Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Memo To The Alberta Liberals

To my friends in the Alberta Liberal Party:

It's been a while since we spoke. At first, I was just avoiding you because of the glazed-over look in your eyes after the butt-kicking of monumental proportions that the interested voters of Alberta gave to your party in early March. I know, it's hard to get over rejection... but it gets easier the more it happens (take it from me - I know). That being the case, I'd think that, having been rejected in the last 23 consecutive elections, you'd be used to it by now. Only the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Washington Generals are better at losing.

Indeed, before we get off the topic of rejection, I wanted to take this time to express my condolences to you on the fact that even your own MLA's are rejecting you... I mean, the Tories have certainly had their share of maverick MLA's and candidates, but to have a sitting MLA holding public discussions about forming a new party, while still sitting in your caucus? THAT has to hurt... even if I'm not privy to the morale level in the Liberal caucus meetings (we saw more people at my last poker game) or your internal polling, Swann certainly is - so don't tell me I'm imagining it, or making it up.

What I'm writing to you about today is your alleged "subversive" nature. I heard about it while reading Hansard, and just felt compelled to offer my two cents.

See, the thing here is, the Premier and Mr. MacDonald actually agree on the role of the Opposition. What I find unnecessary, on BOTH sides, is the sniping that's going on, ON THE RECORD, between these 2 political parties - and then we wonder why Albertans have given up on politics.

Exhibit A: Mr. MacDonald
"... You may not like it, but it’s a function of democracy, and it’s worked quite well..."

First of all, Hugh... did the Premier say "I don't like the fact that we have an opposition"? I read the Hansard, and I didn't SEE him say that... so you're putting words in his mouth, which sucks and is juvenile. Don't be juvenile - the people of Alberta pay you to Oppose in a respectful manner worthy of your office, and worthy of my tax dollars, so don't act like a twit.

"... I’m surprised that some of your Public Affairs Bureau money wouldn’t be under this title because so much of it is going to be used for the greenwashing program."

Secondly, I read the budget also, and didn't see reference to the "Alberta Greenwashing Program"... is this something that only elected MLA's got a memo on? Or are you deliberately mis-representing the government's position or actions by offering up your SUBJECTIVE, partisan view as factual and objective? Are you, in fact, using taxpayer dollars (your salary) to re-brand the government's efforts for your own partisan means - EXACTLY what you're accusing them of doing? Or did the money that you were paid while thinking up this question come the "pay-Hugh-MacDonald-to-act-like-a-twit fund" of the Liberal Party?

What, no such fund?

Sucks when people make stuff up in order to make an attacking statement under the guise of a "respectful budgetary inquiry", huh?

"...Where will this $40 million go? Will it go into another propaganda campaign?"

Lastly, Hugh... regarding "propaganda campaigns". One man's propaganda is another man's truth. I don't suppose you decried the "No Plan" campaign during the election as "propaganda", did you? How about the millions spent trying to make Kevin Taft look like something other than an out-of-touch elitist? That was money spent of "disseminating the truth", right? Hypocrisy is beneath the public service, Hugh, and it should be beneath you... if you're going to make a career of throwing rocks at other people's glass houses, you should probably avoid living in one yourself.

Exhibit B: Premier Ed Stelmach

"The role of opposition in a democratic government is very important, but it’s not to be subversive. There’s a big difference..."

I agree, Mr. Premier. I disagree that they're being subversive, though... or, at least no more subversive than Jon Stewart... they're making fun, or being petty for the sake of appearing to be a viable opposition. One's childish but occasionally entertaining... the other one's just sad. But neither is all that "subversive" - they're not telling Albertans to avoid filing their taxes. My advice? You're going to be the Premier for 4 more years, probably 8 or longer... develop thicker skin.

"... Once again, you hear comments made that are not just critical of government, but they lead to innuendo."

Not to overstate my last point - but ALL partisan criticism of government leads to innuendo. It has, sadly, replaced real debate as the weapon of choice, on both sides of the aisle. Hell, even *I* use it - but at least I'm aware of my own hypocrisy on the issue. It's not going to change until politics changes, so get used to it... the opposition is ALWAYS going to suggest that you're evil, hate children and ducks, and in the pocket of the oil companies who of course loved you so much after the Royalty Review... just as those on the government side will ALWAYS suggest the Liberals are bitter elitists with secret plans to destroy Alberta's economy and give the oil to the federal Liberals to fund their next federal campaign. That's the political reality we live in - get used to it.

"... I am very proud of my province. I share the pride of every member in this Assembly. If they don’t have that same pride, well, that’s up to them, but I do, and so do my colleagues."

Speaking of innuendo... there we go.

So, my Liberal friends, I think it's important that you understand that I share your frustration with Tory hypocrisy, and dirty partisan games. What it is critically important you understand is that if you're going to, as the Opposition, hold the Tories to a standard above those things, you must first hold YOURSELVES to that higher standard as well... the only real currency in the political sphere is credibility. Either the voters believe you'll do what you say, or they don't. You'll know which one is true about 3 hours after the polls close.

What you're doing right now? NOT helping your case. At all.

It's hypocritical. It's childish. It reeks of bitterness and churlishness. And Albertans can see right through it.

Pick a new leader, pick a new strategy, and move on. Because you're not GAINING votes for 2012 doing what you're doing right now, you're LOSING them.

Now, to reply to the comments I'm about to get:

  • 1. Yes, I'm aware I called on the Liberals to stop being childish, in the same post that I said Hugh MacDonald was acting like a twit. The difference here is two-fold: Firstly, the taxpayers of Alberta aren't paying me to write this. Secondly, I'm not asking for people to vote for me (yet), and then acting like a petulant child.

  • 2. I know full well that the PC's have access to more funds with which to research the opposition, come up with slick memos and commercials, etc. Some of that is through government expense - and the voters chose to put the PC's in a position to access those funds. 4 years from now, we'll see if the voters approved of their use. The rest of it is through private donations, which the Tories rake in more than anyone else - and if you expect them to stop accepting donations to level the playing field, I want to know what you're smoking.

  • 3. I agree whole-heartedly that we need to hold politicians on ALL sides to a higher standard of conduct, in public, during elections, and in the House. If that means holding ourselves, as bloggers, to a higher standard first and waiting for the politicians to take the hint, then I'm willing - provided I'm not the only one to do so.

Nation, this just goes to further illustrate the divisive nature of partisan politics, and why the party system itself is fundamentally at odds with the basic concept of democracy... in the pursuit of power, the parties polarize the electorate and forsake what is RIGHT for what is politically expedient. How, then, can we EVER expect good governance, when all sides are focused mostly on seizing and retaining power through partisan games and promising us what we WANT rather than providing us with the leadership that we NEED?


Anonymous said...

RE: Thick skin.

Have a self-righteous prick from a well-funded and unelected environmental lobby group follow you around during a month-long election campaign (with a sign alleging you are destroying the environment / in the pocket of Big Oil, etc), and continue to ignore him. That's thick skin.

Have a shadowy, labour sponsored group spend unknown quantities of money on ads questioning your integrity and alleging your lack of concern for Albertans, and don't respond with counter-ads. That's thick skin.

Raise royalties on oil & gas, in the face of massive opposition from industry, and despite the threat of alienating a significant segment of your traditional voter base, and at the same time endure claims from NGOs and labour groups as being in the pocket of Big Oil. That's thick skin.

kenchapman said...

You have done it again ES...raised the blogging-bar standards up a bunch of notches...not just a few.

This post is a classic and needs to be read by every stripe of partisan who is engaged in politics today.

Thank you and well done.

Glen said...

Alberta Liberals need to hold themselves to a higher standard while it should just be accepted as a given that the Tories will accept huge amounts in corporate donations?

Why exactly are you writing this memo to just the Alberta Liberals? Why not to "All Political Leaders?" Hypocrisy in politics indeed.

Enlightened Savage said...

Glen: The Alberta Liberals need to hold themselves to a higher standard of behaviour and set the policy bar higher, because they're number 2, and trying to be number 1...

There's nothing inherantly wrong with accepting huge corporate donations, provided they're made legally - it's something that ALL the parties are allowed to do, if they can convince corporations to donate to them in the first place... if the Liberals could actually GET some huge corporate donations, they'd be well within their rights to accept them. This isn't about a lack of ethics - nobody credible is suggesting that any donations to the Tories earned any donor a "bought and paid for" MLA, and I'm not suggesting that of the Liberals, either. So the donations are a moot point - it's legal, above-board, and fair.

But if the Liberals are trying to convince us that they're better than the Tories, then acting worse than them in the House, casting aspersions, throwing around innuendo and "scandal hunting" isn't going to convince Henry and Martha Albertan that the Liberals are any better - far from it, thus defeating their goal.

I stand by my assertion that ALL parties need to take a good look in the mirror when it comes to the disengagement of the general public - crap like what I outlined in my post sounds like it should be in a junior high debate club, not in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta - and don't even get me started on Ottawa. These MLA's think they're being clever, by finding ways to insult each other or call each other liars on the record without using "non-paliamentary language", but it's not clever - it's transparent, childish, and unworthy of public officials who should be more focused on improving the lives of their constituents than their own political capital.

In the end, the Alberta Tories don't need to take my advice - they did just fine on March 3rd. The Liberals are 63 seats behind and absolutely crapping the bed, though - so they need all the advice they can handle.

Glen said...

I'm not suggesting the Tories taking corporate donations is illegal and the issue of whether it should be allowed or not is tangential to this discussion.

I'm just pointing out that I think it's interesting that you, as someone who has stated that they intend for the PCs sometime in the future, are arguing the Liberals need to hold themselves to a higher standard while also pointing out that "if you expect them to stop accepting donations to level the playing field, I want to know what you're smoking."

I find the point you're making is that Liberals need to take the high road while the Tories can justifiably get away with anything. For someone who is also getting tired of Tory hypocrisy, isn't that a double standard?

Anonymous said...

The Alberta Liberals don't seem to want to recognize the fact that Albertans are not supporting them - they aren't volunteering for them, they aren't donating to them and they aren't voting for them - what more impetus to change could a political party possibly have?

The very fact that they fail - EPIC FAIL - to rationalize these points (instead deciding to blame us voters for not voting for them) is why the Alberta Liberals will never be Number 1. Even if they form a coalition of the "even bigger losers party."

Enlightened Savage said...

Anon: Well said.

Glen: There are 2 distint ways in which to approach this larger issue, and I'll try to keep them brief.

Firstly, on a purely political "what do we need to do to win" level, the PC's clearly don't NEED to do ANYTHING better than they are, currently - we just had an election, and they were elected to an overwhelming majority. By contrast, as Anon pointed out, the Liberals need to do just about EVERYTHING better, as evidenced by their electoral ass-kicking. This is especially true if their tactic is going to be, as it appears, "the Tories are bad and crooked and mean and shifty and greasy and too political". If you're interviewing for a job, and you're attacking the other guy as being too fat, you've got to make damned sure you're fitting into your "skinny" clothes before you open your mouth.

On the larger, societal level though, I expect, as many do, that ALL of our politicians and leaders, from all levels and all political stripes, behave and carry themselves in a manner more appropriate for those who wish to lead us. From civic politicians all the way to Ottawa, it's the decline of true debate into the realm of mud-slinging and innuendo that has so disengaged many voters - and the politicians have no one to blame for that disengagement but themselves.

Ask yourself: Would I feel comfortable with my children behaving in the way I see our elected leaders behaving in Question Period? If the answer is "no", then we need to send those elected representatives a clear message that we expect their decorum to improve, as the taxpayers who pay their salaries, or we'll need to find better candidates, and elect better leaders.

Anonymous said...

ES, I have a question regarding:

"...we need to send those elected representatives a clear message that we expect their decorum to improve..."

How do 'we' - collectively - do that, aside from 'checking out' of the process until it improves? As it stands, 'we' are disengaged and that hasn't seemed to change anything; all it's led to is a much smaller quorum deciding who will get to act like a twit in the House.