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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Peter Lougheed Gets in the Game

There are few names in Alberta as famous as Lougheed. The statesman status of former Premier Peter Lougheed is one of the best antidotes to the stern hard line far right rhetoric of the Alliance cum “Progressive” Conservative candidates.

The halcyon mythology of the Lougheed time as Alberta’s “Camelot” is over blown by we Red Tories – just as much as “blaming the NEP and Ottawa” for all the past ills of Alberta is exaggerated by the Alliance folks. The partial truth of myths is both their strength and their weakness.

The Lougheed endorsement of Dinning is surprising to me. No surprise as to where his support would be. I am surprised however that he would break from his earlier commitment not to make any campaign endorsement. Doing so in such a timely and strategic way is good politics and a confidence boost for Dinning.

If resonance with the public sentiment is the test of a successful political position (and it is) Peter Lougheed and Preston Manning have been the most effective campaigners on “their issues” of anyone in this leadership contest. Frank, clear, blunt and forward thinking commentary from both men have added greatly to forming the current and emerging consciousness of Albertans. This is especially with the ascendance of the environment as the #1 issue in Albertan’s policy concerns. Their influence on making that happen is significant.

I think Peter Lougheed’s political instincts about what is happening in this leadership campaign are as sharp as ever. I believe he fears the potential ballot box strength of the republican-lite far right candidates and the collective indifference of the progressive and moderate elements in the leadership campaign.

So his engagement in the fray will help raise the attention level of the campaign amongst moderate and progressive Albertans. It will help Stelmach and Hancock garner support too I expect. Hopefully it will show progressive and moderate Albertans that they need to be involved in this leadership contest because the outcome can potentially define the future for all of us.

For years I used to sit back and roll my eyes at the statements and actions of the far right element in the PC Party. I viewed them as a minority that merely had to be tolerated in a free and democratic society. I sat back and did nothing to rebut the rhetoric, regardless of how ridiculous and rancorous it was at times.

Because most people like me in the PC party were also disengaging we left the policy and political field to the far right and they, to their credit, played the game well. They set the tone and temperament of the party and changed the public consciousness of what the PC party was all about. It had evolved from an amalgam of progressive plus conservative principles more into a big “C” conservative movement.

The new debt/deficit approach was a disciplined fiscal approach (for a while), but with a relatively harsh social agenda. It ended up being neither progressive nor conservative in the end just power-based pragmatic government with too much money to spend. The party had lost its way. This leadership campaign, we must remember, is about the future of the party and the province.

I few years ago I decided to re-engage and to stand up to the far right rhetoric when I thought it was destructive, discriminating and divisive. This Blog is just part of that personal re-engagement. I don’t know if Peter Lougheed is re-engaging for the same reasons, but given the circumstances and the timing, I would not be surprised.