Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Alberta Party: a new political alternative

The 2012 Alberta Provincial Election is likely to bring about some change with how politics are done in Alberta. It would appear that the Progressive Conservative Party's 40 year reign of power is coming to an end.

I am a fifth generation Albertan whose family has farmed in the Red Deer area for over 100 years. In 1907, my great-great grandfather James Bower purchased the first International Harvester gasoline tractor in western Canada and in 1909 he became the first president of the United Farmers' Association.

While I still live and work on the family farm, I am also a teacher. After 10 years in a middle school, I moved to teach at the Red Deer Regional Hospital's Unit 39 (Children's Psychiatric Assessment Unit).
While my family has an appreciation for tradition we have also thrived as pioneers with an entrepreneurial and humanitarian spirit.

In order to improve, we have to change. If we aren't changing, we're standing still, and because the world never stands still, standing still means we risk irrelevancy.

However, change for the sake of change is no better than tradition for the sake of tradition. We must be acutely mindful of our choices.

For the first time in my life, I feel the need to vote for someone other than the Progressive Conservatives.

I really don't have a problem with Alison Redford. I think she has the experience and education to be a progressive leader, but I don't think her party wants her. Alberta's Progressive Conservatives have been dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st Century, and I don't think even Redford can get the PCs to move from their last out of the past mentality.

So what are my alternatives to the Progressive Conservatives?

I've come to two conclusions:

1. WILDROSE PARTY

-Ultimately, I am unsure how Alberta's education and health care systems would survive the Wildrose.

-I can't trust a party of politicians who have to be bribed by their own party with $1000 to behave appropriately during an election.

-I have no idea how the Wildrose can get away with elaborate promises that involve large savings plans, tax payer dividends, balancing the budget and limiting spending increases to population growth plus inflation while allegedly NOT CUTTING front line services for health, education, municipalities and seniors.

--Danielle Smith will unleash social and political chaos unlike anything Alberta has seen. For a brilliant read on conscience rights see David King's post.

-As an educator and a human being, I can't support a political party and leader who condones bigotry.

-I follow Education policy in Alberta and The United States very carefully and it is crystal clear to me that The Wildrose's Education policy is a page straight from the American Education Reform Playbook. Of course neither come out and say they want to destroy public education -- instead they sell their privatization agenda by talking about choice and competition. Competition is for the strong. Public education is for everyone. See the problem? Collaboration trumps competition. Always.

-The Wildrose would be happy to throw education and health care to the free market where many shadow industries await like vultures to turn a profit off of Albertans' needs.

-If the Progressive Conservatives have a "last out of the past" mentality, then it is the Wildrose who are committed to leading us straight into the past.

2. THE ALBERTA PARTY

Glenn Taylor, Leader of the Alberta Party
-Any time there is a close election coupled with a need for change, some people talk about "voting strategically". In Alberta's case, some people are so desperate for change that they are willing to vote for a perceived lesser evil (Wildrose) in a bid to vote against a greater evil (Progressive Conservatives). The problem with strategic voting is that it invariably maintains the status quo by scaring people out of voting with their hearts and minds for real change. I refuse to resign myself to holding my nose and voting for the Wildrose or the Progressive Conservatives out of fear of the other one.

-I struggle with the idea that funding for things like education and health-care should be based on the price of a barrel of oil. While The Alberta Party understands that oil and gas are one of Alberta's greatest economic natural resources, they also understand the need to broaden our economic base by investing in Alberta's other most important natural resource -- our people. Couple the need for softening the effects of our boom and bust cycles with their vision of a fiscally responsible government (with balanced books) and I think The Alberta Party is on to something.

-Despite being excluded from the main stream media's Provincial Leader's Debate, The Alberta Party refrained from whining and instead engaged in getting their message out via social networking. This is the kind of creative, constructive and innovative thinking that I'm looking for.

-Democratic renewal is at the heart of The Alberta Party's policies. Bringing decision-making closer to the people is a critical part of their approach. MLAs should be citizens’ voice to government, not government’s voice to us.

-As an educator, I'm excited to see their education policy focus on making education funding more stable and consistent. I'm also relieved to see that they are dedicated to ending Alberta's over reliance on standardized testing and reduce grade 12 Diplomas from 50% to a more reasonable 30% of a student's report card grade. I'm also confident that The Alberta Party is committed to continuing the transformation of our province's education system by taking action on what Albertans told the government they wanted done with their schools.

The more I look at the Alberta Party's policies, the more I think they are the breath of fresh air Alberta needs.

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