Friday, September 14, 2007

Conservatism is Not Alberta's Culture

Candidate’s intemperate remarks are cause for concern

A storm’s a brewin’ in Alberta. A fire storm.

With many Albertans looking toward the next provincial election (still presumably at least a couple of years away) with conversely optimism (for supporters of the provinces seemingly-resurgent opposition parties) or worry (for supporters of the incumbent Progressive Conservative government), it doesn’t take much of a comment to provoke a mini-controversy.

This has seemingly become the case with Craig Chandler, a nominee for the Progressive Conservative candidacy in Calgary-Edgmont.

In a recent op/ed piece, Graham Thomson seemingly provoked the ire of Chandler, when he quoted from an op/ed article that Chandler submitted for publishing.

“To those of you who have come to our great land from out of province, you need to remember that you came here to our home and we vote conservative,” Chandler, in the article, insisted. “You came here to enjoy our economy, our natural beauty and more. This is our home, and if you wish to live here, you must adapt to our rules and our voting patterns, or leave. Conservatism is our culture.”

"Do not destroy what we have created,” he concludes.

Considering the success that the Albertan Progressive Conservative party has enjoyed in recent decades, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone that his comments bear a striking resemblance to the kind of arrogance displayed by Liberals and their supporters when they insist that they are Canada’s natural governing party, and have some sort of monopoly on “Canadian values”.

Not only should Chandler’s comments be considered an indiscretion (toput it mildly), they should be considered altogether unwelcome.

It is true that Alberta has traditionally voted in favour of conservative movements, whether it was the Reform party, the Progressive Conservative Party, the Progressives, or the Social Credit (although, when one considers the sheer amount of government intervention necessary to implement a proper Social Credit program, one wonders whether or not it can legitimately be considered “conservative”). But this hardly means that the Progressive Conservative party is guaranteed to win the next election, nor are they entitled to.

Thomson is entirely right when he writes about “prairie fire storms” continually wiping out complacent governments in Alberta, when (usually new) parties wrestle the throne of long-term one-party rulership away from the incumbent. This isn’t even exclusively a risk borne by provincial governments – the same happened to the federal Progressive Conservative party in 1993, when the Reform party decimated the PCs Albertan holdings.

Many observers feel that a new prairie fire storm is approaching, ready to immolate the increasingly complacent Alberta PCs. Whomever will inherit Alberta’s government when the Tories are reduced to ash has yet to be determined.

Simply put, whomever wins the Tory nomination for Calgary-Edgmont is not guaranteed to be the next MLA for that riding. The recent Liberal victory in Calgary-Elbow is enough to remind Albertan Conservatives that they do, indeed, need to work in order to win the next election, and there’s no time like the present to start.

Simply put, no one in Alberta is obligated to vote for the Tories, no matter how long they have lived in Alberta, or how recently they’ve moved here. Conservatism is not our culture – it’s merely the political expression of our interests, but those interests can – and inevitably will – change.

Chandler will unfortunately have to take his lumps on this particular issue.

If he doesn’t learn from them, then he’ll be better off not joining the Ed "Stalemate" Stelmach election campaign in self-immolation.

Correction - The previously-mentioned Liberal by-election victory was indeed in Calgary-Elbow. My thanks go out to all of you who brought this error to my attention.


  1. I don't live in Alberta, or even have any roots in the province, but it does seem clear that Ralph Klein, for all his foibles, breathed new life into the Alberta PCs the last time the beginnings of one of Alberta's periodic political redefinitions was taking place.

    Give the man his due, he was able to parlay his personal good will into a solid continuation of his party in power.

    This I do not think his successor, Ed Stelmach, can ultimately do. More to the point, the Alberta PCs contain very different interest groups now, and at least one of these is likely to start slipping away.

    A realignment is overdue. How things play out will be interesting as always (I do recall that Albertans have never, since achieving provincehood in 1905, returned to a party they once rejected at the polls). The most interesting realignment might well be that all the recent immigration to Alberta, the rise of a great and vibrant city in Calgary, etc., might just combine to regionalize Alberta politics such that the single party "repeat until killed off" motif comes to an end, at least for a while. But however it does work out, other Canadians should be watching.

    Alberta has been a laboratory for new ways of thinking about politics and policy for most of the last century. Pay attention - a new lesson may be shaping up.

  2. Who won the Stettler/Drumheller riding. I think you have it wrong, the libs won in Calgary, got trounced in Stettler/Drumheller.

  3. Very good post. However, you said this: "... recent Liberal victory in Drumheller-Stettler ..." Don't you mean Calgary-Elbow?

  4. Like I mentioned before, Alberta has a tendency to turn to new parties (or at least new incarnations of past parties) when they tire of their current one-party regime.

    But I can't say for certain whether or not there is a viable new party ready to take power in Alberta -- merely a collection of separatist and localist parties.

    I think if Quebec shows us anything, it's that separatism and localism make for poor politics.


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