Evolution or Revolution

One of my favorite sayings the burden of proof for the opposition is nil.  I don’t know who coined it and don’t really care.  It’s a sentence that runs through my mind like a scrolling ad in a dingy pizza joint.

Being a political watcher in Alberta makes me now understand that if your party is too new to even be called ‘opposition’, you don’t even need to burden yourself with reality.  This is especially the case when most of your party’s activity consists of tweeting, blogging and occasionally meeting.  Then tweeting and blogging on overdrive to make it seem like you have just signed up the province and are ready to govern.

The reality is that Alberta’s political climate is changing and social media is having an impact.  There are now two new parties to either side of the Progressive Conservatives and they each want to lead this province.  Alberta politics is more dynamic than it has been in years and the Alberta PC Party is paying attention.

As an active member of the Alberta PC Party, this political change is making me notice a few things.  I would like to share these observations with you.  Warning – there are those of you, mostly from the new parties I will be discussing, that don’t want to have intelligent conversations about politics online but simply mudsling – do yourself a favor and stop reading now.  I don’t need, and I’m not welcoming, your insults or online heckling.  You and I do not agree about politics – let’s talk about it rationally and agree to disagree.  If I irritate you, just move on – Karma will love you for it.

I digress …

The interesting thing about being an Alberta PC these days is that people within the Party feel increasingly free to speak their minds, engage with each other and talk openly about how the Party can function better.  I have been involved for several years now and feel more empowered than ever before.  Upon much deliberation, I have concluded that this is because the size of our big tent has shrunk a little and without internal forces stretching the limits of the tent from the inside, the tent can stand more firmly than ever before.

But I’m not writing to convince anyone to come back to the PC Party – I sincerely hope that those who so passionately hated being a PC member for the past unknown number of years enjoy their new home.  It probably fits better with your political views and makes you feel like your views are shared by others.  It feels good to know other people think the same things as you.  I wish you well my friends and hope you find fulfillment.

I’m impressed with how well the two new parties have found their political niches – they have both done a very good job differentiating themselves from the PC Party – something the Alberta Liberal Party has always struggled with.  On one side are fiscal and social conservatives mixed with libertarians, while the other side consists of disenfranchised liberals, New Democrats and PCs, with an underlying Green Party organizational feel or ‘movement’.

Over the past couple of weeks, these differentiations have stood out for me, and have strongly reaffirmed my decision to stay with the Alberta PC Party. I’ve been thinking about what I’ve been seeing happen on Twitter the past weeks and it’s time for me to share those ideas – maybe a series of blogs will follow with more specific ideas.

The debate about the distracted driving legislation really turns me off of the new party on the right.  What I call alarmist attitudes of the libertarians was actually shocking to the point of funny to me (I have a pretty twisted sense of humor).  But the reality is that texting and reading articles on your phone or tweeting while driving is a very dangerous activity.  I am confident that most Albertans know how dangerous this activity is and understand the reasoning and need for the legislation.

The Party on the right opposed this piece of legislation purely because of ideology – they have a core group of people to satisfy and their protest and grandstanding had zero to do with the safety of Albertans or the right thing to do, and everything to do with ideological positioning.  As an opposition party, this is pretty typical behavior and as I said earlier, the burden of proof for the opposition is nil, so they are relatively free to put on a show … And that’s to be expected.

But what would this party do if it were the government?  Would they be able to not respond to a problem because of their ideological stance that it’s not government’s business to respond?  In my opinion, it’s not possible to be the government and also think there is no or almost no role for government.  Somewhere down the line, these concepts would clash and the new party on the right would have to make a choice.  Their grassroots would not like the choice they would inevitably make – I’m sure of it.

I won’t even get into the social conservative side of the new party on the right, as these factions of the party are the party’s most limiting factor (a blog could be written on that alone).

There is also a new political entity on the other side of the PC Party.  Since they aren’t ‘official opposition’ with seats in the House, they don’t even have to concern themselves with reality yet.  In fact, last weekend they had their policy conference and their 100 plus participants ‘progressed’ from a group that wanted to impact Alberta political discourse, to a party that can run 20-40 candidates in the next election to a government in waiting.  The online transformation was revolutionary – one delegate’s twitter bio even said that she is a teacher and perhaps the next Minister of Education.  WOW.  Where do I get me some of that?

These people are great at creating excitement!  They use different language than the other parties and move with concepts that sound great and are easy to get behind.  But many of the people behind the organization of this party have been around Alberta politics for a while, and they have used different language to advance the same green party message before.

While I don’t believe there is anything wrong with environmental concern and regulation, I have a serious problem with people who exaggerate and sensationalize environmental issues for personal and political gain; especially when these campaigns are misinformed or outright deceitful.

I am not going into details in this blog about who these people are and what they have been involved with in the past.  You can quickly search the names and pasts of the some of the organizers to figure it out.  But I will suggest that some of these activities are very strongly against Alberta’s interests.  I certainly hope these people really want to be as engaging and productive as they claim, and they are not using the new party on the left to advance their hard core environmental agendas.  For now, I only ask my readers to pay attention to this and to notice the similarities between the new party on the left and the now extinct Alberta Green Party.

These are my observations about politics today.  While the two new parties in Alberta offer very different things and are quite distinct from the PC Party, they share one thing in common – the people within them want a revolution.  They want to destabilize Alberta politics to wedge themselves in.

Ironically, the PC Party is stronger and more stable without them.  Those of us who have stayed put are freer than ever to engage, share, agree and disagree.  And we will be moving forward together as we embark on the most comprehensive consultation in the Party’s history.  We want to hear from you – no matter what your political stripe.  We believe this party needs evolution – not revolution – and we want you to help us.

I’m not the government; I’m not a Party nominee; I’m just a PC living in YYC giving my opinions.  I look forward to hearing yours.


5 thoughts on “Evolution or Revolution

  1. A good synopsis of the political evolution underway. I had always hoped that the new media would lead to a renaissance, if you will, of letter writing, of communication (read ‘two way’ exchange).

    You identify the uses (or misuses) of these new devices and media for the mudslinging, the insults. I also note with sadness the anonymous and venomous comments that are allowed by newspapers in their online editions. Few are constructive and meaningful. Most are written in the negative with personal attacks on people and organizations and, indeed, detract from any facts or truth that may be illustrated in the accompanying story with the participants merely trading snipes and attacks.

    I fear that this will continue to spill into the political arena, permanently staining the democratic process, one where you will not be correct 100% of the time and one where your opponent will have a good idea that all should embrace.

    I will continue to look forward to the posts by you and Christina. Thank you for your efforts.

  2. What an interesting read! Interesting take on things.
    I am not a supporter of PCA, Liberals, or either of the two new parties you mention, but was very interested in your analysis.

    Anyone who has noticed MLA Raj Sherman certainly has to agree with your comments about PCA members feeling more free to speak their minds. I never thought I would see that!

    Your analogy about the smaller, stronger tent was fascinating. I agree your tent is smaller. I would have thought that would have made it more difficult for those inside to speak freely. But that was a great analogy that gives pause for thought.

    As for people being opposed to safety and claiming that testing and driving is fine – well, enough said.

    A couple things I do disagree with – I don’t think it is correct to say the Liberals have never differentiated themselves from the PC. I believe they have for at least the last ten years. They haven’t convinced Albertans that they are competent, but that is a different question.

    I am also not convinced that the Alberta party is to the left of the PC. They certainly want to seem to be, and like new age talk, but I haven’t been able to see how they really are.

    And I agree that the new media allows a lot of anonymous mudslinging. The way to combat it is to ignore it. Concentrate on having rationale discussion and debate. Have more blogs like this – even though the authors are in my opinion, dead wrong on their
    politics, they are intelligent and even if attacked, don’t stoop to the mudslinging insults.
    Now if only we could get them to see the wisdom of social democracy. 🙂

  3. Peter: great read! Our political system, like our legal system is set up to be adversarial. We are held to a much higher standard than the opposition AND rightly so! Albertans have entrusted their futures to us and it’s a responsibility we must take very seriously. Having said that, it is very frustrating when there doesn’t seem to be any level of accountability for the other side(s). I try to follow Premier Stelmach’s lead and take the high road. Not always easy but I think it works for us!

    Still looking foward to C’s next profile! You guys are awesome and we are extremely fortunate to have members as engaged as you!

  4. I’m a new reader of your blog and absolutely love this piece. Keep up the great discourse Peter! You force all to think critically. SG

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