With All Due Respect

“With all due respect” is a phrase used by courtroom lawyers to signal to opposing counsel that he’s just said something that is utterly daft.  It is used sparingly because it invariably gets everyone’s back up and will backfire unless you’re on solid legal footing.  So now that you know the code let me straighten my barrister’s wig, hitch my robes over my shoulders and begin.

With all due respect to the pundits who say Alison Redford won the premier’s job because she pulled in the women’s vote…there is no such thing as the woman’s vote.  Well except maybe in the 1921 Canadian federal election in which all women were allowed to vote for the first time.

The “women’s vote” argument assumes that teachers, nurses and soccer moms* are the only voters who truly care about education, health and seniors’ care.  It is mired in the quaint stereotypical view that men “take charge” while women “take care”.  Consequently, Ms Redford (being a woman and all) focused on health and education to bring in the women voters while her male competitors (blinded by their maleness) focused on the “manly” issues of energy, environment, fiscal policy and democratic renewal and, as a result, lost the women voters.

Hogwash!  (Another legal term—you know what it’s code for).  All 3 leadership candidates repeatedly addressed all these issues with the general population in public forums and in televised debates.  They met one-on-one with industry representatives, citizens’ advocacy groups and union reps.  Their positions were reported in the media and on their websites.

Publications like the Daily Oil Bulletin and Oil Week asked the candidates to state their positions on balancing oilsands development with protecting the environment, diversifying energy markets, re-setting oil and gas royalties, the impact of land use planning laws on rural voters and the importance of a national energy strategy.  Ms Redford’s position on these issues (like that of the other candidates) was published for scrutiny by industry executives, environmentalists and economists, as well as the general public.

As an aside, the Daily Oil Bulletin conducted a poll when all 6 candidates were still in the race.  Ms Redford and Mr Orman outpaced Mr Mar by a 2 to 1 margin.  While we’re on the topic of polls, the blogger daveberta also conducted a poll in the last days of the 3 way race—Ms Redford beat Mr Mar by a smaller margin.  Neither the Daily Oil Bulletin nor daveberta target the same market segment as Women’s Wear Daily or Better Homes and Gardens and yet Ms Redford still led the pack

But I digress.  Back to the topic of legal argument.  Once a lawyer lobs a “with all due respect” challenge into opposing counsel’s court, opposing counsel fires it right back at him with the demand:   “What’s your authority?”  This is simply a bombastic way of saying “no one calls me daft without proof, back up your statement with case law or statute”.

So here’s where this discussion gets a little tricky.  The “authority” for the proposition that Alison Redford won the top job because of the women’s vote is none other than Ms Redford’s own campaign strategist, Stephen Carter, who put the cat amongst the pigeons with the statement “Every word I ever wrote was for women”.**

OK now I’m mystified.  Mr Carter characterizes women as the power of our society, the ones that form bonds and have empathy for one another.  Hmmm…sounds a little like the “noble savage” concept that dominated literature and political discourse in the 17th century.  But consider the context of Mr Carter’s statement.  Mr Carter was describing a new theory of electioneering—building  a “brand”.  The brand is comprised of 3 elements:  story, personality and ideas.

So how do the 3 candidates stack up when it comes to building a brand?  All 3 have great “stories”.  Ms. Redford is a working mom with ailing parents.  Mr Mar is the child of immigrant Chinese grandparents who became a successful lawyer and politician, and Mr Horner is a hard working politician with deep roots in the rural community and a stellar political family tree.

All 3 candidates have “personality”.  Ms Redford demonstrated courage and resilience when she participated in a critical public debate the day after her mother died.  Mr Mar is a charming and personable and Mr Horner possesses a subtle mind and dry wit which was not immediately apparent at the start of the campaign but became more obvious to those who were paying attention.

This just leaves the final element—“ideas”.  All three candidates had similar ideas.  No one shot off the richter scale with the proposition that the government be fiscally imprudent, environmentally irresponsible or libertarian just for the sake of it.  But there were important differences.  Mr Mar clearly supported increased privatization of healthcare while Ms Redford and Mr Horner were steadfast in their support for public healthcare.  But Ms Redford went a step further.  She pushed for a judicial inquiry into healthcare.  Mr Mar thought it was unnecessary and Mr Horner took the middle ground suggesting that we should let the Health Quality Council complete its review before taking this step.

Then Ms Redford then upped the ante one more time—she promised to reverse the $107 million funding cut to education.  Neither Mr Horner nor Mr Mar would follow her that far.

In other words, Ms Redford pushed her ideas two steps further than Mr Mar and one step further than Mr Horner.  These two steps were enough to capture the attention of Alberta voters who’d given up on the political process altogether.  They started to pay attention to the leadership race.  They checked out the candidates and selected the one whose views aligned most closely with their own.  They showed up at the polling station and cast their ballots, pushing Ms Redford from 19% support in the first ballot to 37% support in the second ballot—enough to knock Mr Mar off the perch in the runoff.

Now it’s up to Ms Redford and her new cabinet to deliver.

Oh and before I forget;  with all due respect, there’s no such thing as a soccer mom but there is such a thing as a hockey dad—he’s the guy down there on the ice screaming at the ref.  No, I’m being facetious.  Politics today is about issues and ideas.  Any politician who thinks he’s going to win by pitching his spiel at the soccer moms or the hockey dads to get the women’s vote or the Nascar vote is in for a dreadful shock the day the ballots are counted.

*Although Alberta statistics are unclear it appears that approximately 30% of teachers are male, 9% of nurses are male and, by definition, 100% of soccer moms are female.    

** Calgary Herald, Oct 5, 2011, A12

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10 Responses to With All Due Respect

  1. roy wright says:

    I too believe that the “women’s vote” issue has been pushed a little too hard. My understanding of the political process is that one develops policies and strategies that can be measured against the value systems of different segments of society; seniors, youth, union workers and yes, perhaps even women. Such segments may hold similar values, but it boils down to each person getting to vote rather than some swarm voting in unison. The politician who can assemble the most comprehensive list of objectives that is palatable to the largest number of people without enflaming other groups wins the contest. Alison did exactly that while Mar enflamed a lot of people with his approach to private health care. In hindsight, I see detractors implying the “women’s vote” was/is not as important as others and therefore Alison did not really win the election. All I can say to those chauvinists is that it looks like sour grapes.

    • Roy, I think Old Boys didn’t think for one minute that Gary Mar might actually lose to Alison Redford. Their actions in the two weeks preceding the final ballot demonstrate this. All of the candidates who lost in the first round flooded into Mar’s camp. The media, Mar supporters let’s not forget, were full of stories saying Redford couldn’t possible catch up. And Gary Mar–despite his comment that he was taking nothing for granted–sent out emails describing his first 120 days in office and appointed Doug Griffiths to lead a task force to rejuvenate the party. Not the behaviour of someone who didn’t expect to win. Now that the unthinkable has happened the Old Boys need to come up with an explanation–it must be those unpredictable women at it again. No wonder the Old Boys failed to win the day, they no longer reflect today’s reality.

      PS. I’m so glad you’re not an Old Boy!

  2. Rose Marie MacKenzie says:

    They are not really going to use that as an excuse, really “the woman’s vote”. I agree with Roy sour grapes. I must admit that my knowledge of politics is limited so I don’t listen to the hype I actually have to focus on what I think is important. I was for years “the every day stay-at-home mom AKA the woman’s vote” which basically means you do what you have to do, when it has to be done and had my husband been the one to stay home he would have been faced with the same problems and come up with the basically the same answers. So what was the deciding factor in who stayed home, plain and simple, money not gender.

    Gender does not determine knowledge or responsibility. The necessity to do the right thing, when it has to be done, is what makes a family and a government function productively.

  3. Rose, you nailed it with your last comment “gender does not determine knowledge or responsibility”. We all look at the issues from our own perspective and experience. We know what we need and want from our elected representatives. If we see that their positions don’t align with our values when they’re on the campaign trail we won’t vote for them. To have someone suggest that our decisions are based on being female is down right insulting.

    Thanks for your comments. Much appreciated as always.

  4. Carlos says:

    I totally agree. Some people just cannot move on with this issue of women versus men. It is obvious sour grapes and nothing else.

    The moment Mar said openly that privatization of Health Care made a lot of sense he created the situation that ensued. Mar assumed that most Albertans agreed with him especially the 60 thousand that voted in the leadership race. I guess that is the problem with the Old Boys Club mentality. I am sure they were absolutely convinced that would win him the race. I believe that Mar was concerned with Morton and in order to out right him he went too far. I am glad he was sincere about his position on Health Care, at least we knew what he stood for.

    I am not sure what Alison Redford will do but to be honest I do not have high expectations. She is obviously a very capable person but I believe she will be shot down to exhaustion. The Sun newspaper has already started and being now a right wing newsletter they will do anything possible to humiliate her. I have no idea if this story is at all true but I question if they do. They want to elect their darling Danielle Smith of the Wildrose party.

  5. Carlos, you mention Mar’s concern with Morton–I must admit I hadn’t thought of it that way but your suggestion makes sense. Very early in the race rumours swirled which said that Morton had already sold 100,000 memberships. If this was true Morton would have beaten Mar on the first ballot unless Mar found a way to convince Morton’s supporters to switch their votes. As you point out Mar’s clear support of privatization should have attracted the Wildrose types who want a reduction in public services. Turns out that Mar didn’t read the electorate right. The Wildrosers stayed with the Wildrose and new non-PC’s came out in support of Redford.

    I looked up the Sun article on Carter’s outstanding debts…this will be a tough one for Carter to explain. I wonder whether it’s a case of Carter’s business debts which by law are not the same as personal debts. I couldn’t tell from the story. Thanks for providing a fresh perspective Carlos.

  6. Elaine Fleming, Whitemud Citizens for Public Health says:

    Just looking at our immediate circle in WCPH, it was a man (Frank Horvath) who suggested we contact Alison Redford for a meeting a week before the PC leader’s selection. It was another man, Baldwin, our Wise One, who gave us a tongue-in-cheek blessing before we embarked on this “quest”.

    One of our purposes is to support political candidates who support public health, a statement that appears on our Facebook. Our executive (5 men and 4 women) needed to ask Ms. Redford more detailed questions about her stand on health care in order to endorse her to our wider group of contacts. To our surprise, she agreed to met with us. After we grilled her about her thoughts and statements on this subject, we unanimously agreed that we would support her.

    Our wider contact group includes people right across the province, some having asked for email-outs from WCPH after we held a large Public Forum last year where we directed questions and comments regarding health and seniors’ care to our MLA, Dave Hancock The lists also include friends, neighbours, colleagues, community activists, political and media people, medical types, and anyone who asks to be on it. A rough scan appears that there are roughly half men and half women on these lists. After we sent out our endorsement we received many messages throughout the week, and then after the election, from people thanking us for helping them make a decision, as well as other comments as to their reasons for supporting Alison Redford. Looking back at them, most of the comments came from men. In conclusion, from our perspective, I would have to say that the gender thing is a non-issue, and never appeared to be one throughout the whole 7 month campaign.

    In our meeting with Redford, Frank asked her a question about the “glass ceiling”, trying to get a sense of whether she perceived her gender to be an obstacle in winning the leadership race. With a smile on her face, but without batting an eye, she replied firmly that she had the qualifications and the ability to handle the role of premier of our province. And when her mother died the next day, and she went on to give that remarkable performance (the best one by the way) at the Candidate’s debate, everyone could see what she was made of. I was wondering how Gary Mar or Doug Horner would have fared in the same situation. I’m sure they did, too.

  7. Elaine, it’s clear from your comment that WCPH is a gender neutral group focused on a common cause–protecting public healthcare. You approached the question of whether to endorse Redford thoughtfully (I guess that’s what happens when you have a Wise One in your midst!). Bravo to Frank for suggesting the group contact Redford to check her out before making the final decision. That shows good due diligence and more than a modicum of chutzpah. No wonder Albertans look to WCPH for guidance on these issues. Thanks for giving us a peek into your decision making process and for all your efforts in this very important “quest”.

    Note: anyone who wants to find out more about WCPH should visit their facebook page at
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/247338238324/

  8. Sheila O'Brien says:

    Susan: well said( written, actually). Alison is not hostage to gender politics, nor is she choosing to make an issue of her breakthrough. Good for her- she has framed the debate as a question of competency, and actions so far, and her resolute but determined performance, bode very well for her premiership. It appears that she can rise above a lot of pettiness. Good thing!

  9. We voted for her and wouldn’t expect anything less would we? Alison will have some tough sledding ahead. Liepert and Snelgrove have already drawn a line in the sand and were no-shows at her swearing in. Morton at least had the good grace to meet with her for 15 minutes before the event to give her his good wishes. If Alison’s past performance is any indication she’ll cull the herd, corral the renegades, and get them all pulling in the same (new) direction. Thanks for your comments Sheila.

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