By Greg Price
Anticipation continues to build for some on the upcoming provincial election, as April 16 can not come fast enough.
That night will be forever etched in the history books on whether we continue New Democratic Party leadership or we are swept up by United Conservative Party Blue. The Liberal Party, Alberta Freedom Conservative Party and Alberta Party may be able to carve some small niches into the province, but the UCP and NDP are definitely the front runners.
The stakes have never been higher and subsequently, the win-at-all costs has reared its ugly head at times across the province. If you don’t believe me, just venture onto social media for an hour or two to see some of the nastiness being spread on both sides, both by the parties and voters themselves. They say never talk politics or religion at the dinner table, but in the world of social media, that table has been long and the food bountiful for lengthy and at times heated and head-scratching conversation.
SIGN OF THE TIMES: Reports have been surfacing that the NDP has had some candidates putting up signs in traditional UCP blue and Liberals putting up signs in traditional NDP orange. Not a very ethical practice if you ask me in the art of deception in trying to portray yourself as something else, but also perfectly legal. No one has a trademark on colour. I would also hope it can serve as a lesson that perhaps people should be paying attention to politics far past colour association. If you are simply voting for someone because of the colour of their sign, it means you really aren’t paying any attention to their respective platforms, where any campaigning by respective candidates becomes a futile effort. Those paying attention will not be swept up by such cheap tricks.
HERE’S MUD IN YOUR EYE: A common creed for a more ethical campaign strategy is to concentrate on platform and stay away from mudslinging against the other party vying for power. If either of the front runners are claiming they are doing that — they are not, just like any other election as well on the provincial or federal level. Log onto the main Facebook pages of the NDP and UCP and you will see a mudslinging post at a rate of equal or greater than posts outlying policy. The hardcore loyalists on both sides, that’s also the practice on their personal Facebook pages. If a well thought-out counter point is raised on either of the party’ Facebook pages, it is instantly dismissed as a UCP or NDP ‘troll’ or even worse, with personal insults by one of its followers. Politicians spend just as much time telling people how bad someone else is to how great they are in helping the province to more prosperous times. There are nutbar, hardcore supporters on both sides, but news flash…no, the NDP is not taking a page out of the Valenzuela playbook, making us all stand in long bread lines, waiting for one-ply, as we salute Mother Russia. Nor is the UCP consuming babies souls and participating in weekly cross burnings. There may be absolute radicals who that may be appealing to on both sides, but they are the fringe, and not the mainstream.
TABLED DISCUSSION: I engage in talks about politics all the time which go far past the word in the newspaper. Grabbing a seat at a table with friends or acquaintances over a beer or a coffee, I’m willing to talk about any topic. It admittedly has gotten heated at times on social media and also at said tables. I’ve hit the block or unfriend feature on social media given the absolute unrationality of some of the conversations. If after citing article after article and logic point after logic point that the world is round, and someone still believes it’s flat, the person in question doesn’t want a conversation, they just want reassurance on their belief system. But I digress. Some not-so-heated generalities I’ve heard floating around town have left me scratching my head. ‘Why do people care so much about character….it should be about policy.’ I agree with the point to an extent, but fully dismissing someone’s character is a dangerous path to be taking.
Say that guy you knew in high school literally lied about everything involving his life on a weekly basis. If they ran for political office shortly afterwards, would you have confidence in them following through on their platform? Would you have confidence in a politician who ran on a platform of ‘family values’ who is on his fourth marriage due to numerous accounts of adultery? Should we have the expectation of our politicians to be able to walk on water in their absolute perfection, no…but if one’s actions are highly hypocritical to the biggest platforms they are trying to invoke, it is fair to bring their legitimacy of their candidacy into question when they are not practising what they are preaching.
Another concept I heard from a friend that I disagreed with was them thinking free votes for MLAs were a bad thing. ‘Nothing will get done that way.’ Did I miss something here? Was not the purpose of an MLA who gets their salary funded by the taxpayer, to represent the interests of the constituents in the riding they got voted in on, regardless of party affiliation? An MLA would not be drawing a healthy government salary (and future pension) if it were not for the people that voted them in. So that MLA is now supposed to abstain or be pressured into a vote by its party that may overall do harm to the area’s interest just because it’s for the ‘greater good?’ That is a sure fire way for the smaller rural ridings to be scrambling for the scraps on funding decisions, given their lack of voter base even though rural Alberta plays a huge role in the overall GDP due to agriculture etc.
If a politician of any stripe is thinking party first, constituents second, there is nothing grassroots about them in their promises, and they are looking for a political career that helps them (special interest groups giving employment down the line from favourable legislation passed) more than the people they represent.
POLITICS IS A MARATHON, NOT A RACE: I hope the public puts their work in both pre and post election in their dedication to democracy. Attend forums, ask candidates the hard questions if they come knocking on your door, open civil discussions with your friends, acquaintances and co-workers on both sides of the political fence and ask them why they are voting they way they are if you are undecided. Delve deeper than just the surface of campaign promises. Screenshot those promises and see how they are doing if they gain office. Politicians often hope voters have short memories. How will something be funded? Why are you wanting to cut that? Just because you are in favour of one particular party does not mean they get a free pass in everything they do —critically think on a policy-by-policy basis. If you are in favour of 90 per cent of a party’s policies, it’s OK to question them on the 10 per cent. A policy that has gained interest for me is the UCP’s promise on red tape reduction.
There is no doubt with the War and Peace long regulations in some areas, some as old as 60 year sold, duplication can be removed and hoops taken away that businesses have to jump through to set up shop in Alberta.
But saying you will cut red tape by one third is just a number. I want to know which one third they will be cutting if the party rises to power provincially.
If it’s cutting down on the minutia of endless bureaucracy that leaves business owners frustrated, and tied up in No Man’s Land for future expansion or location within the province, I’m all for it.
But some red tape is good. Just check in with the housing and banking industries in the USA during their crashes in finding out what happens when there are no checks and balances. If cutting red tape means simply making the workforce more exploitable to attract low-paying foreign investment by cutting back wages/benefits, consumer protections, or very necessary environmental, health or work conditions — then, that is really not something to be proud of in a First-World economy. It’s not a matter of just how much red tape, but which red tape.
If you are unsure of what a party platform point means, ask questions. It’s up to the candidates to give satisfactory answers to make an informed vote come April 16.