“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