First conservative unity, next conservative policy.

This weekend, I hope and expect that the majority of conservative minded people in Alberta will find themselves united under one banner.

One thing that has fallen by the wayside in these singular times of unity battles has been any real specific policy directions. This had to happen as we really need to unite under general principles of conservatism such as small government and low taxes. If we get ourselves mired into specific policy items we could reignite internal divisions at a time when we really can’t afford to. Conservatives can unite under general principles, but we can nitpick ourselves to death over the individual policies.

Assuming that the forces of unity are successful this weekend, we will then enter a formal leadership race (it has already been clearly informally running for some time now).

There is no better time to hammer out policy specifics and commitments than during a leadership race and we dearly need to start spelling out what the plan is.

Yes, the vast majority of Albertans think that the NDP is harming our province. We do not have a specific plan laid out for how we will mitigate the damage caused by the NDP once we finally toss them to the electoral curb however.

Most candidates and supporters agree that the NDP carbon tax has to go. Notley has proven that legislative flagellation through tax hikes will never buy us that mythical “social license” required to get our products out of the province. The impact of the carbon tax on our environment is negligible at best and the impact on the economy is terrible.

In cutting taxes though, how do we balance the budget?

There is no getting around it. We need to cut spending and we need to cut it deeply. The longer the NDP is in power, the more painful the recovery will be but we simply can’t avoid it. Alberta spends $2,700 more annually per-capita than our neighbors in BC. We have plenty of room to cut.

One of the most effective ways that the left has undercut those calling for spending cuts so far has been for them simply to ask “where will you cut?”.  That is a perfectly valid question and it absolutely has to be answered.

Health care and education make up the vast majority of our spending. No matter how people feel that these areas are sacred, we simply must reduce how much we spend in those areas. We can’t afford a hospital on every street corner or a nurse’s visit to every household. While it will never feel like we spend enough in these core services, we have very real limits on what we can afford. We need to examine these areas and cut spending to a reasonable level.

Just proposing such cuts will take political courage. Following through on these cuts will take leadership and strength.

Klein was at his most popular while he cut Alberta’s spending by 20% across the board. Despite the howls of the unions and the left still harping about it today, it really wasn’t that bad when the cuts were happening. There clearly was a great deal of bloat within the civil service and we were all better for the trimming of it. “Infrastructure deficit” is a bullshit term that some use to try and knock the austerity of those times. Again it is trash and most Albertans see through it. There will never be enough schools, interchanges, fire stations etc. We can always use more. Tax dollars are finite though and we have to draw a line somewhere. Klein’s support began dropping significantly as soon as he began falling into the tired old PC pattern of spending our way out of problems. Albertans appreciate fiscal restraint when it is presented with good leadership.

Image ht to Roy Doonanco

Brian Jean has chosen to avoid taking any strong stance on cuts and is pursuing the mushy middle. This is not my idea of strong leadership but I guess it is a strategy. I can’t help but remember Jean’s abysmal debate performance where he almost mindlessly answered every question by stating that he wont raise taxes. He literally sounded like some sort of broken record. I remember all too clearly sitting in a room full of volunteers on one of the campaigns. We had put up a projector screen and bought some beer and pizza to give our volunteers a night off. We hoped that they would be invigorated in watching the debates. We found ourselves dejected. That was the night that I truly began to realize that we were not going to win that election. Notley showed energy and vision, Prentice showed classic arrogance and Jean was inanimate. We are paying so dearly for the lack of principled leadership in that debate today.

Maybe Jean will show some more strength after the unity vote is finished with. Perhaps other candidates will spur some vigor out of him. Maybe Jean’s strategy of avoiding strong stands will actually pay off and he will win the leadership. I personally don’t think so.

Assuming a successful unity vote, the leadership race will very likely be determining who our next premier will be.

It will take vision, leadership and a true plan with policy specifics in order to win that leadership.

I do look forward to seeing who emerges from the pack with the above qualities as the race unfolds. We need some real policy discussion and we need it soon.

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Its time to get this merger done.

There are a myriad of factors that contributed to Alberta’s disastrous, accidental election of the Notley NDP. In looking at the numbers, it is clear that a split vote among right of center supporters was a huge part of the cause for the NDP victory. Wildrose supporters felt that the PC party had drifted to far to the left and were displaying a sense of entitlement that they simply could no longer vote for. PC supporters saw the Wildrose Party as an upstart that could be too far to the right and were not ready to take a chance on them. The whole repugnant business of Danielle Smith’s opportunistic and treacherous mass floor crossing to Prentice revolted voters within both parties.

Now having enjoyed a couple years under the Notley Regime, most Albertans are realizing just how much the cure was worse than the disease. Business confidence in Alberta is in utter shambles while deficits are hitting record numbers which will create a debt that will take generations to pay off. There is no doubt that the only way to ensure that the NDP do not gain a second term in office in Alberta is to create a single, unified conservative option in Alberta.

There are some stalwarts within the Wildrose Party who are opposing a merger for a number of reasons. None of them are good and I will list them.

Emotional

People invest a lot of time, money and energy into parties, particularly when they are in the building stage. I was involved with the party from when it was a one seat entity with Paul Hinman sitting in a lonely corner of the legislature. I traveled the province to often sparsely attended town hall meetings to try and build constituency associations. I sat up late at night with Jane in the office space we donated as we folded flyers for weekend drops to try and build our urban membership. I sifted through literally hundreds and hundreds of policy submissions that ranged from brilliant to insane while I sat as VP of Policy for the party and took the flak that came with filtering those into a palatable package to present to the membership at AGMs.

All of those events and efforts developed a sense of attachment or even a sense of ownership (wrongly) to the party. Wrong or not, these feelings are real and can lead to a bias against any form of significant change.

We need to set that attachment aside and look at the bigger picture. A party is nothing more than a construct, an entity. If the name changes and the layout changes it is not the end, it is an evolution. The experiences and memories remain and there will be a new entity to continue to work within which can be just as satisfying as the prior one was.

Nostalgia simply isn’t a good enough reason to hold off on this essential merger

SOCIAL

A large but often unseen benefit of political involvement is the social aspect. As we endure partisan challenges together whether through small functions or general elections, we develop friendships and relationships with each other. The part I looked forward to at AGMs was not so much the drudgery of policy development and campaign seminars as it was in getting to meet up with fellow members in a social environment. The hospitality suites are notorious but always fun.

Let’s face it, when the parties merge some people won’t migrate to the new entity and the connections will be lost. That is unfortunate but again, is not enough of a reason to oppose a merger.

Many of our current friends will join and become involved in the new party. Lets look at things with optimism. There will be a whole new pool of people to meet and honestly, they aren’t all that bad at all. In attending the PC leadership convention, I quite enjoyed myself despite hardly knowing a fraction of the number of people that I would at a Wildrose event. We really aren’t all that far apart.

THE PCs ARE STILL TOO CORRUPT/LEFT WING/ENTITLED etc.

There was a reason that the Wildrose developed and became as strong as it did. The PC party under Stelmach was bumbling and high spending. Under Redford the party was entitled and borderline corrupted. Under Prentice the arrogance was tough to bear. Throughout all of that the party was peppered with opportunistic liberals who never would be elected if they ran under the party banner where they belonged.

We worked hard to build an alternative to that Progressive Conservative mess. Why the hell should we fold back into that mire of political ugliness?

Well, to be blunt the best thing that could have happened to the PC party was the electoral devastation that they earned in 2015 (though at a terribly high price). The party had been in power for an obscene and politically unhealthy number of years. They desperately needed a humbling and a flushing and they got it.

The opportunists were the first to drop off. Sandra Jansen fled to a government seat as soon as she could. She would have joined the Social Credit Party if they had won. Others such as Hancock and Lukaszuk are fading into the background as they no longer have seats.

The liberal elements of the party from the executive are now fleeing to the Alberta Party in hopes of keeping influence while still dodging the liberal name that describes them.

The principled and conservative elements of the PC party still remain. The party always had many good people involved in it and now with the flushing of the bad elements, the party looks better than ever.

For those who think things will go too far left, may I suggest joining Randy Thorsteinson’s Reform Party. There you can unabashedly oppose things such as gay marriage and abortion while languishing in the 2% support numbers.

I know those issues are important to some people but they are electoral death and it is utterly pointless to pursue them in any party that realistically aspires to forming government.

BEING A BIG FISH IN A SMALL POND

Some folks actually prefer the party being small. They like being able to be elected into positions such as constituency president without having to deal with much if any competition for the role. They like small meetings where they can dominate and take the agenda where they like. If a merger happens, a new influx of people will be involved and some folks wont retain those constituency roles that they feel entitled too.

This is small thinking but it is all too common. Again, both parties will be better off if those people fall by the wayside. They hold up real growth and hinder the involvement of new and younger supporters.

We have to look beyond our own little bubbles and either get on board or get the hell out of the way.

GATE KEEPING FOR NOMINATIONS

Some people with both parties have put in a long time and a lot of effort to build a framework to ensure that they win the nomination in the constituency. This often is tied into that small fish in a big pond bunch as well.

I know it must feel frustrating to have put in that time and work only to find out that your aspiration for a nomination may be overwhelmed by an influx of new, ambitious folks after a party merger.

Well, suck it up. It is critical that nomination processes remain competitive. While not a guarantee, it does help ensure that the better campaigner wins the spot to represent the party in the general election. I had my ass handed to me in a nomination race a few years back. It sucked and I was bummed but the better campaigner won. If I couldn’t beat my competitor in a small local nomination race, how could I claim to be a better option to take on experienced campaigners in a general election?

One doesn’t need to give up electoral aspirations if the parties merge. It just means you may have to work a little harder. To oppose the merger in hopes of securing a personal nomination is simply small and selfish thinking.

We need to get a single entity going. We can then move on to a leadership and then develop some solid policies. No entity will be perfect and one will die of old age waiting for one to come along. The best way to maintain the integrity of a new merged party is to stay involved. Get on the executive. Take part in policy development. Get on a leadership team.

There simply are no solid reasons to oppose this merger.

To take the chance of having two conservative parties going into the election is simply not worth it. Get out and vote on the 22nd and be sure to vote for unity.

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