Alberta’s Democracy is Broken
By the very definition democracy in Alberta is broken. In a democracy every citizen has a voice. Every citizen’s voice needs to be heard. Government does not direct the citizenry, the citizenry directs the government. Unfortunately, our multiparty system, with each party having differing principles and different special interests to which they are beholden, the average Joe is no longer in charge.
Things become much more clouded and confused when each party, or players within each party wish to be all things to all people in order to gain power. Unfortunately, the net result of this is the person or persons attempting to play on both sides of the street end up getting run over by the cars.
Political parties have principles. For the most part these differ, either minutely or intensely. When a leader decides they no longer share the principles of the party and they start espousing principles contrary to the party, whether to gain power, or in an attempt to subvert the party, they are heading down a slippery slope. One of two things is going to happen. The leader is going to lose their mind in the quagmire they are creating, or they are going to get turfed from the party. Either way, it isn’t going to end well for the leader, the party, or the electorate.
This is precisely what we are facing in Alberta now. It was apparent Danielle Smith was attempting to alienate a group within the Wildrose Party. She and others were maneuvering in a manner designed to silence or remove the social conservatives within the party. She and others decided to play a political game by attempting to subvert the principles of the membership and the party. The gamble backfired. Those who would see us become all things to all people found out those who aren’t interested in gaining power that way have more support within the party.
It became readily apparent to the rogues that we had figured out their game and we were not going to budge. Rather than do what a principled person would do, they chose to defect from the party before the party, or most likely the electorate would eject them. If the latter occurred they would be left unemployed on election day.
What this group did is make a mockery of democracy. In some cases the electorate voted for the people rather than the party. That’s fine. For the most part, Albertans voted for the party, not the people running for office. The defections left the electorate wondering why they even bother voting if those they vote for can simply move over to the party they didn’t want to vote for. While we are fighting against voter apathy in this province, these people have contributed to it in so many ways. Voter apathy, in a province where the government of the day would be re-elected by promising to legislate extra mayonnaise on all tuna sandwiches, leads to just what the ruling party desires, 4 more years.
Those who voted for Alberta’s strongest ever official opposition will now be wondering why they bothered. They are certainly less likely to vote for that party again. After all, they can’t trust the MLA’s to stay put and fight for them. When the going gets tough, the tough join the government.
In the case of the Wildrose Party, Danielle Smith was 100% certain of the principles and beliefs of the entire Wildrose Party. Yes, there were Libertarians. Yes, there were fiscally conservative Libertarians. There were Fiscally Conservative, social liberals, and of course there were the fiscally conservative social conservatives. Danielle was completely aware of the makeup of the party when she chose to run for its leadership. She made a classic mistake. She underestimated the membership of the party. She thought she could bully the party into becoming the “everything to everyone” party. By dictating policies during the election, she made end runs around the membership. By attempting to force resolutions on the party she created an environment she couldn’t live with. So, rather than come to the party, state her issues, and resign, she chose to cross the floor to the governing PCAA, leaving the party in a shambles, and basically telling those who voted for her to follow or buzz off. Unfortunately, in several interviews following the defection, Danielle ensured many of us would not join the PCAA. I wonder how Premier Prentice felt when she blamed social conservatives for her inability to do the job she was hired to do. At the same time she guaranteed those same conservatives would never support a party that would have her as a member.
In order to fix the situation in Alberta, it is going to be necessary for all political parties to examine their core principles. They need to ensure these principles are acceptable to the majority of the members, and be prepared to stick to them. Albertans do not accept wishy-washy. Albertans expect their representatives to represent them based upon the principles on which they were elected. Smart Albertans understand that it is virtually impossible to find a political party that represents their principles 100%. I don’t think any intelligent member of any party expects the party will bend 100% to their will. This would be an unreasonable expectation. The membership has an obligation to support the principles and policies they can, and accept the fact they won’t always get their way. If there are more principles they cannot accept than there are of those they can accept, their option is to suck it up or leave the party. It is that simple.
It is immoral of a leader to accept the position of leader if their hope is to force change on a party. They may lead in a direction of change, but when they fail they have a choice: 1) accept the will of the membership or, 2) step down as leader. Regardless, they have a moral obligation to the people who voted for them to, at the very least, meet with them, discuss the situation and inform them of their decision to step down, continue to lead, or sit as an independent in the house. This snubbing the electorate does a disservice to the members who supported them. It is a huge slap in the face to the people who voted for them in a general election. Furthermore, it does massive damage to the entire concept of democracy in the Province. Each party now has to deal with an electorate that will become complacent out of disappointment. The number one question being asked by voters now is, “Why bother?” The only winner in this situation is the governing entitled.
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