Thursday, May 20, 2010

PCs call out WAP for pragmatic approach to policy

Recently on twitter, a number of die-hard PCs have noted that the Wildrose Alliance has posted the resolutions that will be up for debate at the AGM in June. A few of these PC types, including a government relations consultant who obviously doesn't worry much about a change in government, called out the Wildrose Alliance for having their policy committee make recommendations on each of the resolutions. Their intent was probably to make the Wildrose Alliance look less democratic than it says it is and, presumably, to suggest that their party is *more* democratic. They've missed the mark.

By calling attention to the Wildrose Alliance resolutions, they've done their cause a disservice for a couple of reasons.

First of all, they're driving traffic to the Wildrose Alliance website and telling people to take a look at the party for themselves. One of the most important rules in politics is to define your opponent before they have a chance to define themselves. Don't think it works? Ask Stephane Dion. The PCs can be forgiven for this one, though, since their own Leader started this trend when he told reporters that Albertans should find out what the Wildrose Alliance is all about by going to the WAP website.

In addition to encouraging Albertans to look at Wildrose policies (which, in my humble opinion, most Albertans could agree with), the PCs are calling out the WAP policy committee for providing input and suggestions regarding the proposed resolutions. They want people to believe that the upper echelons of the WAP are telling their members how to vote. On the surface its a plausible argument. After all, the PC policy committee doesn't try to publicly influence resolutions at PC AGMs. But think a little harder and you'll realize that, by pointing out the WAP policy committee's resolution recommendations, the PCs are actually killing another one of their other assertions about the WAP: that its policies are being strung together by rooms full of Elmer Fudd lookalikes with no checks, balances, or sober second thought. When I go through the WAP resolutions, I get the impression that the policy committee is trying to keep discussions at the AGM on track in a productive and pragmatic way - no sense debating something that could never or should never be implemented as policy, right?

While I'm on the topic, a quick thought on something I just mentioned. I said that the PC policy committee doesn't try to publicly influence resolutions at PC AGMs. That's absolutely true. PC resolutions are all submitted to PC headquarters and then vetted in private. Any resolutions with the potential to embarass the government are promptly discarded.

Every now and again, an exception is made to make the process appear democratic. Most recently, the PCs had a resolution opposing Bill 50 brought forward by Ted Morton's Foothills-Rockyview Association. The debate in the room was quite heated with a number of ordinary PC members speaking in favour, while mostly government lobbyists and others with direct ties to Bill 50 spoke against the resolution. The room used was one of the smaller rooms available, even though this was the most hotly debated resolution. In the end, it took 3 different vote counts and a great deal of PC party staff and volunteers hustling instavotes into the room before the resolution could be declared a "tie" and thus defeated.

Interestingly enough, the summary of the 2009 PC AGM Resolutions makes no mention of this resolution at all. Most of the other resolutions discussed have been met with the standard "the Government of Alberta welcomes this resolution and is taking action" which is code for "So glad you donated to the party. Hope you enjoyed all the free beer. We're gonna do what we were gonna do anyway, thanks."

If this is PC democracy, I think I'll take my chances with the new guy.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What's the point of the cabinet tour?

I think its great that our elected officials are getting out and meeting the people - face to face contact is always the best way to put your finger on the pulse of the province. But only when its done with genuine intentions.

I can't help but wonder if there's much genuine intention left with the PC government anymore. Or rather, if they know how to turn genuine intention into genuine action.

I can't say I know him well, but I still believe Ed Stelmach is a good and decent man who means well. Some of his cabinet and caucus share those traits, too. But I get the impression that the people who really run the show in the Legislature - who have been doing business the same way since Lougheed left office (save the first few years of Ralph Klein) - know only how to be reactive rather than proactive. This has been evident in the way the PCs have responded to opposition heat on a couple of important committees (Public Accounts and Members Services).

The cabinet tour is no different. The PCs would have us believe that this series of mini-junkets across the province stems from genuine will to get out and hear what people have to say so they can form some policies going forward. Doubtful - they rarely even listen to their own party members. Rather, I suspect the cabinet tour is a carefully crafted response to rightly sagging poll numbers. Kind of like a big, multi-national summit, the press releases announcing the good work that has been done on the tour was most likely written weeks ago as they were putting the final touches on the Government jets' flying schedule. What's more offensive is that all this was probably being prepared while the PCs were acting as though they had every intention of being in the Legislature right up until the scheduled adjournment date of June 3rd.

I'd like to have some faith in my government and their ability to properly connect with Albertans rather than tell us what they've decided and why its good for us. But actions speak louder than words, and the action I see coming from downtown Edmonton is none too reassuring.

Time for a civilized coup.

We like democracy, right up until it poses a threat

Read Don Braid's latest.

I'm not sure what's worse: the fact that the PCs seem to have learned nothing from the Public Accounts mess last week, or the fact that Kowalski (the "non-partisan" Speaker and Chair of Members Services) seems to be running in lock-step with the Tories on this?

If King Ken doesn't lose his seat next time, it will be a lot of fun watching him squirm powerless on the opposition bench.