A reader takes me to task for resorting to the same perfidious tricks as the mainstream media in my ongoing critique of the Wildrose Alliance Party. To wit, she (or he) writes…
Dude, You are big on skewering the MSM for inaccuracy, yet seem content to perpetrate same to enhance the entertainment value of your own output. You continue to refer to the Wildrose Alliance as “far right.” Evidence, please. Anybody familiar with that party — and clearly you are not — knows it is mainly an aggregation of conventional conservative social democrats. Big S statists, if you will. Please, enlighten us all: cite chapter and verse — if you can — on the WAP’s “far righteyness.” Please define ‘right’ and then show how they differ in this regard from the AB PCs, or, for that matter, the MB NDP.
Normally, as a question of principle, I do not respond to readers who comment on my blog. This isn’t a Sun Media publication, after all. Readers should have the right to their say without being sniped at. So we don’t do snotty replies to letters here. However, in this case, I thought I would make an exception, seeing as my correspondent has written this comment in the form of a challenge.
If I am guilty of the same thing as the mainstream media from time to time, consider where I was trained! Mud from a muddy spring, perhaps. Certainly I plead guilty to attempting to enhance the entertainment value of my writing. Indeed, if the mainstream media had more writers who did that, instead of producing the kind of drivel popular in those circles nowadays, they might have retained some of their readers. But never mind – that’s just the cracked voice of a bitter old former newspaper sluggo.
The commentator’s next point is the claim, standard in circles sympathetic to the Wildrose Alliance, that it is really merely a perfectly reasonable centre-right party, modest in its goals. It is “an aggregation of conventional conservative social democrats,” in the words of the writer. Why, she seems to suggest, if you were to elect them, you’d hardly notice a thing!
Wildrose Alliance Party Leader Danielle Smith – whom I hold in high regard for her vast political talents, by the way, notwithstanding my disagreement with many of the positions she takes – does this constantly, as do many of the party’s sympathizers. Indeed, Ms. Smith repeats the phrase “centre right” almost every time she opens her mouth in public.
But the Wildrose Alliance is not a party of the centre right. It is far to the right of the Canadian mainstream, by any reasonable definition. Evidence? Consider its current market fundamentalist policies chapter and verse, policies that are well to the right of even the Stelmach Tories, who are no slouches in that department either. Among them:
- Privatization of education, through the use of school “vouchers,” though for the moment in the context of public funding.
- Privatization of health-care services, though for the moment within the context of public funding.
- Legislated caps on public spending.
- Eliminating the Canadian Wheat Board.
- “Work for welfare” programs.
- Ever more tax breaks for the oil industry.
- Privatization of workers’ compensation insurance.
- “Right to work” union-busting legislation.
- Withdrawal from the Canada Pension Plan.
- Withdrawal from the Canada Health Act and its insistence on one-tier health care, consistently delivered from coast to coast.
- Pulling out of redistributive national economic equalization programs.
- Constitutional reform to move Canada’s system of government toward a U.S.-style separation-of-powers model.
- Elimination of Crown corporations.
- A ban on strikes by teachers.
One suspects, given the histories and core beliefs of many of the movers and shakers in this party, that these policies – most currently listed in the Alliance’s on-line platform, others taken from recent statements by party officials – only partly reflect the depth of its leadership’s long-term policy goals. To wit: The privatization of virtually all public resources and activities.
Be that as it may, the Alliance also advocates positions not strictly right-wing in the economic sense, but correctly associated with the social conservative right, most notably:
- Legislation protecting the ‘conscience rights’ of healthcare professionals” – seen by many as code for restricting the right of women to abortions.
- Rendering Alberta human rights legislation ineffective, possibly as a way to ease restrictions on discrimination against homosexuals.
I should note that I do not believe Ms. Smith personally supports either of these two positions, both of which nevertheless remain in the party’s current policy statement.
Nor can the party hide behind its upcoming policy conference in these matters. Whatever results from that event, we can rightly assume that these positions truly define the party’s continued position in the political spectrum.
As for the writer’s distinction about the Alliance believing the state has some role in economic affairs – enforcing policies favourable to business and unfavourable to consumers and the environment, ensuring royalties for communally owned resources go into private pockets, institutionalized union busting and the like – well, so what?
Are these policies not right wing merely because they are not libertarian? The right can pick its own nits and debate how many CEOs can dance on the head of an unregulated pin. For the rest of us, these policies define the right.
Finally, my correspondent makes a good point by comparing the Wildrose Alliance to the Alberta Conservatives and the Manitoba New Democrats. Indeed, what are the differences among these parties?
Truly, they are not all that great. But, to quote another writer concerned about the betrayal of liberal voters by their own party in another country, there may be only an inch of difference, “but real people in a real world live by that inch.”