Like most parents, when one of my kids has a tough life experience in the big world, I get wound up in knots. When they were bullied at school, or taunted on the hockey rink for not looking the same as the other kids… over first break ups… failures on tests, I had to watch them suffer through and hoped they’d grow from it.
Well, this week has been a lot like that. This time my kids don’t have anything to do with it. This week, I realized how attached I’d become to the Alberta Party, and how much it has meant to me for almost ten years.
I was on board from the start because I’d lost faith the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta had the best interests of the long-term goals of this province at heart. Not only had they lost touch with the citizens of the province, they'd begun to feel entitled to their role as the governing party.
I watched some of the brightest young minds and movers of this province step forward with an idea to create a new political party that would focus on governing with openness and evidence-informed policy. I sat along the edges because there were so many of them who were so much smarter and abler. I did what I could to be involved but I was thrilled at the vibrancy in those young people.
But when Ms Redford became our premier and promised to govern in the way we envisioned the Alberta Party would, many of those bright young people decided the future had been "rescued," and they eased off the pedal of party building.
But the promise of Ms Redford never became a reality. Her government was symptomatic of all the failings the PCs were falling victim to. By the time we knew that, much of the enthusiasm for building something new had faded. In its place there was a new zeal from the right side of the PC party to build something more purely conservative, and we saw the rise of the Wildrose and now the UCP. And earlier this year, the progressive Conservative Party itself simply imploded.
That left progressive Albertans (who cannot find it within themselves to get behind the NDs) with no place to go.
And here’s a secret I’d like to share. The Alberta Partiers who stuck around after Ms Redford’s flameout understood that without progressive Albertans of every political stripe joining us, the Alberta Party would always be an empty vessel. We filed and signed the Elections Alberta documents to keep a party from dying… we raised enough money to keep creditors at bay… we drove tens of thousands of miles to meet each other, keep the idea alive and create and update a constitution and bylaws.
Yes, we were naïve about politics. We may not have had the experience or the connections to fill the bank. Our policy meetings may have been held in basements and coffee shops, but we believed in something open, progressive and informed by evidence and science. We continued to "build it because one day we knew they’d come."
Well, that time has come, and the ship we built (if you will allow me the metaphor) is filling up fast. And I’m overjoyed about that.
I’ll be honest with my disappointment that Greg Clark was not supported as the leader for at least one election. He deserved it. But that’s life. I was disappointed more people of note did not step forward to contest the leadership and take the risks Greg took years ago. But that’s life. And I'm having a bit of a hard time that one of the candidates for leadership is a man who once discounted the Alberta Party as irrelevant. But that’s life too. I should actually be glad that man has finally seen the light come to join us.
So the Alberta Party is growing up. I no longer get to sit around with nearly all the members on cold nights and buy everyone around the table a beer. I won’t be asked my opinion on issues… but none of this is a bad thing, because there are some fabulous people on the board of directors and in the CAs that are starting to take shape.
It gives me heart that the people who continue to join and support the Alberta Party. I've met many of them, and they all seem to want many of the same things I've wanted all along. At the AGM in November, I felt the vibrancy of 450 people who are excited to have a party they want to support and be involved with. Regardless of who wins the leadership contest in February, it will be an option for a whole sector of Albertans… and that’s why we spent all those lonely nights driving around to meet and build it.
We built it, and they are coming. Now… if we can only remember to be humble and base what we do on creating a better Alberta, open and respectful to everyone, I guess I just have to watch "my" Alberta Party face the world on it's own and take its lumps. I just hope "the kid" remembers her roots and what her poor but honest parents tried to instill around that small table.
Now, the gloves are off for the leadership race, but once it’s done, I hope all those people I shared that kitchen table with stay around to ensure the values we started with remain with the Alberta Party as it navigates the big bad world of Alberta politics.