The Stephen Harper model for Wildrose power: promise free votes and deliver the Borg Hive

Singing along: What we were promised by the Reform-Conservative platform. Below: What we got.

Alberta’s Wildrose Party blossomed at the edges of the same muddy spring whence sprang the federal Reform Party of Preston Manning and Stephen Harper.

As is well known, the Reform Party went on to engineer the hostile takeover in 2003 of the old Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, after renaming but not successfully re-branding itself as the Canadian Alliance.

By this mechanism the Reform Party evolved over a short time from a populist Prairie uprising into the most autocratic and secretive government in Canadian history, including wartime governments, under Mr. Harper’s mailed fist.

As we watch the iron discipline exerted on Mr. Harper’s obedient Conservative caucus this month in Ottawa – passing massive “omnibus” budget bills and even whipping through unconstitutional and amateurish anti-union private member’s bill with barely a whimper of protest – it behooves us here in Alberta to cast our minds back to the promises the Reform Party made at its beginning.

Because, as we are now invited to forget, the Reform Party’s platform in 1997 promised us high on its list of reforms that there would be more free votes in Parliament. This, said the party’s platform that year, would have the effect of “reducing the power of party discipline over individual MPs and senators while strengthening the powers available to citizens.”

This and many other pledges – fiscal responsibility, a more civil political discourse, the promise of a competent and businesslike government – all turned out to be fantasy or outright lies.

It is said here the free-votes promise – which was not just broken, but turned on its head – is a particularly useful litmus test for the likely future performance of a Wildrose Government, infested as that party is with the same cynical Reform Party operatives that plotted the coup that seized the national PC Party in 2003 and has held it ever since.

The Wildrose Party made the same promise, in almost exactly the same words, in the run-up to the 2012 Alberta election – and is about as likely to keep it.

According to a Globe and Mail story published on April 9, two weeks before the election that saw PC Premier Alison Redford receive the mandate she had sought, the Wildrose Party was promising a government it led would permit free votes on any bill.

The Legislature, Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said in a news release, would become “a place where Albertans’ voices are heard.”

This is not likely, given the way our Parliamentary system must operate – unless the Wildrose Party proposes to ignore the Canadian constitution. But it may well prove to be an effective if meaningless promise to cynically manipulate Albertans who willfully refuse to understand the operations of our system of government – of whom there are many.

As the Reform Party’s Task Force on Democratic Populism promised back in 1996, “when a Reform MP speaks and votes in the Parliament of Canada, he or she represents: (1) the principles, policies and platform of the Reform Party of Canada on which the MP was elected; (2) the views and interests of constituents, in particular the consensus of a majority of constituents, if such a consensus can be determined; and (3) the application of the Member’s own knowledge, judgment and conscience to the issues at hand. For Reform MPs, where (1), (2), and (3) are in conflict, it is (2) – the consensus of the will of the majority of constituents – which takes precedence.” (Emphasis added.)

Well, we know how that one worked out!

So let me make a not-so-bold prediction, things will turn out precisely the same way if Ms. Smith becomes the premier of Alberta.

A Wildrose provincial government would be as autocratic, dictatorial and tightly regimented as Mr. Harper’s so-called Conservative government has turned out to be.

We have already had a hint of this in the promise by former Harper confidante and strategist turned Wildrose campaign manager Tom Flanagan to tightly control the messages emanating from Wildrose candidates in the lead-up to the next Alberta provincial election in 2016, or whenever it takes place.

Said Dr. Flanagan last month at the Wildrose annual general meeting in Edmonton: “The lesson for the future – message discipline. You’ve got to stick with the script.” Count on it, given Wildrose’s experience in 2012 with bozo eruptions by candidates, that this will be ruthlessly enforced.

Of course, in the Reform/Conservative/Wildrose mindset, there really is no contradiction between tough party discipline and “free votes.” As Ted White, the former Western separatist and chair of the Reform Party’s 1996 task force explained to a questioner who wondered why the party would bother developing policies if they were to be guided entirely by the opinions of constituents, there was nothing to worry about: “The people’s views on all contentious issues would coincide with those of the party rank and file.”

If this sounds suspiciously like the principles of author George Orwell’s Ingsoc understood through the application of Doublethink, there is probably a sound reason for that. Or maybe the Borg Hive would be the more appropriate metaphor for the 21st Century.

Regardless, if the Wildrose comes to power in Alberta, as is already the case in Parliament, reality will be what the Party says it is.

Continuing on the same theme, Mr. White is now a Fraser Institute functionary.

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9 Comments on "The Stephen Harper model for Wildrose power: promise free votes and deliver the Borg Hive"

  1. the salamander horde says:

    Thanks for the desperate and depressing reminder – scorecard – re who we trusted and may not have meant to elect, to steer our country, its vast regions, its startling diversity. Your articles are made of steel .. but unfortunately our political animal leaders are made of/full of shite. ..

    We need to man/woman up and try to disinfect Ottawa and Alberta and Canada of elected partisan government that proves to be anti environment, against women’s rights, stands for bad accounting, stealth, secrecy, obstruction, Israel, fracking, torture, deficits, tar sands, China .. and Monty Python election fraud/posturing hand wringing. None of which I recall being part of their platform or electoral promise.. much less being the wishes or needs of Canadians.

  2. Bruce says:

    The veracity of the author’s predictions are not in doubt. What would be surprising is that voters everywhere in this country actually avoid ‘stepping in it’ once again. As the social observations of Cheech and Chong would attest:

  3. Sorry to burst your bubble Dave but if you look through Hansard from this fall you will find examples of Wildrose free votes on ammendments to bills, on first and second reading and SURPRISE on third reading.
    We walk the talk.

  4. Tom in Ontario says:

    So what? Free votes are an easy call when you’ve got 17 seats out of 87. Your free votes mean as much as how many angels can dance on the head of Stephen Harper.

  5. Filostrato says:

    Interesting that the views and interests of the constituents come second in the Reformacon mindset. The Reformacon creed is much more important. I like #3, though – the member’s own knowledge, judgement or conscience. Uh-huh – as if that’s going to happen. Don’t you actually have to have one of the trinity before you can apply it? Just asking.

    The grand let-out clause is the phrase, “if such a consensus [of the constituents] can be determined.” The local Harper representative has regular “referendum” questions sent around to (un)willing recipients. The usual form is “Do you agree with [insert latest lunatic Con proposal here] or do you want to bring on the destruction of the universe and the coming of the Apocalypse?”

    I don’t know what a consensus of constituents consists of. Five “yes” answers, maybe?

    The two occasions when I actually disagreed in writing with a couple of their retrogressive policies, I was told in no uncertain terms that the MP was going to vote of the ReformaCon view anyway, so I could just whistle for it.

    Taxation without representation – that’s what nearly 70% of Canadians have had forced upon them.

    But Machiavelli Flanagan would just love that.

    Flanagan concluded: “‘Fortune is a woman’,” Machiavelli wrote in a now politically incorrect aphorism, ‘and it is necessary, if you wish to master her, to conquer her by force.’ It is time for the government to take advantage of its advantages.”

  6. Sam Gunsch says:

    Mothership here?

    Ongoing conservative-democracy programming still emanates from possible original Borg in sample below from National Post:

    re voter-suppression robo-con -calls…
    1. recommends more ethical training as solution to vote suppression
    2. wrong to point finger solely at Conservatives, all parties do it
    3. it was rogues

    “He ((( Manning ))) said the most important issue is to determine how to end unethical vote-suppression tactics, be it by robocalls or any other form. Manning says stricter surveillance by Elections Canada and campaign managers is one option but ethical training of campaign workers is probably more effective.

    Manning said it would also be wrong to point the finger solely at the Conservative party, even though the Elections Canada investigation is largely centered on the Tory campaign in Guelph, Ont.

    “Fingers are always pointing at everybody. I think the bigger worry is that these technologies are available to all political people and you will have rogues in your organizations that might employ those technologies,” he said..”

  7. Jean Ross says:

    Hi! High River is my hometown. 350 people go to Danielle Smiths towns halls about suing the Charter of Rights (making the charter her own is really her obsession, the guns is just a cause to an end). 11,000 of us are working with Hon Min Doug Griffiths, are receiving assistance and trying to get work done, move forward positively etc. Danielle has done nothing with the real community or the flood work, while she claims she is. All she has done is hold town halls about guns, and most of us quit going to her town halls a long time ago. Recently the WRP did a “moneybomb” campaign on ALL citizens of High River (many of whom are not yet with homes or jobs) to send money so they can sue the charter for these 350 people (most of them the residents don’t even KNOW). The Internet campaign was so offensive, the residents got upset (which Danielle has a habit of doing) and it lasted only a few days, and it was removed. The residents weren’t told that it was removed. So some of us went outside of High River to another paper close by to get the word out. Google “western wheel moneybomb”…you will see Danielle deny deny deny and move herself so far away from…the party? that it is embarrassing. She is trying to stop this moneybomb campaign she did from getting out…and that’s why I am here. Many residents are being intimidated and bullied by the WRP and are scared to say anything, notwithstanding we are trying to get our lives back together…and we don’t have time to fight this political VAMPIRE. We are unfamiliar with “moneybombs”, gun talk (all day every day while our children try to heal), and the oppression this party is bringing…we need to get the word out…Danielle is a disaster, and the party is repressing freedom of speech by intimidating people. I am not a politician (the WPR will claim I am), I am not with the media (the WRP will claim I am). High River is my hometown and the flood is the easy part to fix….Danielle and the WRP is the other disaster that continues. Their tactics are bullying and if you hold up a mirror to them…they are the opposite of what they say to others. If they say you are crazy, it’s because THEY REALLY ARE! Google western wheel moneybomb!!!!!!! PLEASE HELP GET THE WORD OUT!!

  8. highrivergirl says:

    Lmfao!!!!! Your obsession with Danielle Smith. Just cracks me up. From day 1 when we got back to town. You have done nothing but trash talk her. Jean, that’s call bullying, you put her and her whole family down its sickening!!!!!

  9. highrivergirl says:

    Rights were violated Jean!!! I fully support her and the cause.


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