Friday, December 11, 2009

This is the Winter of Stelmach’s Disconnect

The latest Angus Reid poll putting the Alberta PCs in a second-place tie with the Liberals (25% each – ouch) will shake the confidence of the caucus and stir the cauldron of discontent that has been on a slow boil within the Stelmach government for some time now.

I have not seen the poll questions or actual results myself. I am commenting off newspaper reports. Jason Fekete wrote the front page blockbuster story and is a very good and reliable reporter. I have no reason to mistrust the facts he presents. There is always more intrigue in polling results when you take some time to dig a bit deeper. When I see the actual results I will do another post and put some political context around the numbers.

With apologies to Buffalo Springfield;” Something’s happening here? What it is ain’t exactly clear.” PC supporters must feel a bit like the day after the 1995 Referendum. The Quebec separatists lost with the thinnest of margins and Canada was “saved.” It was shocking and unnerving to many of us in the rest of Canada who realized, for the first time, how much public sentiment had shifted in Quebec.

That same unease and uncertainty is how I feel today as a progressive Albertan in the face of the Wildrose Alliance.  How can it be that they are being seen as the only potentially “viable” political option in Alberta? The question of is what is happening here is quite frankly very clear.

Here is part of what I see happening politically in Alberta these days. The PCs are clearly past their best before date. They have been around too long. They are now well beyond being tired, stale and bland. They have proven to be inept and ineffective in too many instances and appear to be chronically maladaptive. Everyone in Alberta paying attention to politics knows, or at least, senses this.

The political and policy shifts by the Stelmach government have been disconcerting to many. It started with the vacillating responses to the Royalty Review, all through the last election and the humiliating third place showing in the Glenmore by-election and the fiasco that was Bill 44 and Bill 50.  They all reinforce the growing sense of disdain by citizens towards their government.  It is a government who is not listening and showing abject indifference to legitimate concerns and objections. The PC government’s disconnect with Albertans sees them now responding defensively, using threats, intimidation and belligerence as priority “governing principles” - just to keep people in line.

The Liberals and NDP are seen as insipid and uninspiring alternatives to the comatose Conservative regime. They are not perceived as a potential primetime government in waiting. The Greens have implode and disappeared in the most bizarre of circumstances. And that leaves the Wildrose as the only possible alternative to consider – at this time? Spare us please.

The ascendance of Danielle Smith on the political scene as been covered by the traditional media with an E-Talk! level of celebrity-centric perspicacity. So much more needs to be known and understood about the Wildrose Alliance and in particular their social and environmental policies, principles and values. We don’t even know if they have people who would be the kind of candidates with character and qualities worthy of our consent to be governed.

This Angus Reid poll shows a dramatic spike in Wildrose Alliance “popularity.”  It says little, if anything, about them however. It is not very relevant to the fortunes of the Wildrose Alliance in the larger political scheme of things. At least not now given that we are so far away from any chance of a general election, currently expected in March 2012. It does, however, speak volumes about the shortcomings and disenchantment Albertans have for the other provincial political parties.

Bottom line – the Angus Reid outcome is an opinion poll. It is not a statement about a deeper judgment that citizens have to make about who will govern us when an election is actually looming. My sense is most of the Wildrose Alliance support in this poll is about sending a message to the other parties.  The message is that they are not doing the job rather than a positive choice in support of the WAP. If you added an option in this poll for “None of the Above” I’m betting they would end up being be the most popular party in Alberta today.

So take a Valium Alberta.  And in the meantime you better dust off your citizenship and park your political indifference and cynicism. They are luxuries you can no longer afford. If you don't re-engage as informed and involved citizens and WAP forms the next government you will be delegating decisions to fundamenalist, traditionalist and social conservative values throw-backs of a bygone era.  Indifference means those people will get elected and they will be making all the political and value choices for and about you, your life and your liberties.
Govern yourselves Accordingly Alberta!