Brian Jean, leader of the Wildrose party, has a vision for uniting Alberta’s conservatives.
It’s based on “the best elements” of Peter Lougheed and Ralph Klein’s legacies and rejects the “liberal drift” and “questionable ethics” that forced Wildrose members out of the Progressive Conservative party years ago.
And with that Mr Jean wedged himself on the horns of a dilemma because the “best elements” of the Lougheed legacy and the Klein legacy are utterly incompatible.
For starters, Peter Lougheed supported higher royalties, progressive taxation and a value-added, diversified economy. Ralph Klein did not. He reduced royalties, introduced a 10% flat tax and sold off public assets, like the Alberta Energy Company, that were designed to diversify the economy.
Mr Jean says his vision is based on seven principles that will grow the conservative movement.
A review of these principles reveals nothing more than a confusing pastiche of existing legal rights and political platitudes.
One: Individual freedom
It is unclear just what Mr Jean has in mind given that individual rights and freedoms are already protected by Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Alberta Human Rights Act.
Perhaps he wants to go even further than he did when he voted in favour of the NDP’s Bill 7 which amended the Alberta Human Rights Act by adding gender identity and gender expression to protect Alberta’s trans and gender-variant communities from discrimination.
Mr Jean said “We need to stand up for all people of Alberta…We have to protect each and every one of them the same way: with passion, with vigour and with common sense.”*
Ms Soapbox thinks it’s laudable that Mr Jean and four members of his 22 member caucus showed up to vote in favour of Bill 7, but she wonders how Mr Jean’s support of Bill 7 aligns with his warning to avoid “the liberal drift” that caused Wildrose members to leave the PC party in the first place.
Two: Fiscal responsibility
This principle is founded on the assumption that the NDP government is happy taking on debt and running a deficit, instead of being forced to do so to remedy the damage caused in the PC years by low tax and royalty revenues and an economy tethered to volatile oil prices.
It’s a nice campaign slogan but Klein’s austerity budgets didn’t set the PCs up for success when oil prices soared to $100/bbl and the Wildrose’s austerity budget won’t fare any better as we fight our way through an economic slump.
Three: Religious liberty
Freedom of religion is a fundamental right under the Charter and Alberta’s human rights legislation.
So what exactly is Mr Jean proposing?
One possibility (in fact the only one Ms Soapbox can think of) is that Mr Jean wants to create exceptions to existing legislation that would allow religious organizations to access government funding to provide education or healthcare without having to comply with the laws governing how such services are provided.
We’ve seen examples of this in the past.
The Wildrose opposed legislation requiring faith-based schools to support students who wanted to form gay-straight alliances (GSAs). They argued that forcing faith-based schools to “sanction” GSAs which promote ideas that contradict the schools’ religious beliefs was disrespectful to a faith-based school board, teachers and students.
Four: Equality of opportunity and the greatness of Alberta
Equality of opportunity is enshrined in the Charter and the Alberta Human Rights Act. This principle is nothing more than a campaign slogan along the lines of Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again.”
Five: Welcome Albertans of all backgrounds
The Alberta Human Rights Act ensures everyone is welcome regardless of race, religion, colour, gender, gender identity, gender expression, physical or mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital or family status, source of income or sexual orientation.
Consequently Ms Soapbox is confused by the use of the term “background” which is more commonly used to describe one’s education, experience or social circumstances and is less specific than the classes protected by the law.
Six: Take a principled stand, even if it’s unpopular
Wildrose politicians have never been afraid to take an unpopular stand; principled or not.
Last week the Minister of Service, Stephanie McLean, introduced Bill 15 which would reduce the interest rate (which can be as high as 600%) on payday loans from $23 per $100 borrowed to $15 per $100 borrowed.
Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt opposed the bill because (1) the high rate reflects the credit risk to the lender, these people have low credit scores, right? (2) borrowers might turn to loan sharks if payday loans aren’t available and (3) what payday loan borrowers really need is a course in financial literacy.**
Another Wildrose MLA, Jason Nixon, supported Bill 15 on the grounds that a 600% interest rate was indeed predatory.
So back to Mr Jean’s sixth principle: which Wildrose MLA took a principled, albeit, unpopular stand, Mr Fildebrandt or Mr Nixon?
Seven: Commitment to accountable and ethical government
Great principle. Huzzahs all around!!!
If Mr Jean hopes to make the Wildrose party the party of choice for all conservatives, including progressive conservatives, he’ll have to do better than float a muddled vision that pussy foots around social issues.
As PC MLA Sandra Jansen pointed out during the debate on Bill 15, the Wildrose “have a difficult time talking about social issues…they’re bootstraps people, they think everybody should be able to pick themselves up and that we don’t actually have to have a social safety net because everybody has the ability to go out and get a job and take care of themselves…if there’s anyone shocked at the idea that our two parties might not be simpatico, well, here’s a perfect example of where we differ…”***
Is anyone surprised?
*Hansard, Dec 1, 2015, p 703
**Hansard, May 19, 2016, starting at 1062
***Hansard, May 19, 2016, p 1066
Fiscal responsibility, the greatness of Alberta, religious liberty, ethical government? Don’t make me bloody laugh. It hurts.
Thanks for this anonymous. Very unsettling.
Just to push this a little further, if you combine two of Brian Jean’s principles, the support for religious liberty and welcoming Albertans of all backgrounds, right leaning, non “liberal drift” conservatives should be perfectly fine with Albertan women who wear niqabs, hijabs and burkas…but as we saw in the furor over the lady who wanted to wear her niqab while being sworn in as a Canadian citizen, this doesn’t appear to be the case.
RE: which Wildrose MLA took a principled, albeit, unpopular stand, Mr Fildebrandt or Mr Nixon?
Well, technically usury itself is an unpopular principle, if that answers your question.
I know it’s a different arena but, speaking of conservative ‘principles’, based on Judge Vaillancourt’s vitriolic ruling regarding Mike Duffy’s ‘innocence’, shouldn’t there be a loud general call across the board for Mr.Harper to resign his seat in the house of commons, considering how unprincipled (according to the judge) his office’s actions were in that case?
GoinFawr, what an interesting re: Stephen Harper. Either “principled” conservatives don’t think he did anything wrong or they’re trying to distance themselves from the PM and Duffygate in which case the last thing they’d do is call for his resignation and bring the whole thing back to life again. Could it be that politics trump principles…and I think this may be the case in many parties, not just the Conservatives (she said cynically).
….and two days later we have our answer, not sure if culpae poenae par esto though:
It’s almost as if Mr.Harper was holding on to the edge of his seat until the Duffy trial was definitively over for some reason or another. Say, can sitting MP’s decline a subpoena?
Good question GoinFawr, I see that the Crown has decided not to appeal the Duffy decision so as far as the courts are concerned that matter is done and dusted.
The Globe & Mail carried a story today about the upcoming Conservative policy convention. Among the resolutions under consideration was one that really surprised me: Resolution 422 would change the Conservative’s definition of marriage which today is “the union of one man and one woman”. The resolution also asks for the removal of the right of religious organizations to refuse to perform wedding ceremonies (presumably because they don’t approve of same-sex marriages) and the removal of the clause that says it’s up to Parliament, not the courts, to decide what the definition of marriage should be. The fact that any of these resolutions are necessary is shocking given that the Charter protects Canadians from discrimination based on sex and the Supreme Court of Canada handed down its decision confirming that same-sex marriages were legal in 2005. If the federal Conservative party passes these resolutions it will finally catch up with the law of the land.
Of course his vision is based on Peter Lougheed and Ralph Klein’s legacies. He is incapable of coming up with anything other than the now 30 year old hit ‘Lower Taxes’ and ‘Greed is Good’.
Of course he cannot stand the ‘Liberal Drift’. That is too much too understand. Those darn socialists that brought us paid vacations, health care, education, pensions and all the other benefits, parties like his fought so hard against. Brian Jean can hide well between all his extreme right wing supporters especially the media, but I was born a dog and I can smell them with my eyes closed.
He wants to be premier and satisfy is exaggerated sense of importance.
I am sorry Julie but I do not have the same sympathy for the Wildrose. I know exactly how they operate. Their propaganda and strategies have changed very little throughout times.
Of the seven principles the 6th is their darling. Of course Fildebrant opposed the PayDay Loan bill. Here is their stand on this one – No regulation – the predators should be able to take as much as possible from everyone as long as they then ask for forgiveness from God on Sunday. This is why it is important to go to Church every Sunday.
Carlos, I agree you, particularly your take on why Derek Fildebrant opposed the predatory loan legislation–let the free market reign, if someone gets hurt, then the government needs to educate them…fat lot of good that’s going to do you if you don’t have enough money to pay the rent and buy groceries.
There was an interesting exchange between Fildebrant and Sandra Jansen during the debate. A number of MLAs (Clark (AP), Mason (NDP) and Jansen (PC)) made the point that Fildebrant jumped to the conclusion that poor people would turn to criminal activity (loan sharks) to get loans. Jansen said it was a terrible stereotype but not surprising. Fildebrant started shouting “You’re lying, you’re lying.” Jansen said “Did you just say I’m lying?” Fildebrant denied it. Mason called for a point of order saying it wasn’t acceptable for one member to call another a liar and then “misstate the facts when she asked him about it.” Fildebrant admitted calling her a liar and tried to justify it by saying she’d misrepresented what he’d said, then he agreed it was unparliamentary and withdrew the comment and apologized. I raise this only to point out the level of bitterness between the WR and the PCs. Those two parties won’t be getting together any time soon!
Interesting because it was the PCs that so eagerly allowed the creation of PayDay Loans and when in power always protected their interests.
Jansen does have an inch of ethics either. It is only now that they want to get the Wildies out of there. They are all the same. Look at the Federal PCs now asking for details on the arms deal with Saudi Arabia. Look at them trying to protect the scientists right to speak….. and on and on. Ambrose is the cutest in this respect. She has Alzheimer’s, they all do when it is convenient. My only respect for this class of people is – get them out.
Carlos, I’m sure you’re right that the PCs will fight the WR because it’s the only way the PCs will get back into power in 2019, however I’d like to say a few words in defense of Sandra Jansen. She took a principled stand when she supported the Liberals’ motion (Motion 503) to put gay-straight alliances into the schools. She and Thomas Lukaszuk were the only two PCs I can remember supporting GSAs that early in the process. And she publicly apologized for supporting Prentice’s Bill 10 which was the PC’s effort to get around the GSA issue.
Oddly enough I got a tweet from a WR supporter saying the only reason Jansen was fighting the WR so hard on WR policies was because the WR was right. Strange concept eh? Pointing out the flaws in the other guys policies means their policies aren’t flawed, they’re right.