Holy smokes, Nation.
Just when I thought we were in for a nice, calm launch to the new session of the Alberta Legislature, all hell breaks loose in the Alberta Liberal Party.
There's some intense, sometimes heated discussion going on over at daveberta about what course the ALP should take, and whether Dave will be on board when it does.
Gauntlet continues some darn fine work, juggling both the soul-searching going on in the ALP, and touching on the new, oft-rumoured but hard to pin down "alternative movement" first reported by the long lost centrebloq (you can come out of hiding, Larry - we know it was you. ;) ).
Tiny Perfect Blog, meanwhile, seems to smell blood as a result of a mysterious inside source within the ALP and their revelations about the dynamics and plans of this new group.
The question that begs to be asked is, does any of this matter?
4 in ten Albertans bother to vote. Of those 4, how many actually cast an informed ballot, rather than voting out of partisan loyalty or habit?
All parties, be they the ALP, the PC's, the Wildrose Alliance or whatever this alternative eventually christens itself, need to be focusing on how to engage the majority of Albertans who stayed home last March. This blathering about left and right, blue and red, capitalist pigs versus socialists, belongs in the 1950's.
Anyone leading a political party currently, or sitting in a position to mold policy, or involved in top secret meetings that TPB has access to, read very closely what I'm about to say.
You want to win, and hold, government for a long, long time?
Figure out what the people think, and then SET YOUR POLICIES TO MATCH THE VOTERS.
That's how easy it is. Arguing over whether Albertans are "far-right bumpkins" isn't going to help you get elected. Trying to paint Stelmach alternatively as a pawn of the far-right fringe (if you're a lefty) or a liberal-in-pc's-clothing (if you're a righty) isn't going to get you elected in his stead. Whining that the NDP isn't included in this new alternative movement isn't going to change the fact that most Albertans have long ago written off the NDP as a complete and total non-factor, politically (involving them in the new group is literally a kiss of death, and it goes from "moderate coalition" to "united left, further out of the mainstream than the unpalatable liberals were before" in the pundit-and-public's view). Dismissing suburbanites as "pawns of oil and gas" isn't going to do it. Writing off huge swaths of land (rural Alberta) or population (city centres) because they're "hopelessly tuned out to your message" is no way to win election.
You want to know what it will take to get Albertans out to the polls to support you?
ASK THEM THEIR OPINIONS. AND SET YOUR POLICIES TO MATCH.
The opinions of myself, daveberta, Gauntlet, TPB, Ken Chapman, the gang at Alberta Get Rich or Die Trying, Allie, Phendrana, CalgaryGrit (in absentia), Shane at CalgaryRants, and Werner Patels account for 11 of a possible 2.5 million votes. What WE decide, in our email and Twitter-fests, is a good idea isn't necessarily so. It's Henry and Martha who decide whether or not it's a good idea. And you know what? Henry and Martha aren't stupid. They're not easily mis-led. They're not conservative, or liberal. They're intelligent, opinionated, and more than likely moderates. They have opinions that would fit in each and every party's platform.
Make a platform out of enough of those broadly-held opinions, come out with policy statements that Albertans will agree with, and you've got a shot at holding office, provided your name isn't "The Trudeau Was Right" party, or something similar.
Politics is marketing, and substance. Often, in that order. But if you build a party with enough substance, even if it isn't "sexy", the people will come. The hitch is, you have to come to THEM, first. And when you ask "what do you think about this issue?", you actually have to LISTEN to the answer, instead of spinning it.
I really liked what I saw from Dr. David Swann yesterday in his response to the Speech from the Throne, and also in Question Period (although some of his caucus likely needed to be reminded about the new code of conduct - which we'll call the "Swann Doctrine" - after the day's session). Dr. Swann looks like he wants to elevate the debate in the Legislature - and if he's successful in so doing, we will all benefit. As I hit "Publish Post", we're 5 minutes from today's QP. So let's see if he can keep it up (I certainly hope so - respectful disagreement and debate is something we've been lacking for far, far too long, and the voters will recognize the shift in tone if the Libs stick to it). Contrast Dr. Swann's statements and manner in the Legislature yesterday with some of the members of cabinet from before Christmas, and you'll see what I mean.