Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What Does the Fiscal Four Mean for the Stelmach Government?

Here it comes! The seeds of a PC caucus rebellion are planted by a group forming and publically calling themselves the Fiscal Four! Is this reminiscent of the (not so) Deep Six that Stelmach was part of as a rookie MLA? Three of them are strong social conservatives from in and around Calgary that were active in pushing the anti-gay, anti-teacher aspects of Bill 44. This will not sit well with the powers that be!

Is the Party Behind Stelmach but the Caucus, Not So Much?
This split in caucus is not a surprise. It is just coming much sooner than I expected. The 77% party support solution from the recent PC AGM was a great example of the wisdom of crowd. It was not so low that it caused a partisan panic. It was not so high that the Premier’s office could claim all was well in Ed's world regardless of evidence to the contrary.

The response from Premier Stelmach was obvious relief but too tentative in terms of articulating what he heard and what is intends to do. He says he will make changes - but slowly and on his time schedule. The delusional declaration that the PC policy is perfect and then blaming of the media for the poor communications and the head nod solution to using social media is inadequate and unimpressive. This response to the public’s resistance to the Stelmach government policy is just a “pocket full of mumbles.” That is the true communications problem.

Is Social Media Stelmach's Communications Solution?
The old-school command and control, top down, message management mentality of the PCs, and the Wildrose Alliance too, will not work in the culture of the new world order known as social media. The PCs tried to adapt to social media a year or so ago - and with some considerable effort and enthusiasm. The effort was shown with the set up of MYPCMLA site. As soon as the social media conversation started to work, the PCs enthusiasm waned and they have essentially abandoned the effort. Now a few PC MLAs still use it as well as Twitter, Facebook and personal blogs but on a cautious and inconsistent basis.

Fear of the openness of the social media world is the dominant reaction of traditionalists in political parties. This fear is because the inner circle political machinery in the Stelmach government wanted to continue to have absolute control over the messages. You can't do that in the social media world. It is too democratic for that. They are wary of joining in any authentic conversation with engaged Albertans online using social media tools.

Facing the rabble known as netizens without the usual tools of coercion and fear feigning as respect forced them PCs to retreat from the field. The rabble is talking about them anyway so it would be wiser to be involved and ensuring accuracy, understanding and context as well as the opportunity to learn and show real leadership.

So What is With the Fiscal Four?
Now we have the Fiscal Four breaking ranks and sending out their own messages. Two of them are very adroit at using social media and have substantial networks in the wired world. Is this self-anointed fiscal watch-dog group the start of the PC caucus “big tent” folding and not flourishing?

Are some of these MLAs part of the 10 closeted Wildrose floor-crossers that were rumored to exist a few weeks ago? Are they so fearful of defeat in the next election under the current leadership that this is now every man for himself - especially in Calgary? It has been that way for Edmonton PCs for decades. Or are these guys in Kris Kristofferson land and feeling a new found freedom because they have nothing left to lose?

Looks like the Premier may have to fast-track identifying and making the changes he alluded to last week end in his speech after the confidence vote. To delay now will only weaken his power, his base and undermine his own effectiveness and survival. He was quick to reverse the liquor tax increase last summer because he said he "did not feel right about it." He may need to be that nimble and assertive now. For sure he will have to be more substantive and more strategic now that these caucus cracks are showing.

Is the Wildrose Alliance Worth the Risk?
Albertans have to ask ourselves why the Wildrose Alliance is the best alternative for most us...not just the wealthy elites from the Calgary oil patch. They are in many ways scarier than the old Alliance crowd because they are not open and transparent on social and environmental policies. They seem to be conniving to avoid talking about key social (gay rights, abortion) and environmental issues because they say they are "divisive." It is all about aligning with the narrow and shallow Fraser Institute culture for the Wildrose Alliance.

It is as if the Wildrose Alliance believes if we just ignore human rights abuses, the plight of the poor, the obligation to the vulnerable, like children, seniors and the disabled they will go magically to away. It is as if the goal for Albertans is to aspire to get as rich as possible and as quickly as possible regardless of environmental implications.

The Wildrose Alliance has pledged to stifle government by starving its capacity with more ill-advised tax cuts. That way the self-fulfilling prophesy of government being incapable of doings it job is assured - but that is ok because that is the world unfolding as it should in a Wildrose Alberta.

The next government can deal with social fabric breakdown fallout, the environmental and climate change disasters we are developing today through a wanton and reckless focus on only economic policy. To them it is as if that is somehow acceptable for the current narcissist generation to ignore and avoid any social or environmental responsibility to future generations.

We still don't know who funded and is hidden behind the scenes and influencing the new Wildrose leader. She has refused to disclose her funders and the reason is "because they fear reprisals" from the government. That is not good enough.

Lots to look at and much more attention needs to be directed towards the Wildrose Alliance Party by all Albertans. We need to see if they are an alternative to be trusted and worthy of our consent to govern us. And by “us” I mean all Albertans from all over the province - not just the beautiful and bountiful Albertans in the Calgary elites and the disgruntled old-school former Reformers they are currently courting.