Thank You Alberta Party!

When Greg Clark stepped down as the leader of the Alberta Party Ms Soapbox wondered whether the party had lost its mind.

When Rick Fraser and Stephen Mandel, two former Progressive Conservatives, entered the AP leadership race, Ms Soapbox wondered whether the party had been taken over by the Progressive Conservatives.

She soon realized such idle speculation was pointless.  Gone were the days of Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall when cigar-chomping party bosses pulled strings to deliver candidates acceptable to their well-heeled patrons.  And gone are the days when Albertans would vote “blue” because that’s what they’d done for the last 44 years.


Greg Clark, MLA and former leader of the Alberta Party

Ms Soapbox isn’t saying the Alberta Party will lead Alberta to the promised land (she thinks Notley’s NDP are doing a fine job) however she wants to recognize the AP’s leadership candidates for pointing out that in this age of memes, Twitter spats, and an 8 second attention span, policies still matter.

Like the pre-Kenney politicians who went before them, the AP leadership candidates are putting policies in front of their membership because they respect their members and are willing to stick their necks out.  Most importantly, they’re not expecting their supporters to jump on the boo/hiss bandwagon just because they say so.

Assuming Ms Soapbox is right and it’s the thoughtful Albertans, not the boo/hissers who’ll determine the outcome of the 2019 election what should we be thinking about between now and then?

Here’s a preliminary list:

Divisive politics are dangerous:  Rick Fraser put it well when he said we need to return to civil discourse because the “old political playbook” won’t cut it anymore.  Albertans will not find solutions to complex problems if they’re at each others’ throats.  Politicians who insist that the path to victory is paved with divisive rhetoric are dangerous and don’t deserve our support.

Show us your policies or get off the air: Running on a no-policy platform is dangerous because hard-core supporters will fill in the blanks, leaving their leader in the peculiar position of trying to back away from a promise he never made or engaging in backroom machinations to deliver the results he secretly wants.

The UCP is already grappling with this problem.

Apparently, Jason Kenney said he’d cut spending by 1% to 2% not 20%.  That’s 10 times less than his base expects.  His base is confused and the rest of us don’t trust him.

Kenney also said his government would focus on economic issues, not social ones; however, when the NDP tabled Bill 24, an amendment to the School Act to ensure an LBGTQ student’s privacy rights were respected, Rick Fraser says the UCP caucus was whipped into voting against, notwithstanding Kenney’s comment that his MLAs were free to vote their conscience.

Are your policies better than the government’s policies, if so why?*

It’s not enough to unveil a policy, a politician needs to show us why his/her policy is better than the government’s position.

AP leadership candidate Rick Fraser has taken this to heart.  He says one way to ensure Alberta has the revenue it needs to provide the services people want is to implement a provincial sales tax.    He didn’t say he would implement a PST but he’s raised the topic for discussion (remember what I said about sticking your neck out).

The NDP’s solution to creating more revenue is to diversify the economy so the reduction in fossil fuel revenues won’t leave a gaping hole in the budget.  This is a long term solution that needs to be weighed against the risk of continued low oil prices and the immediate benefit a new PST would bring.

The UCP offer no solutions.  In fact, they’d like to bring back the 10% flat tax which will make the revenue gap at least $700 million worse (but it would make the top 10% of Albertans who make more than $128,145 very happy, so that’s a consideration).

What is your policy rationale and is it appropriate?

The best example of this issue is the debate over publicly funded “choice”.

The NDP believe publicly funded services should be publicly delivered and is moving services like long term care, lab services and laundry services in house.  The goal is to avoid the conflict that arises when a for-profit corporation that wants to increase costs (in order to increase profits) enters into a contract with a government trying to reduce costs so it can reduce its revenue requirements.

AP leadership candidate Stephen Mandel supports some level of privatization but hasn’t provided a helpful rationale.  He objects to the NDP’s decision to spend $325 million on new lab services saying it should have been outsourced to an Australian company. (The Sonic contract under consideration by the PC government was worth $3 billion, there may be more to Mandel’s rationale, but he has not yet explained it).

The UCP supports increased privatization of services like healthcare and education on the rationale of “choice” but has yet to explain why the public should fund the lion’s share of someone’s “choice” to move to a for-profit or religious service provider.

These are complex policy decisions that deserve thoughtful debate.

Thank you

The Alberta Party is a little party that punches well above its weight.  It will have achieved something remarkable if it manages to pull polarized Albertans out of their respective corners so they can engage in meaningful dialogue.

And for that the Alberta Party deserves our thanks, regardless of which political party we support.

*The discussion of UCP policies is based on media reports of the draft policy going to the UCP policy convention in May 2018.   

This entry was posted in Alberta Health Care, Economy, Energy & Natural Resources, Politics and Government, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to Thank You Alberta Party!

  1. nandouglas says:

    Stephen Mandel was asked directly by Calgary’s CBC Eye Opener radio what his policies are and he offered nothing saying he will wait to hear what the people want and then formulate something. This is opportunistic and not leadership. Not sure why you think the Alberta Party has developed policies. It would appear that the Alberta Party has been hijacked by disaffected conservatives. Simply more of the same.


    • Fair point Nan. I missed the CBC interview with Mandel, it sounds like I overstepped by including him with Fraser in the preamble to the list of things to think going into the next election. I caught Fraser’s interviews with Jesperson and Breakenridge. He was given the opportunity to slam the NDP but refused to do so saying he didn’t believe everything they did was wrong. Actually he supported many of the NDP’s policies, quibbling with how they were rolled out but not with their substance. The reason I don’t think the AP has been hijacked by the PCs is I don’t think the PCs would have allowed Fraser to float the idea of a provincial sales tax.
      Thanks for commenting Nan, our discussion is an example of civil discourse where reasonable people can exchange ideas without resorting to name calling.

  2. Douglas Taylor says:

    I listened to an Edmonton CBC interview with Mandel the day of his announcement and it was pretty glib and fluffy. He breezed in from a tennis game and wasn’t even winded. He used the garbled phrase of how the NDP government was doing things all wrong with of course no details. Gee I figure the ND’s are doing a pretty good job on just about everything and to rail against reality, just seems so hollow, smug and dismissive. Mandel rambled on about how “private enterprise” ( meaning private sector), is the only answer to ” go forward”. Says a mayor retread who gifted $450 milllion of public money to one of his developer cronies who then leveraged that into huge private wealth creation, all for a no account sports franchise shovelling millions in salaries to millionaire contractors.
    Then Mr. Smooth, dismissed the ND’s carbon reduction strategy as being used to pay for daily general budget expenses, without any reference to a screwed up revenue legacy of his party roots PeeCee’s that still believes taxes of all kinds should be abolished unlike the entire rest of Canada. The arrogance of the man is profound. He probably still thinks if you just took back the pop bottles and dug under the sofa cushions, there’s a funds source pony in there just for the finding. He’s got nuttin’.

  3. Keith McClary says:

    Someone should ask UCP or AP if they will cut business subsidies:
    Alberta spends the most on business subsidies — despite questionable benefit, report says
    “Alberta spends more than other provinces in Canada on business subsidies, despite evidence that the subsidies actually provide questionable value, according to a report from The School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary.

    Lester estimated that Alberta’s government spent $2.6 billion on subsidies that year, $585 million of which were delivered through spending programs.

    Fifty-eight per cent of subsidies in Alberta were delivered though the tax system.

    Small businesses and agriculture were the two most subsidized industries.”
    The report

    Click to access Business-Subsidies-in-Canada-Lester.pdf

    is worth a look. The breakdown is on p. 27 (p. 29 as the PDF is numbered).

    • Great question Keith. Fraser was asked for his views on the minimum wage, he said small businesses need to grow and they’re having difficulty with the minimum wage hike and the tax (albeit reduced) on small businesses. I took from his comment that he’d revisit both. The fact that he’d consider exempting small businesses from these critical policies gets to my final “thinking point” — what is the rationale for your policy and is it appropriate? Why should the government value a small business owner over a low wage worker? Also why should the government subsidize small businesses with a tax reduction but not big businesses which are more stable and employ more people. The first position seems inhumane and opportunistic, the second position seems to be contrary to the belief in the sanctity of the free market. I hope AP supporters ask all the AP leadership candidates these questions.
      And thanks for the link, compelling reading!

  4. Jane Walker says:

    Interesting how the PC ‘refit’ as Alberta Party has taken your attention and admiration, Ms Soapbox .. or at least that’s what I inferred from this blog.

    Wondering if you have taken a look at the work of David Khan in influencing government in the best interests of Albertans. Since his election as Alberta Liberal leader he has worked with Dr. David Swann to advance significant Liberal positions. They have influenced ND action on the dangers of PAC funding and the significance of understanding ‘dark money’ and its intention to build capacity for influence.
    There are other issues, of course, but I am simply introducing another alternative to the UCP that is flying below the radar.

    The Alberta Party has been around for several years without articulating any specific vision or value base that lights up its profile. Do we know who they really are with reference to influencing governance of our province and the future for my grandchildren?

    Steven Mandel has a specific history in provincial politics and the health portfolio. Do we remember?

    Rick Fraser is a committed PC. We were there for 43years. Do we remember?

    Just asking or sayin’!

    • Jane, you’re right to remind us that David Khan and Dr David Swann did excellent work in alerting the NDs to the dangers of PAC funding. That effort, more than anything, went a long way toward protecting our democratic institutions. The provincial Liberals also laid the foundation for the ND’s GSA legislation which was another major breakthrough.

      The point of this blog was to remind Albertans that civil discourse hit a new low when Kenney arrived on the scene and we need to fight the urge to sink down to his level (not easy given the lies he’s spreading). That’s why I used Fraser’s comments about rejecting the “old political playbook” etc. as a jumping off point for how to think about what politicians have to offer in the next election. (It appears I was wrong to include Mandel for the reasons you and others have mentioned).

      Your point about the confusion about AP policies is reinforced by the fact that some people said Fraser joining the AP would split the ND vote while others said it would split the UCP vote. As you said the AP have been around for years, their caucus is made up of a former Liberal (Greg Clark), a former ND (Karen McPherson), and a former PC (Rick Fraser). They’re a bit chameleon-like, perhaps this leadership race will clarify their vision and values.

      Also, just to be clear, I’m a big fan of Rachel Notley’s ND government. She inherited a real mess and is starting to turn things around by introducing thoughtful compassionate policies. Input from the Liberals, the AP, and the lone PC Richard Starke, will make the government’s policies even better.

      • jane walker says:

        Thank you, thank you, Ms Soapbox!! As usual, Susan, your column and your response to comments brings objective info re the ‘state of affairs’ in our dear province!! I am certainly pleased with the work being done by Rachel Notley and the horrendous mess that she took on. Our province needs another two or three terms of this to carry out the vision that fits for the future for my grandboys!!
        Thanks again, Susan!! … and thanks for your commitment to this blog on into the future. 😉

      • You’re very welcome Jane! It’s thoughtful comments by people like you that make this project so enjoyable. 🙂

  5. James Burrows says:

    During Elections people vote on emotion NOT on policy Susan. Ralph Klein victories provided that. A small percentage of voters only vote on policy.

    • You’re right James. That’s how the Americans ended up with Trump. Ironically, this blog provoked an emotional response from someone I presume is a UCP supporter. They said it was proof communism is alive and well in Alberta. (??) How they got there based on this post is beyond me. You can imagine the comments I get when I praise something the NDP have done. I don’t publish such comments because name calling does not advance civil discourse.

      • carlosbeca says:

        Yes I can imagine the emails you get when praising the NDP. Such is the nature of our advanced democratic process.
        Yes Communism is alive and well in Alberta – what a absurd to even think that never mind say it.
        Amazing how much we still have to go to claim a democratic political/social system.

      • Farmer Dave says:

        I agree with James that people vote on emotion. If you recall when Ralph Klein first won the election for the Progressive Conservatives (PC’s), Laurence Decore (Liberal Party) was ahead in the polls and was going to win. The PC’s were in big trouble during that election and were basically hated by voters because of the huge deficit they created due to low oil prices. You never seen a campaign sign displaying the PC name and all signs said VOTE FOR RALPH and nothing else. And then DECORE made a blunder saying he will make drastic cuts to the budget. Ralph came out and said he would not make drastic cuts but moderate cuts to the budget and we all know how that turned out. DECORE may have been the best Premier we could have had. We all know how he took on the Province (AGT) fighting for Edmonton Telephones and won on long distance calls. Edmonton still has a nice fund from this fight thanks to Laurence Decore.

      • You make an interesting point Farmer Dave. I didn’t follow politics as closely back then as I do now, but I was told that the other reason Decore lost was that in the week prior to the election he did a radio interview in which he said while he was personally opposed to abortion he would support it because it was now the law. Apparently Liberal supporters were incensed by this and his “drastic cuts” comment and abandoned him. Seems to me that supports your statement that people vote on emotion and they saw the Liberals as being one kind of political party and the PCs as another kind of political party and when Decore said some things that didn’t fit their image of the Liberals they abandoned the party. Like I said, I wasn’t plugged into the political scene back then, so this is just speculation.

      • Harce says:

        How is saying that “communism is alive and well in Alberta” a name calling? There is a communist party registered in the province and one of Rachel Notley’s key aides even ran as a communist party candidate in the past, so this is a reasonable conclusion.

      • Harce, no one said saying “communism is alive and well in Alberta” is name calling. The issue here is a commentator said this post which was a thank you to the Alberta Party for reminding us that policies matter (some people think I overstated the case in relation to Mandel, I accept that), is proof communism is alive and well in Alberta. Given that this post doesn’t mention communism at all, I came to the conclusion that this person thinks I’m a communist, particularly since this person has called me a communist many times in past (blocked) comments. Name calling is pointless and will get a commentator blocked.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        By the way Harce being a communist is not against the law – or is it in your view? You always use the term in a derogatory way so I wonder.

        I have some communist views and I do not care for a second what you or anybody thinks.
        Communism in my view is more acceptable than extreme right wing – what used to be called fascism but somehow it has been diluted so that we do not insult people like many in the UCP.

        Just a thought

      • Well said Carlos. In case anyone is confused about the meaning of fascism, Merriam-Webster defines it as: a political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition. There’s a reason why academics like Timothy Snyder are warning us about the dangers of tyranny.

      • carlosbeca says:

        I agree with Farmer Dave and my feeling is that we were at the peak of Neo-Liberal politics and it became fashionable to attack everything government or public as well as talking about deep tax cuts. Lawrence Decore wanted to outdo Ralph Klein that at this time was already promising to cut everything and, like you and Farmer mentioned, ended up moving way out of the Liberal acceptance area and lost votes especially in Edmonton where he was very popular. I liked Lawrence Decore I thought he was a very decent politician Certainly what came with Ralph Klein is still affecting us.

  6. Carlos Beca says:

    This post is difficult to comment on because it involves many fronts.

    I am surprised with Mandel running for leader of the Alberta party. His views are clearly not that centrist. He is very much a neo-liberal with a touch of social responsibility due to the fact that he is an older person and he will like to have some help when he is frail and powerless. It is much easier than being swallowed by bankruptcy and dying in some corner of an hospital without nurses.

    I use to have respect for Mayor Mandel but not much anymore. He seems clearly more concerned about profits and private interests than the reality of regular people.

    I do not share your opinion of the AP. They started with a complete different objective and fell into the same party politics style. Their election results were disastrous and then Creg kind of picked it up to avoid it to go into oblivion.

    Now it is turning into Jason’s nightmare. If Mandel or Fraser win, the party will become the PC reincarnated and it will split the right again. Many conservatives are not comfortable voting for the UCP. So Jason will have to take over this one as well 🙂

    This is my opinion.

    • Carlos I’ve wondered for a while how the AP will evolve. In the beginning it was very grassroots focused but over time it became more like a typical political party. Given the feedback I’ve been getting on this post it appears many progressives are suspicious of the arrival of more ex-PCs in the AP, as such your prediction that the AP under the leadership of either Mandel or Frazer will turn into Kenney’s worst nightmare. If Kenney thinks the AP will split the NDP vote he’ll leave them alone, but if he thinks they’ll split the UCP vote he’ll go after them with guns blazing. We’ll know soon enough.

    • Horace says:

      Actually I disagree. Mandel is a leftist just like the NDP and he’s going to win the AP leadership and split the left wing vote in Edmonton, electing more UCP MLA’s. The AP will be a non-factor outside of Edmonton, leading to a massive Kenney majority of 75+ seats.

      • carlosbeca says:

        Well I disagree that Mandel is a leftist but that is not a surprise in a world that in the last 30 years has been pushing the center to where right wing use to be.
        If Mandel wins we just have to wait and see.
        I wished we had a democratic proportional representation system where split votes do not exist and where people are represented for what they vote for rather than split games.

  7. David says:

    I think the Alberta Party is in a transition from a fairly free thinking tiny little party to perhaps PC version 2.0, which may tilt a bit more to the right than the center. If the party is successful, it might moderate the debate between right and left in Alberta, but I am not so sure. Some of that debate is governed by the character of the other parties and their leaders and nothing in Kenney’s character suggests he really is inclined or interested to be moderate. He killed off the PC’s because they were too moderate for him, so I think he would probably take the same approach to any party that was another version of the PC’s. However, I don’t think the remaining/reincarnated PC’s will easily fall for his approach a second time, so it could be much harder for him to stop vote splitting with the Alberta Party.

    • David you nailed it, nothing will moderate Kenney because his supporters don’t ask questions. For example, how will Klein’s 10% flat tax bring back the Alberta Advantage when most Albertans are already paying 10% taxes. Kenney’s tax break only kicks in for those making more than $126,625. If the tax decrease doesn’t give them more money to put toward a new house or or their kids’ education what’s the point. I also agree with your comment that if the AP become PC 2.0 they will capture the “progressive” conservatives and split the vote on the right. If Kenney was truly successful at merging the PCs and the WR there wouldn’t be so many PCs taking a hard look at the Alberta Party. Time will tell whether all this merger stuff did nothing more than recreate the WR and the PCs under new names.

  8. GoinFawr says:

    “…the conflict that arises when a for-profit corporation that wants to increase costs (in order to increase profits) enters into a contract with a government trying to reduce costs so it can reduce its revenue requirements.”

    Hear’! Hear’!

    That is the patent MO neoliberals never speak of when touting the (short-lived) glories of privatizing public works: “…business is business! And business must grow regardless…”

    Be warned: in Edmonton Mr.Mandel (and his successor Mr.Iveson, for that matter) found a way to sell off lucrative public monopolies to private interests, for pennies on the dollar. And now, go figure, those private interests are doing just super, taking the shirt off the public’s back as Edmontonians pay more than ever for less service(s).

    Here’s another recent example of ‘the wonders’ of privatization failing Canadians. I wonder how much this is going to end up costing them:

  9. GoinFawr thanks for the link. Articles like this make you wonder how often this has to happen before the Klein/Kenney crowd finally figures out the private sector is NOT by definition more efficient than the public sector. Looks like Carillion promised more than it could deliver (losing the Ont road contract due to poor quality and frequency of work especially in snow storms, um, when you *really* need a nicely plowed unpotholed road) and couldn’t manage its business (ran up $2.6B in debt and $1B in pension deficit and its market cap shrank by 93%.) Wow!

  10. David Grant says:

    I have to be honest, I am not all that enamored by the Alberta Party because everytime I ask them a question on policies such as right to work or whether we should pay for the ambulance services(I had to pay for that when my mother died as a result of a suicide), they have no response. When I look at their website and read their policies, I find them be pretty vague and mushy(much like most of the policy papers from the School for Public Policy). If a political party can take a stand on these issues(full disclosure I am a member of AUPE), then frankly I am sure that they really serve a useful purpose. I know who I will be voting for and that is the incumbent government because I know where they stand on most issues and they seem to align with my own values.

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