Monday, December 20, 2010

Are You Alberta Party Curious?

There is an interesting piece in the Sunday Reader section of the Edmonton Journal on the Alberta Party written by Sheila Pratt. It shows that the Alberta Party is drawing attention and capturing the imagination of progressive thinking Albertans.  The article shows that there is a significant yearning for a different way of doing politics in our province.

The recent municipal elections have shown dramatic evidence of that thirst for change all over the province.  Many incumbent  candidates were rejected by the electorate in cities, towns. municipal districts and counties.  Edmonton is the exception but we made that shift in consciousness two elections ago.  We liked the direction and destination of our city and it continues to move forward with a progressive council and mayor.  So all incumbents in Edmonton were all re-elected.  The exception that proves the rule.

The problem about a change is what is the alternative to the traditional left versus right tedious model of politics as usual.  That old-style thinking about ideological and manipulative politics is very distrusted by most Albertans.  The majority of us respond apathetically by simply not voting.  The consciousness is changing now and people realize if they don't participate politically as informed  citizens, there are negative consequences. Disillusioned apathetic citizens can give away their political power to an alternative that is not reflective of their values and not aligned with their aspirations for Alberta.  Apathy is not just boring - it is dangerous.

There are some Albertans with hardcore social conservative and libertarian values that believe the Wildrose Alliance is the change answer for our political culture.  Their approach is to essentially eliminate government then privatize public policy on the presumption that the marketplace is the answer to all the social, environmental, economic and political problems we face, including health care.  That is not consistent with the dominant values of most Albertans.  But most of us don't vote so we could end up there by default...with nobody to blame but ourselves.

There are many who are nominally supportive of the Wildrose Alliance because they see it as a "place to park your vote and frown sternly at the PCs"  as University of Lethbridge political scientist Peter McCormick says in the Journal article.  But given another viable balanced, moderate and progressive political alternative like the Alberta Party, one has to question the real level of committed public support for the fundamentalist hardcore conservative politics of the Wildrose Alliance.

No doubt the Alberta Party has a long way to go and very little time to get ready for the next election - which is expected within a year.  It is making progress, getting traction and picking up speed.  I am told membership has doubled to over 900 in the 6 weeks since the end of October Policy Conference.  More Albertans are buying memberships and engaging the start of constituency associations, looking a leadership campaigns and considering being a candidate....but still more is needed for the Alberta Party to be a contender in the next election.

It will have over 40 constituency associations formed by the end of January and the rest of the province will be organized right afterwards.  The party leadership campaign begin in the new year.  The leadership campaigns will bring mainstream media attention to the Alberta Party and that will attract the attention of everyday Albertans to this new fresh political movement.  Albertans will become more Alberta Party curious as they hear about how we can do politics differently and move forward to a progressive future.

In the last Alberta election 60% of eligible voters could not be bothered to get informed about the candidates, the leaders, the party platforms or ever show up to vote.  The Alberta Party will be fishing in that large pond of citizen disenchantment.  It will offer a viable alternative to politics-as-usual and will attract soft and swing support from all the traditional political parties who are fed up with the old-style politics.

There are reasons for the Alberta Party to be cautiously optimistic about gaining greater voter support.  The citizen disaffection for all of the current political offerings and the longing for change is obvious.  There are some of us who were there in 1971 when Lougheed led the dramatic change from the tired, tedious and out of touch Social Credit government to a new modern, youthful forward thinking and energized kind of government.

There are signs that we are back to the future.  There is the emergence of a revitalized voter who showed up in the recent local elections in larger numbers and with a message to politicians.  This is another reason to believe things can change quickly and dramatically in the political culture of our Alberta.  The rejection of so many conformist incumbent candidates is another encouraging sign of the coming of real political change.  The election of so many younger, imaginative and progressive thinking candidates to local governments and school boards also adds to the sense of a sea change shift that is emerging in the political culture of the province.      

On top of all that is some interesting research results we have discerned from the work of Reboot Alberta on the degree of shared values of progressive thinking Albertans compared to a random sampling the everyday average Albertan. The results are enormously encouraging for the progressive and fresh thinking of the Alberta Party.  We studied 22 value attributes of 644 self-selecting Alberta progressives within the Reboot Alberta citizens movement.  We wanted to find out what were the most vital values for progressive Albertans and what they wanted to see guide and drive politics and policy decisions of their government.

We did the same study with a statistically valid random sample of 568 Albertans so it is accurate at the +/-4% level.  We then compared the random results to the Reboot progressive citizens movement results.  We wanted to get a sense of how many progressive thinking people there are in Alberta.  We looked at the degree of alignment of the random results and compared them to the top quartile of the Roboot results.  This top quartile alignment of the two surveys is an indication of an excellent fit of the Alberta population with the progressive values of Reboot Alberta Influentials.  What we found is that 28% of Albertans are profoundly aligned with the Progressive values. 

When we compared the random results to the top two quartiles of the Reboot survey we found that 63% of everyday Albertans shared the same set of values as Reboot Alberta Progressives.  What is just as important is there was no difference between ages, genders or between rural and urban progressive thinking Albertan when you look at the random sample results.  Rural and urban Albertans share the same values, maybe not the same priority about issues but we Albertans are fundamentally the same kind of people...regardless of where we live.

If this extrapolation of the alignment of random sample of regular Albertan and the Reboot community is accurate that means the red-neck social conservative image of Alberta so "popular" in the rest of Canada is a myth.  It is a myth that needs to be debunked.   It also means there is a large untapped group of progressive thinking Albertans looking and longing for a political home and a political party they can believe in.  Could the Alberta Party be the answer to the quest for change for the 63% of us who want a real progressive government that reflects our values?

If you are Alberta Party curious, take a chance and go to the website, read the policy document and other items.  If you are curious about what is a Progressive go to that link on the Reboot Alberta  and read the commentaries. Then take a minute and look at the mix of young-old, male-female on the Alberta Party Board and ask yourself if this mix makes sense in how a new political party should look.  Can you see that the Alberta Party is on to something and serious about doing politics differently?  Is this new political movement something worthy of your support and involvement as a citizen? If you want real change we all know it is basically about taking personal responsibility.  We have to be the change we want to see.

So overcome your reluctance about political participation.  Take the leap and buy a membership in the Alberta Party.  Become active in the forthcoming party leadership selection process.  Share your engagement and enthusiasm with your family, friends, co-workers and your community.  Encourage them to revitalize their sense of empowerment as a citizen.  Ask them to consider joining the Alberta Party too.  After all it is still a free country and province...for now but that could change if you choose to stay disinterested in the future of our Alberta.