Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Comparing and Contrasting WRAP Leadership Candidates

Politics is an ever changing world and party leadership contests are windows into the culture of change - not just the change events themselves.

The Wildrose Alliance Party is going through a leadership contest with two main candidates, Danielle Smith and Mark Dyrholm. The Calgary Herald ran separate pieces by each candidate but both entitled "Why I Want to be Leader of the Wildrose Alliance." Since they were published over a month apart I thought it would be helpful for Albertans to see them at the same time and side by side for contrast and compare purposes.

I would never join the WRAP but found the candidate pitches to be very interesting at a few levels. First both candidates are Calgary based so they provide some insight into the right-wing sensibilities in that city. Then they were both once active Alberta Progressive Conservatives but became disillusioned in what they saw as a progressive shift in the PC Party post Ralph Klein and they left to join the WRAP.

That reasons for leaving the PC Party is the third interesting insight from the comments of these leadership candidates. Post debt and deficit Smith felt the PCs "..slowly began to lose their way." As for Dyrholm, he blames Stelmach for "devastating the oilpatch" claiming he "torn up contracts" which I presume is a comment from Mark about the new royalty regime. That was nothing close to tearing up a contract if my assumption is right about Mark's statement. The Calgary "Patch" players have declared the royalty changes to be the new NEP and facts to the contrary will not dissuade them.

I am intrigued by other reason for wanting to lead the WRAP where I agree with them. Mark is criticizing the PC government for "eroded democracy with the firing of the Chief Electoral Officer because recommendations made were not one he (Stelmach) wanted to hear." I agree this is an important issue and with Mark's assessment of the implications too.

Danielle Smith bemoans the fact "Teachers fear being hauled before the Alberta Human Rights Commission under an amendment to the legislation that no one I know was asking for." Even casual readers of this blog for the past 3 months know how much I agree with that concern and oppose the PC government's stand on Bill 44.

Both candidates are staunch fiscal conservatives and like very small government. Smith is much more socially moderate than Dyrholm who touts his support for many very right-of-centre groups and his active role in the former federal Reform and Alliance parties - now known as the Harper Conservatives.

As I reflect on the WRAP leadership race I note they are former PCs who left mostly for what they say as a lack of fiscal discipline in the "conservative" side of the PC party. They both have concerns with some social justice issues, and that is a subject matter that appeals to the "progressive" side of the PC party. What might a rise in the political influence of the WRAP mean for the future of the Progressive Conservative Party if the fiscal cons gravitate to them and the social progressives disengage or go elsewhere?

My final thoughts was about what was lacking in the political consciousness of these candidates based on their published pieces. There wasn't any commentary from either of them on the environment or the need to provide for vulnerable people in our society as a society. The fact that these issues are not on the radar screens of these leadership hopefuls is a surprise. It will likely prove to be a fatal flaws for future electoral success with the greater Alberta population for whomever becomes the WRAP leader. Of course they both have time to adapt and tell us more about their position on these serious public policy concerns.