Posts Tagged ‘Wild Rose party’

That wasn’t fear, that was rejection — Some thoughts about language

April 24, 2012

If we want a new model of politics and democracy in Alberta, we need to start by changing our language.

1. My friend Paul McLaughlin is quoted in a CBC story, which read: —
“‘Fear won out over anger,’ Paul McLoughlin, who writes the Alberta Scan newsletter, told the CBC radio show Calgary Eyeopener Tuesday morning, referring to “bozo eruptions” from two Wildrose candidates as well as Smith’s waffling on the reasons for climate change.”

Respectfully, I disagree. It seems to me that Alberta’s self-confidence won out over anger. As soon as the WRP emerged as the prospective alternative to the P.C.s, many Albertans decided they simply wouldn’t wear the mantle of a Wild Rose government for four years — given that it was presenting itself as “firewall favouring”, “ready to go it alone”, “climate change denying”, unconcerned about human rights… In fact, none of these trigger phrases may be fair comment about the Wild Rose Party, but they came up, often from within the Party itself, and the party didn’t (or couldn’t) make things right. Given that the campaign wrapped up offering a choice between punishing the Tories or asserting self-confidence about themselves and the future, Albertans chose to assert self-confidence.

There is a world of difference between saying that Monday’s election was dominated by fear and recognizing that it was dominated by a determination to avoid the chains of smallness, isolation, incivility, and victimization.

At the same time, 1,000s of Albertans are angry, and the anger has only been suspended. The new Tory government has work to do.

2. Let’s do ourselves — and Premier Redford — a favour. Let’s not refer to our government as the “Redford government”. Let’s promote the idea that we elected a team of M.L.A.s, and that every member of the team is responsible for what happens in the next 4 years, and will be held accountable. Let’s encourage every M.L.A. to have the courage to speak the truth they know. Let’s encourage Premier Redford to move away from the recent history of Paramount Leaders and — with her colleague M.L.A.s — into the arena of servant leadership.

3. The Globe and Mail quotes Ms. Smith as saying, “Ms. Redford won her (P.C.) leadership on the basis of getting Liberal and N.D.P. supporters to vote for her at the leadership, and clearly she did the same thing tonight (April 23rd).”

Respectfully, all party membership is infinitesimally small. Ms. Redford would not have won the P.C. leadership if every single card carrying member of every “left” party — but no one else — had joined the P.C.s to vote for her. If Ms. Smith meant that Ms. Redford had the support of 1,000s of Albertans who are sympathetic to social justice, economic opportunity, inclusion and optimism about Alberta’s future, then Ms. Smith is probably right in her assertion. But the way she phrased it leaves the impression that she was trying to use party labels to demonize “wrong-minded Albertans”, the same Albertans whose support she will want to encourage in the next 4 years.

The additional problem is that the Wild Rose Party cannot look strong, self-confident and committed to democracy when it is simultaneously blaming others for a defeat engineered by a conspiracy. The Wild Rose Party is not a victim.

4. Rejection, in politics, need not be permanent, and it need not be negative. Some of our most important lessons are learned from failure, especially when we change our ways.

Certainly, there are many politicians who know that acceptance is often not very long-lasting, and Tories should know that it doesn’t mean approval. To say that the Wild Rose Party was substantially rejected on April 23rd doesn’t marginalize them, or their work or their prospects. All parties must seek to understand the election results and use them as a springboard to more demonstrable respect for all voters, and more powerful engagement with voters.

Years from now the 2012 election in Alberta will be remembered as the watershed election. Moving on, we need to change our language to express our greater hope, our higher expectations, and our commitment to engage, together.

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Election Day, Plus 1 — why I am a democrat

April 24, 2012

The Alberta provincial general election of 2012 is history.

Congratulations to Premier Redford and her kitchen cabinet — the group of men and women who developed the plan, and maintained the self-confidence and also the faith in Albertans to persevere when the going got tough.

Thanks, also, to every candidate — of every party — for putting his or her name forward, including the candidates whose views of Alberta are dramatically different from mine. My thanks to their families, and the supporters who advanced their cause.

Because of issues like conscience rights, this was a campaign in which voters could see that different candidates and parties had different perspectives about Alberta, different values, different approaches to the political process, and different visions of Alberta’s potential. The myth that Alberta is “right wing” appears to have been thoroughly rejected, so that the Progressive Conservative Party can govern from the centre.

That is not to say that the 1,000s of Albertans who voted for the WRP can or should be marginalized. Premier Redford knows that most of these votes were not ideologically driven, even though the voters gathered under the banner of ideology. Her job now — and her colleagues’ job — is to acknowledge the genuine hurt and feelings of disrespect that drove many Albertans to the WRP, and show respect — draw these Albertans back into the exciting flow of the mainstream.

The election results give Premier Redford a clear mandate that could be described as pragmatic, centrist, and hopeful, perhaps even imaginative.

It appears that, for this election, Albertans decided their crucial choice was between being judgmental (punishing the Tories for scandalous abuses) or being prospective (affirming the vision of the future that optimized the province’s potential). I interpret the election results to indicate Albertans chose the future.

Every election offers voters the opportunity to focus on one or two things. I had hoped that this election would focus on the old way of doing politics. I hoped that Albertans would vote, in large numbers, for candidates who were committed to a new way of doing politics. It seems to me that Albertans decided, in their wisdom, that the idea of turning away from the old way of doing politics was an idea not quite ready for prime-time. Or perhaps Albertans were ready for new ways of doing politics but decided it was more urgent to spike the guns of ideologues. The election results were not what I expected. I choose to hope that time will show positive outcomes.

So, we are reminded of something that was obvious before yesterday. Thousands of Albertans are angry about the scandalous behaviour of the Tory party in the not too distant past. (This, rather than ideology, explains many of the now opposition seats.) To-day, Premier Redford is Premier for these angry Albertans, as well as for all others. She has a moral as well as a political obligation to address their anger and assure them they are respected. The political story of the next four years will turn largely on this issue.

We also know three things we didn’t know yesterday.

1. Premier Redford has a fresh and clear mandate, to be pragmatic, centrist, and hopeful, perhaps even imaginative.
2. Alberta has turned its back on the myth of being “right wing” and isolationist, and is ready — like in football — to play a wide open game up the middle of the field.
3. The public has engaged in this campaign in ways unseen in Alberta since 1935. The engagement will not abate — it will grow — so the momentum for new ways of doing politics is picking up. (On this point, the election results are deceptive.) Parties like the Alberta Party and the Evergreen Party need to continue promoting an alternate and more healthy way of doing politics. They need to continue experimenting and risking as they do so. They need to continue making a path for fellow Albertans, including M.L.A.s in other parties who want to practice new ways of doing politics. They need to operate with an ‘open source’ commitment to sharing everything they learn and know. They need courage, and they need to be encouraged.

Congratulations Premier Redford. It was quite an election. It provides opportunity and energy for Alberta to grow and for democracy to grow in Alberta.

What happens post-election — Part II

April 9, 2012

The upcoming Alberta provincial general election offers voters a choice of perspectives on the province’s political course for the future. Each perspective can be measured by a few linear standards, including:
• selfish-ness – community (with an emphasis on economics, or government activity, or social justice);
• adversarial and demonizing politics (power is a zero sum game) – collaborative politics (power grows as it is shared) — this is sometimes characterized as exclusive – inclusive politics;
• ideology – aspiration and evidence-based decision-making;
• fear – hope;
• government as necessary evil – government as servant leader;
• maintenance of the status quo (last out of the past) – exploratory (first into the future).

The election itself is still two weeks away, and two weeks is an eternity in the course of a campaign.

What voters need to bear in mind is that who is elected in each constituency is far less important at 10:00 p.m. on election night than it is 6 months or 2years later.

In a party dominated system, the purpose of an election campaign is, first and foremost, to hold incumbents (individuals and parties) accountable. If the electorate does not have the courage to hold people and parties accountable for what they have said and done (or not said and done), then the incumbents will not respect the voters. It’s that simple.

The second purpose of an election is to endorse a vision of the future — provided the vision is matched by a commitment to principled means. (Otherwise, politicians will operate on the basis that the end justifies the means, which makes for very bad government.)

Citizens get mediocre government — or worse — when they go past legitimate accountability and become emotionally bent on punishing a party, or when they vote for “the lesser of two evils”, out of fear

Some Albertans talk of voting Tory to prevent the Wild Rose party from forming a government. This is likened to other Albertans voting Wild Rose to prevent the Tories from forming a government. They are said to be mirror image positions, but they are not. Agree with the party or not, the Wild Rose has had three years to develop what they want to do if they form the government. The energy may have been negative initially, but there is a huge infusion of positive energy. An 11th hour rush to the Tory party, in a desperate bid to prevent the Wild Rose party from forming the government, will represent nothing but negative energy; it will likely fail; and it will play into the culture of confrontation and ‘we-they’ politics. In the event the Tories are re-elected on the basis of blocking Wild Rose success, they will likely not understand or acknowledge the reason for the victory; they will continue to worry about the right wing and continue edging right in a thoughtless way; they will not have increased respect for the electorate; and, their sense of entitlement will only be further entrenched.

Whether it is a minority government that lasts 18 – 24 months, or a majority government that lasts 4 – 5 years, what Alberta desperately needs is a dramatic change of the tired, toxic, and outmoded political culture. And change is coming. Albertans have let the genie of change out of the bottle. In the next 2 – 4 years, and thereafter, M.L.A.s, the media, civic organizations and the general public will engage politically in very different ways, and to very different effect. No provincial government is going to get the free ride from Albertans in the next four years that we have given them for the last 20 years.

What centrist and thoughtful Albertans need to do, what Albertans who care about community and democracy need to do, is have a little conversation with themselves before voting, along these lines.

“I reject corruption, arrogance, and entitlement. I reject extremism and ideology. I reject confrontation and intimation. I reject nostalgia for the past.

“I want to be proud of my M.L.A. in 2 years. I want an M.L.A., whether on the government or alternative (opposition) side, who LISTENS before speaking, someone who is promoting:
• community and justice for all;
• a new collaborative way of doing politics;
• creative ideas, and evidence-based decision-making;
• hope;
• government (and M.L.A.s) as servant leaders;
• exploration of new opportunities for our province and our people.”

Such candidates will be hard to find among the old-line parties, because, like the Tories, the other parties are completely immersed in the game, and have some sense of entitlement (like revenue sharing in hockey) even though they always finish out of the play-offs. “Hard to find” is not “impossible to find”. There are candidates in every party who are committed to a new way of doing politics. Such candidates are more likely to be found in the new parties, the ones with no long history of playing the old game. Such candidates are more likely to be found with parties that have no experience with paid committee work, or government funding for constituency offices, or the old boys’ network.

Albertans are seeking to decide wisely, without certain knowledge of the future. Self-confidence and courage are required — to vote for the future we prefer, rather than against the future we fear.