Monday, May 17, 2010

Alberta Needs Viable Political Alternatives to Govern, Not Just a Bigger Opposition.

I was well intentioned to go to the Alberta Liberal convention as an observer and blogger this weekend but yard work and family chores took precedent. So what I sense is only what I read in the MSM and the headlines went from Warren Kinsella telling Alberta Liberals to get “mean and nasty” and rant against the social and fiscal fundamentalist forces on the dysfunctional right. The next day we see a policy resolution passing that says play strategically with the New Democrats under the guise of democratic renewal.

All Political Parties are in Decline:
It seems to have been an interesting time as the Alberta Liberals and New Democratic political parties are all trying to find their way forward as viable political options. This is not that different from the Progressive Conservative party who is heading into drift and despondency - but with cash to burn. It also seems to me that all conventional political parties are fading from relevance as they become trite, tribal and tedious to most Albertans. Even the recent “phenominal growth” of Wildrose Alliance is proving to be just so much media manufactured manipulation rather than a broad-based and authentic citizen re-engagement in Alberta politics. Recent polls show that without constant media coverage providing the “oxygen” to draw attention to the WAP, they are just another listless and languishing non-viable alternative to real change from the governing PCs.  The progressives remain disengaged and disillusioned about being listened to by "their" government.

The Need for Democratic Renewal
I have a great deal of respect for the leaders of the Democratic Renewal Project but have to say the model they propose for strategic voting is an erosion of choice and a dilution of democracy not a salvation for democracy. The DRP idea is essentially for Liberals and New Democrats to be “strategic” in certain constituencies where PCs have had small margins of victory. By not having Liberals and New Democrats run against each other and spit the vote the theory is more opposition members will be elected. The math the DRP has done shows that we get a bigger – but not necessarily a better – opposition. That is not good enough. We need viable alternative to the current political culture of feigned consensus if we are going to renew democracy and restore the public’s confidence in the political culture of the province.

Trying to manipulate the size of the conventional political party’s pieces of a dangerously declining rates of political participation pie is no way to strengthen democracy. We need real choices and effective viable alternatives for us to elect to form government. We need to enhance our democracy by having viable alternatives to assume office not just a bigger but not necessarily better opposition. We need to keep government honest, accountable and transparent by having alternatives not just oppositions.

Time to Design Some New Viable Governing Alternatives
The first step to this end is to stop the one-party-rule-by- default paradigm that is Alberta for so many years. In the one-party state citizens get taken for granted, or worse. The groups who do much of the work of government in the volunteer and not-for-profit sectors get intimidated, abused and bullied by the political powers. The behind the scenes casual corruption of business and the state colluding to create wealth for a few from the resources of the many is also the natural consequences of centralized single party rule. And even worse yet, too many citizens see that their only practical option is to withdraw from participating in their democracy rather than stand up for their rights – especially free speech and their ownership of the natural resource rights.

Have You Had Enough Yet?
We are in a political culture crisis in Alberta. Trust in our political and governance institutions is very low and legitimately so. The focus on short term political expediency over long term good governance is adding to the vicious cycle of citizen disengagement from their democracy.  I am not into blaming the status-quo conservatives from the PC or the WAP that would exchange one set of ideologues with a worse set of ideologues.  I am not into settling for a bigger but not better opposition as the only alternative to governing Alberta that the DRP alliance being pushed by some Liberals and New Democrats. 

I think we need a revolution based on the collective revulsion we feel about the politics-as-usual way of thinking. Collective ennui about how poorly we are governed in Alberta and Canada is a luxury we can’t afford anymore. Fundamental political change is required for real democratic renewal. The DRP is well meaning but the solutions they offer are not enough to make the kind of difference we need. Messing around with the margins of low voter turnout is not the solution – peaceful but powerful revolution to restore real democracy to Alberta must be the goal.