Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Alberta Party

I was reading a blog the other day by a young guy named Justin who just couldn’t see the Alberta Party as something worth supporting… was holding onto the idea that the Alberta Liberal Party is the natural home to the progressive vote in Alberta. He described himself as “the kind of person you’d expect to be in the Alberta Party.” He continued on to describe himself as a young person who lives in a downtown condo with a job in the ‘creative economy’ and a strong supporter of human rights and a proponent of a mostly free market economy. Young Justin’s blog was good, but I think he’s missing something.

See, I don’t live in a downtown condo (I'd probably jump out the window if I did). I’m not young. Grey hair has replaced my dark brown locks. I don’t have a cool job in the “creative economy” nor am I ever likely to. I live in a drafty old farmhouse. We grow flowers and saskatoon berries, which bring in little money but require lots of physical work. I spend most of my days in dirty coveralls. We don’t have extra money to go to the theatre or take vacations. In fact, the only theatre I attend offers two girls fighting over one bathroom in the morning. Now that's drama.

I can’t afford either the time or money to sit in Starbucks. I make my coffee at home and carry it to work in a thermos, where I hope someone else bought a newspaper so I can catch up on the day’s happenings. I have to budget just to buy new socks and long underwear for the coming cold. The other night, while most people were snug in bed, I was working the job that supports my farm…. lying in the snow, between the rails, under a freight train, strapping up dragging equipment. Two days ago I was up to my elbows butchering a deer that will help keep us through the winter.

If Justin’s analysis was correct, I’m hardly the sort of guy you would expect to have any interest in the Alberta Party. My world is so distant from the condo dwelling urbanites Justin describes as likely candidates to support the Alberta Party, I sometimes think there’s a time warp between us and I suspect if Justin met me… filthy from head to toe, deer blood on my coat, he might dismiss me completely for someone so foreign to his values we couldn’t even communicate.

But Justin (and a ton of other urban progressives) would be surprised by what we rural rubes know about our province… and for the worry we are saddled with for the future of our Alberta. Dismissing the Alberta Party as a party for urban Albertans is a mistake. It’s a mistake the Liberal Party of Alberta and the New Democrats traditionally make (even though they say they don’t). The truth is, there is as much dissatisfaction in rural Alberta these days as there is anywhere else in this province, and considerably more common ground than people like Justin can imagine.

My rural neighbours may never think of themselves as progressives. In fact, I would say a majority of rural Albertans strongly self-identify as small ‘c’ conservatives. We might never see ourselves as strong supporters of human rights, but you will never get a fairer shake than in the hundreds of little communities dotted around this province. We might not be able to tell the difference between modern Twitter and a old-fashioned twit, but we know first-hand the tenuous nature of landowners’ rights in this province. We may eat wild meat occasionally, but we also understand the vital importance of fresh water, the value of healthy food, the nature of true conservation and the value of our natural heritage. And even more (I suspect) than urban Albertans, we can see by the crumbling infrastructure in our small towns that life in rural Alberta is not thriving and our way of life is at risk.

Rural Albertans are looking for a change in government. To date, the only party who seems to be courting us is the Wildrose Alliance. I’ve been to their meetings and almost without exception I am the youngest person in the room (at 49). I have heard the cozy words about “taking back the province” and “bringing accountability back to government.” Yet there is something stale in the Wildrose Alliance. They just don’t strike me as an option for a better future for this province… and their cozy relationship with the petrochemical industry frightens me.

So what do we have? The PCs? Nope… unless they bring back Peter Lougheed and his band of young origninal thinkers. The WRA? Not unless I see some distance from the monied old interests, and a lot more youth at local gatherings. The Liberals? You’re kidding right? I want a chance to be on the winning side of an election and the ALP hasn’t had that in nearly a hundred years. The NDP? (see Liberal… only way more so).

People talk about a party that can capture the imagination of Albertans. That’s the problem. Albertans’ imagination and dreams were captured 40 years ago… and they are still being held captive. I’m looking for a party that sets those dreams and aspirations free again… a party that encourages dreaming and imagination… that will reward and support new ideas that diversify our economy without devaluing our environment… or dismissing elements of our society. What I am looking for is a party that takes good ideas from wherever they come… the left… the right… the centre… the north… the south… wherever. I’m looking for a party that offers Albertans the chance to dream again.

I want to counter the perception that the Alberta Party is for young, progressive urbanites only. What attracted me was the coming together of people from diverse backgrounds. We may not always speak the same language. We may not always see the world in the same light. We may sometimes differ about the best options for Alberta. That’s all ahead for us. However, it is the spirit of working together, being respectful of good ideas wherever they come from… and above all the chance to build an Alberta we can be proud of again.

I’d like to tell young Justin, “we can all meet in the Alberta Party.” If he brings the latte and laptops… I’ll bring the jerky and saskatoon wine.


  1. Great article and I agree with many of your points. There's no way I could vote PC in the next elections: $5 billion fiscal deficit (so much for fiscal conservatives), health care crisis, questioning Raj Sherman's sanity & Duckett.So that leaves me with the same dilemna you have.

    WAP is still new and their close "business" dealings makes me think that it will be less enviromental safety and more big business. Plus what happened this week in Little Bow:
    shows that they are all talk and no action. We've had enough of that.

    The NDP, well the NDP in the past have put forward bills to buy out all the Oilsand companies and run the oilsands as a provincial department. They would kill business in Alberta and no more needs to be said about them.

    So that leaves us with the Alberta Party and the Alberta Liberals. Now this is where I'm having a harder time...

    As we all know there has been a lot of controversy the past week over Health Care, and some guy named Duckett. And this leaves me with questions:

    Where has the Alberta Party been? What would they do to fix health care? Why haven't they put out a press release? All they've been doing is talking about constituency associations... but if they want to be a player in provincial politics (and win the next election, according to their official statements) then I would sure like to know how they would fix the ER crisis.

    It's great to go to these meetings and put forward great ideas like Health Care for all, better ressource governance and environmental standards, but the tough part is actually coming up with the policies.

    That's where the Alberta Liberals come in... Yes they've been waiting for 100 years to win an election, but which of their policies do you disagree with? They have a doctor - who was fired as a medical professional for speaking out against the government - as their leader. Who better to solve a health care crisis and clean up the corruption in government?

    I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with the Alberta Party, and we all know the stigma attached to the word Liberal in Alberta is a tough one to overcome, but don't judge a book by it's cover.

    Either way, I think we can almost all agree we need to get the PC Party out. Whether it be the Alberta Party or Liberals, we'll see a better Alberta shortly.

  2. There's no need for commentary. I am in tears. My well operators/farmers from Calamr share their hopes, dreams and fears with me regularly @ Lee's Chinese & Western Food in Calmar. It is hardly "RUSH" or "Teatro" from downtown Calgary... BUT It is as real and important and vital to the very life of this province as is your berry farm. We should be so blessed to have more and more berry farmers in the Party! Thank you William, thank you for reminding us so poignantly of why we are part of this movement. WE NEED YOU!

  3. Kudos! Well said. Inspiring vision and imagination when developing public policy must be an objective of legislators.

  4. Great comments and dialogue. I was born and raised in Calgary when the population was 400,000 people. I have spent my adult life working and living in rural northern Alberta and have first hand life experience of challenges facing all portions of this great Province. In my opinion Albertans from High Level to Fort McMurray, from Grande Prairie to Medicine Hat, from Brooks to the Crownest Pass and all communities in between want political change to address their issues within their community. The Alberta Party has a great start with the Big Listen, what a concept. Asking people what they want and need for a healthy life and community. Taking the best from the left or the right with a moderate approach to find solutions for the long standing issues. Ask the grass roots how to fix the health care system and they will come up with creative ideas and solutions to complete the task. Having first hand experience with ER rooms both rural and urban over the last four years you have to only sit a watch to understand fundamentally the current process,funding models, policies and legislation drives the system and creates the ER problem. Funding is tied to beds. Full beds more funding. Three weeks recover in an Edmonton hospital to be discharged on to the street. No consideration to recover in our own community. Thus tying up a bed. Therefore someone sitting in an ER room waiting to be admitted. Sound simple but the issue is complex. The Alberta Party has posted their first set of policies from the very first convention. This was completed on a shoe string budget and a lot of dedicated volunteers with a dream. With support and people joining in on the disussion to provide their dreams, ideas and creative solutions Alberta can grow and prosper. This would include rural and uraban Albertan's. Does the Alberta Party have all the solutions? No. But at least they are engaging Albertans whether Liberal or conservative, right or left looking for an Alberta made solution that will meet Alberta's needs. The traditional parties have good ideas but historical legacies between provincial and federal political parties runs deep and people have long memories. I agree that Alberta needs a change and I believe change is coming. The Alberta Party is fresh, new and powered by dreams, and ideas. Solutions will come if Albertans truely want change.

  5. Bill, your blog has inspired me. I have been thinking quite a bit about my values as a rural Albertan and how they align with the young progressives that I have met during my journey of exploration with ReBoot Alberta and now the Alberta Party.

    Your words have helped to crystallize my thinking in this area. I couldn't agree more with your analysis of our options and I agree that we share common ground as we search for the next Alberta, one that in the words of Satya Das can be more than the best in the world, but rather an Alberta that can be best for the world.

    Thanks for posting this.


  6. Progressive is Socialist wrapped up in a shiny new package

  7. I think Justin's perspective is "very typical" of young urbanites. They forget that while they sip their lattes and update facebook will walking everywhere, thinking the world only exists in their downtown core utopia that there are voices, mature voices that want change outside of that setting.

    The Alberta Party in concept is fine, however it's filled with political neophytes. This is simultaneously good and bad, and yes the message is initially appealing, the reality is, these guys are at an early stage which is why (as the above commenter mentioned) they're not providing any substance, just some warm and fuzzy feel good talk. I'm waiting to see if they can get their act together or whether they're just "playing" politics.

    With WAP, although I believe Danielle Smith to be bright in many ways, I'm skeptical of the real intentions and approach. Also, the two loudest and rudest elements online in my opinion are Liberals and WAP supporters typically but not solely. They drag their parties down with their stupid rhetoric.

    Ultimately, I'm also very disenchanted with Stelmach. The PC's have absolutely lost my vote. They're not just archaic in approach to governing, they're not very smart either. Dr. Raj Sherman is to be commended and if the PC government had any intelligence at all....never mind. I'm tired of "that's the way it's always been done, bullying tactics" by Stelmach and guys like the dysfunctional Liepert. In one term the PC's have managed to destroy our province on so many levels it would take too long to list here...

    There is currently no solid governing alternative and that my fellow Albertans is a really scary thing...

  8. Hi Will,
    I want to reach out to rural Albertans.

    It's a big province and there's only one of any thoughts from anyone out there on how best to do that over the next six months would be greatly appreciated! Drop me a line:

    Acting Leader, Alberta Party

  9. If the Alberta Party takes this province by storm like the PC's did 40 years ago we will only be starting over again what was the same process that got us to where we are today. If there is only 'one party' that can rule Alberta, then that party will become easy pickings for the monied interests to infiltrate the power positions within the party and then start dictating party policy and eventually provincial policy going forward. In less than ten years any idealism and citizen participation that currently exists within the Alberta Party will have been rung out of it and replaced with protecting the interests of the leadership and their monied friends.

    This province needs healthy participation within the entire political spectrum in order to maintain or should I say re-establish democracy in this province. We have to grow up and imagine that any part of the political spectrum can offer value to the province either as the government or as a formidable opposition. If it must be a one party dynasty going forward this province will never achieve anything but government by the corporations for the corporations.

  10. Bikenik,

    Amen! "One Party" and "Democracy" don't fit in the same sentence for me either.

    The Alberta Party is my chosen option. I encourage everyone one else to get involved in their chosen option and work in good faith with all Albertans.

  11. Where's your "like" button? Thanks for writing this.

  12. Don't forget the Socreds guys,
    We're still here - and kicking!

  13. Nice post.
    I want to like the AB Party but find the value statements to be to much just like talking points. I want to see how the AB Party would actually govern. My suggestion - produce and publish a shadow budget in the new year to coincide with the PC's.

    Just for the record I live in Downtown Edmonton but occasionally play rec hockey in New Sarepta. I'm not sure what stereotype that fits.

  14. Thx to the friend sent me this link. Your well-spoken words have helped me to better understand growing gap between the Uptown Albertans and us Outbackers. Plus you've encouraged me to check out the AB Party. Four points for 2 jobs well done.

    From an Old Crone, hunched over her trusty Macbook, sipping Pureh tea north of the 56th parallel, belly full of wild elk and homegrown veggies. Stereotypes. Who can trust 'em?