Alison Redford’s Progressive P.C. government has, in their press releases and radio ads, in their online discussions and public statements, repeatedly triggered the catch phrase ‘Albertans have told us.’ But through those same venues it has become glaringly obvious that while Alberta voters have certainly been speaking to the government, the government has simply refused to listen.
When the public expresses valid concerns over such issues as the possible intimidation of doctors, community associations, and municipal governments, we expect answers. When we speak out or even simply question the need for certain government policies and laws, enacted by an unelected Premier, we expect our voices to be heard and our views respected.
What the Alberta public does not expect, what we do not accept, is for the government and its supporters to fill the air with weak and intelligence-insulting denials. We do not accept pathetic attempts to deflect focus and avoid assuming responsibility.
The combination of unpopular policies and image-tarnishing P.R. flubs has snowballed in the public consciousness, and has resulted in a permeating ‘time for them to go’ attitude.
It is a view that the ruling Progressives cannot comprehend. They have had it cushy. Except for a close shave in 1993, they haven’t faced a serious political challenge since forming the government in 1971. They also have not, even during the program of cuts and a sacrifice of the 1990’s, faced this level of public ‘revolt’.
You can tell they are confused by all of this. Questions regarding dubious inter-relationships with other levels of governments and special interest groups are met with denial, ignorance (I don’t recall…), arrogance (That’s how it works), or indifference (er,..um…did you see the Wildrose bus?).
I have written before about certain Progressive M.L.A.s and their cringe-inducing attempts to avoid answering honest questions with claims that the questions were somehow too ‘personal’ and that I/we were becoming ‘nasty’. At the time I made light of the responses, but Albertans are not laughing and government M.L.A.’s cannot understand why.
The truth is, the buzz regarding issues like the .05% drunk driving law, tax or no tax increases, and letters and conversations from M.L.A.s giving the impression of there being a ‘Culture of Corruption’ are all merely symptoms of the real problem.
The P.C.’s have managed to stay in power for such a long time because they have been successful at renewal. They used to be adept at knowing when the administration of the day was growing long in the tooth, and have managed to sell the idea that a new leader meant a new P.C. government. When Peter Lougheed’s time was done, the party ‘renewed’ under Don Getty. That quickly became problematic, and the poor choice of leader almost cost them the ’93 election.
Party brass deftly moved Ralph Klein into the top seat, and the P.C.’s once again convinced Albertans that they were a ‘new’ party – which they were.
Klein, along with the lack of credible opposition in the Legislature, allowed the P.C.s to rule virtually unchallenged for years.
The wave of success began to break during the last years of the Klein era. Party members assumed that once he was replaced, history would once again repeat and the P.C.s would ‘renew’. Blinded by an overwhelming electoral victory in 2008, the party failed to see the real story of that particular Election Day: the low voter turnout.
At the time, Albertans didn’t really support Stelmach or his government, but there really was no alternative. However, the desire for change was already evident.
The nail in the coffin was the ascension of Alison Redford. Renewing the party has once again been attempted, but the results have been disastrous. Unlike previous makeovers, this one didn’t take. Rank-and-file Tories have found themselves in the unenviable position of having to publicly support, and in more cases than not, defend their government’s move to the centre-left.
Life-long P.C. members go into the upcoming campaign caught between a rock and a hard place. It will be a tough few weeks as self-described ‘conservatives’ must walk the beat and explain to voters at the door why Redford’s left-wing, big-government agenda is good for the traditionally liberty-loving Alberta.
Their candidates and volunteers will be charged with the task of selling a scandal-ridden regime to a public growing ever more weary and untrusting of the party in power. They will have to explain how traditional moderate, right-wing M.L.A.’s could so willingly accept their own party’s move into deep liberal territory, essentially making the ‘Conservative’ part of their party name obsolete.
For the sake of the future of their party, they must do a better job selling the ‘new’ Redford Progressives than their own M.L.A.’s have done.