Monday, February 07, 2011

A Message for Moderation in Alberta Politics

Here is a very well thought out and articulated plea for more civility in Alberta's political discourse in the Edmonton Sun yesterday. 

We see the Harper government returning to the half-truth attack ads again.  This time it is on Ignatieff and before on  Dion but the intent is the same...belittling and unfounded personal attacks.  The Harper brain trust do this to bolster the support of the Conservative base voter...and to divert attention on just how much he has betrayed the principles of those supporters with his policies that have caused big debts and big government?  

The Harper Cons are also using taxpayer subsidized dollars to effectively campaign before the election writ so they don't have to account for the money under the election law.  This is not illegal but it is way outside the spirit of the law.  Disingenuous is a polite way to describe this lack of integrity.

Can this happen in Alberta? Stelmach when he announced his intent to step down as PC leader and Premier alluded to a concern that the next election would be rife with personal attacks against him too.  I don't know where he got his information from but he is not a man prone to exaggeration.

We have a democratic deficit in Canada and in Alberta.  Part of it is due to the importation to Canada of nasty negative adversarial campaigning from the darker side of the Republican party in the United States by the Harper government. The Tea Party movement in the United States bolstered by media ranters on Fox News like Glen Beck is a focal point for this kind of destructive political culture.

We don't want or need this kind of political campaigning in Alberta.  One wonders just how much the Harper -Rove destructive election approach will infiltrate the culture war on the right between The Wildrose and the Morton campaign.  Harper has influence on both camps. It will be interesting to see if the Harper nastiness,  mean-spirited disingenuous electioneering will also be used by the hard right to try and unfairly discredit those in other parties in the coming election.  I hope not but time will tell.  

It is legitimate to take issue about the integrity  and character of candidates and the consistency of their words and deeds but it needs to be relevant to their policy not just their personality .  For example the media reports of Ted Morton claiming to be a "moderate" in the PC party is fair comment.  He gives no evidence in support of such a statement - just a personal assertion that since the progressives find him too conservative and the Wildrose find him too progressive he must be in the middle????  This is a cynical framing comment designed to change the impressions of moderate Albertans of his persona and distance him from his pronounced social conservative past.

Taking Stelmach to task for calling on full disclosure of PC leadership campaigns now when he would not do so himself in the 2006 contest is also fair comment.  That is not nasty campaigning it is asking for clarity on integrity and intent of his recent proclamations in conflict with past actions. It is important for politicians to be able to learn, grow and change over time and is that what Stelmach has done? Disagreeing and calling candidates to account is not nasty politics so long as it is evidence based and intended to increase honesty, accountability and transparency in politics and politicians.

But there is a line and it does get crossed and when it does citizens now have the Internet to protect against such abuse and to pronounce it unacceptable to a fully functioning and fair democracy.  Yes and bloggers will have to be taken to account too if and when we cross the line.  So citizens of Alberta - don't be taken in by the negative ads and the nastiness of some anonymous trolls who comment on the events of the day with out evidence or elan.  Insist on a higher standard of conduct for our democracy and be harsh on those who don't meet those standards publicly and a the ballot box.