Friday, April 20, 2012

How I'd Vote

Far be it for me to tell anyone in Alberta how to vote. I don't live in the province anymore, and my biases are right there for you to see in this website url. I'm a Liberal, and voting Liberal is almost a reflex by this point.

At the same time, I fully expect my old riding to be a hotly contested PC-Wildrose showdown at the Southcentre Mall. If the Wildrose Party has a list of targeted ridings, I suspect mine is somewhere between 40th to 50th on the list, so it could very well be the one that swings the balance or gives Danielle Smith her majority. Liberals are pragmatic creatures by nature, so I can't ignore the wild elephant in the room.

If the vote had been held a month ago, this post might actually have ended up sounding like a quasi-Wildrose endorsement. For reasons I'll get to shortly, Alberta desperately needs a change of government, and I viewed the Wildrosers as nothing more than a slightly less experienced and slightly less corrupt version of the PCs. So why not?After all, Danielle Smith is a very impressive politician - the "Alberta Sarah Palin" meme is completely unfair to this woman who is articulate, thoughtful, and intelligent.

However, any secret longing for a Wildrose victory has quickly dissipated over the course of this campaign. Rather than presenting a creative long term plan for Alberta, Smith has attacked Redford for not loving Alberta, resorted to vote-buying gimmicks, and abandoned the notion of even pretending her math ads up. More troubling is her refusal to repudiate overtly homophobic and racist comments from her candidates. That says all I need to know about Danielle Smith's values and her ability to represent all Albertans.

So I guess that means I'm in the "Liberals for Redford" camp, eh? I will say that Alison Redford is likely the closest thing to a Liberal Premier Alberta will ever get, but that's simply not enough. While we've all been quick to criticize the words of Smith's candidates, the actions of the PCs have been equally unsettling. As Paula Simmons brilliantly recounted this week, the PCs legislated against gay marriage and spent a decade refusing to add protection for gay Albertans to Alberta‚Äôs human rights legislation, despite a Supreme Court of Canada ruling requiring them to do so. They quietly supported Ted Morton's private members bill on conscience rights, and loudly passed Bill 44 which "protected" children from ever having to hear about homosexuality in school.

Of course, the argument you hear is that was the past and this is not your father's PC Party. Even though Alison Redford was Justice Minister when Bill 44 came into law, she is rightly seen as being "red" in more than just name. The thing is, if we're going to judge Danielle Smith by the company she keeps, surely we need to apply the same rule to Redford. Ted Morton is on record supporting pretty much everything Redford has accused the Wildrose of secretly plotting, and he's not just some fringe candidate, but is Redford's Minister of Energy. Despite attacking Danielle Smith for leading a party of "old white men", Redford's Cabinet is 85% male and 95% white.

The PCs have been drifting aimlessly for years, spending more than any other government in Canada without any semblance of a long term plan. Given Alberta's wealth, there's no reason the province shouldn't have the best hospitals, schools, and infrastructure in the world. Instead, we have high tuition rates, long wait times, an inquiry into the Health Care system, and accusations of doctor bullying. By Redford's own admission, Ralph Klein's cuts hurt Albertans and created a massive infrastructure backlog.

Sure, much of this is ancient history, but if you can't judge a 41 year old government on its record, what can you judge them on?

Ever since Redford's surprise ascension to the throne, the PCs have looked every bit like an arrogant empire, just waiting to get swept aside. In February, they were worried they'd win too many seats. We've already seen broken promises from Redford on a judicial Health Care inquiry and campaign donor disclosure. This lack of transparency shouldn't be surprising, given an access to information study recently ranked Alberta the least transparent province in Canada, and placed it behind beacons of democracy Niger and Angola internationally.

Then there's the saga of the money for nothing committee. When it surfaced that MLAs were receiving $1,000 a month to sit on a committee which hadn't met in 4 years, Redford accused opposition members who returned the cash of "grandstanding"...then ordered PC MLAs to return 12% of their pay after a poll showed the public up in arms. One week into the election campaign, she finally ordered them to pay back the full amount, though there's no indication they will. The incident shouldn't instill voters with confidence the PCs have turned over a new leaf.

I'd be willing to look beyond all this if the PCs had offered a compelling plan in their budget or platform, but those documents ran away from doing anything even remotely bold - and why would they, when PC strategists were musing about winning 70+ seats a few months ago? The best argument for voting PC this campaign has been that "the Wildrose Party is worse", but when the Wildrose Party is nothing more than a collection of disgruntled Progressive Conservatives, that's not enough for me.

So if I had a vote, it would be going to the Liberals - not out of a sense of loyalty, but because they're the only party with a "think big" platform. They offer a compelling democratic reform platform, and have used something more than wishful thinking to fund their more expensive promises, such as free tuition and Health Care investments.

That said, Brian Mason strikes me as a genuine and principled politician, so if orange is your flavour, I wouldn't spend a lot of time trying to change your mind. Even the upstart Alberta Party strikes the right tone, and it's possible that movement will eventually morph into a credible progressive alternative to the Wildrose and PC parties.

In any event, there are plenty of options, so there's no excuse for another 41% turnout rate. This Monday, be sure to get out and vote.



  • The Liberals federally had given up on Alberta a generation ago. Remember "Screw the west we'll take the rest?"; Or this gem: "Alberta can blow me"?

    Now that Alberta is the juggernaut of Canada, suddenly Alberta is important.

    The Libs don't have a seat at the table in this dog fight. They willingly walked away a long time ago.

    Enjoy the wilderness....

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:14 a.m.  

  • Fair criticisms of Redford. But you didn't analyze liberals at all (which is my default as well). Raj is a former PC (who was there for many of the same contentious issues you raise) who got booted. He comes across as opportunistic and nakedly longing for some power (though he is a politician, so....) Remember how he wasnt going to join another party? and, really, free tuition? The liberals aren't ready to govern by a looong shot.

    Frankly, had the liberal elected ANYONE with more credibility than Raj that might be where i vote. But they didnt.

    and while i share your hopes for AB party....their day is a long way away.

    So, the only relatively progressive option (and one that stops WRP) is Redford.

    AND i live here so my vote counts more than yours.... ;)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:24 a.m.  

  • At the very least the Liberals and NDP have been consistently progressive and will remain consistently progressive, even if they change leaders after this election.

    The same cannot be said of the PCs, who will likely be replacing Redford with a far more conservative leader before the year is out.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 11:38 a.m.  

  • Anon 11:14 - No argument there. I've been saying for years the federal Libs need to focus on the West.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 11:39 a.m.  

  • An excellent summary Dan.

    Politics is a long-term game and you must unwaveringly support the policies in which you believe. That's really the only way progress will ever be made.

    That being said, Raj Sherman is cut from the exact same cloth as the other PCs - just with more volatility and far worse judgment.

    I love their democratic renewal plan, but the rest of their platform is crap. Crap!

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 12:40 p.m.  

  • In all honesty, I think Kevin Taft or David Swann might have fared better this election.

    Either way, the Liberals were in a tough hole with the strategic voting wave. I'm not sure there's much else the campaign could have done.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 5:26 p.m.  

  • CG: good analysis. I am hoing and hawing on how to vote on Monday. The thought of a WR government horrifies me. Giving the PC's a pass makes me want to wretch especially considering their past positions. The ALP is a dead party (no matter who the leader is or could have been!). They need to close it up after this election. The brand is poison in Alberta. The future for the centre, progressive voter is the AP.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:42 p.m.  

  • Volltman 12:40pm

    The graduated personal tax and increased corporate taxstrategy is also excellent. It will raise additional funds for healthcare and edcuation without hurting lower income earners. When the PCs went to a flat 10% provincial tax that only benefitted the wealthiest, the people who least need help and can most afford to share some of the riches they have reaped from this province's resources, which belong to all Albertans. The federal tax is progressively higher the more you earn, so should the Alberta tax be.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:34 p.m.  

  • All fine, Calgary Grit, but you should have gone a step further and said to vote for the LIbs. NDP, OR Alberta Party "in constituencies where their candidates are leading ahead of the other progressive parties."

    ie. strategic voting as suggests. It only makes sense at this critical juncture.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:27 p.m.  

  • ^
    I don't think Calgarygrit was advocating strategic voting. In fact, the process he went through to arrive at his decision was rooted in finding the best party for his beliefs and preferences.

    Incidentally, there are a number of problems with your notion that strategic voting makes sense.

    1. Virtually no races at the provincial or federal level have ever come down to a single vote (and even then, for meaningful change it'd have to be a single vote in a critical riding). Moreover, your voting strategically doesn't change the likelihood of others doing so. It is foolish to vote based on the 1 in a million chance that your vote should matter.

    2. Politicians pay attention to how people vote (especially if they are represented in surveys like the CES, where you are 1 in a few thousand). By strategically voting you make yourself indistinguishable from a genuine supporter of the one you vote for.

    3. Plenty of voters have preferences that are non-ideological. My grandpa typically picked between the Socreds and the NDP, for instance. Similarly, in Alberta there are probably a number of centrists or left-leaning people that detest the Liberal Party. Progressive unity bandwagons alienate these folks, and often result in combining the worst aspects of the constituent camps.

    4. If you were going to vote strategically, there are only a handful of ridings in which the NDP, Liberals or Alberta party could win. The PC's are the most progressive plausible victor in virtually any riding. What is the point of uniting so that one of the progressive parties will lose with 21% instead of losing with a three-way split of 7%?

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