Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Alberta Party taken over by PCs


Greg Clark

Alberta Party leader and nice guy Greg Clark stepped down on November 10, a Friday before a long-weekend, which is a subtle method to subvert any media traction.

The announcement then fell only to the fanfare of politicos and former PCers (emphasis on the "P") from the Redford days, who have obviously been pining for room at the table since Kenney won the leadership of the UCP. 

I know folks who didn't even know there was an Alberta Party.  "So there's an Alberta Party. Who knew?"

And that right there is why Mr. Clark was shown the door.  If you're going up against the KenneyMachine, playing nice won't get you as far as you need to go.  It is why the Alberta Party could not get momentum or build--certainly in comparison it took for the Wildrose.

Politics, in case you haven't noticed, and as I've mentioned in my previous post, has become the game of divide and conquer.  There is no nice-guy mushy middle where ideas are debated, compromises made, and an agreeable solution is churned out and popped to the surface.  It's become two sides.  So for the Alberta Party which like the Alberta Liberal Party prided itself on middleware, balance, and "working together", found itself like a turtle on its back waiting to be picked up, kissed, and transformed into a komodo dragon (or whatever) as a reasonable home for more aggressive progressives (I'm totally coining that term).

And so now we have a slew of potential leadership candidate names that remind me of a cast of characters from a certain cabinet.

Thomas Lukaszuk
Stephen Mandel
Dr. Gerry Preddy

The Twittertone of the Alberta Party has upped its game too.  As I said, it's how politics has changed into 140 character sound bites (280 for the lucky few).  Twitter is the level playing field and if you can gain attention with loud sounding bites and attacks, there's bound to be folks who'll support you.

So how can the Alberta Party gain attention and you know, support?

Well, they have to have a three pronged approach and their policies need to line up carefully in order to be able to attract and divide and conquer.

Firstly, their whole schtick is they're the P in the now gone PC party.  So they'll attract disenfranchised PCers who don't like Kenney's social stances.  But they'll need to balance that with strong fiscal policies.  I'd suggest being more aggressive than Kenney on tax cuts.  But the Alberta Party doesn't mind carbon taxes.

Secondly, they need to attract old Liberals that supported Redford and put her over the finish line.  If the Alberta Party is ahead of the Liberals and can get their message out better, that might be enough. 

Thirdly, they need to attract really soft NDP supporters who traditionally voted PC but only voted for Notley because she seemed nice and smart, didn't think math was hard, and was all populist, and they could put the PCers back in their place after 44 years of power.  (Well, it worked, didn't it?)  This is harder to do and the votes that are really up for grabs next election. 

On one hand, you have those former PC voters who feel now they got duped because Notley didn't campaign on a carbon tax, yet here we are paying for it.  Yet despite the carbon tax, the government is spending way more than ever before and growing the government with the deficits and debt higher than ever.  So if you're fiscally conservative, the NDP is not your home.

Fourthly, attract fertility folks... and there are thousands of them (us).  They (we) are not happy one bit about Alberta Health Services' decision to end the fertility clinic at the Royal Alex.  So much so, even the AUPE is suing them and Friends of Medicare is on minister Sarah Hoffman's back about it.  Hoffman's been deflecting saying all five doctors wanted to go to the new private clinic when only two did.  The primary doctor is livid about the decision and doesn't believe AHS or the NDP government "cares about Alberta families."  Ouch.  I'd suggest the Alberta Party go all in on this one, bring back the clinic, and then offer one free IVF treatment like they do in many other countries.  They'd gain thousands of votes on that one policy alone.  And it's also the right decision and policy.  I'm going to save a separate post for this, so stay tuned.

Anyway, the Alberta Party has an opportunity to carve itself in the middle but truly divide and conquer it from the bad policies of the left and right.  How far they'll go to do just that in the short period of time they have until the next election will be telling.

When Ed Stelmach won the PC leadership on the second ballot he said, "Nice guys do finish first." 

Well, how long did that last?

Playing nice doesn't work.

Ask Greg Clark.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

The Jason Kenney Machine vs. Rachel Notley is not so clear-cut

 #abpoli #ucp #abndp

UCP MLA David Rodney grimaces in feeling the Kenney steamroll-effect in having to step down to make way for new UCP leader Jason Kenney to run in a by-election.    Image courtesy of CBC.ca
Now that longtime Reform/Canadian Alliance/Conservative MP and cabinet minister Jason Kenney is leader of the Alberta UCP and the leadership hangover has subsided, within a few days later we have already seen:

  • Leadership candidate Brian Jean is left out of UCP caucus roles and unsure of his future
  • Jason Dixon named Official Opposition Leader
  • On day uno of the new legislature session, not even an hour into the session and Premier Rachel Notley was tweeting from her seat passively up to the gallery where Kenney was seated: "We'll stand against UCP’s job-killing, gay-outing, school-cutting, health privatizing, backward-looking, hope-destroying, divisive agenda."
  • Kenney and his supporters were then aggressively counter-tweeting
  • Dave Rodney, MLA for Calgary-Lougheed steps down to make way for Kenney

When Kenney ran for the PC Alberta leadership, "The KennyMachine" used forceful political tactics to steamroll through onto easy wins.  Detractors simply leave the party and get the hell out of the way, leaving no internal dissension and in the end only the true opponent remains in the cross-hairs.  To do that, Kenney did not require much of a platform, touting that the members will decide what that platform will be.  So supposedly, no matter what Kenney's views and statements in the past are on gay marriage, Kenney supporters will back him, because varying opinions are welcome. 

Not including Brian Jean in the caucus, certainly doesn't make the party seem "United" as its namesake, but it sends one of those steamroll messages that its Kenney's party now, and Brian can't do anything to undermine him.

And with Brian aside, that "debate", that political war, will now ramp up like we have never seen before in Alberta and its relatively low-key debate between similar parties opposed to the now polarizing differences in ideology.

Politics and campaigns are about feeling.  Everyone knows that.  How does a candidate make you feel?  We've all seen very capable, intelligent people run with the better and proven policies only to lose to an opponent that made the electorate "feel" better.  (See Harper vs. Trudeau).

That feeling approach is how the federal style of using issues in certain regions to divide and conquer voters on boutique policies like targeted tax policies or social stances is a science unto its own.  Will that same approach work for Kenney and Notley?  I don't believe it will work as well in Alberta, and may backfire.  There just isn't that East vs. West feel between Calgary vs. Edmonton, or urban vs. rural.  After the floods, wildfires, and economic strife, Albertans seem to have pulled together on their own, tearing down the small walls of differences there may have been before.

So Geography aside, there are still lines that can be drawn.  Notley's and Eggan's stance against Catholic schools wanting to form their own policy has the Catholic community reeling.  Perhaps she realized they didn't have their support anyway, so no loss, or it was a mistake and she has alienated them, we will see.

Against Kenney, Notley quickly began the first salvo, not just on Kenney, but on the whole UCP regarding stances on social policies like outing kids in student gay-straight alliances, being anti or pro gay marriage, and supposed health-care privatizing.

If Schweitzer had one, that type of attack would likely not have happened, leaving Notley to go after his clear-cut lower tax policies for businesses and individuals, turning the line into a class war.

However, that would defy her populist campaign that got her in the Premier's chair in the first place, as thousands of longtime PC support folks tired of the 44 years and PC lavish expenses and revolving premier door, bought in to her charisma and "hey we're not socialists" because we don't think "math is hard". 

But now, with a carbon tax she didn't campaign on, and pipelines not happening despite her guarantee of a "social license", Kenney will use his machine to communicate that Notley is out of touch with middle class families, the economy's lagging, carbon tax hurts the poor, she kills jobs and investment, and will likely ignore getting into the social policy debate--defaulting it to the party members to decide because "I listen to the members".   This, despite the UCP's first policy was to support LGBTQ folks--but for that community, there needs to be actions and not words.  He will need to be really careful not to also getting dragged into being anti-government for a government he wants to lead--despite how bloatedly large the government has become in the last two years in "creating jobs".

For the libertarian voter, which is a plurality of the province, the decision will come down to whether how important it is they believe Kenney will make his past social policy stances into law and if they are more damaging to our society than NDP economic policies already in place.

With that, social policy tends to bring out stronger feelings in voters than boring economic ones, and so, whichever party and leader is able to fire up those feelings against the other the most will win.  Trump won because he simply stirred up people's anger against "the elite"--so much so, that it didn't matter what he said, they were angry, and no matter how illogical or hypocritical he was, "this is how I feel" trumped anything else (pun totally intended).

And so for the KenneyMachine to actually beat Notley in 2019, despite the terribly inaccurate polls, with Kenney as leader and his long list of baggage, that outcome is not so clear-cut.