21 March 2014

Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right: An Alberta Tale

There is an old song by the group 'Stealers Wheels' that pretty much sums up the reality of politics for moderates (like myself) in Alberta. Here is a small part of the lyric of Stuck In The Middle With You:

It's so hard to keep this smile from my face,
Losing control, yeah, I'm all over the place,
Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right,
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.

This week in Alberta, Premier Alison Redford was forced out resigned after two-years at the helm. Now granted, much of this was brought on by herself. For a woman who is probably the smartest person we have elected to the throne as Premier, she sure had an optics problem. There is no easy way to justify some of the decisions she made, in either spending, how she conducted herself, or who she surrounded herself. It's sad really, because she did do some good things - most notably taking an aggressive stance to fix the post-boom/Klein-era cuts that created a major infrastructure deficit. But it was clear she needed to go. You can't have the perception of the air of entitlement, even if other leaders in this country are just as bad or worse. If she (or us for that matter) walks away with one lesson, it's to make sure you have an effective crisis management strategy. 

Well you started out with nothing,
And you're proud that you're a self made (wo)man,
And your friend, they all come crawlin',
Slap you on the back and say, 

Now some might say that maybe the problem is with the Progressive Conservative of Alberta Party. They are a dinosaur party that has run it's course after 43 years of uncontested rule. Hogwash. They were elected for 43+ years because they effectively adjusted their strategy of governing to match the prevailing wind currents. When we needed growth, they provided growth. When we needed fiscal restraint, they provided fiscal restraint. And so the cycle goes. 

A good party of any persuasion is a better one if they adjust their policies to match the reality, even if it goes against ideology. A tough pill to swallow, but all the leaders of all the parties in Alberta know that. To promise they won't adjust their ideology to the situation is complete bullshit. An NDP government can't install socialist programs when the price of dinosaur farts goes down. The WRP can't push an assertive socialist ideology in a province as diverse as ours. All any party can do is move the province a little to the right and a little to the left....by mere millimetres. 

If the PC's loses the Wildrose, it better be because the WRP offered a better solution, not because they were simply the "best alternative." But the proof will be in the policy pudding. The "pin-the-tail-on-Alison" game is over. 2016 is a long way off, and they better make the best of that short window. 

So what is the problem you ask?

The problem with Alberta is that you have clowns to the left, and jokers to the right. 

Somewhere along the way in this province, you had politicians, both in government and opposition, who thought it was cool to pit people against each other. It wasn't obvious at first. It starts with passing legislation or spending decisions that pits urban vs. rural communities against each other. It's the 15-second sound bites that paint one side or one party or one person as "evil" and the other "good."  It's making broad generalisations that we are all Martha's and Henry's, when in fact, few of us can relate to the lifestyle of said characters. 

It's parties letting their base get nasty with the other side, on their behalf, and not intervening to tell them to tone it down. Or even worse, egging them on. Then the very next day, doing "selfies" with the "enemy", smiles and wine all around. 

It's people, rightly or wrongly, defining what it means to be a big or little "C" Conservative or a big or little "L" liberal. It's people who pick on each other because they aren't their brand of "C" or "L." 

It's people using social media or the actual media to promote their own profiles/beliefs/agenda's, but then take no responsibility because they are merely "engaged citizens", regardless of how accurate their allegations are. 

What baffles me is about the whole Redford affair is that the expense records have been posted for many, many, many, months. I knew about them. One lazy Saturday in the summer, I stumbled across many of those records. But I had nothing to benefit from exposing them? First off, I didn't know the context of the trip. Did the ends justify the means? Secondly, it's not my job to do the footwork for the media in this province. Third, what are my expectations for a leader or an associate-level staff. Is it reasonable to expect someone of that calibre to stay at the Hotel 8 or eat at McDonald's, or fly economy?

I don't have the answers to that, because I didn't know enough about the context. I sure as hell wasn't going to put my reputation on the line on allegations without context.

So here we are, once again facing a leadership contest. Perhaps what is needed is a citizen expectation review.

In the meantime, as a moderate, I'm just going to sit back and watch. And think. And come to my own decision. Because I have clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right and:

I'm stuck in the middle with you.

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