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Thursday, June 04, 2009

outrage over bill 44? nothing the summer bbq circuit can’t resolve.

They currently occupy 71 out of the 83 seats on the floor of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly, but the first Legislative session of 2009 was been a rough ride for the gigantic Progressive Conservatives caucus. While some good was accomplished during this session, it was largely overshadowed by a deficit budget, visions of Northumberland, controversial land reform legislation, and Bill 44.

Amidst the nasty hyper-partisanship that defined this Legislative Session, the current occupants of the Government benches will sleep well knowing that the hot summer months are just around the corner.

While this week’s passage of Bill 44 (which included sections allowing parents to pull their kids from classroom discussions on religion, sexuality and sexual orientation) was met with vocal opposition by many Albertans (including members of the United Church, School Trustees, the Alberta Teachers’ Association), I agree with Grant MacEwan Community College Professor Chaldeans Mensah that there will likely be no long-term political consequences for the Ed Stelmach-led PCs:
"The Tories, with all their problems, are still a formidable force."
As regular Albertans tune even further out of politics for the summer and PC MLAs return to their constituencies to host a flurry of BBQ fundraisers and Shot-Gun Started Golf Tournaments, the summer months will provide them time to mend any Bill 44 induced political strains that may have emerged among their rank and file supporters.

The debate around Bill 44 reminds me of the Bill 11 debates that occurred nine years ago (which is around the same time I began paying attention to provincial politics). While MLAs debated Bill 11 and health care privatization, thousands of Albertans from across the province spent weeks demonstrating their disapproval in front of the Legislature. Many of them vowed that Bill 11 would help end the PCs political dominance, but less than a year later they would witness the massive PC election sweep of 2001 that knocked the opposition Liberals and NDP down to a combined total of 9 MLAs.

Liberal and NDP MLAs can take some solace that they succeeded in shaking the giant PC caucus over the past four months, but opposition attacks fell far from inflicting permanent damage to the long-governing party. While the PCs stumbled through the first half of their 38th year in government, neither the Liberals nor NDP were able to convincingly present themselves as a positive alternative and viable government-in-waiting. Instead, both parties joined in with negative partisan attacks and further deep-rooted themselves in the trenches as a reactive and rump partisan opposition.

While this likely makes some Government MLAs feel optimistic about their political futures, engaged citizens outside the increasingly depopulating world of party politics should be dismayed at the damage caused by the negative and hyper-partisan ‘Ottawa-style’ politics witnessed daily during this session.

Mensah may be right in predicting Bill 44s lack of direct political consequences for the PCs, but that doesn't mean there won't be long-term consequences for democracy in Alberta. Less than 40% of Albertans participated in the March 2008 election, and as our politics continue to evolve into closed-minded and negative hyper-partisanship, those of us without a party membership card in our wallets should be asking how we can reclaim our politics and stop the turnout from dropping even lower in 2012?


kenchapman said...

While the oppositoin may not have inflicted any permanent damage on the PC. I can tell you from the emails, phone calls and people getting together from inside the PC Party, there may be permanent damage - from inside the party - for sure from the progressive participants.

Anonymous said...

The Calgary-Glenmore byelection will be the first real indicator we have to work with. If the Liberal candidate wins, or even comes close to beating the PC, the PC's are in trouble. In Glenmore, this will be a confluence of Bill 44 type issues, the oil lobby and perceived indifference to Calgary.

Let's be clear though. If the PC's lose support, it will be by losing protest votes to other parties. I just don't see the Libs or NDP attracting voters by their own merit.

I don't think this issue can be underestimated. There is a STRONG desire among Albertans for an alternative to the PC's. I guarantee they would much rather vote for a new party of moderate PC splitters. Could it happen???

Robert G. Harvie, Q.C. said...

I hate to disagree with you Ken - but this is truly a non-issue with PC Supporters.

I've spoken with scores of constituents and with very few exceptions, the response is "where's the beef?" Albertan's, fundamentally, do not oppose a government who says, "we'll let you raise your children on your terms". The "sky is falling" mentality of the extremely disconnecte left will not change that fundamental truth.

If the party has an achilles heal, it may be the massive spending on government programming, giving the most conservative political party in Canada a growing sheen of "liberalism".

Robert G. Harvie, Q.C. said...

..and Anon.. if you don't think this is a "moderate" PC party, you're very much mistaken. The government has spent more money on education, health care, access to justice initiatives, support for maintainenance collection than any government in Canada on a per capita basis. The notion of the current incarnation of the PC party as some "right wing" juggernaut is seriously in error.

Anonymous said...

Yes, thank you for your continued propoganda roblaw. Who was it that said, "the bigger lie, the more believable it is"?

The simple fact, roblaw, is that empirical data (were you allowed to take that course in school?) does not support your conclusion. Look at the comments sections of the Journal, Herald, Sun's, GM, Post, CBC etc. There is significant popular discontent with this law. Whenever I see your name pop up on a blog, I can't help but picture Homer plugging his ears and chanting la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la :)

Pretend roblaw said...

No one cares about what you say cause you're always anonymous.

Well what do you expect from the 'liberal' media? They manipulate readers to think that PC's are bad. It's probably just the same activists posting all those thousands of comments.

I'm a lawyer and far smarter than you, quad erat demonstrandum via my glaringly inaccurate misinterpretations of standing law.

Anonymous said...

Roblaw managed to say, in consecutive posts, that the Alberta PCs are the "most conservative political party in Canada" and then insist that the Alberta PCs are a "moderate" party and that anyone who says it's a "right-wing juggarnaut" is "seriously in error."

Roblaw, your earlier posts about charter rights made absolutely no sense either.

Anonymous said...

"Closed-minded and negative hyper partisanship...increasingly depopulating world of party politics...reactive and rump partisan opposition...negative partisan attacks and further deep-rooted themselves in the trenches as a reactive and rump partisan opposition...those of us without a party membership card in our wallets should be asking how we can reclaim our politics."

Wow. That's a really pompous, over-wrought post. You're like the ex-smoker who can't stop railing against the evils of cigarettes. You have half a point but stretch it way beyond what any evidence could sustain. I'm not a card-carrying party member either, but parties and their partisans aren't the fundamental problem with politics in Alberta, and certainly aren't the fundamental cause of political apathy or disengagement. Your seeming ideal of a post-partisan world is a myth, and not a very helpful one.

Anonymous said...

I am a card-carrying party member and do not for one minute believe that anything any party does will have any real impact unless rank and file party members and, even more importantly, the general public become engaged. What happened over Bill 44 - and to a lesser extent, Bill 19 - succeeded in that it began to engage individuals on issues that matter to them. Politicians may be able to keep those issues top of mind and their success (or not) at doing that is what will ultimately affect the next election.

I agree, there is little liklihood that we will have a change in government in 2012 in Alberta, but perhaps a change in the size and make-up of the Opposition? That's what I'll be working towards for the next 2.5 - 3 years.

Tiny Perfect Blog said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nastyboy said...

There will be no long-term fallout from bill 44. Hell there's no short-term fall out.

Apart from a few reactionaries who feel the state is more suited to raise children than parents, most Albertans like the idea of parents being able to choose what their children are exposed to. Even though most would never decide to pull their kids from class.

The number of Albertan parents who will pull their kids from class is so small it's completely insignificant. Curriculums won't change. Alberta students will continue to test at the top or near the top in academic standards.

It's all much ado about nothing. And if the opposition thinks that this is an issue to run an election on, no wonder they're in opposition.

Robert G. Harvie, Q.C. said...

Anonymous - Mr., I'm so insecure in my articulations that I don't have the courage to back up my mindless natterings with my actual identify..

Go have a look at the Charter. Section 2. A little thing about "freedom of religion".

We are free to pursue our faith, whatever that may be, and to pass it on to our children - without the heavy hand of Government telling us that we're "wrong".

If you can't understand that, you're a bigger idiot that you pretend to be.

It has nothing at all to do with "religious education", no one is asking the government to include religion in the curriculum.

..and yes, we still have the strongest "conservative" government in Canada - my point being, it, and all "Conservative" governments, are sadly moving constantly left. (Can you say government purchase of GMC shares?)

Yes - I know you want the "perfect" society where everyone has to capitulate to your vision of what is "correct" and "proper", and the idea of personal freedom an initiative is porbably anethma to you.. such as it is with all forms of fascism.

You are welcome to go create your Orwellian nightmare in Quebec or Ontario. In Alberta, we'll just say, "thank-you, but no".

Anonymous said...

Roblaw, nobody would ever accuse you of being "insecure in your articulations". But are you claiming that the charter provides constitutional protection from from ever having religions or topics on which religions have opinions brought up in schools? Really?

But that was a splendidly incoherent and supremely secure rant against imaginary fascists.
Top notch really.

Chandler Kent said...

Hey Chapman. I didn't see you at the Policy Conference, where, actually, there were plenty of progressive members of the Party, including a youth contingent that was 20 per cent of the 400 plus in attendance. Come to think of it, I haven't seen you at any of the Party events recently. So, I'm not sure to whom you might be referring (the Edmonton Glenora Red Tories who did such a splendid job for Drew Hutton perhaps?) when you post comments like that, but I can tell you that you, sir, are out to lunch. And yet, we still allow you to be a member. Mighty progressive of us...

Anonymous said...

Chandler, you sum up the typical nasty Alberta PC. Just call yourself the George Dubya Bush party. Yer with us er yer against us!

Anonymous said...

I think what you really have to worry about, Chandler, is the Lougheed PC's taking their party back from the social paleo-cons. There are some unprecedented names being mentioned. They have grown to despise what the PC's have become. But, truth be known, you know it's happening too.

Merlin Durken said...

The offending section of Bill 44 isn't about schools, evolution and sex ed... it's about a fringe element successfully getting themselves recognized in human rights law and effectively legislating their invisible friend into existence without being visible thenselves in the process. It's Ted Morton's financiers calling in their card. It's social engineering and manipulative, and it shoves parents' rights to educate their children ahead of itself as a shield. It legitimizes the fantasies of obstinate religious re-enactors in their bid to dominate you and I. But don't worry about it...

Anonymous said...

Damn you, Chandler Kent, for taking the words right out of my mouth.

Mike B. said...

Libertarianism has left the building and the nanny is in. I, for one, won't be voting for this PC gov't again (I was very hesitant last time).

Chandler Kent said...

Anons at 11:11 and 11:15, you completely miss the point, which is okay, as I wasn't speaking to you. But since you decided to weigh in:

- My point to Ken is, actually, quit carping from the sidelines and seeking media attention and start working within the Party to make changes. Bitching about shit without trying to do anything about it is what Liberals do. What Tories do is make use of the diverse viewpoints among the membership to shape policy that helps us win elections. Ken, despite the fact I disagre with pretty much everything he says, is more than welcome in our Party. I was encouraging him to put his money where his mouth is.
- Unprecedented names? My friend, Stelmach won 72 seats. He'd have to be caught with a live goat to get pushed out. Like Ken, you are dreaming in technicolour.

Have a nice weekend, kids! And keep smiling...

Anonymous said...

Chandler: You say "Bitching about shit without trying to do anything about it is what Liberals do."

Really? I think the Liberals can be pretty pathetic too, but they do what oppositions everywhere do. They may not be very good at winning elections (obviously), but they do their best to make a difference where and when they can, according to their own principles or perceived organizational interests.

So lots of legitimate reasons to perhaps disagree with the Liberals, but your dismissal of them was inaccurate and really smug. Go easy on the kool-aid.

Calgaryrants said... guys done. My poor mouse is tired from all the scrolling.

Poor Dave...Did anyone read the post, or is this just a forum to out-piss each other?

Anonymous said...

roblaw: I'm curious, which "access to justice initiatives" did the "moderate" Tories spend big money expanding this year?

Legal Aid funding from the province barely kept pace with inflation over 2007/2008, and any increase they've provided this year hasn't come close to compensating for the decrease in funding from the Alberta Law Foundation (which is funded entirely from a levy on lawyers' trust accounts, not the government). Legal Aid is seriously hurting this year, and the 2009 budget forecasts Legal Aid funding to remain constant (i.e. not even increase to adjust for inflation) for the next three years. The vast majority of the rest of the "access to justice" programs in the province are funded by the Alberta Law Foundation, not the government.

As for spending per capita, Ontario contributes about $18 per person to Legal Aid, and Alberta contributes about $15 per person.

The province has certainly hired more prosecutors and sheriffs. But to say this government has been "moderate" because it has increased funding for "access to justice" is misleading. The most it has done is prevent some programs from being shuttered because of the dramatic drop in Alberta Law Foundation revenue. This is definitely appreciated by groups that receive funding, but I suspect it is more about preventing budgetary chaos than demonstrating "moderate" concern from people shut out of the justice system.

Unknown said...

"those of us without a party membership card in our wallets should be asking how we can reclaim our politics and stop the turnout from dropping even lower in 2012?"

we need a cooperative election without a vote split, that prevents 52% of the vote, giving the conservatives over 80% of the power

Anonymous said...

The most "hyper partisan" party by far are the Liberals.

Daniel Rand said...

I left the PC party in 2005 after being a member for 7 years. I had enough with Klein and his merry band of political bandits. Same goes for Stelmach.

I didn't feel good about my decision to leave until this week with Bill 44.

Anonymous said...

I sense the beginning of a red revolt with my beloved PC;s - and bannishing the stelmachistas and mortonities to the swamp

Anonymous said...

Nothing wrong with partisan attacks. That's what the public expects and wants. That's what the opposition is there for.

jerrymacGP said...

I agree with "Tiny Perfect". Alberta is unique in this country for having had only three changes of government in its 104-year history (Lib-UFA, UFA-Socred, Socred-PC). Democracy suffers when a party gets too secure and complacent, which is what has happened to the PCs. How do we get citizens engaged and up in arms and ready to throw the bums out? Electoral reform is not a solution. Ontario & BC voters have resoundingly defeated alternatives to FPTP, so although I support PR, I don't see Alberta voters being given that opportunity anytime soon. So we need to make the electoral system we have work, despite its flaws.

Unknown said...

jerry - how would you make "the electoral system we have work, despite its flaws."??

if bc just went for simply prop representation, instead of stv, I doubt it would be rejected by the public