This week I was fortunate enough to attend not one but two meetings about unity. First up was Derek Fildebrandt’s Unity Town Hall on Thursday which I tweeted live as best as I was able. In a room of about 80 people, Derek’s speech fell flat on the crowd. I’ve seen him a couple of times in person and he’s not a bad speaker. In Question Period he’s quite dramatic and often amusing, if only because of his dramatic flair. That was not the case on Thursday and I can’t help but think it’s because the speech was authored by someone else. The questions at the end were more insightful and Derek was back to his more recognizable self while answering them.
|Photo Credit: Daveberta.ca|
“I look around the room and see 50 and 60 year olds” one man said, “where are the 40 year olds?” As Derek scanned the crowd, I imagine he was disappointed to see me as the lone representative of the age group in question. I’ve had a few interactions with Derek in the past couple of years and he is well aware I do not support his “vision” for Alberta. “The young people are at the back” Derek said with obvious relief. And they were; the youth volunteers.
“How are you going to engage the young people?” the same man asked. “Liberty Conservativism” Derek replied. “I don’t think anyone should go to jail for smoking marijuana” he declared to a group of individuals who likely don’t agree with him at all. “I realize that may not be a popular stance in this room” he said, obviously reading the crowd. I do believe he is misinterpreting Trudeau’s success as being heavily dependent on that statement. What he’s missing is how the younger people in this country reacted to Trudeau’s declared commitment to the environment, adequately preparing Canada for a future in a global economy and inclusion; and Derek can’t offer that commitment to his supporters without alienating a good majority of them. Welcome to Alberta’s right wing.
|Kerry Cundal and Stephanie Shostak|
The second event I attended was the Alberta Together meeting in Red Deer. On Friday I was told the event had sold 250 tickets. They accepted registration at the door as well and had 50 blank cards for name tags. They ran out of blank tags and the later arrivals used blank paper squares. They had to order extra food for lunch and it was pushed back an extra hour as the staff at The Black Knight Inn accommodated a request to feed an additional one hundred people.
To the gentleman at Derek’s Unity event, I found the 40 year olds; and the 30 year olds and the 20 year olds who were willing to attend an event about a new political vision for Alberta. There were also 50 year olds and 60 year olds. People from different cultural backgrounds and people from all over the province. There were people from different political backgrounds as well. It was an incredible mix of people who looked a lot like the Alberta I’ve seen while traveling around the province over the past three months.
At the beginning of the session we logged in to a wireless poll and questions were presented so we could get an idea of whether or not people agreed with statements taken from Alberta Party policy, Liberal policy and former Progressive Conservative policy. There were also a few statements from Wildrose policy. On Liberal, ABP and Progressive Conservative policy, people voted over 90% in agreement. On Wildrose policy, they voted over 90% in disagreement in all but one category; “the government should provide incentives to employment for people receiving government benefits”. That was almost an even split. Talking with attendees afterward, many said it would depend on the program. AISH, Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped, for example, was not a program people believed should be “incentivized” as recipients often could not work, or could not work full-time due to permanent mental or physical disabilities.
|Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark
Photo Credit: Nicolas Pelletier/Radio-Canada
While the Alberta Liberal Party was invited to speak to the crowd, they (likely politely) declined. An unfortunate choice to make since the room was full of people looking to hear what their best options were for a party to support in 2019. As it was, they heard from Greg Clark, leader of the Alberta Party, Stephen Mandel, a prominent (former?) Progressive Conservative, and Kerry Cundal, who must be everyone’s favourite recent Alberta Liberal supporter. The question “How do we move forward?” was posed near the end of the meeting. The options were: Start a new party, attempt a merge with another centrist party, join the Alberta Party and “other”. 83% chose “join the Alberta Party”.
As the former PC Party and Wildrose fight for the stalwart social conservatives and the PC members of old, the moderates in Alberta don’t seem willing to give up their progressive, or conservative, values. Welcome to the centre; building a socially and fiscally responsible option for Albertans.