This column first appeared in Friday’s edition of the Saint City News.
Here’s something for Albertans of all political stripes to think about in the uncertain time between now and the moment Doug Horner, Ted Morton, Alison Redford, Gary Mar or some unexpected Conservative becomes premier:
What can you do to help the Progressive Conservative Party choose the replacement for Premier Ed Stelmach most likely to implement your vision for Alberta?
Getting from here to there involves choices for all of us who are politically active, and not necessarily easy ones.
If you’re on the right wing of the Conservatives, for example, you’ll have to decide if you’re going to remain Conservative or support the Wildrose Alliance. But that choice is for later.
First, if you’re leaning toward the Alliance, you need to decide if you’re going pay your five bucks to join (or re-join) the Conservatives so you can vote for a candidate. Hint: The Alliance wishes you wouldn’t, in case you decide to stick around afterward.
If you decide to re-up as a Tory, you have another difficult choice: Do you vote for former finance minister Ted Morton, the fiscal hawk with whom you agree, and risk he might defeat your real favourite, Alliance Leader Danielle Smith? Or do you vote for the more liberal candidate you think is most likely to be beaten by Ms. Smith, and risk the possibility the leader you most disdain will win the general election and be premier for a long, long time?
Later, of course, you can go Wildrose if the Conservatives don’t choose Dr. Morton. But since the others are all more centrist, if one of them becomes premier and wins a majority, you’re always going to wonder if you helped.
If you’re a “Red Tory” – that is, a Conservative who sees a role for government, is socially progressive and wants the PC Party to continue to welcome people like yourself – your choice is more straightforward, though not necessarily easier.
You’re not going to have a problem voting. But for whom? Do you pick the candidate with the views most like your own – and risk helping the Wildrose Alliance? Or do you pick the candidate most likely to beat Ms. Smith and the Alliance – only to see them implement a platform so conservative you’ll hardly recognize the party and province you love?
Then there are those of us in the centre and on the left who can’t bring ourselves to vote Conservative ever, even when we personally respect our local PC candidate.
Do we hold our noses and shell out $5 so that we can vote in the only Alberta election where we can actually influence our province’s direction? Remember, the most recent polls suggest this is still the case.
This is a weird political custom, people, and folks in other provinces are astounded, even offended, when progressive voters even contemplate such a thing! Yet, here we are, in a place where 40 years may be a minute in political time. If you try this, can you bear the thought your choice might be both more conservative than you imagined – and more successful? What if the leader you voted for wipes out your favourite party?
Beyond that, if you can choke down the bile long enough to become a fair-weather Tory, you face a conundrum similar to that of the Wildrosers. Do you vote for the candidate you find most palatable – and take the risk that person might be the leader most likely to make Ms. Smith the premier with a radical right agenda?
Do you vote for the candidate most likely to benefit your party, and end up seeing your team trumped anyway? Or do you vote for the most conservative candidate on the theory he (or she, one supposes) can easily beat Ms. Smith – and have them turn out to be almost as bad in office?
Lots of questions. No easy answers. We are all, as they say, on the horns of a dilemma.
This post also appears on rabble.ca.