I joined the Alberta Party this month, a first step in helping to establish a presence for the party in my backyard, Edm-Meadowlark. In my search for a political home, It’s also the third provincial party I’ve held a membership in.
I’ve never voted for a PC candidate, although Raj Sherman would have been the first had he not been forced to pay a price for honesty, for laying out in detail what every patient and family member who’s suffered through the mismanaged state of our public health system already knows. Health Care is the topic of the hour, a literal life and death concern for thousands of Albertans, patients and families, and the latest highlighted chapter in a saga which has included such things as access to information, energy royalties, land-owner rights, high-voltage/high-price transmission lines, long-term savings, enough debatable policy choices to seemingly keep a caucus of opposition MLA’s and their staff busy occupied for an entire term and in the spotlight through the next election. Instead the opposition continues to struggle to deliver a coherent, stable public message, or impact public policy, meanwhile a single Doctor, sitting as an independent in the legislature, has seemingly done more to highlight, analyze, and explain the health care debate over the last several months, than the government and three opposition parties combined have done in the last several years.
As a center-left Albertan, I’ve parked my vote in three elections. Twice on one party, and most recently on the couch alongside 60% of my fellow eligible voters. I’ve voted under the cloud of an almost predestined spot in Alberta’s opposition, I’ve done so expecting that while my values and beliefs wouldn’t be mirrored in Alberta’s governance, the members of the opposition would watch, analyze, lobby, and collaborate with their colleagues on each side of the Legislature to ensure Albertans receive the best in public policy. I expect the opposition to be the watch dog, the public/community and devils advocate, and that the resources afforded to them will be used for more than policy development, and rallying on the steps of the leg, but to tell us all the who, what, where, when and why of our governments actions in more than media sound-bites. I’ve apparently expected too much. The recent vote by our government against providing digital access to the members Public Disclosure Statements, in frustration, was a tipping point for me. Sound-bites are talk, useful in question period and a media but scrum, but ultimately cheap and easy. Criticizing the government for a lack of transparency was easy, instead using the resources available to a party, collecting and self publishing Disclosure Statements which are publicly accessible, if not readily available, for all elected members of the legislature would have been leadership, transparency, and a public service all in one.
It’s time for change. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, the case study is an ongoing “battle” for a percent of a percent of eligible voters who cast a ballot. It’s sound-bites, and ‘tactics’ that have continually failed to engage Albertans in the issues which directly affect them, that fail to provide either transparency or a meaningful opportunity for public involvement, meanwhile cooperation between parties seemingly lies somewhere in the space between political sniping, no-way-in-hell, and the hole in the hull of David Swann’s term as Liberal Leader.
As an Albertan, I want more. From my party I want more than memories of past victories shielding the lessons to be learned from past defeats, the wants and whims of established donors hindering new initiatives, and fleeting political opportunism. From my province, I want my MLA, regardless of his/her party and place in the Leg to have a voice and a meaningful vote on public policy and legislation. I want transparency that doesn’t involve a battle through FOIP legislation. I want my representative to vote with his heart and head, not under the glare of the party whip. I want cooperation and change to be cause of honest debate, not backstabbing dissension.
It’s easy to attack a party in it’s infancy, it’s also easy to recognize that the AP is opportunity, certainly a formational one that my generation has never had. Regardless of where it’s future takes it, I’m thankful for the opportunity for my province and the efforts of those who have brought it this far.
I’m not a Liberal supporter in Blue & Gold clothing. There’s no checklist of items to put my support behind a Liberal or NDP banner. I’ve voted for the best option available to me in a broken, bickering, Alberta Government. With a moderate, active voice for change, free to advocate, collaborate, and learn from the past without rose-colored glasses, free to reach out and be inclusive to all Albertans without a divisive past or ideology, finally at the table, I’m excited to see a future that doesn’t mirror a broken past on the horizon.