For the first time in years, the political opportunity many Albertans have been pining for, campaigning for and tirelessly working toward might be at hand-- the chance to dethrone the provincially entrenched Progressive Conservatives. We asked for change, but perhaps we should have been more specific.
In power since 1971, the pcs have never been challenged this seriously, and never from a party as ideologically similar to them as the Wildrose. The pcs have run a consistent majority government for decades, which has left many wondering when any real alternative would be offered. However, this isn't exactly the situation those hoping for change had in mind.
The pcs of Alberta are facing a serious threat from the Wildrose Party and its leader Danielle Smith. For the first time in its over forty-year reign, the right-wing vote is being split and there is a unique opportunity for an alternative in Albertan politics. But not all alternatives are worth choosing.
Alternative parties include the old standards: the Liberals, the New Democrats, the Social Credit Party as well as the upstart progressive Alberta Party-- but none of these parties has the funds or the name recognition required to win a substantial number of seats, let alone an entire election. What would be refreshing is a grassroots movement that respects the intelligence of voters under 30 and introduces elevated discourse to the electoral process. It is a perfect time to introduce some fresh air among the talking points and spin provided by the older generation of political parties.
Ideologically speaking, pc leader Alison Redford may not be on the same plane as conservative Danielle Smith, but both parties are fighting for the same political real estate. Redford has ruffled the feathers of the conservative establishment-- one of her first moves after assuming power was restoring the $107 million to education that the Ed Stelmach government cut.
In the case of Wildrose, it may be the lack of knowledge regarding Smith's positions that makes her so alarming. Smith consistently defers to the voting public when confronted on major social issues, such as the continued funding of abortion. On April 7, when Smith was asked whether or not she would stop funding abortion in a Wildrose government, she said, "We have had no direction from our members that they want to open this issue, we have never had any policy on this issue. I would not legislate in this area and it's not an issue Albertans are talking about." This response is not a definitive answer and leaves space for Smith to legislate if she felt that the voters wished her to. This is not a direction or an opinion. This is simply taking the power of legislation out of the hands of those entrusted through election and dispersing it to the whims of a vocal minority of voters.
Many moderates are now facing the Faustian bargain of choosing between the lesser of two conservative parties, one of which is moving farther and farther to the right, with campaign speeches that sound like a Reagan diary poetry slam, while the other party has no idea what they really represent any more. What is left in its wake is the vast majority of voters who don't feel ideologically represented by either party attempting to pick between which incoming overlord will be the least draconian.