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Saturday, June 17, 2006

the west wants change.

I thought this was interesting...

The West wants change

The Ottawa Citizen
Tue 13 Jun 2006
Page Name: Editorial
Column: Andrew Cohen

CALGARY - In the high summer of 1971, there was a historic election in the province of Alberta. The Social Credit party had been in power since 1935 and was seen as the Natural Governing Party. But something was going on here.

The formidable Ernest Manning had resigned as premier in 1968, giving way to Harry Strom. It was an orderly, bloodless succession that seemed to assure the government's re-election. Mr. Manning had been premier from 1944 to 1968, offering what historian John J. Barr calls "a cautious financial conservatism and a cautious social reformism" that led him to oppose the universal healthcare program introduced by Lester Pearson in the mid-1960s.

The Conservatives, led by a rugged lawyer named Peter Lougheed, didn't seem much of a threat. Although he had been elected to his seat in the legislature in 1967 with the largest majority of any candidate, he was joined by only five other Conservatives.

Yet the earth opened in Alberta in the election of 1971. Mr. Lougheed promised a regime of change that a tired government of 36 years could not match. He was articulate, intelligent and energetic. The Conservatives said the Socreds had had their day. Albertans gave Mr. Lougheed 49 of 75 seats.

That was 35 years ago. The Conservatives have been in power in Alberta now almost as long as the Socreds had been then. But this time it is the Conservatives who are tired, divided over their leadership and direction and pressed by a spirited opposition led by a popular leader.

Are we on the cusp of a generational watershed here? Could history repeat itself in Alberta?

Maybe. It depends on the depth of the public's desire for change, the appeal of a new Conservative leader, and how the Liberals position themselves in the new political firmament.

Mr. Lougheed was the nemesis of eastern Canada and Pierre Elliott Trudeau, whom he battled over the constitution and energy. But when he left in 1985, Mr. Lougheed was widely respected as an honourable advocate of his province's interests. In leadership, it has been downhill ever since for Alberta.

Mr. Lougheed was succeeded by the feckless Don Getty, who showed he did not have stature of his predecessor in the constitutional negotiations at Meech Lake in 1987. Mr. Getty was followed by Ralph Klein, who represents the descent of politics. He is vain, vulgar, mercurial and petulant. His response to the province's budgetary surplus was to issue every Albertan a cheque for $400. It is said that Mr. Lougheed thinks Mr. Klein is an embarrassment, and won't be sorry to see him go this autumn.

The favourite to succeed Mr. Klein is Jim Dinning, the former provincial treasurer who has been out of politics for years. Mr. Dinning would bring experience and credibility to the job, but it won't be enough to save the Conservatives if Albertans are shopping for something else, as they were in 1971.

At one time this province worried about having too little money: Now it worries about having too much. Managing oil revenues, balancing competing claims on the public purse, re-positioning Alberta in Confederation, dousing the persistent brushfires of alienation -- these will be the challenges facing the new premier of one the wealthiest jurisdictions in the world.

Everyone knows Alberta is surging. Developers are throwing up office towers and building subdivisions, creating suburbs in search of a city. The price of the average house in Calgary is said to be rising by $500 a day. Calgary hums with a vitality unimaginable to cities of similar size and means.

Yet for a province awash in wealth, why are hospitals still crowded, why are neighbourhoods without schools, why are social services uneven, why is the environment an afterthought? Why was homelessness up 49 per cent in Calgary between 2002 and 2004?

A column in Avenue, an impressive, glossy magazine in Calgary, dreams of the city as the next Florence. There are no great cathedrals here, of course, but the idea that money can create something grand and enduring on the Prairie is worthy.

The Liberals see an opening. In Kevin Taft, they have a smart, aggressive leader, a former entrepreneur and policy analyst who has written widely on social and political issues. Like Mr. Lougheed in 1967, he won more votes in his last election in 2004 than any other candidate in the province; he also doubled the party's seats in the legislature to 16 of 83, elected three representatives in Calgary and is reducing the party's debt.

The Liberals, who gathered on the weekend to talk about their vision of Alberta, want a broad, open, progressive province, an exemplar on the environment and an innovator of social programs. They want this to be an influential, respected player in Canada, not a small, resentful one, and they appear to be striking a chord with a changing electorate.

An election is expected here within two years. The man to watch is Kevin Taft.

Andrew Cohen is a professor of journalism and international affairs at Carleton University.

31 comments:

Werner Patels said...

Taft? You gotta be kidding. Even members of the Alberta Liberal Party want him gone. They say he's a liability.

Anonymous said...

This article ignores the fact that in our latest federal election the Liberal party of Canada was completely shut out of Alberta. Dr. Taft's strategy of rebranding NDP socialist ideas as "Liberal" has already peeked, and is abandoning traditional Liberalism. I would truly be surprised if we can even maintain all the Liberal seats in the next election. MLA critics such as Bharat Agnihotri and Bill Bonko have proven incredibly ineffective and could never handle the pressures or workload involved with being Cabinent members. Alberta's next change of government will come when a new party emerges to meet the needs of the day, as it always has...

Werner Patels said...

Also, the Alberta Liberals have lost almost 50% of the support they held on election day in November 2004. Now, they're barely hanging on to 17%.

As Anon pointed out, opposition parties, especially ones that already held power at some point in Alberta's history, are never elected. It's always a new "dynasty" that rolls in, almost overnight, that then rules for decades to come.

The Alberta Liberals had their chance of being such a dynasty, and now they're history. They will never see the inside of the premier's office or feel the government benches in the Legislative Assembly ever again.

Werner Patels said...

I should also mention that I have personally received correspondence from members of the Alberta Liberal Party over the past few months who tell me that they don't even think of Taft as a true liberal. They want him out as soon as possible.

And: just look at the Alberta Liberal riding association in my district (Calgary-Mackay): they have about $30-$40 in their account and only 4-5 registered members, whereas the Tory association in the same district works with a 5-digit balance and has about 400 members.

michael in calgary said...

I've yet to hear anyone in the Alberta Liberal Party call on Kevin Taft to step down. It sounds like crazy Werner is making things up again just to try to prove a point...

I'm in Calgary and I can tell you that the Liberals in my area (Calgary Buffalo) are organized and gearing up to win in the next election.

michael in calgary said...

Plus, the Liberals just held an extremely sucessful Leaders Dinner in CAlgary where over 400 Calgarians paid $350 a plate to hear Kevin Taft speak. They also held a sucessful policy conference in Edmonton with a huge contingent from rural constituencies. They are orgainzing and have huge growth potential in the next election...

Anonymous said...

Typical Toryspeak, warner. trying to preserve a dying dynasty with no ideas and no prospect of new ideas. All Jim Dinning offers are vague statements ripped from Kevin Taft's Liberals 2004 platform.

Rather than electing a liberal in tory clothing (Dinning) with no orginal ideas, how about electing the real thing? Clearly, Kevin Taft has more great ideas in one hour than Jim Dinning has had in 10 years.

Werner Patels said...

No, Michael, I am not making this up. Several people inside the party are not exactly happy.

Just to give you one example: several months ago, I received an e-mail from a member of the Alberta Liberal Party who also volunteers a lot for the party, but he doesn't like Taft and says he is no Liberal. He also predicted a major implosion of the Alberta Liberals under Taft's (non-)leadership.

And as for the dinner event, well, 400 is about the total number of liberal supporters in Calgary ;-)

Werner Patels said...

Anon, you have to face up to the facts: no "dynasty" is elected a second time. Once a dynasty is gone, it's gone and is never re-elected here. The libs have had their turn at the helm and that's it. The next change will come when a new party has been formed that can assume the "dynastic mantle". But it won't be the libs and it will be a conservative party, because that's what the majority of Albertans want: small government and conservative principles.

Someone recently told his son the following about the political choices we face: "If you want a government that runs your life for you and tell you what to do all the time, vote Liberal. If you want to be in charge of your own life, vote Conservative." And Albertans will always go with the latter.

Jim said...

Werner, it's not exactly compelling evidence when you cite "several" people you know in the ALP who don't like Taft. I know more than "several" who really like Taft. The fact is that he's a huge improvement over MacBeth and Nicol, and that can clearly be seen by the fact that they're bringing down their debt through aggressive grassroots fundraising.

Furthermore, you can't judge a political party's support based on opinion polls in Alberta. Really, they're useless. 2 weeks before the 2004 election, the polls showed the Alberta Liberals with 15% to 20% support, and they ended up with almost 30% of the vote. The Liberals always do better on election day than the polls may indicate.

Jim said...

Werner, it's not a "fact" that a dynasty never comes back. Alberta is too young a province to say that the Liberals or PCs will never have more than one shot at power. We're only dealing with 100 years of history. And if you think the next 100 will be like the last 100, I question your judgment.

Werner Patels said...

Jim, I am not denying the fact that others like Taft. But clearly, he doesn't have the full (100%) support of party members.

As for our history, well, 100 years is still long enough to determine certain patterns. Regardless, Albertans are true-blue conservatives and will continue to vote for conservative parties - whether that be the PC, Alberta Alliance or any other brand-new conservative party that may or may not be set up in the future.

Albertans don't like statism and big government, but that's all liberals have to offer. That's why they'll never get elected. The federal liberals have already been wiped out; next up: the provincial libs.

Pink said...

There are lots of rumours around Edmonton that more than a few Liberals want Anne McLellan to challenge Kevin Taft for the leadership. I think that the Edmonton Sun even had a column about it a few months back.

Werner Patels said...

Thank you, Pink, for confirming that Taft's position as leader is somewhat wobbly. Anne might be a good choice, but as one Alberta cabinet minister told me two days ago, the only one that could make the Alberta Liberals a serious threat to the Tories is Calgary mayor Dave Bronconnier, but he'll be seeking another term as mayor first, so he won't be available for quite a while.

Carrie said...

Today's Toronto Star ran in interesting and large article about Alberta. It seems they are not as rude as we've been lead to believe by it's PC leaders. Which certainly explains how I found such nice people and great friends who live there.

If the PCs have a chance again, I will be surprised. Because it seems Albertans don't want to be viewed the way their PC Premiers (Lougheed included) have portrayed them for years. They are a part of Canada and keen to be active in Canada and for Canadians. So...the PC rhetoric doesn't seem to working so well anymore. Let's hope more Albertans start to speak up because for the first time in a long time, I actually feel like Alberta doesn't hate Canada. That's a huge improvement over what Lougheed set in motion and Klein took too far.

Werner Patels said...

Carrie, Alberta does not hate the rest of Canada, but the rest of Canada hates Alberta (remember how Buzz Hargrove said that Albertan values of self-reliance and small government were not Canadian values?).

Alberta has been spat on by Ontarians, for the most part, and easterners are always trying to find ways of "sticking it" to Alberta.

No Liberal will ever rule in Alberta ever again. Talk to the people in the streets, stores, restaurants. You don't find anyone who has or would vote Liberal here. The federal libs have already been wiped out. What makes you think that a provincial lib party, which is even further to the left than the feds, will make any headway in Alberta where left-wing policies can get you "hanged"?

Get real, Carrie!

Anonymous said...

1) Werner Patels, MA or not, is best ignored. The word 'idiot' comes to mind, to be impolite.
2) The Alberta Liberals do have a long way to go before being elected.
3) That said, lack of support for the federal Liberals isn't necessarily linked to the Alberta Liberals' chances.
4) The Provincial Tories are on the verge of an implosion.

Werner Patels said...

My Anon, how "brave" of you to insult others when hiding behind a mask. You know, posting anonymously is the best sign of an idiot, and that's you, Anon. If you cannot even reveal your name and put it to your views and opinions, then you're the biggest idiot of them all.

And when you resort to name-calling, then you have already lost your argument and proved to everyone that I am right, and you're wrong.

Werner Patels said...

Name-calling is typical of the left, and that's why you guys will never be elected in Alberta, because Albertans believe in decency and good manners, all of which you on the left don't have.

Anonymous said...

It is the height of arrogance to think that you know the minds of Albertans, dear Mr. Werner.

I'm sure that the small social circle you keep shares many of your own political viewpoints. We all tend to surround ourselves with like minded people.

It's just getting harder for you to find new Tory friends to hang out with these days, isn't it? And that's why you're posting on a Liberal's blog so often... there's no where else left to go.

Sean Tisdall said...

You know what? If Anne McLellan runs for the Liberal Leadership. I will run for the Social Credit leadership.

michael in calgary said...

God, you sure like to watch yourself type, werner. Go back to your tory circle jerk and keep on believing that your good -old-boy tories are safe and sound, I'll be organizing while your complacent and feeling good about yourself.

berlynn said...

Go Alberta! Turf the Tories!!!

Anonymous said...

If only 54.4% of Tories support Ralph Klein, I think Taft is doing just fine.

Werner, didn't the same poll have Klein's support at 70%? Wasn't that the same weekend 44.6% of Tory delegates voted against him? Polls really don't mean anything.

theresa said...

I want change!!!

In 1989, I voted NDP, beliving that the NDP could make a positive change in Alberta politics, though I think they had good intentions, I didn't think they were very effective.

When Ralph came around, I voted PC in 1993, 1997, and 2000 because he was down to earth and represented Alberta like a regular guy.

In 2004, I had enough with the PCs, Klein had got arrogant and power hungry, and teh PCs were only interested in power. I voted for my LIberal candidate who is now my MLA: David Swann. And I think he is doing a wonderful job and I will happily vote for him again.

theresa said...

PS. keep up the Good work, dave! My husband and I read your blog regularily!

Anonymous said...

"MLA critics such as Bharat Agnihotri and Bill Bonko have proven incredibly ineffective and could never handle the pressures or workload involved with being Cabinent members."

If moron Tories like Lyle Oberg, Luke Oulette, Lorne Taylor, Mark Norris, and Denis Herard can handle being cabinet ministers, Bonko and Agnihotri will have a cakewalk.

Anonymous said...

Since when have Albertans listened to what the "history books" have to say. If they did, they would known that Klein was going to back down from the Kyoto, same-sex marriage, and childcare fights - like he always does.

president bartlett said...

Go Oilers!

jimbergtwo said...

Someone seems to have unplugged Werner --that's 10 straight posts without an interruption. Guess it must be prescription day... By the way, my corner of Pincher Creek seems to have a few discontented Tories, in fact I was one of them but jumped off the ship four years ago -- Klein's windbag image was too much. I've been listening to Taft for two years now and have brought up his name with my friends and even at the co-op. A few people scawed but just as many said they've thought about him and like something about what he's said. Winning down here isn't likely but I do think that it is time for change. Instead of waiting for the Werner party to get their lawn signs out of mother's basement, I am going to work on Taft's next campaign!

canleaf said...

It's weird to have someone tell me the rest of Canada hates Alberta, when I've never heard that before in my life. In fact, I never heard Alberta hated the rest of Canada until I started reading political blogs!

In any case, I was glad to see the article in the Star because I honestly didn't understand the whole Alberta vs. Canada thing. It was very upsetting to think yet another province has no use for those of us outside it's borders.