All right, that’s it! The headline in yesterday’s Calgary Herald was Moral issues fire up the parties. All that’s missing is three exclamation points (!!!) at the end of that sentence and we can decide the outcome of this election by throwing Alison and Danielle into a mud wrestling pit and asking Raj to officiate.
We can’t allow the media to reframe this election as a battle between the extremes—the free thinking left wing (“good”) and the small “c” conservative right wing (“bad”). If we do we’ll lose sight of the issues, including the most important issue of all—that we live in a democracy and every Albertan has a right to his beliefs and a right to vote for the party he/she feels best represents his values.
That is why I shuddered when Raj Sherman said “There is no place in this province and this country for this hard right-wing Tea Party thinking.” If Raj had said: “There is no place in this province and this country for this hard left-wing New Democratic Party thinking” we’d all agree he’d gone too far—in a democracy every political party that espouses policies that are legal under federal and provincial laws has the right to be heard.
I know what you’re thinking…I’ve lost my mind and jumped into the Wildrose camp. I haven’t. I’m simply trying to filter the bombastic rhetoric out of the election campaign so that I can compare where the parties stand on the key issues.
So let’s apply the rhetoric filter to a a real-life hot button issue—delisting abortion so that it would not be covered by public healthcare. This firestorm was unleashed when Jeffry Trynchy, the Wildrose chief administrative officer, responded to a questionnaire** asking all of the political parties about their policy on abortion. So far only the Wildrose and the Alberta Party have responded, leaving us in the dark about where the PCs, Liberals and NDP stand on this issue. Trynchy replied that abortion was federally regulated but that a Wildrose government would “Immediately introduce legislation allowing citizens to put issues like abortion to a citizen initiated referendum”.**
Danielle Smith said that the Wildrose was not going to delist abortions but would implement a public referenda process to decide issues like abortion which “split politicians apart, where if you take a position, 50% of the people will love you and 50% will hate you.* Before an issue was put to a referendum it would be vetted by a judge to ensure that if it was supported, it could be implemented without breaking the law.
The Calgary Herald was horrified because “A group of Albertans …could theoretically force a province wide vote on public funding for abortion”.* Yes they could…so what. One would hope that Albertans would care enough about the issue to vote in the referendum and put an end to the suggestion that abortion be delisted.
Some might argue that putting controversial issues like abortion funding to a referendum is an abdication of responsibility on the part of our elected representatives. Not so. Referenda have been used successfully at the provincial and federal level to engage the public on critical issues–the landmark 1992 federal referendum on whether to amend the Constitution per the Charlottetown Accord (71.8% of Canadians voted and 55% of them said no) is a prime example.
Oh and one other thing. If the press is so interested in Danielle Smith’s personal beliefs on abortion, or same sex marriage, or any other so-called “left wing” issue, they should ask all of the political party leaders the same question. In fact why don’t we could put them through an inquisition a la Joe McCarthy to determine whether they possess the moral character required to be an elected representative of a political party. Do you now or have you ever in the past signed a petition [insert “in support of” or “opposed to”] abortion?
The relevant question isn’t where a party leader stands on a controversial issue but rather where his/her party stands on the issue. Believe it or not, intelligent people can hold a personal opinion that differs from the group to which they belong (just ask the 98% of Catholic women who use birth control).
Ultimately this boils down to trust…do you trust a political party to deliver on its promises? This is where the citizen initiated referendum concept is so helpful. It would force a party to deliver what the public wants regardless of whether a particular MLA falls into the 50% that supports the proposal or not.
So let’s not fall all over ourselves stomping on the other guy’s right to his convictions (be they evangelical Christian or atheist) instead let’s listen to Brian Mason, the only left leaning political party leader***who’s making any sense right now and start focusing on the key issues: is increased privatization of healthcare the only solution to the healthcare crisis? How do we fix the crisis in education? Should we increase taxation (corporate and personal) and royalty rates? How do we transition from a non-renewable resource based economy to one based on…what…?
We have an opportunity to unseat a government that after 41 years in power has lost the ability to act in the public interest. Let’s not squander it by allowing the media to turn this election into an ideological battle of (nit)wits. Sensationalized press coverage may sell newspapers, but it leads to irrational decisions in the polling booth.
PS For those of you searching for a non Wildrose/non PC candidate who stands a chance at winning in your riding—check out changeablerta.com.
*Calgary Herald, Apr 12, 2012, A4
***other than Glenn Taylor who is getting virtually no air time