Albertans Have Reclaimed Their Democracy
He was the White Knight that would save the Party; a Conservative Justin Trudeau, the anointed one and potentially the heir apparent to Stephen Harper. He parachuted into provincial politics from his high-paying banking position with all of the confidence that only a virtual guarantee of success can provide and it only took Jim Prentice eleven months to screw that up.
He was the Cool Hand Luke of Canadian politics; good looking, smooth and oh so very confident. Unfortunately, he not only started to read his own press clippings – he started to believe them.
He was so confident and smooth, in fact, that after winning a seat to sit in the legislature as the newly anointed premier, he set about to destroy an opposition that was already too small and too weak to really do much damage to his future.
It was an unnecessary display of cynical politics that served no useful purpose for his party or the province.
With more than a little help from people like Preston Manning, Jim Prentice convinced Danielle Smith to resign her position as leader of the Wildrose Party and cross the floor to join the Conservatives. She dragged nine other party members with her which decimated Wildrose, leaving them with only 9 seats in the legislature at dissolution.
Nobody – not Jim Prentice, not Danielle Smith, not even that would-be champion of the democratic process Preston Manning – gave a tinker’s damn about democracy. The people of Smith’s riding were given the finger. The people who supported her and her party across the province were flipped the bird.
Self-interest was calling and the very clever brain trust that was running Conservative politics in Alberta answered the call.
It was that one moment, more than any other that I believe led to yesterday’s electoral defeat of the Conservative government.
Karma’s a bitch.
Even Albertans who didn’t support Wildrose or live in Smith’s riding were incensed and everything after that, from Prentice’s careless ‘look in the mirror’ comment the fumbling of his first provincial budget, was seen through the lens of that naked display of self-serving politics that ignored fundamental democratic values.
As a result, Danielle Smith who was promised a cabinet position, failed to win the nomination for the Conservatives in her former riding and now Jim Prentice is following her down the same road to political obscurity.
Albertans are unique in this country. They are individualists who aren’t shy about stating their opinions or standing up for what they believe. I know this from personal experience on the blog and more than one of my Alberta readers has put me in my place when they didn’t agree with me.
Opinionated they may be but they are also people with strong values and those values haven’t changed as a result of the election. Alberta remains a province where the majority of people embrace conservative values including small government that respects the democratic expression of the people.
Unlike Ontario, for example, which still tends to vote based on fear of the unknown or the promises of entitlements, Albertans demonstrated yesterday that as loyal to a governing party as they may be, they will step into the great beyond if they believe it is the only way to keep government a servant of the people.
Too many political parties have it backwards these days. They see the people as servants of their political ambitions; something to be manipulated in order to obtain or maintain power. The Conservatives in Alberta had evolved – or degenerated – into just one more of those parties and the people of Alberta said, “Adios” and tossed the Conservative government out on its ear.
The Conservatives didn’t merely lose the election – the party was all but destroyed. In the aftermath, Jim Prentice has resigned as Leader, resigned his seat in the legislature and is now following Danielle Smith down the road to anonymity that they built together with their political cynicism.
The Alberta election is over and the media clichés and spin have begun. It has become as much a part of politics as – well – politics but underneath the political campaigning, the polling, and the constant media jibber-jabber is one undeniable fact. Elections are about the people and when the people decide to vote in favour of defending their democracy rather than a particular party, the people win.
Partisanship, like that which we see in Ontario and countless other provinces, including briefly in Alberta when the people supported the growing cronyism of the Conservatives under Ed Stelmach and Allison Redford, is detrimental to democracy. It turns the democratic process into little more than a competition for votes rather than a debate about ideas and vision.
Under increasingly poor leadership, the Conservative party began moving away from the values of the people that supported it and the Prentice move against Wildrose, merely served to confirm just how far.
In Alberta, perhaps more than any other part of Canada, government by the people for the people has real meaning and the people spoke loud and clear yesterday. They fired the Conservative government and have appointed a new one.
It does not mean that Alberta is now socialist. It doesn’t mean that the people of Alberta have lost their minds. It simply means that the majority of people in Alberta have had enough of cynical politics and have taken back their government.
Good for them.
Hopefully the rest of us across this country will learn from yesterday’s example in Alberta and start standing up for our democratic values and principles rather than clinging to blind partisanship that forces us to rationalize in those we support what we condemn in those we oppose.
It remains to be seen if Rachel Notley, the incoming Premier can deliver what the people have voted for and I would suggest that she is on a very short leash. Four years isn’t very long and the people of Alberta will be watching. Pull a Jim Prentice or an Allyson Redford, Danielle Smith or Ed Stelmach and she too will be wandering the invisible road to obscurity after the next election.
It has fallen out of fashion in recent times but politicians would do well to seriously consider the message sent by Albertans yesterday.
Ultimately, the power of government rests with the people – not politicians and when the people finally stand up and speak, politicians had better start listening.
Partisanship and cheap political cynicism have a shorter shelf life than democracy.
Rock on Alberta!
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