So, what do the Wildrose Alliance Party and its leader Danielle Smith actually stand for?
This is a good question that nobody seems to be asking – much to Ms. Smith’s delight, it is reasonable to surmise.
Blogger Dave Cournoyer was bang on when he stated Monday that the Alberta media have given Ms. Smith a free ride. “Little of the incredible media attention received by Ms. Smith has focused on her party’s policy or even her political stances,” Cournoyer accurately observed in a post Jan. 18 on his blog.
The few softball questions she has been tossed, he noted, she has easily deflected “by telling the media to wait until her party’s upcoming policy conference or hiding behind the label of libertarianism.”
This inattention by the Alberta media really is inexcusable, disgraceful even. Alberta’s media seem prepared to cover this important story only as a breathless celebrity rave and the political equivalent of a car chase.
The darkest details of Wildrose Alliance policy, of course, are an occult matter, known only to the oil industry bagmen who finance the organization. But it is not that hard to get an inkling of where the party stands on a number of key issues simply by reading the “Wildrose Alliance Policies” page on the party’s Website.
The policies listed on that page range from intriguing to ridiculous, naïve and impractical to outright frightening. Many are buried in the coded language of the extreme right – designed to mean one thing to casual readers and another to insiders, who know what the phrasing really implies.
So, for example, on education policy, the party’s platform is a mixture of ideas that are sensible, intriguing, meaningless, ideological, potentially unconstitutional, dangerously ideological and disguised by coded language:
- Sensible – full funding for arts and music education
- Intriguing – providing financial incentives to health and education students willing to work in remote areas
- Meaningless – “work to reduce absenteeism and truancy”
- Ideological – “encourage entrepreneurial courses”
- Potentially unconstitutional – a blanket ban on strikes by teachers and school workers
- Dangerously ideological – holding teachers’ responsible for students’ performance, well known as recipe for such perverse incentives as pushing weak students to drop out to keep school scores high
- Coded – “support ‘School Choice’ Legislation”
This last point, of course, is a message to the Wildrose party’s base that Ms. Smith and the party brass support school voucher programs, a system that blossomed in the United States as a mechanism for continuing racial segregation, conveniently justified on “market” grounds.
It is beloved by the market fundamentalists of the far right as a way to weaken public education – and, of course, reduce the power of the teachers’ unions they hate – and to direct public money into the pockets of people who can afford the most expensive private schools.
The school voucher scheme is a particular bee in Ms. Smith’s bonnet, so it is no surprise to find it in the Wildrose platform. It is bound, upon examination, to be rejected by the majority of Alberta taxpayers, so it is no surprise to find it referred to in a code that disguises the intent of the policy referred to.
Here are 10 other dangerous Wildrose policies that should be of concern to Albertans and that, for heaven’s sake, should be the topic of questions by anyone who claims to be a “journalist”:
10) “Implement a timely and effective Social Assistance to work program.” Does this mean “work for welfare”? Until informed otherwise, we’d better assume it does.
9) “Expand the role of sheriffs to handle Provincial justice issues.” Does this mean getting rid of the RCMP and creating a provincial police force? Sure sounds like it.
“Provide health care funding that will follow the service to the health care provider and approved facility of choice” – this is code for privatization of services, a guaranteed precursor to add-on fees and a two-tier health care system.
7) “Provide less expensive and more patient-friendly alternatives to hospital care” – the streets? Your kids have to take care of you?
6) “Deliver an annual individual statement of benefits to each resident of Alberta” – this would cost money, tie up health care staff and do no good. It’s goal? Who knows? Maybe to explain to Albertans “how much their health care costs”? Sounds like another precursor to privatization.
5) “Implement legislation protecting the ‘conscience rights’ of healthcare professionals” – is this code for restricting the right of women to abortions?
4) “Oppose unfair and industry specific taxation from the federal government” – in other words, fight for more tax breaks for the oil industry, which is, after all, the chief funder of the Wildrose Alliance.
3) “Allow competition to the Workers Compensation Board” – code for handing over the functions of Workers Compensation to private insurance companies. If you think WCB is bad now, just wait for this idea to become reality!
2) “Allow individual workers the choice to determine their membership in labour organizations” – this is code for so-called “right to work” legislation, which, as Martin Luther King observed, “provides no ‘rights’ and no ‘works.’ Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining…” ’Nuf said.
And the No. 1 reason to worry about a Wildrose government in Alberta, straight from the policy pages of their Website?
1) “Withdraw from the Canada Pension Plan…” There’s a qualifier, but don’t believe it. If you want to know what it is, go read it yourself!
Indeed, reading it yourself would be a good idea for any Albertan, since you’re unlikely to get much help from the media.
There’s plenty more to worry about in this packet of policies – and those are just the public ones. There are more to puzzle over too. There is even the occasional good idea.
But one thing’s for sure. No Albertan should consider voting for this party without knowing what it is they really stand for.