Friday, June 18, 2010
During my 15 years in China and Japan, many of my friends were other ex-pat Canadians. We had a lot in common. We played on local hockey teams and drank beer together in local establishments and got together to celebrate the sorts of things Canadians celebrate. I was always happy to be among them and we will be friends forever. Yet being the only Albertan out of the core group of long-time ex-pats, it never failed that when talk turned to Canadian politics, I would be singled out as the right-winged red-necked Albertan and made to feel somehow guilty for my home province.
It was always Alberta’s fault that Canada wasn’t doing enough to combat global warming and that our petroleum-based economy was somehow evil and a drag on the good name of the country. When it came to stereotyping, my Canadian pals would target me as the least tolerant… someone who didn’t appreciate the arts, homo-phobic… and a male chauvinist pig. As the beers flowed their wrath increased. As an Albertan, I took a lot of heat for what my “greedy, money-grubbing” province meant to my fellow Canadians.
Not only am I not any of the things I was accused of, my province is not made up of people who fit that negative billing. Still, the drunken accusations made by those friends got stuck in my mind. When I brought my family back home, I saw a number of trends that caused me concern. I wondered if it isn't those trends that somehow grow into the anti-Albertan feeling other parts of the country often label us with.
Indeed, Alberta still depends almost solely on petroleum exploitation, and the businesses that surround it. We lack an economic-environmental balance. We don’t support for the arts with much enthusiasm. We put constant pressure on health care workers and educators. And anyone with a disability struggling to get by in this fast-paced society is very hard-pressed to cope. I also noticed a diminished accountability of elected officials and the growing dearth of democracy were all things that struck a negative cord within me and I started getting involved in political action.
The place I initially settled was within the Green Party of Alberta. While its policies were a bit thin on the ground, the general direction the party seemed to be heading in was one that interested me. The people involved were a mix of deep-green idealists and a good number of new members who seemed more pragmatic and ready to actually seek power and influence within the political system.
Sadly, the Green Party of Alberta fell apart. That left me looking again. The PCs are not what they used to be under Peter Lougheed. In fact, they’ve pretty much been in the pocket of big money since Mr. Lougheed left. The NDP and the Liberals have proven themselves unable to inspire Albertans… and the Wildrose Alliance… well, it looks farther right than I am comfortable with... and way to cozy with the petrochemical industry.
The funny thing is, that now that I live in east-central (rural) Alberta, my neighbours see me as a whacky cross between a "tree-hugging" Green and a "do-gooder" Liberal. That would cause a whole lot of confusion within my old circle of non-Albertan friends. "How could Attila the Albertan become Karl Marx," they wonder. Yet, now when I speak out about the need to protect the environment and look for new economic models for future growth, my neighbours “tut-tut” as if I were some green reincarnation of Karl Marx.
Albertans are wonderful, charitable, hard-working folks. It’s just that we’ve been conditioned into believing that the Right is right and the left is some conspiracy to destroy the west thought up by Pierre Trudeau before he died.
I’m not a righty… or a lefty. I’m someone who wants to see responsible leadership in this province... and one that makes decisions based on research and evidence rather basing policy on the personal ideology of a few. I want to see a government that looks farther into the future than the next election and builds the province with a sustainable vision in mind... and not one that is not going to make the environment subservient to short-term economic gain.
That’s what interests me about the Alberta Party. It is (for now) neither right nor left… but listening to ALL Albertans. It's taking a good deal of flak from all sides. But I understand that. It's what happens when you stand occupy the middle ground. As long as this party continues to listen, I’m interested in participating in the discussion. At least it something new that's giving a chance to the idea that being moderate is playable in Alberta.
I don't know how far this party will go... or if it will ever really get off the ground, but because I don't self-identify as a "Lefty" or "Righty" I'm interested in participating in a discussion that is not created along the lines of that old model.