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Thursday, February 03, 2011

Alberta Party Becomes a Political Punching Bag

There is a new and nasty reaction to the rise of the Alberta Party from sources in the traditional political parties.  The rumour mills, media quotes and online chatter is full of anger and angst aimed at  the Alberta Party as some upstart new kid on the block that needs to be put in its place.  It is as if our new found validation as a viable political option in the eyes of the media and others was our fault and not theirs.

The Alberta Party is now a target by some saddened practitioners of the politics-as-usual  We in the Alberta Party are being punched way above our weight these days. But beating on us will not change the reality that Alberta citizens have rejected the old-style Alberta political culture.  The tired and untrue political spin cycles just remind citizens why they avoid politics and see voting a pointless.  It shows why we don't get our best and brightest people participating in public service and politics.  They rightly conclude "Who needs this grief?"

Speaking of grieving, the soul searching of the NDP and Liberals and progressive in PC party has begun in earnest, especially with the recent resignations of Stelmach and Swann. The core partisans in these parties are grieving.  They were in the denial stage of "this can't be happening" as they saw the infighting result in the loss of two good men as party leaders - within a week.  That makes the continuation of the denial stage pretty pointless.  There are some who are well into the anger stage now of "why me...this is not fair."  If you look at the comment thread on this Daveberta post you can see the anger stage playing out in real time. 

If the grieving continues we will see some examples of the bargaining stage emerge in the progressive wing of the PC Party.  That will start to happen when they see who actually steps up to run for the PC leadership from the progressive side.  There will be desperate bargains struck about who gets the nod as the preferred progressive candidate.  There will be concerns of  will he or she be strong enough to beat Ted Morton.  If the preferred progressive is not strong enough to win expect more progressives to drift into the Alberta Party.  Expect a wave of progressives to to the Alberta Party from the PCs  if there is a purge of their ranks as a result of a Morton leadership victory.

On the Liberal side we have seen many rank and file members already make the value trade-off decision and have joined the Alberta Party.  Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman's recent media comments about considering running for the leadership of either the Liberals or the Alberta Party is an example of a bargaining stage of grief.  This ambivalence is totally understandable and this kind of decision making process is not easy.  It is much more than just keeping political options open.  It about being authentically open to new ways of thinking about politics.  It is about trading past loyalties for the potential for new hope when everything is uncertain.

Some partisans will just go into the depression stage now or after the PC and Liberal leaderships have been decided.  They will likely respond by withdrawing from political life and politics all together concluding "what is the point any more." Other partisans, displeased with the leadership decision of their party, will emerge out of all this looking for new hope and a new home.  They will go through the final Acceptance stage of grieving.  They will come to realize that Alberta has changed and they must change too.  Perhaps the Alberta Party will be their new hope and their new home - but only time will tell.

I went through this kind of political soul searching and grieving in my own decision making process to leave the PCs.  I realized, through my involvement with  Reboot Alberta, that Alberta had fundamentally changed from what I had assumed was the political truth of the times. We found through research that Albertans were losing their sense of pride in the province but their personal commitment to making Alberta better was still extraordinarily strong.  The research results we so strong that it was obvious that something was about to change dramatically in Alberta politics.  Who knew how, where, what and when that change would happen - but it is happening now.

 The research uncovered the fundamental values Albertans wanted to see from political parties before they would grant their consent to be governed.  Those values are integrity, honesty, accountability, transparency, fiscal and personal responsibility and environmental stewardship.  Albertans also felt these values were seriously lacking in the current political culture. My sense from the Reboot Alberta experience and research was that something new and different was needed in the Alberta political landscape.  The politics as usual approach could not respond to the longing and yearning for a more caring, compassionate and responsible political culture.

The Alberta Party idea emerged from the first Reboot Alberta gathering.  In time I came to see and accept that the Alberta Party was the best chance to do politics differently in our province.  I have become active and have not been disappointed nor have I second guessed my decision. In fact I have been delighted with my new political home.  I trust other moderates and progressives will eventually find their way to the Alberta Party using their own paths and processes.  Check out the Alberta party website, stay tuned to its progress and see if it aligns with your values and aspirations for a better Alberta..  When you decide you want to become part of the co-creation of the next Alberta you should come join us.