Saturday, December 12, 2009

Brief and rare window of opportunity for Alberta Left

Like it or not, the one and only real chance we're going to have to save medicare, stop the tarsands and invest in renewable energy is here.

The next two years leading up to the next provincial election are pivotal for the future of non-business focused interests in Alberta. Alberta's Center-Left and further-left need to accept the numbers facts and use this rare split in the right-wing vote to reform itself and present a viable alternative to government.

A recent Angus-Reid poll conducted province-wide places the Calgary-born Wildrose Alliance well ahead of the Con dynasty in popularity, putting them in the running to gain a minority or majority government.

Albertans, long since noted to criticize the hard working NDP and Liberal parties as "not standing for anything", are apparently embracing a party that has yet to stand for much of anything other than a Sarah Palin-esque leader with business-friendly, right wing policies and less government spending. Go figure.

However, all is not lost. While rural Alberta seemed quite willing to throw their support behind Danielle Smith and her flower power (44% in rural ridings vs 25% for the Cons, 21% for the Liberals and 7% for the NDP.) Both Calgary and Edmonton show interesting numbers; The Wildrosers have climbed to a surprising 36%, with the Liberals holding 26%, the Cons 25% and the NDP at 7%.

In Calgary, the numbers are even more striking. 38% support the Rosers, the Liberals take 30%, the Cons have a mere 23% and the NDP at 6%.

These numbers are sure to change as the Wildrose becomes more active and begins to achieve media scrutiny. Chances are Ed is not going to be leading the Cons into the next election, with is at least two years away and is prettymuch at the discretion of the Cons. A political shakeup in the conservative brass may be enough to put out the Wildrose infestation. But if the Cons continue to show the complete lack of creativity, inspiration or any sense of will that they have been showing for far too long, the Wildrose infestation could set in and we would be dealing with more of the same and not less.

But there is hope here. Look at the numbers. The Liberals have 26% in Edmonton, the NDP have 7%. That's 33% if those votes were going towards one party. A party that have 33% in a poll has the same chances of victory as a party with 36% in a poll.

In Calgary, the numbers are equally encouraging. Unified, the Liberals and NDP would have 36% of the vote vs the Wildrose's 38% - less than the margin of error.

2 out of three pillars is enough to form a government. If the Wildrose and the Cons remain in competition, there is an actual opportunity for a single party to capture the progressive vote in Alberta.

But it has to be one party. We don't have enough space in the left for two parties and have either of them get anywhere.

The Alberta Liberal and NDP parties need to begin talks about a possible merger. A total re-branding of the Alberta left that can provide a realistic resistance to the rose tide.

A unified center-left party would allow for a combination of resources and expertise. The party would undoubtedly take Edmonton by storm, and would be very marketable in Calgary, given the numbers. It may even be able to penetrate crazy rural Alberta - but let's be cautious with our optimism.

A single, strong party would draw out disgruntled non-voters. And most importantly, it would actually depend on activists for its power - so it would actually listen to them.

This tipping point between the Con dynasty and the rising Rose tide presents a rare split in the Alberta right that allows a single left party to actually compete in the numbers game, something that could allow it to gain momentum in time for the next provincial election.

If this party could sneak up the middle and take both major cities, we would finally be able to do things like restructure Health Care so it works properly, invest in economically viable renewable energy, place sensible limitations on cancersands growth, enforce sensible forest management and preserve wetlands. Labour rights could be re-established, basically everything we've been yearning for as we watched King Ralph drink and slash his way through the entire government.

Again, I need to stress, this is a rare once in a lifetime opportunity for the Alberta center left to actually do something other than protest and file the occasional lawsuit. But, I need to stress, the Liberal and NDP in Alberta need to set aside their differences and focus on what is really important: Taking control of this government apparatus so we can set up policies in this province that are not disgusting.

The alternative is the one we've tried so many times before; if the NDP and Liberals continue to fight for that 30-40% of potential popular vote, the vote will be split in key ridings and the left will lose it. Voters who would otherwise vote for a left candidate will be disgruntled and stay home, and the Wildrose will sweep the province. Then, another 20+ years of perpetual 10-20 seat opposition will befall us, and a new corporate dynasty will continue where the last one left off, dismantling public systems to get rich on the side, selling resources for peanuts in exchange for a quality of life damaging economy and continuing to dig a gigantic hole oozing the black pus of the mother (latest discovery - the equivalent bitumen from an oil spill leaks from tailings ponds into Alberta's water table every year.)

It's crunch time, ladies and gentlemen. Write David Swann and Brian Mason and tell them to start negotations to unite the Alberta left. We have at least two years, that's enough time for sure. This is the one and only chance we have to actually save Alberta.

David Swann - Liberal Leader -

Brian Mason - NDP Leader -

Also worth CC'ing:

Rachel Notely - NDP -

Hugh MacDonald - Liberal -

Laurie Blakeman - Liberal -

If you believe in any of the things that activists and lefties in Alberta have believed in in the past so many years, please do this. It is the only chance we're going to have to change this province and how it deals with things this generation.


Anonymous said...

Ah, but this strategy makes too much common sense for our rigid Alberta centre-left opposition parties that are dominated by myopic or bought- off? backroom boys, unwarranted optimism, and the pit-bull loyalty of their partisan members.

For unfathomable reasons, it seems that these parties enjoy bring conquered and divided, election after election, thus assuring their place as nothing but gnats in the legislature.

Go figure... 'cause I know I can't.

Alvin Finkel said...

Good on you, "Eric the Red," for raising this issue. While I don't think that these parties will ever agree to go out of business entirely and merge, it should be possible to persuade them to work together in the next election. The Democratic Renewal Project (you can check us out at our website, is calling on these parties to divvy up seats so that there is only one progressive candidate per riding. In the event that this coalition forms a government, they can implement proportional representation and then they'd never have to work together during an election again.

We invite all who want to work with us to pressure the centre-left parties to work together to go to our website and join the DRP (admission is free!)