Opinions

An open letter to Stephen Harper

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Dear Mr. Harper,

As a child of energy sector workers who moved to Calgary from the Maritimes, a combination of indoctrination, ideology and pragmatism has molded me over time into a Conservative Party supporter. I'm not a fan of your social policies, but as my father says, "social issues come and go, the market is what's important." Voters seem to agree with him, as all eight Calgary seats-- and 27 of 28 in Alberta ­-- went Conservative in the election.

For the third straight election, your Tories failed to make a major breakthrough into eastern Canada. For the fifth straight election, Calgary West MP Rob Anders retained his riding's seat. I'm not sure these events are unrelated.

Anders was first elected to office in 1997, inheriting your Reform Party nomination and then your seat in Parliament. Since then, he's come under fire for comments regarding Nelson Mandela in 2001 and more recently for comparing the Chinese government's treatment of Falun Gong practitioners to Nazi Germany's of the Jews-- the accuracy of the comparison notwithstanding, the language was a bit harsh. Even with years of media scrutiny and public outcry over his conduct, Anders has consistently been re-elected-- typically with more than half the vote and the support of over 30,000 voters.

When learning that I live in Calgary-West and vote Conservative, friends of mine often ask me if I hate Mandela, since I support someone who so infamously opposed giving him honourary Canadian citizenship. To extend that argument, does anyone really believe that 30,000 people in one of the richest and most educated ridings in Canada hate Mandela? Of course not, but they support the Conservative Party. Similarly, voters in Calgary-Centre don't support Lee Richardson because of his views on the source of crime, nor do they support Jim Prentice in Calgary Centre-North because of his initially-draconian Bill C-61. They grit their teeth and support these MPs because their party's platform best represents their interests.

Even so, the ousting of former Edmonton-Strathcona MP Rahim Jaffer-- famous for a 2001 incident where an aide impersonated him on a radio show-- shows voters won't blindly support a party forever. Locally, the proportion of the popular vote for Anders, Prentice and Richardson were markedly lower than their neighbours-- the trio gained, on average, 56 per cent of the vote while Diane Ablonczy netted 69.6 and Jason Kenney 73.8 per cent. Only newcomer Devinder Shory got a smaller proportion while still winning a Calgary riding.

The difference, of course, is perception. The four Tories that didn't win in landslides were unknown quantities-- Shory for his lack of experience, the other three for their sometimes outlandish conduct in spite of their wealth of experience. Voters in the rest of Canada can't help but look at the heart of Conservative country and see how the party's base is being treated-- represented by the Anders and Richardsons of the party-- and wonder if that's how they'll be represented if they vote for them.

It's no secret that Calgary's been the heart of Conservative support for a long time. Calgary-West MP Richard Bennett, best known as Viscount Bennett, was the 11th Prime Minister of Canada, Calgary West MLA Peter Lougheed was Alberta's premier and voters in the area turned against popular Ward 6 alderman-- now mayor-- Dave Bronconnier in the 1997 federal race because he ran as a Liberal. It's important, though, to learn from the lessons of the past.

The Roman Empire fell into decline, in part, because its centre was neglected and slid into disarray. If you wish to stay Prime Minister for a while to come, please do your best to address how the constituents of Calgary ridings are represented. Otherwise, Rahim Jaffer may be the first of many Conservative MPs to fall.

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Comments

Hi Ryan

I'm not going to particularly disagree with you on Rob Anders. I don't understand his electoral successes but they are successes that many politicos should be learning from.

I do take issue with your characterizations of Jim Prentice and Lee Richardson. Both Jim and Lee do a fantastic job of representing the needs of their constituents and working for them. Lee does more immigration work than almost any other MP in the city, excluding Calgary Northeast. Your characterization of his views on ìthe source of crimeî is a complete misrepresentation of what he said and clarified.

People donít ìgrit their teethî to vote for either of these MPs.. They vote for them overwhelmingly as they are good representatives. Their popular vote is lower because they live ridings with a stronger opposition vote than do Anders, Kenny, Harper, Shory, or Obhrai. Even considering that, they win with a majority every time. Not a plurality, which would indicate that they might not be doing an adequate job.

Calgary constituents have some of the best MPs in the country representing them.

Best regards,

Don OíBeirne

"nor do they support Jim Prentice in Calgary Centre-North because of his initially-draconian Bill C-61"

I am always looking for people in the Conservative party who understand current copyright revision, especially how C-61 attacked the rights of information technology owners. If you have comments on people in the party and/or in caucus that understand the issues, this would be great.

I'm the host for http://digitalcopyright.ca