Politics in Alberta has taken an exciting turn for the better. The turn didn’t happen on Saturday, October 1st, when the P.C. Party chose a new Leader – and I congratulate Alison Redford on her campaign.
The change began much earlier, but yesterday’s election was a happy confirmation that the turn is substantially complete.
The majority of Albertans have confirmed themselves as centrists, pragmatists, and uncomfortable with ideological positions and ‘the cult of leadership”. Arguably, the particular conservative mindset represented by the Wild Rose Party has been relegated to marginal status.
The decision Albertans made through the P.C. process follows similar decisions Albertans made, within the past 5 months, through the Liberal and Alberta Party processes. All these parties have followed through on the initiative demonstrated by the Reboot Alberta events, the Democratic Renewal Project, and Renew Alberta.
It may be true that the P.C. Party was dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century, but they did allow themselves to be dragged. And 75,000 Albertans – most of whom are not P.C. Party stalwarts – were prepared to drag them into the 21st century. Clearly, Albertans want the next election to be fought in the centre of the political spectrum, not on the left or right fringe.
I wouldn’t minimize the significance of Ms. Redford’s victory, not in the least, but she has accomplished the easiest of three tasks she set herself this spring.
Next, she must dramatically change the culture of the Party she leads. She must change the value system, and the characteristics of the organization. Many of the people occupying many of the positions within the party must be changed. Yet the incumbents are entrenched, convinced that the old way of doing things is the best way of doing things, and determined not to lose their grip on “power”. Today and tomorrow, although Ms. Redford is the Leader, these people retain considerable capacity to slow her, stop her, distract her, or derail her.
At the same time, she must be a leader of leaders, so she must encourage many people who have been passive and submissive followers to become leaders with her. She must encourage, and accept, moral strength from colleagues, when more than 20 years of experience has promoted acquiescence to the decision of the paramount leader. She must persuade people who have viewed leadership as privilege to start understanding it as service.
Her challenge is compounded by the fact that, at the moment, she has a very small and shallow pool of talent to fish in. Although this is not the sole determinant of election timing, her current caucus is not a hotbed of enthusiasm, imagination, energy, or conviction about the emerging political realities. She needs a new caucus.
This leads into the 3rd challenge, to win the next election.
Ms. Redford — with the help of many Albertans who are not P.C.s — has dragged the P.C. Party to the hall where the next dance will be held – the centrist hall. It is not yet clear that the Party will learn the new dances or behave in keeping with the expectations of everyone else in the hall. But at least they are moving in the direction of the popular hall: they are not insisting that anyone who wants to dance must come to their decrepit hall, where obsolete and unpopular music has been the staple.
The next election will be interesting because Ms. Redford wants it to be fought in the centre. She is trying to bring the P.C. Party to turf that the Party will share with current occupants – especially the Alberta Party, the Liberal Party, and others. Her victory provides an important validation for what the Alberta Party and others have been saying and doing. Her victory is an acknowledgement that these parties should not be going to the turf currently/formerly occupied by the P.C. Party.
In other words, her victory both confirms the initiative of the Alberta Party and makes the work of the Alberta Party more challenging. Albertans should welcome both outcomes.