Saturday, December 12, 2015

Blind Leading The Blind

I've written this blog post 3 times now.

The first time, I completed it, only to read back and realize I was casting aspersions on the motives of certain people. That wasn't my intention, but it happened early on, and soured the whole post. So I trashed it and started over.

The second time, I made some pretty big assumptions about the most likely power-brokers behind the scenes. I realized that wasn't what I actually wanted to write about, so I cleared the screen, and started over.

Here's the thing: I don't find writing as enjoyable as I used to. It takes a lot of time - a LOT of it - to get things written down just the way I want them. In that time, people have already used Twitter and Facebook to make up their minds on a given issue, and once they cross the line from "idea I favour" to "belief I hold", there's no point in trying to convince them otherwise. Beliefs are tricky.

Add to this that for the most part, I've been filling my time either with a) my family, which is absolutely where my focus belongs, or b) work, which in this economy is a blessing that can't be ignored, and it's a little more clear why I've only been able to rattle off a half-dozen blog posts in the space of a calendar year that included both a provincial election AND a federal election.

But, when something gets me REALLY fired up, I can't help myself.

There has been a lot of talk lately about "uniting the right" in Alberta. Wildrose Leader Brian Jean talked about it at his party's AGM, in the context that Progressive Conservative supporters should buy Wildrose memberships, and join the ascendant party. He changed his tone at a recent fundraiser, and left several other options on the table, whether it was a re-brand of Wildrose (along the lines of the Reform Party's evolution to the Canadian Alliance) or to possibly fold up both the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta AND the Wildrose Party, and create an entirely new entity out of the ashes of both.

Note: I'm not in favour. But that's a blog post for another day, and it's not the subject of this one. When that post comes, I'll be honoured to argue with all of you about the pros and cons until we need to consume all the scotch in Christendom.

We've also been hearing from former PC MLA's that this is exactly what they want to see. They argue that this is the right thing for Alberta, that we need to end vote-splitting on the right to keep Notley from winning a second term in 2019 or 2020.

I have come to respect some of these vocal former MLA's. Some of them are my friends.

And they don't know what the hell they're talking about.

If I can pull back the veil for a minute, as someone who has worked closely with MLA's, I want to share something with all of you that might not be readily evident:

MLA's are just people. That's it. They're not demi-gods. You don't find them sitting on top of a mountain dispensing wisdom (well, except for one - Hi Dave!). They're no more special than you or me. They're not necessarily smarter. Or more gifted. And I say that with all the love in the world. They're just like the rest of us - and they're SUPPOSED to be. That's the entire point.

"But, but, but... E.S., these people got ELECTED! Something that, BY THE WAY, you couldn't manage to do when you tried it. They live and breathe politics! Surely, they know what the right thing to do is?"

Let's step back.

What does it take to become an MLA, and get a beautiful Mace lapel pin?

First of all, you have to win a nomination race. Depending on the timing and the party, that may be as simple as being the only person to have stepped forward, or you may have to run in a contested vote. Or, in some cases (Hi, Jono!) MORE than one contested vote (ah, 2008...). But even if the race is contested, in some instances and parties a hundred to a few hundred votes will get you the win. Getting a hundred votes is hard. You need to be organized, and work hard, but it's not 10,000 votes.

AFTER you win your nomination race, and receive the blessing of your chosen party... you don't necessarily have to do ANYTHING. I mean, it can certainly help your chances if you go out to the community, knock on doors, attend the local barn dance, show up at PTA meetings and 4H meetings and the like, but ultimately (as much as I wish it were otherwise), your fate as a candidate has more to do with the performance of your party's Leader and central campaign staff than anything you're going to do.

Don't get me wrong - a great candidate and a great local team can - and do - work miracles from time to time. But for every great candidate who beats long odds, there are 20 candidates - be they phenomenally gifted politicians or just regular folks who had the courage to step forward - who work incredibly hard, but lose because they're running under the wrong leader, at the wrong time, in the wrong riding.

And we have only to look at the results from this past May to see exactly what I mean. We saw a lot of people elected as MLA's who barely campaigned, raised and spent virtually no money, but they were the local candidate for the party whose Leader had captured the imagination of the electorate. That's not a condemnation of them - not by a long shot. But let's call a spade a spade: The candidates who won - and the candidates they defeated - were not, in most cases, the masters of their own destiny.

And it's always been this way. It's the unavoidable result of the Party system, where voters focus on the Party Leaders and barely pay any attention to the local candidates. As a result, we have to accept that the candidates who are elected won't necessarily be the best local choice - rather, they were (in many cases) the candidate representing the correct Party for a plurality of their local voters. But whatever they ARE, we have to accept that they're NOT better than we are. They put their shoes on one foot at a time.

And they make mistakes.

Here's a fun fact: Of the 43 sitting PC MLA's who ran for re-election and lost in 2015, 39 of them endorsed Jim Prentice for PC Leader. Some of them went further, and actually helped the "draft Jim" movement that changed Prentice's initial "no" to a "yes". If you accept - as many do - that Prentice and his pals and their campaign strategy were what sank the Battleship Tory, then you have to accept that those 39 former MLA's - some of them among the most vocal of the "unite the right" crowd - exercised TERRIBLE judgement in throwing their unequivocal support - not to mention their livelihoods - to a guy who would leave them unemployed and defeated 243 days after winning the party leadership, and barely 4 months after absorbing most of their Official Opposition in the Legislature (a move those defeated MLA's also publicly and enthusiastically endorsed at the time).

They bet on Prentice as the guy to appeal to Martha and Henry. They bet on him to bring some of that "Harper Magic" back to Alberta where it was born. They bet on him to get pipelines built, save Alberta's economy, and also (incidentally) their jobs. They backed his early election call. They backed his backroom deal with the Wildrose defectors. They gave him everything he wanted, in the hopes that people would forget most of them were elected as enthusiastic candidates for the Alison Redford PC's in 2012.

In short: These defeated former MLA's screwed up. BIG time.

This doesn't mean that everything they say is automatically wrong, any more than everything *I* say is automatically wrong. But what it DOES do is show that the fact that you used to be an MLA doesn't make your political judgement unassailable. It doesn't mean that everything you say should be taken as 100% inarguable truth, because you used to sit on the government side of the Legislature, or even in the front row. Maybe this former MLA or that former MLA DOES think a merger is a good idea. I've spoken to dozens of PC members myself over the past month, and I've heard 2 people in favour. Call it 2 in favour, 34 opposed. Does your voice drown out those 34, because you used to have an Edmonton office? Does your vote count more than theirs? Speak directly into the microphone, please.

If these former PC MLA's want to join the Wildrose so badly, they can buy a membership. Here's the link. They may want to consider, though, that under the current PCAA Code of Conduct, they can't be PC candidates in the future if they hold a membership in another provincial party. Or maybe they've already considered that, which is why a merger is so damned important to them.

Power's addictive. Being an MLA - especially a government MLA - is a position of power and influence. It's a chance to make your community, and society, better. Whatever that means to you. I can completely understand why someone would want the job. And I completely understand why someone who LOST the job - maybe through little fault of their own - would want to do whatever they could to remove barriers to them getting it back in the future.

I totally understand.

But just because you WANT it, doesn't make it "what's best for Albertans".

And even if you really believe, in your heart of hearts, that a merger IS what's best for Albertans, let me tell you: you're wrong.

Just like you were wrong about Jim.


lungta said...

i don't think that they can help themselves
harper showed you could take the reformers and the alliance, the anti-native and other racists, the misogynists and the homophobic; the apocalyptic capitalist Christians; the fear mongers and the dividers; the pro fascists and corportists and everyone else with a self centered interest or a hate
hijack the conservative label
and spread over all like a great shining table cloth
and proceed to rule them all
true progressive conservatives are such a small slice of the aggregate at this point
i remember them as thinking reasonable men attuned to change thru heart and science and technology, the "mark trail" guys seeking to "conserve" but also progress and for everyone
not as harpers christmas card once said
"loyal to friends and family "...leaving most to fend for themselves and not void of conscience and adverse to examination and political discussion and an aversion to democracy as harper was.
harper got the brand and then destroyed it
i hope
that like the defeated fascists and the defeated confederates
they become a bunch of bitter old people
reminiscing their "glory days"
and never subject albertans or canadians to their brand of regressive exclusive thinking again

Anonymous said...

The opinion of a former MLA is much more politically valid than the obscure blog of a failed nomination candidate from years past.

We need to unite the right in Alberta, and this is happening whether you like it or not. If you are too left wing to be a conservative, Greg Clark or David Swann will happily take your membership, while the rest of us are taking Alberta back.

Allie Wojtaszek said...

Said like a true anonymous troll! LOLz.

Give me a break. For years the PCs were more centrist because that's what the majority of Albertans voters were. The further right they went the more votes, donors, volunteers, members, etc they lost.

There are a few people who will always believe in a united right wing red neck Alberta but I think Albertans (and Canadians) have shown they reject that ideology and vision.

It's 2015. Let's not try to keep the same failed party ideals going. Don't unite, don't rekindle. Rebuild. Make something better.

Anonymous said...

Actually, that's not the case at all. The PC's problem and the reason for their loss is that they moved too far to the left, trying to buy off big unions, teachers, nurses, etc. with our tax dollars & royalty revenue. By doing this they alienated the vast majority of their previous supporters. Prentice would be our Premier today with another massive majority had he started cutting service costs like Ralph Klein did. The unions would have complained, but the rest of us would have been happy and much better off. Time to go back to the base and move further to the right.

kenchapman said...

Progressives left or went inert in the PC party a long time ago. I left to be part of a modern moderate movement called Redford faked as a progressive Smith tried to be one & Notley is personally but her Base isn't with here. Time to get Alberta beyond left and right and move forward

kenchapman said...

Progressives left or went inert in the PC party a long time ago. I left to be part of a modern moderate movement called Redford faked as a progressive Smith tried to be one & Notley is personally but her Base isn't with here. Time to get Alberta beyond left and right and move forward

Anonymous said...

"progressive" is just modicum for hard left wingers like Ken Chapman who would do well in the NDP... Alberta Party is left of them.

Enlightened Savage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Enlightened Savage said...

\ˈmä-di-kəm also ˈmō-\
: a small amount
Full Definition
:a small portion :a limited quantity

"Only a modicum of skill is necessary to use the word 'modicum' correctly, however anonymous trolls sometimes incorrectly use it as a fancy substitute for the word 'code', which it does not even come close to meaning, but who even owns a thesaurus any more?"

Anonymous said...

PCs were wrong about Prentice
PCs were wrong about Redford
PCs were wrong about Stelmach

You missed a whole bunch of history here Joey that shows a very long slide in judgement not just amongst the MLAs, but the PC membership. It has become a party with no principles; it was strictly a placeholder for power and now thst the power is gone the party is even more directionless than before.
"The Wildrose is scary" narrative was pretty much the exclusive campaign message of Redford and Co. Yes, the WR had a couple of dumb candidates and the PCs VERY effectively capatalized on that. For many, that Redford for narrative remains. For those paying attention though, it is a far cry from reality. Brian Jean is moderate in every respect and seeks a return to rationale government. The Calgary seat Prentice fled is a perfect example. Prasad Panda winning just shows how ridiculous the many claims about the WR are.
Yes, the PCs had great years, great people, great policy and, most importantly, great results. However, those years are long, long passed. I'm willing to move to another conservative alternative and invite other conservatives to as well. Notley must be stopped.

Anonymous said...

I agree the former MLA's are irrelevant. But so is this blog. The worse Notley does and the more things she rams down our throat (Bill 6?) the more people are coming to the conclusion it's time to unite the right. This blog is out of touch, outdated, and has no basis in any type of reality.

Paul Doherty said...

Judging by the Anonymous comments, "no true Scotsman" remains the battle cry of the (farther) right. Never mind that it was Peter Lougheed's red Toryism that built the foundations, that Ralph Klein angered so many Albertans that the opposition grew to 32 seats or that urban Albertans voted *NDP* before going Wildrose - their narrative never changes.

Some members of the PCAA leadership seem to think there is the opportunity for cooperation and compromise - a fundamental principle of Lougheed's Conservatives. However the rank and file understand that the Wildrose's ideology and political culture allows for neither.

Anonymous said...

Your right. These has-been washed up MLA's were fired by their voters, and their irrelevant. But, if you are so smart, why did the president of the Calgary Glenmore PC association want you to resign for these comments?

Anonymous said...

Sounds to me that the Enlightend Savage needs a Liberal membership with views like these.