Ambiguous Wildrose abortion statements emerge as NDP support jumps in Edmonton

Wildrose Apocalypse? Abortion chatter sparks new fears about Wildrose as poll shows NDP mini-surge in Edmonton. Below: NDP Leader Brian Mason.

Are residents of the Edmonton region, as disgusted with the antics of the long-ruling Progressive Conservatives as other Albertans, starting to have second thoughts about far-right Wildrose Party’s largely unknown agenda and the little-known characters that populate its slate of candidates?

A new poll by a well-regarded national polling company shows NDP support surging in the Edmonton area at precisely the same moment the Wildrose Party has been making ambiguous and contradictory statements on abortion that smack of a half-hidden agenda.

Meanwhile, throughout much of the rest of the province, voters who last spring were poking fun at Quebeckers for electing NDP candidates they hardly knew appear to be poised to do precisely the same thing with the cast of marginal unknowns who have won local nominations for the Wildrose Party.

The only difference is – unlike the new NDP MPs in Quebec, many of whom are now starting to shine in Parliament – the ranks of the Wildrose Party seem to be peopled with crackpot social conservatives who among other things would like to ban abortions, or at least de-list them, and party leaders who appear ready to humour them.

At any rate, this is one way to explain the growth of support in the Capital Region for the NDP, which Leger Marketing says a poll it conducted early this week shows is now in a statistical tie with the Wildrose Party. But while the survey put NDP support at 20 per cent in Edmonton, it lags at 8.5 per cent in the rest of the province.

NDP Leader Brian Mason explained his party’s increasing Capital Region support to the Edmonton Journal by drawing attention to “the missteps of the Conservative government” while observing that “people are also starting to look at the Wildrose more critically, and they’re asking themselves what kind of change that party will bring.”

If ever there was a political party that deserved to be punished by voters, of course, it’s the Alberta Progressive Conservatives under Premier Alison Redford. Arrogance and entitlement hardly scratch the surface of what ails the PCs after 41 years at the helm of the good ship Alberta. Somehow in the final few months of the last 41 years that message sank through to a very large number of Alberta voters.

But it’s hard to believe the same Albertans who are now thinking of replacing the suddenly despised PCs with the Wildrose Party have any idea of what – and whom – they are proposing to support.

For starters, virtually no one knows who these Wildrose candidates are – other than party Leader Danielle Smith, a pleasant young woman with an engaging smile who knows her way around a sound bite and how to keep inside a message box.

But Ms. Smith is also a former apparatchik in the web of far-right think tanks and Astroturf corporate front groups who in the past has advocated extremely harsh market-fundamentalist and social conservative positions on a variety of issues.

Daveberta Blogger Dave Cournoyer recently did an admirable job of highlighting the resumes of some of the other Wildrose candidates, such as public transit foe Don Koziak, and the likes of John Carpay and Ron Leech, who have taken positions strongly opposed to rights protections for homosexuals.

Then there is hyper-conservative icon and former polemicist Link Byfield, now running to the party in Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock, who based on his past writings in far-right publications seems to have his doubts about the market-distorting effects of the war on drugs (though he blames “utopian proto-feminists” for its beginnings), thinks marriage should be handed back to the church and believes state-run education was the ruination of the family.

Moreover, on policies the Wildrose Party is known to advocate – rock-bottom royalties for petrochemical companies and opposition to tax increases for others – the same Albertans who are contemplating voting for them are known to hold opposing views.

Another Leger survey late last month, for example, showed that close to 60 per cent of Albertans (70 per cent in the Edmonton area) do not believe their province is receiving enough royalties for the province’s oil and gas resources. In the same survey, 56 per cent of Albertans (almost 60 per cent in the Edmonton region) indicated they would be willing to pay higher taxes to protect government programs and services and build infrastructure.

This clearly demonstrates a disconnect in Alberta political perceptions, since this group included significant numbers of voters who also identified themselves as Wildrose supporters.

As Wildrose positions on health care and “conscience rights” issues have begun to winkle through to voters, now comes the revelation that Wildrose leaders have been playing footsie with social conservatives who would like to block abortions, while telling a different story to the rest of us.

Edmonton Journal columnist Paula Simons reported how Wildrose officials been telling people they assumed were supporters that they could use citizen-sponsored referenda, another longstanding plank in the Wildrose platform, to de-list abortions from health coverage.

Ms. Simons noted that 11 years ago Ms. Smith wrote a Calgary Herald column opposing public funding for abortions. In it, Ms. Smith proposed just such a referendum strategy as the perfect way to eliminate it.

In response, the Wildrose Party issued an ambiguous clarification that obscured their position more than it clarified it: “Like the Progressive Conservatives, Wildrose has absolutely no intentions of legislating on abortion, and that includes delisting. Citizen initiative is and has always been an important part of the Wildrose platform. However, any initiative must first be vetted by a federally appointed judge to determine whether or not it is constitutional.”

So … what? They still want to use a citizen initiative to de-list abortions? Or not?

Which brings us back to the NDP mini-surge. It offers voters in the Edmonton area and a few other ridings a way to punish the Tories for years of arrogance without helping to unleash a Wildrose Apocalypse.

But elsewhere in the province, many progressive voters will feel they have no choice but to hold their noses and vote for the Conservatives.

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8 Comments on "Ambiguous Wildrose abortion statements emerge as NDP support jumps in Edmonton"

  1. Jane says:

    Great article. Have a look at at this. It goes beyond abortion
    And is the paranoia justified? Maybe. See
    They seem pretty sure of themselves.

  2. fubar says:

    Looks like we may three solitudes after the 23rd – Edmonton, Calgary and rural. I'm not backing off my earlier prediction, But my impression is that things are much more volatile after Ms.Redford's leadership win last year.

    Hard to say what is causing it, because it is not the economy. In some way Redford may have precipitated it with the changes she started. Trying to rid the PC party of the old guard and become somewhat more progressive seems to have fractured support (how much we will better know after the election).

    When people start asking serious questions who knows what can happen?

  3. Liam Connelly says:

    Those who I know heard me say at the beginning of the election watch the ND's get 8 – 10 seats. I saw a recent poll that gave a regional break down.

  4. Liam Connelly says:

    Those who I know heard me say at the beginning of the election watch the ND's get 8 – 10 seats. I saw a recent poll that gave a regional break down.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I'm a totally biased NDP candidate in a rural riding. I see the mini-wave in Edmonton only as a sign of things to come with 2 weeks left in the campaign. Any riding with NDP roots has the potential to benefit from encouraging polling results in Edmonton. Our rural support is concentrated in pockets so polling results in "the rest of Alberta" are not telling. I am already looking forward to April 23 to see what's really happening in rural Alberta!

  6. Sam Gunsch says:

    re: "Somehow in the final few months of the last 41 years that message sank through to a very large number of Alberta voters."

    The stability of PC loyalty has been undermined for over 2 years by property rights campaigning and opposition to SNC/ATCO/TransAlta's export powerlines.

    The most damage has been done in rural Alberta, especially south and west on these issues.

    And Calgary knows they don't need the powerlines at all. But all consumers, farmers, small business are going to be hit hard, as will manufacturing industry.

    Still the PC's have refused to put the powerlines to needs assessment hearings.

    Wildrose's clear platform to repeal the legislation on these issues, and subject the powerlines to needs assessment, I believe are hugely underrated factors in the loss of Tory loyalty across Alberta.

    The jacked up power rates of the last few months finally tipped this issue, but the groundwork of destabilization had been building.

    18,000+ rural voters across what must be in hundreds of meetings by now, attended public meetings in rural Alberta over the last two years where PC's were pounded over these two issues.

    The PC's credibility has been heavily damaged by this grassroots campaigning, to the extent that the majority of rural Albertans no longer give any credibility to even a true property rights champion like Ted Morton when he tried to defend the Bill 36 legislation as not threatening farmers property rights This despite the fact that every legal analyses I've found, but one, say Ted Morton is telling the truth: the ALSA actually improves their property right protection. (aside: The main beneficiaries of Bill 36 are corporations' who have increased legal insulation now from environmental regulation.)

    This has all benefited the Wildrose because it associated itself with this campaigning by various means.

    Reality: Only one legal analysis says that Bill 36 is an attack on property rights. And that's the analysis that the Wildrose support is based on.

    Crazy situation for democracy and the citizen's ability to participate… we Albertans are left to rely on what might be unfounded political rhetoric, when only the legal community really knows what's really the case with this legislation, but the 'attack on property rights' interpretation appears to me to be a key part of creating a decisive political change in governance of Alberta.


    BTW… The Calgary Herald editorial team actually said they couldn't decide what was reality around the Bill 36 property rights debate. And urged an independent legal review. The PC's should have taken their advice and thus neutralized the issue. Instead, they tried another facile consultation and gave rural Albertans a 'property rights advocate'… cueing more laughter in rural AB.

  7. Filostrato says:

    People should look at the Wildroses as the would a herd of Trojan horses, I think. Once inside the wall, who knows what might spew forth?

    Harper keeps his hands "clean" on dodgy issues by having them tabled by backbenchers. Scrapping the gun registry, proposed by someone hardly anyone had heard of and with a photo-op with supporters that looked like the extras from the set of Deliverance is a case in point. It's stealth "conservatism" that gives him plausible deniability in case there's blowback.

    Is this what's happening in Alberta, too? Ms. Smith may be being groomed as a Trojan horse disguised as My Little Pony. And will other Wildroses dare to disagree with the management when big changes are proposed? The experience in the federal government shows that it's unlikely to happen.

    One more thing – why are publicly funded fertility services lauded in the the Wildrose universe but publicly funded abortion services aren't?

    Maybe it's a corollary of the Santorum Proclamation.

    "…[G]OP presidential candidate Rick Santorum explained his opposition to abortion even in cases of rape during an interview Friday, saying that women who face such circumstances should 'make the best out of a bad situation.'

    Asked by CNN's Piers Morgan what he would do if his own daughter approached him, begging for an abortion after having been raped, Santorum explained that he would counsel her to 'accept this horribly created' baby, because it was still a gift from God, even if given in a 'broken' way."

    What, like a divine consolation prize?

  8. Alex P says:

    My conscience tells me to nationalize oil and natural gas, confiscate without compensation all facilities involved and call it a day. How many signatures do I need? My conscience also tells me to re-regulate electricity, raise the minimum wage and build parks with exercise equipment for adults.

    I've closely watched the American political maneuvering on citizen initiatives, and it is ugly. As a way to bring Republican voters to the polls, state citizen initiatives were filed to make gay marriage illegal. It didn't make the gays go away, but it carried George W Bush to victory. The Democrats, for their part, are too sheepish to launch similar initiatives. No initiative on minimum wage of health insurance for for the poor. You have to have chutzpah to manipulate the vote.

    The Wildrose Party have a great way to capitalize on the unease of some voters, motivating them to vote, but will either disappoint, like Stephen Harper has so far, or use the distraction to legislate on their market fundamentalist policies while the yelling over social conservative issues provides cover. I actually suspect Danielle Smith doesn't give a hoot on the social conservative front because the oil companies don't care. She doesn't want to de-fund a service. She want to de-fund all of them.


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