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I love the word Apologetics. When I first went to Bible College, and first started delving into the study of theology, I found the word to be somewhat of a mystery. Why did I have to spend an entire semester apologizing for Christianity? So I was somewhat relieved when I found out that Apologetics was the defense or proof of Christianity. Yeah, I know, that clears it right up. Well, this is not about the defense of or proof of Christianity. I will leave that to people with far more patience than I have.
The theory behind Apologetics is as applicable to politics as it is to Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or virtually any other system requiring ideals or beliefs in order to follow. Canadians tend to enjoy titles when describing their political affiliations. “Hi, my name is Fred, and I am a Libertarian.” “I’m Kathy and I am a social conservative,” “I’m Dale, and I am a left-leaning, fiscally conservative, gun-loving Libertarian.” So, the defense of any of these positions would be apologetics.
What does this have to do with what I want to write about? Nothing really. Everything really. With an election looming, and two political parties effectively leaderless, more than a few politically minded Albertans are about to find themselves having to answer the question, “Why should I vote for, join, or support a party without a leader. We don’t even know what you stand for anymore. The Liberals will have no problem answering this question. The Wildrosers, on the other hand, may have a more difficult time of it.
The media has, forever, made the Wildrose Party and its supporters out to be so many things no one can define a Wildroser. Danielle Smith and the Traitorous Nine have used falsehoods and lies in attempts to excuse their total disregard for democracy and Albertans.
So, are Wildrosers Social Conservative nutcases? Are Wildrosers social Libertarians? Are Wildrosers fiscally conservative? The answer to these questions is “yes”. In no other party can you find such an eclectic group of social, fiscal and political beliefs. The one trait all Wildrosers I know share is a belief in fiscally conservative government values. Many of the social issues that people hold dear are, get this, not under the jurisdiction of the provincial government. They are federally legislated. Many people get it in their head that the social conservatives in the Wildrose party would push the party to legislate on issue ‘x’. The media gets hold of it and the next thing you know, the Wildrose is going to legislate on issue ‘x’. If people would stop, think, and research, they would find that most of these “scary” issues are federal issues and a Wildrose Government couldn’t legislate on them, even if they wanted to. Gay Marriage. Abortion. One thing both of these debates have in common is they are federal issues, not provincial. So my opinion on these is irrelevant on a provincial scale.
Imagine our chagrin when Danielle Smith and crew decided to part ways with the party, and decided to blame the whole fiasco on social conservatives and issues that aren’t even under the mandate of the provincial government. The whole mess can be blamed entirely on Danielle Smith and crew. That’s where it belongs. That is where it will rest. The job of a leader is to bring her party together. Danielle Smith went out of her way to tear her party apart. There is no need to get into trying to figure out what her nefarious plan was, or what her end game was supposed to be. Let’s just say, if the break up was caused by those of us with some beliefs that don’t even fall under the purview of provincial legislators, why would she attempt to direct the Executive Committee to have a meeting of the party and follow she and her crew to the Progressive Conservatives? Wouldn’t that just put all those nasty people, whose issues are legislated at the federal level, right there in the same party as she and her lapdogs? So, along with Gordon Dirks, Ian Donovan, and the other social conservatives in the PCAA, the former Wildrose Socons would be right there, making her life miserable daily.
Here’s the thing. For every item we don’t agree on, Wildrosers tend to agree on many other things. We want smaller government. We want to end government waste. We want to fix health care by removing the superboard and returning the administration of healthcare to the local level. We want to cut government spending on big ticket items that simply aren’t needed. We don’t see a need to build a new museum simply because the old one requires renovations. Why spend upwards of $300M to build a new museum and still go ahead with the 1/4 of $1M renovation of the old one. Do MLA’s of the governing party really require an entire office building, complete with chandeliers and marble floors? What on earth for? These are wants. Wants are things you purchase when you have EXTRA cash. Alberta doesn’t currently have EXTRA cash, do we?
So, Danielle almost got her wish. The Wildrose Party was almost decimated. Fortunately, after shaking our heads, casting blame all over the place for our demise, we have sat down and started the healing process. Some decisions, made in haste, are having to be fixed. The biggest complaint, and it has been going for a while, is that the Executive Committee and the Leadership has been ignoring the memberships, or the grassroots. Of course it was happening. It stemmed from the so-called leader’s need to control every minute of every day. It stemmed from her narcissistic desire to be everything to everyone. What she failed to realize is, in politics, you can’t be everything to everyone. You will end up screwing someone in favour of another. In her narcissistic little dreamworld, when she was pacifying the minority, the majority wouldn’t notice. Politics is like mathematics. Everything has to balance. When you take something away from one side of an equation you have to add it to the other side of the equation, and vice versa. Danielle either never learned this, or she forgot it out of convenience.
With Danielle controlling everything through her two or three lapdogs, the EC became the tool of the leader to bypass the grassroots members. Out of this came an entirely new culture. In this new culture, the EC got used to ignoring the pesky members. It became “how it was to be done.” Danielle saw the writing on the wall. People who were grumbling in private were starting to grumble openly. The grassroots wanted her head on a platter. It was all falling apart around her. We wanted our party back, and we were taking steps to get it. She wisely rescinded her offer of standing for a leadership review. She would have been unemployed. I think, many of the people openly supporting her would have said goodbye to her on a secret ballot. Either way, she felt cornered, thus the crossing.
When she left, the EC was stuck. Danielle and one or two others had been running everything. The members started making noise, demanding the President be laid to rest. The EC used a loophole in the constitution to do a swap. With the V.P. of Fundraising swapping places with the President, there was a partial optics win. Unfortunately, the EC seems to be lost in the vacuum of control. They had been taking their cues from the leader, not the members. Now they were taking their cues from themselves and a few who were used to the top down operation of the past couple of years.
Over the past couple of months the EC has been facing challenges, both public and private, from the membership. Accusations, some based in fact, others based in tinfoil hat theories, but all polarizing, have been cast in both directions. But in the last week, something has happened. Believe it or not, I have Jim Prentice to thank for it.
With the threat of an illegal election looming over the province, we have had to ask ourselves some questions. Are we ready for an election? Can we go into an election without a full time leader in play. Heather Forsyth is an awesome lady. She is a veteran of Alberta Politics, but her husband is ill, and Heather is tired. She can lead us through an election, but is not seeking re-election to the legislature. Does this add to public confidence in the party? No. So what are the options? First: We can go through the election and elect a leader from the pool of very few MLAs who may be elected to represent a leaderless, sinking party. Or Second: We can hold our leadership race and vote over a compressed amount of time, but go into the election with a leader and a much stronger party.
Enter Rob Anders, MP, CPC. The fight, mostly in private, between the membership who wanted Mr. Anders to run, the EC who didn’t want anything to do with him, the leader who didn’t want anything to do with him, and those who will follow the EC or Leader out of loyalty all screaming at each other. The EC stuck to their guns and, right or wrong made the decision to deny Mr. Anders access to the race. I can guess at their reasons for not wanting him to run. The excuse of not having a membership six months in advance is lame, but that is the excuse that was given to the media, the membership, and I am sure Mr. Anders. The real reasons are known, but not publicized, and perhaps, were they public, there would be less being made of the whole fiasco. So the grassroots scream some more.
But back to Mr. Prentice. How does the premier of Alberta, the leader of the PCAA help fix the Wildrose Party? There is something to be said for community. When someone threatens my community, I do what I can to stop them. Mr. Prentice is threatening the fiscal well being of Alberta, and Albertans. Mr. Prentice, by threatening to call an illegal election, threatens the very existence of the Wildrose Party. Enter common sense.
Suddenly, the EC is open to discussion with the members. They know they need to own their mistakes. They know fixing some of them is going to require a lot of work in a short time… Et Voila. There are four credible, acceptable candidates for leader of the party: Former Strathcona Mayor, Linda Osinchuk, Current Wildrose MLA, Drew Barnes, Former head of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Derek Fildebrant, and former Member of Parliament for Fort McMurray – Athabasca, CPC, Brian Jean.
There is nothing like an election; by-election, general election, leadership election to bring a party together. Past issues, while not forgotten, are easily put aside, albeit temporarily, in order to get the business of an election going. At this particular juncture this is going to be two-fold with a leadership vote, followed very closely by an illegal general election. Suddenly, people are communicating. The EC is discussing with the members and working out solutions to problems. Members who wouldn’t give the EC the time of day are actually reading the constitution and helping work within it to get this race going.
It has only been a few days, but progress is being made. The EC is moving up the leadership vote date in order for us to have a leader going into the election. Of course there are those among the grassroots membership who question the need to do this. They have very good reasons to question it. There are the majority of the grassroots membership who agree this needs to be done. Then there are those who say, “Had they made the right decision back in December they wouldn’t have to be back tracking now.” This is a stale argument as, what’s done is done. They realized a mistake, primarily the mistake of believing the lies of the current Premier when he said he will honour Alberta’s election laws. I have had discussions with the EC president. Now, I am not a political genius, but I do think I know people, a little. I have told him that sometimes there is a lot to be said for owning your mistakes. Sometimes, as painful as it may be, it is sometimes good to throw caution to the wind and explain your decisions.
So how does the EC deal with the situation when asked how the members can possibly vote for a leader without having the million dollar tour and debates, townhalls, and more debates. Enter TECHNOLOGY. I sent the president a message on my way home from the Calgary Member Assembly, at which the vast majority of members agreed it is necessary to move up the leadership vote, stating we need to introduce the leader candidates to the grassroots members. We should have a webcast debate. He thought this was a good idea. I offered to help make it happen. Plans are coming together, and it will happen very shortly. In making arrangements for tech for the debates, it was suggested by the tech rep that a good plan would be regional phone in town hall meetings. I took that to the President as well. Guess what? That is happening.
Fast tracking anything as important as electing a leader to a political party has its inherent risks. Instead of saying can’t, or won’t, people in the party are coming together and saying make it happen. This is the attitude we need going into an election. More importantly, it is the attitude we need to work for the people of Alberta.
The most important thing I have noticed is, the party is starting to once again act and sound like it did in 2012. People are getting excited. People are coming together with a common goal, winning seats in the legislature and helping to build Alberta back up into the great province it once was. We have new direction. We have new fuel for the fire, and most importantly we will have clearer messaging than ever before. The Wildrose Party is about helping Albertans. It is about representing the needs of everyone in the legislature. It is not about attacking every move the government makes, but about influencing those moves. We have told the EC, and the strategists have told the EC, sending the PC’s a message is not our goal. Ensuring the government hears the message of Albertans is our goal.
So, to Danielle Smith and Jim Prentice, many thanks for putting the Wildrose in a position where, having hit rock bottom we can rise up, regroup and come out better than we were before. Thank you for cleaning house for us. Thank you for continuing down the PCAA road of ignoring laws and ignoring the reality that you affect the lives of real Albertans. Thank you for giving us the kick in the ass we needed to wake up, stand up, and get to work for the people of Alberta. The Wildrose Party is alive and well. Democracy has not been destroyed in Alberta.
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