Friday, April 20, 2012

Who Ya Gonna Call? ROSEBUSTERS

I'm looking at next week with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation. As a guy who generally gravitates to the center-left, it has been a little gratifying to see the reigning PCs facing possible replacement after four decades in power. On the other hand, the party poised to replace them, the Wildrose Alberta Party, gives me the absolute collywobbles.

It's not so much that they are right wing, although obviously that is a concern to me. I like capitalism, but I love fairness and oversight, so rampant privatization and unfettered development has zero appeal to me. Alberta has always been a small-c conservative province, both fiscally and socially, and since the Progressive Conservatives have shifted a bit to the left with the new leader's overtures towards teachers and nurses, this alienation has driven many of the party faithful into the waiting arms of the Wildrose, or as I like to call them, the Regressive Conservatives. This is the reason that when you saw sweeping change in the Soviet Union, a lot of the old guard were retired, relocated, or developed sudden and terminal illnesses.

In my riding, the incumbent PC is a cabinet minister, and the Liberal and NDP candidates are fairly low profile. Three blocks south of me, David Eggen is giving the NDP a good shot at that jurisdiction, but where I am, the credible opposition is the Wildrose, which puts me in serious consideration of voting PC for the first time in my life.

I've never been a big fan of strategic voting; I've always felt we should vote for the candidate or party we feel best represents us, and even if your choice doesn't get in, at least you have some concrete encouragement for next time around that the support may be there.

But that's the future, and I need to live in the province now, and for the next four years. I haves lot of gripes with the Tories for the ways they've muzzled opposition, crippled healthcare, and handled education, but those issues could become even more critical under a Wildrose government, so as much as I hate voting against something instead of in support for something, I find myself preparing to hold my nose on Monday and voting PC, and justifying it as support for their new Red Tory leader.

When I hear thoughtful and compassionate people talk about voting Wildrose to 'send a message to the Tories', or to facilitate change, I have to shake my head. This isn't the change I want to see where I live.

  • Tolerating intolerance as free speech
  • Scrapping the Alberta Human Rights Commission
  • A leader who denies climate change
  • Closing hospitals
  • Closing schools
  • Privatizing healthcare
  • Rampant cuts to services
  • Soft royalty rates for resource extractors
  • More Public-Private Partnerships for new school construction
  • Reopening the contentious and divisive airport debate here in Edmonton
  • Stalling the construction of the new Royal Alberta Museum
I should say here that my biggest fear of a Wildrose government is not misrepresentation, it's that maybe we Albertans have been fooling ourselves all these years. Maybe as a whole, we aren't the modern, inclusive, progressive and cosmopolitan citizens we claim to be. Maybe these regressive, nostalgic, homophobic and insular hyper-capitalists are a better reflection of the Marthas and Henrys that make up our population. And if that's the case, things run a strong chance of getting a lot worse before they get better, as people first stop coming to Alberta in the first place, and others just get tired and move on to greener pastures, whether they are red, blue or orange.

After a record low voter turnout in the last provincial election, my first hope is that Monday's results reflect the values, wishes and hopes of the true majority of Albertans, which is already a challenge in our 'first past the post' electoral system.

My second hope is that the Wildrose are not the governing party, and my vote will reflect that.

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