Wednesday, June 17, 2009

It's My Party, And I'll Cry If I Want To...

Nation, there's been much afoot as late, and I'll be all over it like delicious frosting on one side of a Mini-Wheat...

However, the first order of business today is dealing with one of my pet peeves.

You know what REALLY irks the Enlightened Savage?

I mean, REALLY irks him?

People who parrot criticism of politicians or political parties, without bothering to do their own research.

It's simply intellectual laziness - and, to my mind, it automatically makes anything else you have to say immediately suspect. After all, if you can't be bothered to form your own political opinion, what OTHER short-cuts are you taking to seem worldly and informed?

2 particular cases in point have raised my ire in the past several weeks, and both relate directly to 2 of Alberta's political parties.

Case One: "The Wildrose Alliance is no threat to the PC's"

Nation, let's make one thing perfectly clear: Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, with any political common sense is disregarding the WAP as a potential threat to the Alberta PC's and their thirty-year dynastic rule over Alberta's political landscape. The truth is, the Wildrose Alliance has some of the brightest and best-connected political minds in the province working with them. They've got people who were involved in founding what started as a "meaningless western protest movement rump of a party" called Reform - so they know what it takes to go from obscurity to a real political force. They've got a clean slate, as a party, with a leadership race underway. They've got the ability to raise huge sums of money - ask the Liberals how important that ability is.

But perhaps the greatest reason that the Wildrose Alliance may, in fact, present a clear and present danger to the Tories is the fact that it is a populist movement - every-day members feel as though their opinions are valued, and that they make a difference - because they are.

People who disregard the Wildrose Alliance do so at their own peril. This is folly, because the reality is that nobody yet knows what the policies of this party will be - beyond a somewhat safe assumption that there will be a focus on a business-friendly agenda. This party could end up being a business-friendly socially moderate party much like the Lougheed PC's, for all we know. There's a leadership race under way, as well as policy shaping taking place. With the WAP being designed specifically as a "bottom-up" organization, there's a real opportunity for well-organized people of ANY slant - be they moderate, progressive or conservative - to shape this party in their own image.

Now, the WAP-haters out there delight in pointing out that there are extreme, reactionary elements within the party. I hate to have to point this out, but there are extreme and reactionary elements in ALL political parties. There's no rule against allowing knuckle-draggers to buy party memberships. It's when they become the MAJORITY within a party that it's time to worry.

So, not knowing who is going to be leading the Wildrose Alliance, or what their policies are going to be, there are nevertheless political parakeets who insist, because they heard someone smart say it once, that the Wildrose Alliance will never get off the ground. I don't know, for a fact, that they will. But I know for a fact that they CAN. And I know for a fact that in 1965, Peter Lougheed (a former Edmonton Eskimo) gave up a lucrative Calgary law practice to take over a political party with 13% support and that hadn't held more than 3 seats in the Legislature at the same time for over 30 years. Hardly an Ignatieff-style "sure thing" of a career change. 2 years later, they won 6 seats. And 4 years after that, they won a majority - and have been in power ever since.

I bet - if you asked one of the parakeets around Ernest Manning's office in 1964, they would have told you that the Progressive Conservatives were absolutely no threat whatsoever.

I doubt Manning felt the same way. With Lougheed's elevation to PC Leader and the reforms, energy and policies he and his supporters brought to the party, Manning saw the writing on the wall after the 1967 election, and retired in 1968. The SoCreds lost power in 1971, and haven't elected a single MLA since the 1979 election.

Again, it bears repeating: I'm not saying, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the PC's are going to fall to the Wildrose Alliance - in 2012, or ever. But I AM saying that, with the right leader and the right policies (both of which are member-driven) on the part of the WAP, it COULD happen. And anyone who thinks otherwise is foolish.

Case Two: "Stelmach and the Tories are in the pocket of Big Oil".

The only thing I REALLY need to say in response to this statement is: "Do you KNOW anyone who works for a big oil company? ASK them how their management team feels about the Alberta Government."

Chances are, they're not exchanging Christmas cards.

The truth of the matter is, the Tories and the big oilsands companies are barely on speaking terms - and CERTAINLY not on "friendly terms". Stelmach has been criticised - again, by people with no understanding of political reality - as "the best premier that Big Oil can buy"... and yet, despite this assertion, he raised royalty rates and pissed off nearly every energy producer in the whole province as a result.

In reality, big oilpatch players like EnCana donate just as much to the Wildrose Alliance - and even (gasp!) the LIBERALS as they do to the Tories.

The lefties criticise the Stelmach Tories for being in the pocket of Big Oil, yet royalties were raised against the VOCIFEROUS objections of the oilpatch - which, the far left insists, is the group that bought and paid for the same Alberta Government which raised the rates in the first place. Even given the current economic climate, and the chill that low energy prices has had on the Alberta economy as a whole, the opposition parties on the left advocate raising royalties even HIGHER - because what stimulates long-term economic growth better than taxing companies so heavily on production during a recession that they stop doing business in your province altogether? (I believe this approach is referred to as "the final nail" economics)

Meanwhile, critics on the right criticise the Tories for raising royalties in the first place. Whether their argument is that Albertans were already receiving their fair share, or that Albertans aren't entitled to being compensated for the resources that belong to all of us, I'm not entirely sure. Whatever it is, though, we're led to believe that the world economic crisis and $40 per barrel oil was the fault of Ed Stelmach, 13th Premier of the Province of Alberta. It had nothing to do with OPEC, or a precipitous drop in world-wide demand. Nope - it was Ed and his damned royalty hike. Ed wrecked the world energy markets - and those darned PC members, who elected him leader after he promised to review royalty rates, are all accomplices. The PC's, we're led to believe, are "anti-business, and anti-energy producer".

Okay... so, the PC's are simultaneously in the pocket of Big Oil and have an anti-business, anti energy-producer bias.

Neat trick.

Any other brilliant observations, parakeets?


Troy Wason said...

Tough day at the office, ES?

Astute analysis, nonetheless. Great to see you back.

Jane Morgan said...



Seener Beaner said...

Where does the PC party get their corporate donations from? I haven't really been able to research that myself... Same goes for the Harper "Conservatives"

Anonymous said...

I agree that there are a lot of conventional oilpatch folks grumpy with the Stelmach government. The royalty framework has its flaws that work against competitively keeping investment here versus our neighboring provinces. But the NRF is only one of many body blows that the conventional oilpatch has suffered over the past few years. One much larger is the absolute disappearance of new capital into a business that has such a voracious appetite and need for investment. The only larger impact has been the destructive erosion in commodity prices.

If you are an oilsands player, the NRF would be a relative non-event. Again, the disappearance of investment capital and the erosion of price for your product has a much larger impact on your business.

The New Royalty Framework has served as a lightning rod for a litany of other ills that the business has suffered. The WAP gained notoriety during the 2008 campaign as being the only party that wanted government to revert to the old royalty regime, less than that outlined by any other party. It fed into the growing disgruntled nature of the oilpatch, a nature that persists today.

In my opinion, there is still the North/South, City/Rural, Calgary/Edmonton split that rises from time to time. Anything to generate an argument.

As for funding our political parties, the Chief Electoral Office's report is pretty simplistic on who supports who. I, for one, still like the model here where there is still a lot of onus on the individual candidate and his or her constituency organization; that's the PC method. I understand that the Liberals fundraise locally with the money funneled to the Provincial organization who then pays out during campaigns. What will the WAP do, other than have a lot of oilpatch folks, both provincially and corporately, write cheques?

Brian Dell said...

"Stelmach and the Tories are in the pocket of Big Oil"

The prevalence of this view is why Stelmach is really under little threat from the right. The province is more populist than is generally appreciated. The Wildrose Alliance will have a tough time of it as a pro-business party because businesses can't vote. I think the party should still go that route but it is a long shot in terms of success. The Reform analogy does not really apply as it was quite populist and played off regional alienation that provincial parties cannot.

Anonymous said...

Pretty nice site you've got here. Thanx for it. I like such themes and anything that is connected to this matter. BTW, why don't you change design :).