I’m having a really interesting time knocking on doors and chatting with people in this constituency. I think being on the ground, talking to people in these communities is by far the richest part of this whole experience of running for office.
Many people, regardless of age, tell me they have typically voted Conservative (meaning PC). Not surprising. What is interesting is the number of people who’ve told me the reason: “I believed we had to.” One fellow said, “Well really, I’m a leftie, but I voted conservative because, y’know, we have to.” Others have said they don’t agree with how the PCs do things but they just keep their mouths shut about it because “in this province” one can only be “conservative” or silent.
Thankfully people are coming to realize they have other options. But having today heard someone say this for the nth time, I couldn’t help but wonder how we let democracy slip away from us this way. When I hear stories of how people through the ages and across the world have suffered and died and fought for democracy, I am grieved that it’s come to this.
I grew up in a small “c” conservative family. Both my father’s and my mother’s families were involved in the Social Credit Party; when they withered away we believed that we would naturally choose the new conservative party, the Progressive Conservative Party, as our best bet. And certainly, under Lougheed, I think we had pretty great leadership. Visionary, steady, committed to advancing Alberta while maintaining our values. When I reached the age of majority it frankly never occurred to me that I would vote anything other than PC. I was, like many, conservative by default.
I think a mistake that many small “c” conservative people make is believing that conservative values or morals translates into big “C” conservative politics. While that may have, at one time, been true to some extent, today the two, quite honestly, don’t bear much resemblance.
The PC Party may or may not bear the responsibility for our lost democracy. Some may argue that its our corporate culture to blame, or it’s just societal evolution, or any number of forces at play from within and without. For myself, I do hold the governing party of 40+ years responsible. They had a moral imperative to treasure democracy, and ensure that all decisions, without fail were and are made through a democratic lens. Perhaps, if when deliberating over legislation, they had asked themselves “How does this decision honour and steward democracy in Alberta?” instead of “How does this decision offer my party strategic advantage and ensure that my power is retained?” we wouldn’t be where we are.
After coming to a quasi-democratic decision about the issue of committee pay before breaking for the election – at least there was some level of democratic process left within the PC caucus as of March 23 – today, Alison Redford announced she had changed her mind. She felt it within her right to unilaterally decide that all committee pay would be repaid.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no fan of the MLA pay structure, but so far as I know, one person, even if that person is the premier, can’t just announce: “This is the way it is because I say so.” I know the PC government has been pretty much doing this with impunity for the past four years, but Redford said she wanted to be different. This kinda looks like more of the same, actually. And anyway, she can’t even make such a decision at present because we are in the campaign period; she has no authority to make such a declaration. But the very fact that she thinks she can do such a thing, and even worse, that she feels comfortable conducting a “democratic” government this way, is so discouraging.
I have conservative values. I left the PC Party because I was hard pressed to find those values at play in the way the PCs “do” politics. Today I’m more grateful than ever that a new party has come along that sees democracy as a treasure to be carefully stewarded. I’m also thankful for the opportunity to share the Alberta Party values and ideas with my friends and neighbours.