I’ve been a proponent for public participation in the democratic process ever since I first discovered what that looked like; and, friends, I am more resolute than ever.
I walked a fine line when I first became a member of political parties — I was a member to get Party updates and attend events at reasonable costs — I didn’t feel I should participate as an actual member, though. Not because I thought it could potentially be unethical (which I also did), but because I originally felt like I shouldn’t because I didn’t really care enough.
I mean, I wasn’t a member because I necessarily wanted to be, I was a member because observer rates to attend events are ridiculous — I just wanted to write about them.
Recall the kerfluffle with the Calgary Herald columnist, Licia Corbella, when it was discovered she was a member of the UCP and also, *gasp*, writing about them.
Corbella, an obviously conservative opinion writer, who writes for a newspaper which is generally accepted to have a conservative lean, held a conservative party membership. Insert eye-roll emoji here.
However, I think we should all know more about whose opinions we consume; so this post is somewhat about me.
The lens I should probably begin with is something I realized, years later, really said a lot about my understanding of “right” and “wrong”.
I didn’t take as many options as I should have in my first three years of a BA in sociology at university, so, I ended up with mostly options in my final year – the one of two years that really counted if you’re considering next steps (tell your kids).
I had aced practical logic in my third year and wanted to keep going with it – I loved it. LOVED IT. So, I enrolled in Logic I in the first semester of my fourth year. In the syllabus introduction it said “why do computer science majors have to take this class?” Why indeed?
I convinced myself I had learned before and I could do so again. It started with practical logic, so, I figured there was some semblance of logical layering that would make sense after I was taught.
Then, I watched my grade slowly slide and ended up with a C+ – my worst grade in three and a half years.
During that class, my professor had asked if anyone had taken linguistics (I was enrolled in it for the next semester). He told us it was similar – but I took it anyway.
I struggled – incredibly. Like, let’s start with dissecting the linguistics of the English language (since most of us spoke that) instead of freaking Russian. But I digress.
After writing the final exam in linguistics, I knew I’d failed and I actually needed the class. In that final semester, I’d taken one extra philosophy class that didn’t count towards my degree requirements – but I needed the linguistics class. I was in tears. Failing that class meant I wouldn’t graduate.
I waited around until everyone was finished writing the exam and asked the prof and asked what my options were.
“I failed the final,” I said. “What can I do next?”
“Oh, I hope not,” she replied and tried to placate my fears.
There weren’t any options to fix a failing grade. I was a middle-aged mother of four who made a rash decision to go back to school and I was going to be screwed by an optional freaking class in my final semester.
I anxiously awaited the posting of the test results. When they were finally available, I took a deep breath.
Amazingly, I had not only passed, but I’d done really well. So well, in fact, that it was obviously a mistake. I knew what I didn’t know and I knew I didn’t know how to make a tree out of a foreign language I didn’t understand.
With graduation on the line, I picked up the phone and called my prof. “That isn’t my result,” I told her. She resisted at first but I knew. She said she would look into it and get back to me.
After confirming I’d been given the wrong grade, she told me that I’d still passed the class, with a D+, which she bumped up to a C as a reward for being honest about it.
I knew what I was risking by being honest, but what I couldn’t abide by was the possibility that someone else was in my position, of not graduating, wouldn’t because I didn’t speak up.
At the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta’s Delegate Selection Meeting for my riding, I left my incomplete ballot on the chair. At the PC’s final convention in 2017, I purchased a “non-voting member” ticket. I purchased a membership in the Wildrose later that spring (which doesn’t make the least bit of sense now) and, when I received my ballot to decide whether the two parties should merge, I didn’t vote because I didn’t feel it was my place to weigh in on what I felt was a dedicated membership decision.
I went golfing the day of the vote.
I purchased a membership in the Conservative Party of Canada to vote in their 2017 leadership race. I had my favourite of the candidates and I voted for them (they didn’t win). Easy peasy.
In 2018, I convinced my family to buy memberships so they could vote in the Alberta Party leadership race – it was the first time most of them ever had a membership. We all (to the best of my knowledge) cast a ballot.
On Friday night at the inaugural UCP Annual General Meeting that spring, I ran into a friend. There was a contentious policy up for debate and she was working the room to gain support for the “no” vote. I told her I didn’t actually vote at these things.
She convinced me to use my privilege as a member for the good of our province should the party form government in 2019. I was convinced.
Someone asked me afterwards if I voted in a contrary manner simply to be contrarian. I honestly replied that I had not. I looked at the proposals and asked myself “would I support this policy if it came from my government?” I then voted accordingly.
I recently pointed out that many policy proposals are things pretty much anyone of any political stripe could get behind: “as government, we will support small business”-like policy. Why, yes, I also support small business (clicks “yes”).
Others can be either so specific to require a “take it or leave it” response, or so vague as to be interpreted with double (or more) meanings – hence, the “debate” portion.
By the end of 2018, I held a membership in every party and had attended three policy conventions.
After the election in 2019, I did feel somewhat defeated. Alberta was a two-party state (thanks to some excellent messaging by the two front-runners), the party I did support failed to retain even one of the three seats it held when the writ dropped, and Jason Kenney was Premier.
I’ve been pretty open, I think, about the fact that I don’t believe Kenney should have been — or be — trusted, but it was what it was and I wasn’t going to wallow in despair over something that couldn’t be changed.
I didn’t vote in the 2020 CPC leadership race because I didn’t like any of the candidates. I had signed nomination papers for a candidate who didn’t make the cut (and turned out to be a hot mess, anyway, so, “phew”).
That fall, I attended the UCP convention virtually, held over two weekends, and I voted on policies I cared about but mostly just live-tweeted the actual policy debate.
In 2021, my eye wasn’t on the ball.
After the membership sales cutoff to weigh in on Jason Kenney’s leadership, I realized that my membership had lapsed in 2021 and I wouldn’t get to have a say.
I felt cheated.
I absolutely would have voted.
I wanted to let the party and Kenney know that I was immensely displeased with his leadership.
Whether I was an engaged member or not, I was an Albertan who was very angry at Jason Kenney for refusing to listen to a majority of Albertans and for his role in politicizing a public health crisis. He didn’t step up and reign in his anti-health MLAs, he didn’t put Albertans first, and I didn’t think he should still be premier.
If you’re familiar, I talk about politics a lot. I talk about polling and strategy, messaging and policy, narrative-building, logical reasoning, and how policy shouldn’t be reduced to a meme or soundbite because almost nothing about policy is anywhere near that simple.
I knew that voting for Kenney’s removal would present an opportunity for the UCP to win the 2023 election but I would have voted against him staying on as Premier because I thought he’d done enough damage.
The outcome of the UCP’s leadership race will be simple: the winner of the UCP’s leadership race will automatically become Premier — automatically.
This vote does not go to the people of Alberta, it will go to the membership of the UCP alone.
It’s literally the only time when Albertans get to have a say about their next Premier.
While I think this should not be the case, and I believe it should be changed, this is what it is, today, and in the near future.
All eligible Albertans should have a say and there’s only one way to do that: https://www.unitedconservative.ca/take-action/membership/.
This post contains opinion.
Deirdre Mitchell-MacLean is a political podcaster and commentator.
Connect: @Mitchell_AB for more, or @politicalRnD for posts
Disclaimer: I am biased against false statements and false equivalencies. I have been a member of multiple political parties and voted for what I want to see from them if they should form government. I have been a board member of the Alberta Party and people have accused me of being biased which was annoying. I support good governance, period, and I support public engagement in the democratic process which is currently reliant upon having a valid party membership. No matter how much I disagree with this elitist requirement, it is the only way to have a say outside of a general election.. Please buy a membership — engage, vote.
Categories: Alberta Politics