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Thursday, March 20, 2008

memo for the alberta greens.

With Greens across Canada buoyed from their strong showings in the Vancouver-Quadra, Toronto-Centre, and Willowdale by-elections (but not quite so strong in Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River), Elizabeth May is probably getting her share of high fives left, right, and center. But on the provincial scene, with the March 3 provincial election only weeks in the past, the Alberta Greens still have a lot of work to do to solidify their place in Alberta's political scene.

Though the Alberta Greens weren't able to win any seats in the Legislative Assembly, they did succeed in almost doubling their province-wide popular vote from just over 2% in 2004 to 4.58% in 2008. They also achieved two strong second place finishes in Lacombe-Ponoka and Drayton Valley-Calmar, and strong third place showing in Banff-Cochrane. If I were to give some advice to the Alberta Greens, it would be to focus their resources on grassroots organizing in the targeted rural Alberta constituencies.

With large parts of rural Alberta involved in some seriously intense land-use struggles, the Greens would do well to focus their resources in these areas. Two of the most high profile areas include Rimbey - where controversy over AltaLink's north-south transmission corridor, the closure of debate on Bill 46, and the AEUB Spy Scandal erupted in 2007 - and the Tofield area - where the Round Hill-Dodds Agricultural Protective Association are fighting the development of a massive coalmine, which if constructed will include a gasification plant and power station built prime farmland south of Tofield (word on the street has it that the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund and the City of Edmonton-owned EPCOR have a substantial stake in this project).

This isn't the first time that the Round Hill-Dodds Agricultural Protective Association has stood up to oppose this type of encroachment. As documented by Todd Babiuk, during the last energy boom in 1976, landowners in the Round Hill-Dodds community rallied to oppose the development of a $2.6 billion coal-fired power station on 360 square kilometers of agricultural land which would have displaced over 130 landowners.

"It turned into a folk tale, big power and big government pitted against real people. Local, provincial and national news outlets followed the story. The local Conservative MLA supported the landowners and then-premier Peter Lougheed, with a keen understanding of his party's rural base, eventually stepped in."
- Todd Babiuk
With the urban-based Alberta Liberals and New Democrats or the largely anti-regulatory Wild Rose Alliance unlikely to be able to capitalize on this type of rural discontent, I would think that the Greens are in the best position to benefit from spending the next four years of their energy harnessing the frustration with the current Progressive Conservative regime in these areas. After netting 22% for the Greens and having strong name recognition in Lacombe-Ponoka, Joe Anglin could potentially be the person best positioned to lead the battle in the rural areas. This isn't a slight against current Calgary-based Green Leader George Read, who has led his party in doubling their support, I'm just more convinced that the Greens' immediate growth potential is in rural areas like Lacombe-Ponoka and Drayton Valley-Calmar, rather than large urban centers like Calgary.

According to a recent media release, the Alberta Greens will hold a leadership review in October 2009.

A Green Shadow Cabinet

This week, the Alberta Greens released their shadow cabinet, which includes Joe Anglin as critic for the Department of Energy and Edwin Erickson as critic for Agriculture and Rural Development.


Anonymous said...

Good post Dave.

I agree with your point about the Greens focusing their resources on rural areas like Rimbey and Drayton Valley. With David Swann commanding the support of large chunks of the "green" vote in Calgary, the green would be better off to compete directly with the Conservatives elsewhere.

stop the tar sands said...

ken said...

The Green Party is well positioned in rural Alberta because they are a "safe" alternative for landowners who have been steamrolled by the regulatory board process. They don't have any baggage, aren't the socialist NDP or the scary Liberals. Getting Anglin to run for them after he led the fight against Bill 46 and the Rimbey hearings was an incredibly savvy move for this young party.

Anonymous said...

Did the Green vote in Calgary drop from 2004?

Trevor said...

Keep in mind that you can't compare the gains made by the Greens in the byelections to their results in a general election. As we all know byelections tend to attract a higher 'protest' vote and are generally not favorable to the ruling party. I would suspect that in a general federal election the greens will lose a few percentage points in each of the ridings that voted on Monday.

ch said...

Great post, Dave. Really interesting. I was afraid that some of the impact or excitement around Anglin and the Greens would die out after the election and resolution of some of the issues around Rimbey.

It would be wise for the Greens and Anglin to adopt another issue to champion, and I think you've highlighted an important one.

I hope that the city based ENGOs will continue to liaise with and support their rural counterparts. Strength comes in alliances and I think it's important to build bridges between the rural discontent and more metropolitan concerns.

Here's hoping some of those rural landowners continue their interest in the larger environmental cause, once the NIMBY aspect of their concern is dealt with.

Ken Chapman said...

See the Elizabeth May interview on Policy Channel.