Unite-the-left pot starts to boil in Alberta, whether progressive parties like it or not

Posted on March 14, 2015, 1:08 am
8 mins

PHOTOS: Edmonton-Centre Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman holds up a mirror to the Progressive Conservative Party’s cracked austerity policies at a recent demonstration. Yesterday she announced she’d be running for three parties at the same time. BELOW: Brian Singh of 1abvote.ca, Calgary Centre Conservative MP Joan Crockatt and her federal Liberal challenger, Kent Hehr.

Efforts to “unite the left” are going to happen in Alberta whether certain political parties like it or not.

Both the Alberta New Democrats and the Alberta Liberals have indicated they want no such thing, but Alberta voters who are not part of the loony Wildrose right and are sick to death of the unprogressive Progressive Conservatives are going to push their preferred parties in the direction of co-operation anyway.

SinghSome caveats: The parties of “the left” in Alberta aren’t really very lefty any more, or all that centrist for that matter. Every one of ’em – New Democrats, Liberals, Alberta Party, Greens and anyone I’ve missed in my usual hurry – fall into what we might have called “the reasonable right” back in the day. To some extent they’ve all drunk the market fundamentalist Kool-Aid. They only look left because the right has gone so far into lunatic territory.

And if we think the Canadian right is bad now, we only have to look at the Republican Party south of the Medicine Line to realize it can get a lot worse, and probably will.

I doubt the Alberta Party would be all that open to this kind of thing either if they had a chance to elect even a single member to the Legislature, and I think we can expect them to change their collective mind about this the instant that opportunity presents itself.

Just the same, there were developments Thursday and yesterday on the unite-the-left front that cannot be dismissed as meaningless because, if nothing else, they indicate the yearning of progressive voters, if not their parties, to be in the game in this ridiculously politically monochromatic province.

Friday morning, Edmonton Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman announced she would be running for three parties at the same time – the Alberta Liberals she now represents in the Legislature, the Alberta Party and the Green Party of Alberta.

Ms. Blakeman has an excellent reputation as a hard-working MLA, so she’d have a good chance of being re-elected to a remarkable sixth term in the Legislature no matter which party she happened to run for.

Exactly how this idea is supposed to work is not immediately clear. Elections Alberta has already indicated it won’t co-operate. Also, on Feb. 1 the Liberal Party explicitly rejected her proposal to lead it through the election if it would endorse her proposal to try to merge the Liberals and Alberta Party. Instead, the party’s governing board named former leader David Swann as the replacement for Raj Sherman, who had suddenly quit, so they could preserve the fantasy of a Liberal government for one more election cycle.Crockatt

Dr. Swann, by all appearances not very happy about it, issued a halfhearted endorsement of Ms. Blakeman’s move yesterday. “I support Laurie, and I thank her for her decision to run under the Liberal banner while uniting with others,” he said in a news release. “I look forward to working with the longest sitting opposition MLA in our province’s history on the issues Albertans care about most. … Alberta Liberals have consistently shown that our MLAs are more than capable of leading the progressive agenda in the Legislature.” (That last line? Emphasis added.)

Unlike the leaders of the Alberta Party and Green Party, Dr. Swann didn’t manage to make it to Ms. Blakeman’s announcement.

The move won’t actually add much to Ms. Blakeman’s 2015 campaign, wrote blogger Dave Cournoyer on Daveberta.ca, but as a popular MLA who recently forced the PC Government to relent on its opposition to gay-straight alliances in schools she “is undoubtedly looking past this year’s election with a mind of uniting the tiny parties into a viable centrist opposition.”

Meanwhile, Calgary pollster and progressive gadfly Brian Singh on Thursday announced the return of his 2012 effort to get a progressive consensus candidate elected federally in the Calgary Centre by-election that saw Conservative Joan Crockatt sent to Parliament, as well as to expand it to provincial politics.

HehrSo Thursday saw the launch of a website at 1abvote.ca that Mr. Singh says will provide progressive voters with a way to press the provincial Liberals, NDP, Alberta Party and Greens to join some kind of combined effort, and even run candidates with support from multiple parties, as Ms. Blakeman announced she would do yesterday.

Mr. Singh and company will also try to use the website to steer voters to the progressive candidate they feel is most likely to win in some provincial ridings, as they attempted to do federally in at the 1CalgaryCentre.ca site in 2012, when votes for the Liberal and Green candidates together outnumbered Ms. Crockatt’s plurality.

Says the new website: “1ABVote is a citizen initiative to inspire progressive voters to coalesce behind a single, consensus-based progressive candidate (1Candidate Now!) in each riding in the imminent provincial election.”

Federally, the candidacy of well-known Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr for the Liberal Party of Canada in the next general election gives progressive voters a real chance to knock off Ms. Crockatt, with or without 1CalgaryCentre.ca to help.

The same sort of thing is bound to be more controversial at the provincial level with both the New Democrats and Liberals determined to run traditional campaigns.

Mr. Singh says his group has conducted a poll of Albertans using Google Surveys that shows strong support for the Tories of Premier Jim Prentice but “rising support for progressive parties” – NDP 22 per cent, Liberal 20 per cent and the Alberta Party at 10 per cent.

Well, we’ll see. But you’d think with unemployment in Alberta starting to show significant growth, and the Alberta housing bubble looking like it’s about to burst, at least some voters must be looking for something more than the PC-Wildrose formula of socialism for billionaires and oil companies and austerity for the rest of us.

Shift happens. It’s just that in Alberta it doesn’t seem to happen very fast. Maybe something’s starting to percolate, though, just the same.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

9 Comments to: Unite-the-left pot starts to boil in Alberta, whether progressive parties like it or not

  1. Tom Barrett

    March 14th, 2015

    Well said. As an ND supporter and great admirer of Kent Hehr I would strongly urge the NDs to nominate a token candidate in Calgary Centre, assuming they haven’t chosen anyone yet. They are not going to win that riding and any Alberta seat stripped from Steven Harper is a step towards saving this country before it is too late. Having worked with Crockatt for a few years back in the day, I am profoundly aware of just what a shallow simpleton she is, which would make her defeat that much sweeter.

    Reply
  2. Herbert

    March 14th, 2015

    Market fundamentalism – again, the reason Alberta is the beacon of the world and attracts so many people from other provinces and countries. People come here for a taste of freedom, and they like it, and stay. The freer the markets, the freer the people.

    Reply
    • Athabascan

      March 14th, 2015

      Idiot troll.

      There is no such thing as a free market. it’s a myth like trickle down economics.

      When income inequality is higher in Alberta than anywhere in North America, there is also no freedom for most people. Albeit, there is no doubt market fundamentalism is akin to nirvana for the top one-percenters like Prentice and his overlords.

      Reply
  3. Jerrymacgp

    March 14th, 2015

    A couple of comments. Firstly, Ms Blakeman could not have included the NDP in this effort. While I am not familiar with the Alberta Party, Green Party or Liberal Party constitutions, I do know that NDP members are barred from also being members or supporters of any other political party. So if she had tried to sign an NDP card, she would have been forced to either tear up her ALP card, or lie on her NDP membership application.

    Secondly, I don’t know why leftist, centrist, and less-right-wing politicians and activists are so allergic to the NDP that they are willing to stick with moribund, under-resourced fringe parties, including the ALP, instead of joining a movement with money and momentum. It seems they would rather see the PCs reelected yet again, than see the NDP increase its seat count or form government. The NDP is the natural ideological opposition to the Tories and their Wildrose fellow travellers. Why don’t these people recognize that? Pro-environmental, pro-middle class, pro-human rights and social justice, anti-corporate greed…what else are they looking for?

    Reply
  4. Ward

    March 14th, 2015

    Those who do nothing avoid criticism. Laurie Blakeman is trying to bring about change. Good for her.

    Reply
  5. TC

    March 16th, 2015

    I strongly feel that this is a fundamental problem with the left…they’re more concerned with preserving their ideological purity than getting elected. The right do it also, to a certain degree, but relatively less. While I’m not suggesting that one should lie, but one needs to be elected to office before any of his/her ideology can be put into action. All the parties in the left should consider this problem.

    Reply
  6. All for One

    March 16th, 2015

    JerryMacGP:
    Nice thought, but if you take some serious time to talk to centre-left voters other than the NDP, you’ll find that, for a completely different set of reasons, they are just as supremely convinced that “their” party is better poised to lead than YOUR party, so it becomes a stalemate between all of them, doesn’t it? And, guess what, Jerry? Election after election, NO ONE wins.
    What is so darned blasphemous about working together, anyway? Why does it have to be “your” (party) way or the highway? It certainly doesn’t work in Europe that way where coalitions are commonplace. But heh, let’s spend another 44 years in Alberta debating this nonsensical tempest in a teapot…

    Reply
  7. Redneckred

    March 16th, 2015

    There are a number of problems, both practical and theoretical, with these recurring moves to unite the “left”.

    In the first place, the ensuing whole will be substantially less than the sum of the existing parts. Put simply: just because two parties agree to cooperate, whether by formally allying during a campaign or by agreeing to non-competition in designated ridings, it doesn’t mean their supporters/voters will go along with the idea. Parties can’t “deliver” their support, although they can lose it, and they may risk losing traditional supporters if they engage in this kind of activity.

    Second, when these kinds of alliances of convenience occur, they frequently produce winners and losers among the parties in question. The losers may find themselves “knocked back” in support for a long time.

    Third, this kind of process simply moves us closer to a two party system – something that arguably reduces political choice, impoverishes political discourse, and contributes to TINA (There is no alternative) politics.

    Reply
    • Sam Gunsch

      March 18th, 2015

      re: ‘it doesn’t mean their supporters/voters will go along with the idea. Parties can’t “deliver” their support, although they can lose it, and they may risk losing traditional supporters if they engage in this kind of activity.’

      Very important point.

      e.g. I recall polling has shown significant portion of voters for federal Liberals would switch to Conservatives if the Lib’s joined with NDP.

      What would happen in AB is anybody’s guess.

      Reply

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