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MORGAN: Welcome back Wildrose

Our government is in terrible need of a voice of conscience coming from the right, and the Wildrose Independence Party may very well provide that if they keep this attitude of pragmatic growth initiatives going.

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With a traditionally rebellious nature and a disinclination to support the status-quo, why is it that Alberta has such a long history of dynastic party rule? The Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta held power for 44 years despite swinging numerous times deeply into the progressive end of the pool and ignoring the conservative base. Many felt that the PCs had lost their way during Ralph Klein’s last term, yet it still took a decade before a conservative alternative really began to gain any steam.

A big factor in what has kept reigning parties in power is that we have new parties constantly springing up on the landscape like daisies.

I was working on creating an alternative to the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta back in 1998 when I was on the executive of the then conservative-minded Alberta Party. I then founded the Alberta Independence Party and led it into the 2001 general election. I then got involved with the Alberta Alliance Party which later merged with Wildrose Party to become the Wildrose Alliance, which only then finally began to truly challenge the PC government by the 2012 general election. A long and winding road from fringe to viability to say the least.

During those years, parties came and went and all were fighting with each other to claim dominance in what was a pretty limited pool of alternative-right party supporters. The PC Party never had to worry about us as we dedicated all our time to battling with each other while giving the actual party in power a pass.

The turning point in Alberta came in 2007 when Premier Stelmach released his “Fair Share” royalty review and proposed a large rcash grab from Alberta’s energy sector. At that time the Alberta Alliance Party and the breakaway Wildrose Party were fighting each other tooth and nail. We had a government induced crisis looming over our energy sector and the alternative parties were too busy lobbing bombs at each other to do anything about it.

Some of the main financial backers for the alternative parties took the main players aside and laid it on the line for them. They essentially said: “Merge or we won’t give a nickle to either of you!”

Money is like oxygen for political parties, particularly nascent ones. We had to get our crap together and we had to do it in a hurry.

We quarantined the presidents of each party as they both had fought the merger with all they had, and hammered out an agreement in principle. Members gladly embraced the new entity when given the chance to vote on it and the movement finally had some real numbers and momentum under the Wildrose Alliance banner.

A number of other key events took place in coming years including a key by-election win, Danielle Smith’s leadership, and some floor crossings which really helped the party explode onto the political scene. None of those things would have happened if the Wildrose and Alberta Alliance parties had not merged.

Today the Freedom Conservative Party and Wexit announced that they had reached an agreement in principle and that their members would be able to vote at the end of June to form a merged entity entitled the “Wildrose Independence Party”. While currently still a long way from being a party which can threaten Jason Kenney’s UCP on the electoral front, this could indeed a turning point for the independence movement which leads to electoral viability.

Support for an unabashedly pro-Alberta if not outright independence minded government is at a high unseen since the early 1980s when Pierre Trudeau decimated Alberta with his National Energy Program. With Jason Kenney unwilling to even endorse the Buffalo Declaration, he is appearing to be unwilling to take on Ottawa and is leaving his flank open for an independence party to fill the void. We are in tumultuous times, and as Alberta tries to climb towards economic recovery, we can be sure that clashes with Ottawa will ensue. We will need strong, uncompromising leadership standing up for Alberta and nothing will help foster such an attitude from government more effectively than having a growing independence party waiting in the wings.

Stubborn, narrow minded people often dominate the boards of political parties. It is hard for pragmatic members to see progress when party leaders and executives remained mired in personal agendas and hang themselves up on points of pride. It was no small accomplishment for the FCP and Wexit to hammer out an agreement in principle. It means some key players swallowed some pride and chose to look at the bigger picture. The presence of that sort of forward-thinking leadership bodes well for the new entity in the future.

A larger, better-funded, and better-organized entity should be able to dominate the alternative-right party scene. They can and should invite the remaining alternative right parties to get on the bandwagon. If the other parties won’t play ball, the Wildrose Independence Party will be able to afford to ignore them. Members and donors join parties that are showing momentum and the Wildrose Independence Party will be the only right-of-center one displaying that.

There are many hurdles for the new party to overcome in the next few years. A leadership race and a new leader will set the tone and direction of the party along with a consistent set of policies and principles. Those things can be minefields which may destroy the new party as well but one step at a time here.

Another thing a newly merged entity will have to deal with is toxic members within their ranks who will never get over the merger, even if members overwhelmingly supported it. It took years before a number of party executive members in the Wildrose Party stopped self-identifying as being either “Alliance or Wildrose” people. The merger really couldn’t be considered complete until that stopped and it took the purging of some folks in order to make that happen. Internal division kills new parties more than any external factor ever could.

The potential merger of Wexit and the Freedom Conservative Party has not been making national headlines but then, neither did the merger of the Wildrose and Alberta Alliance parties. They have gained resources, energy and momentum now with this critical step. Let’s hope that a large majority of members turn out and vote in favor of this merger. Our government is in terrible need of a voice of conscience coming from the right, and the Wildrose Independence Party may very well provide that if they keep this attitude of pragmatic growth initiatives going.

Cory Morgan is a columnist for the Western Standard

Opinion

BARNES: Albertans deserve the right to make the big decisions in referenda law

Guest column from Drew Barnes says that Alberta’s referendum law should be expanded to allow votes on big constitutional issues.

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Guest opinion column from Alberta MLA Drew Barnes

“I am and I will remain a populist, because those who listen to the people are doing their job.” Matteo Salvini.

At its core the word populism is the action that government policies should be determined by the will of the people, not the will of the elite. Direct democracy is the institutional populism in action.

There is debate over whether populism should be termed as a movement or an ideology. Since the actions of populist engagement can transcend the ideological spectrum, I believe it should be viewed as a movement, that can sometimes manifest itself ideologically. As a movement, populist participation can take place on all points of the spectrum. Ultimately, that is what is wanted from a democratic society – engagement from all points of the spectrum.

Now more than ever, we need a new grassroots-populist approach to politics. Grassroots politics by its nature suggests that it is a movement that is sparked from the bottom-up. Politicians who came from grassroots movements must never forget where they came from, or lose sight of what they came to do. We need more of the bottom-up approach to politics, and make listening to the people that elected us a priority.

This is taking place in some measure here in Alberta. Political party policy processes allow for constituency associations to generate policy proposals for conventions, where they are voted on by the membership. Every party in Alberta – with the exception of the NDP – uses a ‘one member, one vote’ system.

Another grassroots/populist tool is referenda, that when used the right way are a valuable democratic tool. Referendums however, must stay true to their purpose, and the process for bringing them forward must allow for citizens to craft their own – fair – wording on a question. This is not to say that any question – however subjectively worded – that anyone wants to ask should be put to a referendum. Therefore, the rules on the use of referendums must not be overly onerous, nor overly temperate.

Switzerland is a prime example of a country that takes full advantage of referendums, including citizens’ initiative. In their democratic system, referendums can occur up to four times annually. All citizens registered to vote can cast their ballot on issues affecting decisions within both their federal government and their cantons (autonomous provinces). Before each vote, all registered voters receive a package of booklets in the mail which provide details on the coming referendums. Since these referendums began in 1848, just under half of the referendum proposals have passed. Even if they don’t always pass, the process is crucial to starting conversations and keeping citizens involved in debate. Referendums also force political parties to reach beyond partisan lines to reach consensus.

Alberta’s legislature recently passed a bill that guides referendums on non-constitutional matters. While this is a positive step forward, there are issues in this bill that need improvement. 

For example, Albertans initiating a referendum might go through the process of collecting hundreds of thousands of signatures, only to have the cabinet alter the wording the question. While fair wording of the question is critical to the integrity of direct democracy, that issue is not best dealt with by politicians who may have a stake in the result. Instead, clear guidelines should be established in law on question wording, and left to non-partisan officials at Elections Alberta. 

And while the new referendum legislation is a big step forward over the status quo (that is, nothing), it deliberately bans citizens-initiated referendums on constitutional questions. This means that if Albertans wished to force a vote on adding property rights to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, that they would not be allowed. Similarly, Albertans are barred from forcing a vote on reforming the Senate, equalization, or internal free trade. Ominously, Albertans have no right to force a vote over the heads of the legislature on independence or other forms of sovereignty. 

I believe that Albertans can be trusted with the right of citizens’ initiative on all questions, both constitutional and non-constitutional. 

We trust the people to elect a government to run our systems, so why can’t we trust them to bring their own questions forward? 

Drew Barnes is the UCP MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat

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Opinion

LETTER: Erin O’Toole isn’t “woke” enough to beat Trudeau in the East

A reader says that Erin O’Toole isn’t “woke” enough to beat Trudeau in the East.

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In this ‘Era of Wokeness” along with the ascension of Black Lives Matter into the public consciousness, I believe that it would be detrimental to the Conservative Party of Canada to have Erin O’Toole as
it’s leader.

Mr O’Toole recently refused to use the word ‘racism’ and did not answer clearly when pressed on whether he believes it even exists. Erin O’Toole will hand the Trudeau Liberals an easy victory during the next election, should he become Tory leader. Canada cannot afford another four years of Justin Trudeau. 

Like it or not, most people in Ontario and Quebec (where all federal elections are ultimately decided owing to their number of allotted seats), are very much ‘woke’ on the issue of racism, as well as
sexism, homophobia, ect. In my experience, this also includes most Conservative Party of Canada voters in Eastern Canada.

Right-wing populism and social conservatism does well in Western Canada – but centrist Red Toryism is all they are prepared to accept in most of Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada. CPC members in Western Canada need to keep this in mind when voting for their next leader. 

CPC members need to be sensible and realistic if they want to win the next federal election. 

Gila Kibner 
Edmonton, Alberta

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Opinion

LETTER: While Trudeau mislabels regular guns “military-style”, he is handing real assault weapons to the police

A reader says that Trudeau is militarizing the police while disarming Canadians.

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RE: Canada’s cops worried Liberal gun ban will hamper training

I enjoyed your article on the gun ban and how it will affect cops. A point of view the CBC would never share.

Perhaps another topic should be brought to the public is this: Although Justin Trudeau said there is no place for these weapons in Canada and Bill Blair said these  weapons have only one purpose – and that is for one soldier to kill another soldier – they gifted more deadly weapons to our local police forces through the Canadian Armed Forces., as was done recently in my hometown of St Thomas, Ontario.

What is the government’s agenda in giving true military assault weapons to the police and banning “military-style” (no legal definition) weapons from civilians. 

John Siberry
St. Thomas, ON

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