.

Many people are okay with floor crossings as it is the democratic right here in Canada but there are many that also believe that instead of floor crossings the people that want to abandon their party no matter what stripe it is, should resign and a By-Election be held immediately to fill the MLA deficient void. There are others that would probably be ok with any MLA’s contemplating floor crossing sit as independents instead of joining a party that for years former Official Opposition MLA’s were decrying entitlement and mismangement of our precious tax dollars. To say all is well here in Alberta and abandon their principles and integrity to jump ship and join the entitled side of the Tory dominated side of the house seems wrong on all levels. To become what one has so vociferously decried reminds one of a song by Aaron Tippin, You’ve Got To Stand For Something. If one cannot stand for something than they will fall for anything and endeavor to take others with them.

Since calling a by-Election is not the case at this point in time Albertans of all stripes have to put up with a system that seems at times lacking in a fair and equitable resolution for people feeling double crossed and betrayed.

Over 440,000 Albertans and especially rural Albertans voted for and had faith in a party that looked like it was the most effective Official Opposition in Alberta’s Political history. They were let down and kicked hard in the teeth on Wednesday December 17th 2014 when the following nine did a despicable act of abandoning a party that for years have held the Alberta Tories feet to the fire:
  • Danielle Smith (Highwood). 
  • Rob Anderson (Airdrie).(double crossing) 
  • Gary Bikman (Cardston-Taber-Warner) 
  • Rod Fox. (Lacombe-Ponoka) 
  • Jason Hale.(Strathmore-Brooks) 
  • Bruce McAllister (Chestermere-Rocky View) 
  • Blake Pedersen (Medicine Hat) 
  • Bruce Rowe (Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills) 
  • Jeff Wilson (Calgary-Shaw). 
Let us be perfectly clear here there are probably many people that feel the above nine were not wrong in their decision and that is perfectly fine in our current democratic system. Within our current democratic society people have the rights and privileges to do what they want within reason and within the limits and boundaries of said societal norms. But when people step on others on their way to the golden ring, like these seemingly 9 upright Albertans that crossed have done, is where people need to draw a line in the sand call it what it is, a despicable act of deception and hypocrisy. Young staffers(with families and also children on the way that will arrive shortly in early part of 2015)that helped support these despicable acting 9 were stepped on and kicked to the curb at a time when there should be celebration with family friends and loved ones. There was a cloudfunding website set up to collect donations for the young staffers that were left behind by 9 people with thoughts only of themselves in this unprecedented floor crossing.


$20,430 was raised in fifteen days by 172 people. An impressive amount (initial goal $20,000) raised for staffers that are not in the limelight and helped these democratically challenged individuals over the years and now their careers are dashed by people only thinking of themselves. This cloudfunding shows that people do care and are there at the grassroots level to help out their neighbors and friends in a dire time of need.


If the nine recent floor crossers were thinking more of the people supporting them and employed by them, they would have also thought more about the repercussions of their despicable act of hypocritical cowardice and probably would not have crossed in the first place. Especially they would not have crossed to the entitled Tory side of the house and a party they had held their feet to the fire for many years now as an effective Official Opposition. With their recent despicable acts one may want to call the recent 9 floor crossers the despicable nine but that is up to individual preferences and choices.

Let us remember that there were also 5 courageous individuals that stayed the course for their constituents(whether they voted for the Wildrose or not).With integrity and character are showing Albertans and Canadians that there are people with the fortitude and courage to truly represent and be the politician that all people whether openly or secretively are hoping for. We could call them the courageous 5 MLA’s that are now the representatives of the Wildrose Party here in Alberta. 5 MLA’s that now form the Wildrose caucus are still there for the people that they represent. Now people that have supported with their hearts, souls and financially can look ahead to a bright light at the end of a recent tunnel of seemingly dark days for a true representation that these MLA’s were elected for in the first place to be.

These 5 courageous individuals that should be applauded for holding true to the people that they represent and staying the course they set out upon and standing for something bigger than themselves are:
  • Heather Forsyth (Calgary-Fish Creek(now interim leader). 
  • Shayne Saskiw (Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills) 
  • Rick Strankman  (Drumheller-Stettler) 
  • Drew Barnes(Cypress-Medicine Hat) 
  • Pat Stier (Livingstone-Macleod) 
The following excerpt is as pertinent today as it was yesterday and is taken from "The Opposition in a Parliamentary System" prepared by Gerald Schmitz, Political and Social Affairs Division, December 1988

I submit, therefore, that you do not have full political democracy, let alone the economic as well as political democracy for which my party stands, unless you include along with the ingredients that are taken for granted, such as universal suffrage, the secret ballot and majority rule, a full and unquestioned recognition of the rights and functions of the opposition to the government of the day. Only in this way can you protect the rights of minorities; only in this way can you make sure that the force of public opinion will be brought to bear on the legislative process, and we are indeed fortunate in Canada to have inherited from the United Kingdom a parliamentary system of government, the genius of which is the responsibility of the government to a parliament in which the rights of those who support the government and likewise the rights of those who oppose it are clearly recognized. - Stanley Knowles, "The Role of the Opposition in Parliament," Address to the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto, 21 March 1957.
If Parliament is to be preserved as a living institution His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition must fearlessly perform its functions. When it properly discharges them the preservation of our freedom is assured. The reading of history proves that freedom always dies when criticism ends. It upholds and maintains the rights of minorities against majorities. It must be vigilant against oppression and unjust invasions by the Cabinet of the rights of the people. It should supervise all expenditures and prevent over-expenditure by exposing to the light of public opinion wasteful expenditures or worse. It finds fault; it suggests amendments; it asks questions and elicits information; it arouses, educates and molds public opinion by voice and vote. It must scrutinize every action by the government and in doing so prevents the short-cuts through democratic procedure that governments like to make. - Hon. John G. Diefenbaker, "The Role of the Opposition in Parliament," Address to the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto, 27 October 1949.

The Hon. Lester B. Pearson, Mr. Diefenbaker’s successor as Prime Minister, and frequent victim of the latter’s parliamentary skills, was moved to add a few choice words of his own about the adversarial nature of the House of Commons:

In national politics during the years when I was in the government, I watched the Opposition perform their duty vigorously and industriously, with courage and determination. They rightly insisted on their right to oppose, attack and criticize, to engage in that cut and thrust of debate, so often and so strongly recommended by those concerned with the vigour and health of Parliament and the health of democracy. I cannot forbear to add, however, that the application of this procedure has, in the past, been occasionally resented by those who are cut and thrust at.


Now one may ask what is the correlation between Democracy, Defection and Dictatorship? Now what was done recently to the Alberta taxpayer and voter should give one pause for reflection. Without an effective opposition where does that road lead to. Does it lead to better democratic processes or does it lead to a road one has fought against with freedom loving lives sacrificed for the greater good here and abroad along the road to Dictatorship or possible Dictatorship? 

Fortunately the recent defections will not totally bring us to a total Dictatorship rule because there are still parties in the Alberta Legislature that could potentially oppose what the current Alberta Tories are doing here in their long term entitled rule of the Alberta taxpayer and voter. What truly holds governments of the day accountable and their feet to the fire so that our democratic freedoms are assured and minorities properly represented is a true effective Opposition Party recognized by the Speaker of the Alberta Legislature. Effective and constant Official Opposition is the tool needed in our democratic society we currently are living in. With the Wildrose Party being the most effective Official Opposition Party to grace the political scene in as many years the Speaker of the House recently announced that the five courageous Wildrose MLA's staying the course on the opposition side of the house(Heather Forsyth (interim leader) Shayne Saskiw, Rick Strankman, Drew Barnes and Pat Stier) due to incumbency will still retain the title of her Majesty's Loyal Official Opposition status.

On Tuesday December 23, 2014 Speaker Gene Zwozdesky announced that the Wildrose Party would still hold the title of official opposition in Alberta's legislature.

“Based on a thorough review of authorities and precedents across Canada, I have determined that incumbency is the key factor in the case of a tie and that the Wildrose caucus shall continue as the Official Opposition,”  - Speaker Gene Zwozdesky, Source:

Remember folks without an effective and Official Opposition in any part of the democratic process than the possibility of holding a government to account to avoid that road to Dictatorship where one party rules with an iron fist with no opposition whatsoever will be a distinct possibility. History is full of such events taking place the most recent is the Second World War where many people sacrificed their lives for us to have the democracies and freedoms we enjoy today. We as a society need Official Opposition Parties along with all opposition parties and people willing to step up to the plate to help protect us from that possibility of a dictatorships ever happening here in Canada. So I say let us all applaud the courageous 5 WR MLA’s for sticking to their guns and standing up for what they were elected into office in the first place for. They were elected into office is to represent all of us(whether one voted for them or not) here in Alberta against possible ramming through of legislation that could be detrimental to the regular Albertan by a current long term majority ruling Tory government. Opposition parties of all stripes need to stand united against all possibilities of entitlement and arrogance that seems to exist in the over 43 year Tory regime.

The excuses not reasons of the recent floor crossings will not help us the Alberta taxpayer as now the 9 floor crossing MLA’s are perceived as part of the problem not part of the solution.

Here is wishing for 2015 to be a Happy Healthy and Prosperous year for all Albertans and Canadians alike that truly cherish the democratic freedoms that so many people have sacrificed for us to enjoy today. With an effective Official Opposition along with other opposition voices to help hold governments of the day accountable so that we will still enjoy those democratic freedoms for 2015 and many years to come. Happy New Year 2015 everyone reading this in Pincher Creek Alberta and around the world may your year be bright and hopeful in everything you do.

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