Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Alberta's New Premier

Alison Redford is the new premier of Alberta, after winning an upset election to determine the new leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, over Gary Mar.  I am disappointed in the result, as Redford promises to put "progressive" back in Progressive Conservative Party.  In other words, she will likely move the party leftward.  She also promises "change."

I haven't been paying very much attention to Alberta politics, but I didn't really think change was necessary in Alberta.  Given Alberta's relative success (relative to the other provinces) and conservative politics, the concept of "change" makes me uneasy.  Will a less conservative premier more heavily regulate the oil industry, thus weakening Alberta's economy?

Here's a chilling passage from the Edmonton Journal:
Jacquie Eales voted for Alison Redford on her way home from her 13-year-old daughter’s basketball game.
The 47-year-old Edmontonian, a liberal at heart, didn’t vote on the first ballot. In truth, she says, the Progressive Conservative leadership race wasn’t on her radar.
Then, on the way into work one morning, she heard Redford on the radio.
“She talked about the importance of education and health care, and those are two things that are important to me,” Eales said Monday.
“It’s unlikely that there will ever be a Liberal leader in Alberta, so I thought, if I want to make a difference in terms of education and health care, perhaps I need to buy a PC membership and vote for a candidate who might have a chance.” 
But she didn’t immediately buy a membership. That point came when a friend involved with the advocacy group Friends of Medicare sent her an email highlighting Redford’s support for public health care. “I thought, if I want to make a difference, I have to vote.”
Redford might as well be a Liberal.  The thought of a Liberal leading Alberta is frightening.  One of my favorite things about Alberta is its relatively conservative politics.  Here's an even more chilling passage (from the same article):
“I don’t think Mar did himself any favours musing about having a debate about privatizing health care,” Duffy said. “I don’t know which is worse, talking about it or trying to run away from it, but that’s the worst of both worlds.” 
He said Redford’s campaign ran on a classic public-services platform. 
“So here you’ve got Redford talking about education, reaching out to soccer moms, and then Mar starts talking about privatizing medicare,” he said.
“At that point, you’ve got a classic set up between an in touch, family-responsive candidate who wants to deliver public services, and an out-of-touch business guy. ... It’s a perfect contrast.
So, not only does Alberta now have a CINO (Conservative in Name Only) premier, but the favourite would have considered privatizing health care.  Think about what Alberta could have had!

Hopefully, Redford's premiership ends after the next election, which will apparently be soon.  While the Progressive Conservative Party has governed Alberta for about 40 years, that is because Alberta is a conservative place.  Fortunately, conservatives in Alberta have another option, the Wildrose Party, a formerly minor party, that has been making significant gains in polls, even winning one by a wide margin (in 2009).  To me, this party resembles the Tea Party movement.  It is a fiscally conservative, right-libertarian party with a social conservative branch.  With the Progressive Conservative Party moving leftward, the Wildrose Party's niche is expanding, and the Progressive Conservative dynasty in Alberta may hopefully end soon.  It is worth mentioning that the election Redford won had two parts.  Voters wrote two names on their ballots.  In the first part, only the first name on each ballot was counted.  If there was not a majority, the third place candidate's votes were given to the candidate whose name appeared on the ballots that originally went to the third place candidate.  After the first round, Gary Mar had a plurality of the votes, while Alison Redford gained a narrow majority after the second round.  What this means is that Redford did not win the election convincingly, which is good for the Wildrose Party, which will likely attract disgruntled Conservatives next election.  It is also worth mentioning that many people apparently joined the Progressive Conservative Party just to vote for Redford.  

Here are some Wildrose Party ideas/observations that I particularly like:

  • Restore the role of elected MLAs by mandating that all votes in the Legislature and caucus be free and reported to the public
  • Non-confidence votes would be held as separate and stand-alone votes, allowing MLAs to vote on proposed legislation based on the interests of their constituents
  • Implement legislation allowing for citizen-initiated referenda and voter recall (support thresholds to instigate both processes must be sufficiently high to eliminate frivolous initiatives)
  • Institute fixed dates for general elections, senate elections, budgets, legislative sessions, and Speeches from the Throne
  • Establish an independent Cabinet and MLA pay and benefits review process that prevents the Premier, Cabinet, and MLAs from setting their own salaries
  • Create transparency in finances and budgets by ensuring government debts and cash deficits are reported accurately and in a timely manner
  • Post MLA expenses online
  • Take an aggressive stance with the federal government in regards to the equalization program in order to ensure that billions more of Albertans’ hard-earned tax dollars remain in the province, working for the benefit of Albertans
  • Exercise our provincial constitutional rights by demanding that the federal government not regulate our industry or property in the name of “environmental protection”
  • We will dismantle Alberta Health Services and gradually decentralize the delivery of health care to locally managed and integrated hospitals, Primary Care Networks, family physicians, specialty centres, long-term care facilities and other health services
  • We will reduce wait times for specialists and procedures by opening delivery of publicly paid services to any accredited private and non-profit provider
  • In terms of policing, our province is facing significant challenges as it tries to deal with organized crime, gangs, child exploitation, identity theft, and white collar crime. Too often, the rights of the accused and convicted criminals seem to supersede the rights of victims.
  • Protect the rights of victims by advocating for federal legislation that would see convicted criminals financially compensate the victims of their crimes without the need for costly civil trials
  • Over the last 20 years, the Human Rights Commissions in Alberta have probably been the single worst offender of Rights: i.e. freedom of speech; politically correct activists have used them to punish religious and right-wing social commentators. Even when found not guilty, its expensive and time-consuming
  • Restrain per capita infrastructure spending to a level consistent with the national average.
  • Streamline and decentralize procedures to ensure more funding flows directly to individuals and families in need, and would phase out regional PDD boards in favour of a more localized approach to funding decision-making
  • Encourage small and medium business investment and growth by ensuring Alberta is the lowest-taxed jurisdiction in North America
  • End the current government’s failed strategy of picking winners and losers by handing out corporate welfare grants to hand-picked corporations
  • CFIB say over-regulation costs Alberta $4B per year. Their 2010 report says Alberta and Manitoba are ranked the lowest among the provinces when it comes to reducing this burden
  • According to a Fraser Institute report, a sweet gas well that should take 10 days and $1,000 to get regulatory approval takes almost three years and cost $100,000
  • Actively review and reduce the unnecessary regulatory burdens that compromise the competitiveness of our key industries
There were some ideas I didn't like, and many more that I did, but I like the party's overall message.  

Perhaps the election of Alison Redford is a blessing in disguise, as one-party dynasties tend to engender corruption.  Hopefully, the Wildrose Party will continue to gain momentum and make Alberta politics more competitive.

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