Unite the Right – Goodnight!
The political landscape in Canada has had its share of mergers over the years. Some of them with great results, some with good results, and some with disastrous results. Probably the the most memorable merger was that of the Reform Party of Canada and the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. Neither right of centre party could defeat the federal Liberal Party, so the two merged, became the Conservative Party of Canada and elected probably the greatest political leader of our generation, Stephen Harper. In 2006 the Conservative Party of Canada formed its first majority government.
Provincially there has been no more successful merger than that of the Progressive Conservative and Liberal Parties in Saskatchewan, into the Saskatchewan Party. The party, formed in order to defeat the ruling New Democratic Party, failed, despite gaining seats, to completely decimate the NDP. Why? The answer is simple. The NDP used, as it always does, false declarations of the Saskatchewan Party’s hidden agendas. In 2007, under the leadership of Brad Wall, the Saskatchewan party defeated the NDP 58 to 38 to form the first right of centre government in Saskatchewan since 1991. How? Wall is a moderate who knew the party would never form government so long as its base was primarily made up of rural rednecks. By taking on certain social issues, including more treatment facilities for meth addicts, Wall started to add urban voters to the party’s base. Suddenly the Saskatchewan Party wasn’t just the party of the redneck rural constituencies.
So what gives in Alberta? With these success stories, why is everyone so wishy washy on uniting the right? I’ll tell you why. Egos!! Branding!! Perceived Ideologies!!
Both of the right of centre parties in Alberta, The Wildrose Party and the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta suffer from branding issues. Due to Danielle Smith’s failure to take on the Allan Hunsperger debacle head on, the Wildrose Party was branded the redneck social conservative threat of destruction of the world. Thanks to the antics of Alison Redford, the PCAA is branded as untrustworthy and entitled. To add to Albertan’s mistrust of the two parties, the floor crossing debacle dreamt up by Preston Manning, certain Wildrose Party MLA’s, and then Premier Jim Prentice served to solidify people’s belief that politicians are all liars, elitist, and entitled.
Political pundits suggested Wildrose lost their early polling lead over the Progressive Conservatives due to Smith’s defence of two Wildrose candidates who had made controversial remarks. Allan Hunsperger, running in an Edmonton riding, had written a blog post claiming that gays would end up in a “lake of fire” if they did not renounce their lifestyle. Ron Leech had claimed he would have a leg up on the competition in his Calgary riding because he was white. According to the National Post, Hunsperger and Leech’s extreme views, as well as Smith’s refusal to condemn them, cost her a chance of unseating Redford. Ultimately, Wildrose was denied victory mainly because it was unable to get any foothold in the urban areas. It won only two seats in Calgary and was completely shut out in Edmonton (though Smith’s riding is on Calgary’s southern boundary). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danielle_Smith
Add to these issues the fact that the likes of the Scumiest Scumbag (maybe the second scumiest, we’ll see) in Alberta Politics, Stephen Carter, created the “negative myths” around Wildrose Candidates, that landed the Scumiest Politician in Alberta Politics in the premier’s chair, politics is seen as nothing but dirty. Sadly, Albertans don’t seem to read much after elections. Carter was running around telling everyone and their brother that Redford won based on his lies, yet no one read it. So they go on believing the FALLACY that the Wildrose is a racist, bigoted party, full of cross burning rednecks. This, regardless of the fact social conservatives make up a small minority of Wildrose members while libertarians and social progressives make up the vast majority of the membership.
Now consider that the PCAA put up a declared Trudeau Liberal as a candidate in the Calgary-Greenway by-election to replace the late MLA, Manmeet Bhullar. Even after the telling Tweets of Prabhdeep Gill surfaced, thus proving his extreme left bent, the PCAA stuck by him and he ended up winning the seat. On top of that, PCAA MLA Sandra Jansen is proving the party has not learned its lessons. She seems to think it is the place of a sitting MLA to meddle in party business, dictating that certain ELECTED board members should not hold their positions. Why? Because the board member has right-wing social beliefs. So much for the big tent party. So much for democracy. So much for inclusiveness. So much for being progressive or conservative.
There are huge egos in all political parties. No one wants to go to their membership and suggest the best course of action, for the people of Alberta, is for two parties to merge. Brian Jean has a senior advisor the PCAA will never accept. Brian Jean, having been told again and again that this advisor is toxic, refuses to remove him. The PCAA has members and board members who are as, if not more toxic. They will not remove them. The PCAA still has any number of powerful members who were apologists of Alison Redford, and drank from the trough of entitlement right beside her.
No one is going to let bygones be bygones. The current interim leader of the PCAA is not able to run for leader of the party. The current leader of the Wildrose Party will not be happy with being replaced as leader of a merged, or new right of centre party. Egos are going to hold back the process.
In the case of the Wildrose Party, the perceived ideology of redneck bigots has not been defeated. Danielle Smith added to the MYTH when she used, as her excuse for attempting to decimate the party, the fact that the membership voted down her anti-descrimination resolution at the 2014 general meeting. The myth was that we voted against equality for all Albertans when, what we actually voted against was a poorly worded resolution that would NOT guarantee equality of all Albertans. Current leadership has not spent five minutes dispelling this myth. They seem to think if they say nothing people will eventually forget. they simplistically state, “Wildrose will not legislate social issues.” Are they kidding themselves? Do they think Albertans are stupid? They will most certainly legislate on social issues. That is what government does. What Albertans want to know is will they protect ALL Albertans when legislating?
In the case of the PCAA, nobody knows what their ideology is. They run the spectrum from highly verbalized social conservatives to extremely open leftwing liberals.
At least with the NDP, Albertans know what they are getting. With the “conservative” parties they aren’t sure. Historic behaviours, or lack thereof make it easy for them to say, “we just don’t trust them.” The problem is, the egos in leadership positions haven’t done or said anything to fix this. Out of sight out of mind won’t work. Albertans need to know what these parties believe.
Hardly spoken of in Alberta politics are two other parties, the Alberta Liberal Party, and the Alberta Party.
The Alberta Liberals have their fair share of ultra-leftwing, opportunists, who would be quite at home in the NDP. Fortunately, they were mostly un-elected in the last election.
The Alberta Party, on the other hand, was founded by fiscal conservatives who happened to also be social libertarians and progressives. Not all progressives can be considered bad, or detrimental to social conservatives. For instance, many progressives understand there are people who are, and always will be social conservatives. In accepting this they believe that human rights belong to ALL ALBERTANS. While they accept that minorities need to be treated equally, they also accept that in treating them equally, they cannot force social conservatives to accept or be forced to agree with all ideologies.
Since, by their very nature, Progressive Conservatives are, for the most part, fiscal conservatives and social progressives, and the vast majority of Wildrose members identify as fiscal conservatives and social libertarians, they would fit quite nicely with the founding members of the Alberta Party.
Granted, there are members of the Alberta Party who are all or nothing social progressives. If they aren’t willing to bend, and the social conservatives among the PCAA and Wildrose aren’t willing to bend, they should be left behind. The Liberal Party can either come along or, as it is currently experiencing, be left behind.
Saskatchewan has proven that an alliance of centre-left and centre-right parties is the sure fire way to defeat the far left NDP. Alberta should follow their example. Brad Wall proved that being a moderate is the best way to win urban centres. The key to success is a knowledgeable leader with the backbone to ditch the chaff that is holding them back.
I do not believe the leader of either “conservative” party is fit to lead an alliance of parties against the NDP. Both leaders come with too much baggage. Baggage of their own making, and perhaps of the making of previous party leaders to whom they were loyal. For the good of Albertans, these leaders need to get us to the table, figure out a strategy to defeat the NDP in 2019, and then step back, get rid of the old guard, including advisors whose past and current mistakes are compounding, and pass the torch to a new MODERATE leader who will lead a new, rebranded party. Without Edmonton and Calgary, no party is going to make government.
Carter did a great job of creating a myth the Wildrose will never live down. The deceitfulness of Alison Redford and Jim Prentice destroyed any trust Albertans put in the PCAA. So long as these parties are being led by, or advised by those who worked for Smith, Prentice, or Redford, the stains will not be washed away.
An alliance of the centre-right and centre-left would go a long way to prove to Albertans there is a non-redneck solution to the disease known as the NDP.
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