We Shouldn’t Have to Choose Between Partisanship and Competence

Being partisan is a tough job. Researchers at the University of Calgary tracked the perspectives of over 700 individuals in the Calgary area at the end of 2017 and 2018 and discovered a marked difference in the way people viewed the economy by partisanship and age. Age and partisanship are often linked to the fact that older people tend to be more conservative than their younger counterparts.

The findings showed that those who were more conservative, and older, tended to view the economy as worse off.  Younger voters tended to be more optimistic (even to the point that their views were also out of line with the evidence). Courting pessimism, while fruitful in the short term, doesn’t seem like a good long-term strategy.

For one reason, that the article mentions, it places too much emphasis on government’s role. If government is the source of your suffering then a change of government will make it go away. While that might resonate with people, the reverse does not. Very few people attribute their entrepreneurial success to government policy. If it doesn’t work both ways, it probably doesn’t work.

The second reason that courting pessimism is a bad idea is that, psychologically, people respond in kind. If they are constantly told the economy is bad, they are less likely to start, or invest, in new businesses. If they are told there are no jobs, they are less likely to look for work. Put the two of those together and you have people who close their wallets and don’t spend money.  And, voila, a poor economy is created through fear of a poor economy.

Finally, courting pessimism can make people believe things that are patently false.

On Sunday, after church of all things, Michaela Glasgo, UCP candidate for Brooks-Medicine Hat tweeted that her church was facing a $50,000 carbon tax in 2018.  Her tweet garnered 900 likes, almost 600 reposts and over 1,400 replies – most of which questioned the legitimacy of the claim.

Michaela Glasgo – Facebook

But she didn’t back down. Instead, she linked to others who she thought agreed with her.  They didn’t back up her claims. Instead, those individuals also questioned her statement.  But she didn’t back down. And then the headlines started.

Some people respect that “stick to your guns” mentality. It shows tenacity and perseverance – if you’re right. And when the leader of your Party, the mentor, the role model for young, inexperienced people… well why would she listen to a thousand or so people who say she should check her facts?

The short answer is that it suited Kenney’s needs while it was gaining attention. What doesn’t suit his needs is having to post a correction from the church Pastor that will certainly take a headline or two in her riding.

When the dust settled, few people care if Jason Kenney sent Michaela Glasgo’s tweet across the country; Michaela Glasgo said it. Consequently, if you stick to your guns, when you’re demonstrably wrong, it no longer looks like tenacity – it looks like incompetence.

A young, inexperienced legislative assistant who will toe the Party line is not irreplaceable. A young, inexperienced legislative assistant whose rhetoric is so outlandish that it has to be corrected by a Pastor at her church, is a liability, not an asset.

While it was a useful diversion for Team Kenney on Monday, Ms. Glasgo’s fellow church members may think twice about whether they can trust what she says. Unlike someone with 30 or so years of political experience, Ms. Glasgo is only just creating her political resume. “Still needs someone to double check her work” isn’t a promising start.

This post contains both fact and opinion.

Deirdre Mitchell-MacLean

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@Mitchell_AB @thisweekinAB