The Alberta Liberal Party has sent an open letter, inviting progressives to a meeting about cooperation. As a member of the Board of the Alberta Party, I received a copy directly. (A copy of the letter is available, here.)
As someone who believes in dialogue as the basis of democracy, I welcome this signal of ‘willingness to talk’ from the Alberta Liberal Party. At the same time, the letter frames a prospective conversation that doesn’t interest me very much. Perhaps the Liberals would be open to some reframing.
First, let me describe my personal dream for democracy in the province. I work so that, as a community, Alberta will come much closer to realizing its potential than it has done to date, and do this in a way that makes it possible and more likely that all Albertans will be able to come closer to realizing their own personal and community potential than they have done to date. Across the province as a whole, I want to reduce the environmental load, improve the quality of life for all our citizens, improve the prospects for justice, and create a community that is a model for the world.
The realization of this kind of dream depends upon strong strategy on a number of different fronts, only one of which is political. I want to improve the prospect that all Albertans will be participants in democratic decision-making — where and when they want to — and that public participation and public policy will be inclusive, collegial (honest, open, and cooperative), creative and progressive, and sustainable.
1. My political efforts are geared toward turning away from the long-standing adversarial/confrontational/exclusive culture. I am not focused on “unseating the Conservatives”, as the ALP letter suggests should be the focus. I am not interested in competing against the Conservatives, or combining with others in a competition against the Conservatives. What I am interested in doing is collaborating with as many Albertans as are interested, to understand what we want for our future, and make it happen.
My idea of success is that the next election will not be characterized as a competition among parties that want the “fruits of victory”: it will be characterized as a collaboration among Albertans who are clear about what they want and are determined to choose the servants most likely to achieve success.
2. In moving away from the now toxic culture of adversarial politics, inclusiveness and openness are two standards we must adopt and champion. I believe the day has past that party operatives could sit down in a room and pretend to decide the fate of the progressive movement in the province. There are many important progressive voices that are found in, or represented by, the Alberta Liberal Party, or the New Democratic Party, or the Green Party, or the Alberta Party. How might an open invitation include these many other vital progressive voices?
3. I feel confident that David Swann and Tony Sansotta are acting in good faith when they sent the letter. At the same time, the vote at the ALP Annual General Meeting (about outreach) was almost evenly split, and some very public comments were made suggesting that any outreach by the ALP would be defeatist. If David and Tony, speaking for the ALP caucus and Board respectively, can assure me that the caucus as a whole and the Board as a whole are ready to put party interests second to public interest (yet to be determined), such assurance would be an important element of reframing their initial invitation.
I welcome the letter as an indication that the Alberta Liberal Party simply can’t “go it alone”, no matter they are going. The day has come, I believe, that no party can bring voters to it: the party must go to the people. I welcome the letter as an indication that Alberta’s Liberals recognize they must move toward others, because others are not moving toward them.
I look forward to working with all Albertans to build a progressive alternative, and I hope that most Albertans will agree all our work contributes to that, whether we work inside one party or another, or as individual citizens, or as members of important social institutions. When David and I talk, and we will, I hope the conversation will be about how to make this province great — not about how to unseat the Conservatives.