This rant is aimed at a rather small audience – those who belong(ed) to or believe(d) in the Alberta Party. If this does not describe you, thanks anyway for dropping by and come back to this site in a few days when we’ll be talking about something else. If this does describe you, please read on.
The Alberta Legislature is back in session and the Alberta Party, shut out in the election, is not part of it.
This Saturday, the Alberta Party is throwing an event it calls The Big Thank You at the Holiday Inn Express in downtown Edmonton. The idea is to acknowledge all the party’s candidates, volunteers, and supporters for their efforts in the election campaign, celebrate the party’s performance in the election and talk about how to build towards electoral success in four years’ time.I have another commitment that’s taking me to Seattle, so I cannot be there. It’s probably just as well.
From what I’m hearing through the grapevine, the organizers want this shindig to be sunshine and lollipops, rainbows and puppies. And from the agenda, it appears there will be at least a little time set aside to talk about what worked and what didn’t in the election campaign.
That’s fine as far as it goes, I guess. But most importantly, we need a good, honest, adult conversation about whether there is a place or a purpose for the Alberta Party in Alison Redford’s Alberta.
Don’t get me wrong. I like the positive attitude reflected in the Alberta Party’s forward-looking values. It’s just that the Alberta Party’s values are now the Redford PC Government’s values. They stand for everything we stand for – and they’re in power. Who needs us?
This is not the same world the Alberta Party was born into. Ed Stelmach and his crew are gone, and with them went much of the alienation with the political status quo that nurtured Reboot Alberta, Renew Alberta and the Alberta Party in their formative days.
Worse for the Alberta Party, the PCs replaced Stelmach with Alison Redford – who would have made an ideal Alberta Party member. The voters will continue to see her as a moderate progressive unless or until she proves them wrong, and she has taken over the space the Alberta Party sought to occupy.
So the Alberta Party has a big decision to make:
Should we “fold the tent”, or can we find a way to differentiate ourselves from the PCs?
There are compelling arguments for “folding the tent” as a political entity, and the party executive needs to allow the membership to have full and free debate about this and all other options. With the PCs now occupying the middle, there may not be a market for us. Even if there is a market for the Alberta Party, we lack the hands-on political experience and expertise to convince moderate voters, volunteers and donors to leave the PCs and back us. Nor do we have a presence in the legislature to use as a platform on which to build.
However, we count among our members some of the most creative and innovative thinkers involved in any part of politics today. It could be argued that our most useful contribution to Albertans, Canadians, and progressive-minded people generally might be to reconstitute ourselves as a moderate-progressive think tank. Our purpose? To build a philosophical foundation for a new liberalism equivalent to the work the Right did in reinventing itself and reframing the debate after Goldwater and before Reagan and Thatcher.
On the other hand, there is good reason to continue as a political party if the Alberta Party can differentiate itself from the PCs. We will have to somehow figure out a way to do that without abandoning our values – to convince the voters that we offer a similar product that’s easier to use, nimbler, better at getting the same job done. In short, we would have to convince Albertans that Alison Redford is a PC…and we’re a Mac.
Can we do it? I don’t know. It’s a tall order, just as it was for Apple.
But again, it deserves a full and free discussion by the membership without any parameters being imposed by the party executive.