Saturday, 5 September 2015

By-election Results Prove Need for Wildrose-PC Coalition

Wildrose now has 1 of 44 urban seats... 
As the NDP continue to damage Alberta’s economy by implementing policies that breed economic uncertainty and send investment and jobs fleeing to other now more competitive jurisdictions, the question now weighing on the minds of many is this; is it time to unite the Wildrose and PC parties into one small-c conservative party capable of beating Alberta’s growing leftist parties in 2019 and restoring economic prosperity and budgetary sanity to our quickly declining province?

The media is blindly parroting the simplistic message that the Wildrose victory in the recent by-election in Calgary-Foothills is a repudiation of Ms. Notley’s NDP, and Wildrose partisans claim this is evidence as to why there is no need for the victors to consider a long term relationship with their down-on-their-collective-luck PC cousins. That assessment is wrong headed. The by-election results are the clearest indication yet of the problem Alberta conservatives are facing.

Think about it. In one of the most reliably conservative urban ridings in Alberta, in the riding where Jim Prentice quit 5 minutes after his Party lost, with the economy in dire straits, a massive budget hole, hundreds of weekly layoffs, and NDP politicians across the country caught attacking Alberta’s oilsands on a daily basis, today’s leading conservative party, the Wildrose, wins…drum roll please…38% of the vote!

The NDP, who in the Calgary-Foothills by-election one year ago won a whopping 4% of the vote, finished second with 26%; and the PCs, given up for dead and running a rookie candidate with almost no party support, unbelievably still received 22% of the vote. This is a low water mark for the PCs – with any kind of a decent leadership race, the vote split on the right will only worsen making even this ultra conservative riding vulnerable.

Are you kidding me? This should have been a blowout.

So has anything changed since the NDP tsunami of the 2015 general election? Answer: no not really.
In both the general election and the by-election, the combined Wildrose/PC vote was 60%. The winning parties just switched places. The NDP finished with about the same percentage of the vote in both elections. 

It's telling that the primary NDP message in the final days of the by-election campaign was the argument that the PCs and Wildrose were very different, and that former PC voters should vote NDP. It didn't work of course. Half of the PC voters migrated to the Wildrose giving them the victory. But pay close attention to the Legislature over the next few years. You will see the NDP bend over backwards on the allocation caucus budgets, committee memberships and in the media to keep the PC brand as alive as possible, and the vote split active for as long as possible. In their defence, the PCs did this for years with the Liberals and NDP to great effect. The 'Dippers are just returning the favour...and guess who the suckers are now?   

Keep up the vote-splittin' boys!
The fact is that if a general province-wide election were held today, it is likely we would get roughly the same result we did 6 months ago. If the price of oil stabilizes the political gravy train, and the economy improves and settles down in 4 years…watch out folks…Ms. Notley will be celebrating an easy second term in office.

So is it time for the Wildrose and PC parties to talk a little cooperation and potential merger?

Of course it’s time! Are we to wait until the debt reaches $30 billion before getting our act together? $50 billion? $100 billion? Should we wait until Ms. Notley forever torches Gateway? Are we waiting for 10% unemployment and the energy industry becoming a shadow of its former self?

And what exactly are the current differences between the PC and Wildrose?

As someone who has been a member of both parties recently, allow me to let you in on a little secret…post Redford, there are no discernible differences.

Of course, there are those that disagree. A minority of left-leaning PC stalwarts still insist the Wildrose membership is a bunch of knuckle-dragging, hate-filled extremists.

That assertion is complete BS, and any ignoramus who still believes it needs to have their head carefully examined. 

Conversely, there are some hyper-partisans in the Wildrose who believe the entire PC Party and every member in it are corrupt, power hungry ingrates whose sole purpose is to enrich themselves on the backs of taxpayers.

Clearly there were PC entitlement issues after 40+ years of one party rule – most of which have been dealt with naturally by being defeated earlier this year. However, anyone who has met and worked with the actual human beings who have served as MLAs and volunteers in the PC Party, know full well that the vast majority are excellent people motivated by a desire to serve the province and communities they love.

The fact is the majority of members and MLAs in both parties believe in balanced budgets, low taxes, pro-energy policies that responsibly balance environmental concerns, educational choice, and a more decentralized health care system, just to name a few similarities.

Obviously, the attempted merger of last December failed. It did so for many reasons. First off, there was a power imbalance (one of the parties was the government, the other was not) which made it difficult to implement a true equal merger. Secondly and related, some of the people involved in the negotiations clearly had no intention to follow through with what was actually negotiated (such as implementing the agreed to policy document, hiring all Wildrose caucus staff, presenting a budget focused on spending cuts or waiting until 2016 to call an election…I could go on).

But the biggest reason it failed – and my single greatest regret – was a lack of transparency. The whole process, policy agreement, merger arrangement and all else should have been presented to the party memberships and Albertans to debate, alter and ultimately, to ratify. Not only would this have made the merger publicly acceptable, it would have forced all parties to act in good faith and follow through with the merger arrangement (like shareholders ratifying the negotiated merger of two companies).

The past is the past, but the future is unwritten. I hope the leaders and membership of the Wildrose and PC parties can learn from past mistakes, put aside their relatively small differences, and bring small-c conservatives together to fight for the Alberta we know and love. I fear that if we do not, we are putting the future prosperity of our children at inexcusable risk.     

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