Thursday, April 19, 2012

Dear Alberta PCs: Welcome to life as a Liberal

Dear Progressive Conservatives,

First off, congrats on the 40 years in power. It was a good run and, speaking on behalf of the Alberta Liberal Party, I'd like to think we played a small role in making it possible.

But the latest polls show Danielle Smith and her band of lovable homophobes poised for power - some polls even have PC support dipping below 30%, into "Liberal territory". It looks like the party's over, and if Alberta's history is any indication, once you lose power, you never get it back.

So as someone who spent many years fighting for the Alberta Liberal Party, I thought I'd offer a few tips to help facilitate your transition to irrelevance.

1. Blame the Media: I can't tell you how many times I've heard Liberals complain that "we would have won, if only the media had covered our education platform". Yes, it's not in any way productive to trash the media, but it's something you can bond over with other activists, and it's healthier than blaming voters.

You've already got a good start on this - I've seen lots of tweets from PC members complaining about Danielle Smith's free ride this campaign. One Facebook post dismissed a ThinkHQ poll as "Wildrose propaganda", even though the company is run by Dave Bronconnier's former chief of staff.

2. Blame the electoral map: Repeat after me - "why does rural Alberta get so many seats?". Seriously, whose idea was that?

3. Forget the Past: I know there will be a temptation to look back longingly at the glory years. Maybe you'll even try to convince a nephew of Ed Stelmach's to run for leader one day, to try to reclaim the magic of the 70-seat Stelmachian era. But I've told enough Alexander Rutherford stories on the door steps to know voters don't give a damn about the past.

4. Accept the Messiah: Back in 2001, a drunk Ralph Klein berated the homeless in Calgary, and the voters shrugged. He threw a book at a 12 year old girl, berated AISH recipients, got busted plagiarizing an essay, and told ranchers to "shoot, shovel, and shut up" next time they saw a case of mad cow disease - each time, voters shrugged. It used to drive me crazy, but after a decade, I came to accept it.

The sooner you accept that Danielle Smith is infallible, the less likely you'll be to develop high blood pressure.

5. Learn to Love Opposition: Rejoice! The days of having to defend no-meet committees, controversial appointments, and spending boondoggles are over. I know you found it awkward explaining why Ron Stevens billed taxpayers for a 3-day "stopover" in Hawaii, as part of his fact finding trip to Australia to "study" their gambling system. Luckily, the days of PCs doing anything on the government dime are gone.

Yes, there will still be MLAs to embarrass you. But the good news is there will be far, far fewer of them.

On the other side, it's a lot more fun to criticize than to be criticized. You don't think vegans in the Annex don't secretly love complaining about Rob Ford? Righteous indignation is a drink that can make you forget about landslide election defeats, and given Danielle's Smith platform and caucus, she will be serving you up the ingredients for this drink every day.

6. Become an Idealist: I know a lot of PC members are only members because the PCs are in power. They won't be members for long.

Once they're gone, you'll have the freedom to advocate for policies you believe in. You think the Alberta Liberals are proposing carbon taxes and tax hikes to get elected? Of course not. Trust me - you'll feel a lot better having the door slammed in your face when you say something you believe in, than having the door slammed in your face because of a scandal involving an idiot Cabinet Minister you've never met.

7. Embrace the Novelty: It will take a few years, but before long you'll find yourself at a party in Ontario and someone will exclaim "boy, a PC supporter in Alberta - that must be tough!". I know you'll be tempted to argue or educate them - "actually, we won 8 seats last election and were in power back in 2011". But don't do it! Take it from me, no one cares that the Liberals hold seats in Calgary or that the party routinely gets 25% of the vote.

Instead, play up the stereotype - talk about the 3 person riding association meetings, or the time the 90 year old grandma in rural Alberta chased you off her porch hurling f-bombs your way. It's what your audience wants to hear. Call yourself an "endangered species" and claim you joined the PCs as "an act of youthful rebellion" - you'll be the hit of every party.

Heck, even a benign blog title like "Calgary PC" will be eye catching and mysterious before long.

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  • I've been reading your blog for at least eight years. This is your greatest post ever! Loved it.

    By Blogger FaithFader, at 11:30 AM  

  • Brilliant, brilliant post.

    By Anonymous Sean Cummings, at 11:58 AM  

  • ^ Ditto - this is a worthy epitaph for the Alberta PC dynasty.

    By Anonymous hosertohoosier, at 11:58 AM  

  • I loved it too.

    I think my favourite question is "Why does rural Alberta get so many seats?" As an Alberta Liberal for more than 30 years, I've often wondered that very same thing.

    Overall, great advice for my PC colleagues.

    By Blogger CuJoYYC, at 12:23 PM  

  • I have to agree with FaithFader, this IS your greatest and funniest post ever. Well done, Dan!

    By Blogger hatrock, at 12:33 PM  

  • I am not quite sure why so many Liberals are watching this Alberta election so closely.

    They can't win nor does anybody care what they think.

    Has it to to with the new perception that the PC's become the new "moderate" center?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:36 PM  

  • Anon - I'm watching because it's a fun election to watch.

    I'm not a Flyers or a Pens fan, but I can't deny their series hasn't been entertaining.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 4:17 PM  

  • Are people really that confused about why "rural" Alberta gets so many seats?

    It's because early in the Getty or Klein years(I forget which), the Tories redrew the riding boundaries and gerrymandered it so that, on the outskirts of the larger cities, urban voters would be balanced by the surrounding rural area's voters. This was done in order to minimize the likelihood that the Tories would lose all the urban ridings.

    With the major centres expanding, I'm not sure that this tactic continues to hold sway, but you can check the riding maps to see if it is. Also, check to see how many purely "rural" ridings there are; I'm betting not too many. So what we have are urban ridings, rural ridings, and "rurban" ridings.

    By Blogger Party of One, at 4:50 PM  

  • And thanks all for the comments - I must admit I did enjoy writing this one up. Glad to see all those years of losing in Alberta finally count for something!

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 9:54 PM  

  • You forgot a couple more:

    - Start pushing hard for proportional representation. You're gonna really want it.... now.

    Oh, and that love-fest all of a sudden, for strategic voting? was an awfully cute move towards pragmatism in Alberta politics. (Woulda been more successful, though, if you'd done it like for the right parties (NDP/LIB/AB/EVERGREENS)!)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:01 AM  

  • Oh yeah - forgot about the push for PR. True enough.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 5:28 PM  

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