Call it what you will: partisanship, identity politics, party loyalty, tribalism – it’s not new but it does seem to be exacerbated of late. While some people are fighting to get rid of “labels” others are grasping onto theirs for dear life. In a way it makes sense; no one under the age of 62 had ever seen a government in Alberta that was not Progressive-Conservative.
Thomas Lukaszuk, former Deputy Premier under Alison Redford, was in the 630 CHED studio with Ryan Jespersen the other day and he said something very interesting in response to a few listeners calling him a “Liberal”; “I haven’t moved” he explained . He recounted a time in the PC caucus when he and David Hancock were considered the “furthest right” of the elected members. So what happened?
One thing that happened is the current government of “the Conservative Heartland” of Alberta does not have “conservative” in its name. The identity politics or tribalism that surfaced on May 6, 2015 was fierce enough to force a merger between two conservative parties who, for a decade at least, were at each other’s throats, but were (allegedly) united enough in their desire to “take Alberta back”.
Because politics is not exactly a national pastime, those who are involved with political parties make the decisions; and it is a very small group of people. People who get involved with political parties, make the connections, volunteer their time doing research and developing policy, and collectively (or at least a majority of the ones doing the work) decide the direction a political party will take. If you personally are doing none of the above things, then your wants and needs are at the mercy of someone else.
Approximately 4% of the population of Alberta, ~168,000, has a membership in a political party. Of that 168,000, there are probably less than 16,000 people who are active, within all parties, across the province. Of that 16,000, fewer than 1,000 people are deciding Party policy. Those people are deciding how the province will be run if they form government.
For example, the UCP Policy Convention in May saw between 2,000 and 2,600 (the numbers kept rising throughout the weekend) registered to attend but less than 1,000 people voted on policies (I know because I was there). After a few “controversial” resolutions were passed, Kenney said he would not implement them. If the math works, only one person is deciding policy for an entire province?
“Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” ~ Sir John Dalberg – Acton, April 5, 1887
Tribalism, it seems, doesn’t much matter if only one person is making the decisions. Instead, it comes down to who that person is. A lot of people have derided the “constant personal attacks” against Jason Kenney but if he’s the one making all the decisions, as the case seems to be, then who he is matters.
Kenney knows this and that’s why at every speaking opportunity or media scrum, he will talk about his resume. There is little doubt that he is a hard worker, singularly focused on low taxes and budget cuts. He has absolutely devoted his time to the conservative movement; but which one?
Is it the social conservative movement that seeks to instill greater oversight in your private life? Is it the conservative movement to cut supports for the poor? Or is it the utopian conservative movement that has low taxes but services for all that basic math cannot support? It likely isn’t the conservative movement that asks citizens to pay for the actual costs of benefits and services available to them.
The “grassroots guarantee” was removed from the website faster than you could say “grassroots guarantee” after the membership voted for something he couldn’t win an election with. His caucus has followed him both in, and out of, the legislature. He said he would release all donors to his Unite Alberta Political Action Committee but then refused.
If he doesn’t serve the members of the Party, unilaterally makes decisions for caucus and doesn’t want people to know who is funding his fight to “take Alberta back”… then who Jason Kenney is matters more than anything else.
This post contains both opinion and fact. Links to supporting documentation provided below.
email@example.com, @Mitchell-AB on Twitter