Alberta needs a real progressive opposition, not a fake progressive conservative one

“Hi there, I’m progressive and she’s conservative…” Some Alberta political parties may be about as different as shown … and as creepy! Below: Pastor Hunsperger, Perfesser Morton and Rev. Trudeau. I know which one has my vote!

Astonished to find itself with its back against a Wildrose wall, rejected by its traditional supporters, Alberta’s so-called Progressive Conservatives are putting the full-court press on New Democrats and Liberals to hold off a Wildrose Apocalypse by voting PC.

Polls suggest lots of voters are wavering. As a Conservative cabinet minister told me yesterday in Calgary Airport, many genuinely progressive voters in that town are seriously pondering holding their noses and voting Tory.

All I can say is “Don’t do it, people!”

At a time like this, in a place like this, there’s no way a vote for the NDP is a throwaway. Au contraire!

Yes, Albertans are fed up to the teeth the PC party and its arrogant ways. But remember, the Wildrose Party and the Conservative Party are the Same Party, Castor and Pollux, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. This PC-Wildrose split? It’s a family feud. And it’s just not that nice a family!

We don’t need a far-right opposition in Alberta to oppose a far-right government. We need a real opposition that will fight for the values and principles a majority of Albertans still share, even if sufficient numbers of them are conned into voting for one or other of the Wildrose-PC doppelgangers.

So it’s time, people, that we had a serious conversation about “strategic voting.”

Maybe there’s a place for strategic voting, but this is not it.

If you’re like me, you’re horrified at the prospect of electing a party whose leader thinks it’s acceptable for a candidate to advocate bullying gay young people, even if he does sincerely think that doing so may prevent their eternal souls from going down, down, down in the Lake of Fire.

But ask yourself, if your stomach turns at the thought of being represented by the party of Pastor Allan Hunsperger, the candidate who wrote that “accepting people the way they are is cruel and not loving,” how do you feel about being represented by the party of Ted Morton?

You know, Perfesser Morton, the former serious Tory leadership candidate, sometime finance minister, market fundamentalist ideologue and publicly paid cornpone philosopher who bloviated on marriage back in the day as follows: “The gay-feminist project has become a social engineering project – to use the coercive power of the state to undermine the existing family and to reconstruct in its place their gender-equal utopias.”

Dr. Morton’s answer to the reluctance of governments to use the Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ Notwithstanding Clause to ban the marriage of same-sex partners? Hold a referendum! Sound familiar?

So how is voting against Allan Hunsperger and getting Ted Morton instead going to help make Alberta a better place, pray?

On the other hand if we elect even a couple more New Democrats – and there are six or eight ridings in this province where that could happen if progressive voters hold firm and vote with their heads and their hearts, we’ll be a hell of a lot better off than if we trade one Regressive Conservative party for another, which is where “strategic voting” will get us this time.

If you’re like me, you’re very concerned about the Wildrose Party doing whatever it can to privatize and commercialize our public health care system.

So how is voting for the Conservatives going to help? Their history of trying to do the same thing under Ralph Klein and Ed Stelmach is well known. Having failed to win public support for privatization schemes under those two premiers, they plotted to impose it secretly. A confidential document leaked in November 2010 laid out their scheme to de-list health services, allow private insurance and begin the privatization process.

But Premier Redford promised to protect public health services, you say? Well, so she did. But don’t forget she also promised to identify services to privatize within six months! And seriously, even if she meant it about health care no strings attached, how long do you think Ms. Redford is going to remain the premier of Alberta after this debacle in the unlikely event the Conservatives manage to hang on to power by their fingernails?

Give me a break! The knives are out already. And once she’s gone, it’ll be the same old gang with the same old plans.

If you’re like me, you’re also likely concerned about the plank in the Wildrose platform that says they’d like to introduce right-to-work laws that would effectively ban unions, just like a real cotton-belt state in Dixie.

So how is that different than the plank in Ms. Redford’s just-released party platform, inserted there by her pals from the anti-union half of the construction industry, which aims to cripple the ability of unions to lobby for their members and for their members to be represented by the unions they choose?

And so it goes, depressingly on. You can’t tell one from the other.

And what’s to keep that Conservative you elect to keep another group of conservatives out of power from switching sides if the seats don’t tally up quite the way he planned? Not much, since there’s so little difference between the parties anyway.

It’s not as if it hasn’t happened before. Who can forget David Emerson, “Stephen Harper’s worst nightmare,” being sworn in as a Conservative cabinet minister two weeks after being elected as a Liberal by NDP voters fooled into being “strategic.” Some strategy!

No thanks. Progressive voters need to vote for progressive parties. And NDP voters in Edmonton and Lethbridge in particular, where New Democrats have some momentum, need to stick with the NDP.

Even out here in “The Toenail,” that little crescent-shaped sliver of St. Albert snipped off and gerrymandered onto the Spruce Grove riding to suit some long-forgotten Conservative need, I think I’ll be voting for Rev. J.J. Trudeau.

She might not have much chance in this riding, but at least I’ll have the opportunity to say I voted for Trudeau in Alberta, and a New Democrat to boot! And if there is going to be a miracle, I reckon God in Her wisdom is more likely to smile on Rev. Trudeau than on Pastor Hunsperger. Just saying.

Regardless, we’ve all thought about strategic voting from time to time. But on Monday, go, and sin no more. Vote for the NDP.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

12 Comments on "Alberta needs a real progressive opposition, not a fake progressive conservative one"

  1. Carlos Beca says:

    Here we go again with this marvellous winner take all system. All I can say is that with PR we would not have to worry at all about all this strategic voting. Elections should not be a game, and we should be talking more and more about proportional representation so we could once and for all vote for those we think will make a difference. I will be voting that way regardless of the outcome. If Albertans think that having a flat Earth party running this province in 2012 then that is what it will be. Maybe the best way to get rid of them fast.

  2. Sam Gunsch says:

    @Carlos: Agreed. But how to generate a sustained campaign for PR that gets actually heats up? Efforts so far have only simmered.

    Proportional representation may find it has a lot more support after this election, depending on which party's supporters get the most burned by the vote proportions vs outcomes. I'm making a 'lemonade' argument here…

    For ex., PR campaign in AB could might find new support if the disproportionate weight of rural votes over urban turns out to be a decisive factor.

    …i.e., I'm guessing there may be significant ongoing urban heartburn that arises to possibly turn toward PR campaigning if a WRA minority or majority gov't is built primarily on WRA capturing rural AB ridings. (assumes WRA support drops in Calgary from it's current level.)

    I'm guessing urban NDP and Liberal and AB party supporters even in Calgary whether they end up voting strategically or stick with their party would be a huge potential base for PR.

    And one more small positive but possibly a helpful precedent of course is the fact that PR in the last decade has had high profile proponents federally on occasion e.g. I recall Judy Rebick and someone from the right jointly writing op-eds in favor.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Just one problem: the rural oil people hold power and they have no intention of letting PR democracy get in the way of that.

    City people can fuss and march all you want (remember Gray Nuns?) but it will make no difference.

    You tolerated it, and now we all get to wear it.

  4. Janet E says:

    Relevant article on that ridiculous man, but, I am sorry you chose to make fun of 2 unsuspecting children through what I assume is an old photo, to make your point. Children are unable to defend themselves against slights and abuse to them from adults.

  5. Alex P says:

    It is very had to convince a politician the system that brought them to power is anything but perfect. As much as a PR system would fix several problems and draw the parties closer to "the centre" and each other. For heaven's sake, some kind of cooperative behaviour might happen.

    The Wildrose is full of the kind of people who would not be ready for prime time as a Tory candidate because YouTube and Calgary Harold archives are forever. Lets call them the B-list right wing party. And because Ted Morton uses $20 words and wouldn't be seen dead ministering in a Hawaiian shirt. In hunting drag, yes. Insincerity can be reassuring in the devil you know. Morton loves his line about "being a liberal's nightmare – a conservative with a PhD." Well, Ted, you have a PhD, just don't touch anything.

    Morton, Tom Flanagan, Danielle Smith, Stephen Harper all have a commitment to installing a set of policies to benefit corporate advantage, the social conservative agenda is just a way to squeeze enough votes to come to power. As Thomas Frank, author of What's the Matter with Kansas said in an interview, "you vote against abortion and you get energy deregulation."

    I strong opposition is what this province needs.

  6. John R. Vokey says:

    David,
    You write: “And NDP voters in Edmonton and Lethbridge in particular, where New Democrats have some momentum, need to stick with the NDP.''

    I have heard this claim about Lethbridge from others as well. Which riding? Lethbridge East or Lethbridge West? I can personally acknowledge the plethora of NDP signs in Lethbridge West for Shannon Phillips, but I have my doubts about a successful outcome.

  7. mdentremont says:

    David, this is timely. I am agonizing over my choice. I want to vote my ideals but I am paralyzed by the fact that I might be helping elect a Wildrose majority/minority and what it might mean for healthcare, education, public services, the environment, labour and human rights. Because let's face it, they are all in play with a Wildrose government.

    Making it even more confusing is that the petrocrats who used to form the PC's backbone have largely grafted themselves onto the Wildrose backbone as a result of Stelmach's ham handed attempt to even just raise the issue of oil royalty rates. These are the same old, same old but in a bigger hurry as we used to say about Reform.

    I really appreciate you pointing out the importance of a real opposition offering real alternatives. It would be terribly difficult for the PCs to distinguish themselves from Wildrose. Presumably they might even egg them on.

    Great column.

    I'm thinking.

  8. David J. Climenhaga says:

    Just to reassure Janet E, in this case the creepy twins are the "Grady Sisters" from the movie, The Shining, ghosts of murdered children who appear from time to time. However, I have in fact used photos of real people before and probably will again. The only thing I can say about that in my own defence is that, on several occasions, they were my own creepy relatives.

  9. Carlos Beca says:

    @Sam Gunsch – I fully agree with everything you have said about PR and the rural versus urban. When one goed for PR none of those arguments is valid in democratic terms. They can be for certain people and certain parties, but one is talking about a more denocratic voting system and I think that is the only way one can get it implemented. We are now the only country other than Britain that still uses the winners take all and none of the countries that have swithched regret it. It is way fairer and makes way more sense.

    What all of you said about rural interests versus urban interests is correct but that should not be an impediment.

    We can continue with what we have and the results are obvious. This province has no political system to talk about. Just dominations.

    Like I said before democracy is not about strategic voting. It is about voting for those we trust.

  10. Sam Gunsch says:

    @Anonymous: "the rural oil people hold power and they have no intention of letting PR democracy get in the way of that."

    You got it.

    You may be aware that during the review of royalties and after Stelmach made his decision, the oil and gas industry released a deluge of propaganda, including multiple inserts in rural newspapers. I learned of this from a friend of mine in Edson who has had professional reasons to follow politics closely.

    So Stelmach and his inner staff may have been sub-par communicators but they were up against a huge propaganda war and also had the awful bad luck re the timing of gas prices tanking and the USA recession.

    Hence, no surprise the rural Alberta thought Stelmach screwed everybody…

  11. Anonymous says:

    "you vote against abortion and you get energy deregulation."

    Well, if the left really wants to split the right, they should form a political party that is conservative on social issues, and socialist on economic issues.

    Would any of you lefties be willing to vote for such a party? The plutocracy doesn't give a crap about social issues, so they just bribe progressive politicians to toe the line on their economic agenda just so that you feel satisfied for getting a "win" on culture war issues.

  12. Anonymous says:

    The NDP? Might as well flush your vote down the crapper. lol How's Jack these days anyway?

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