PHOTOS: Some of the 2,000 or so Albertans who turned up in defence of their pensions in minus-30 weather on March 2, 2014. Turns out a lot of them voted, too. Below: Pipelines! Love ’em or lose your allowance! Have you got that, Canada?

Get ready, Canada! If there’s ever a Wildrose Government in Alberta, you’re in for it!

That’s a big if, of course, but just the same, delegates to the Wildrose Party’s annual general meeting in Calgary yesterday passed their notorious motion demanding the Alberta Government push for a federal equalization formula tied to how provinces behave when it comes to the kind of economic activity they discourage or the resource development they don’t want.

And according to the Wildrosers, it should be up to Alberta to determine who’s naughty and who’s nice – and if you don’t behave it’ll cost you. Count on it, if the Wildrosers have their way, you’ll be punished if you try to slow down one of our pipelines or if you spend too much money on something frivolous like child care.

The rationale behind the motion, which along with all the other member-approved policy proposals the Opposition party chose to debate in secret, was that “Canadians and Albertans would be better served by an equalization formula that encourages and rewards fiscal prudence and responsible resource development rather than a system that encourages policies that have the reverse effects.”

Implementation of such a policy, while extremely unlikely seeing as it would bump up against the country’s Constitution, would presumably add some legal teeth to the venerable Albertan custom of complaining bitterly and at length that other provinces are spending our money when they adopt policies we deem to be insufficiently painful and austere.

How this meshes with the recent Saudi-inspired crash in oil prices, on which our reluctantly shared wealth was based, or the election here in Alberta of an NDP government isn’t clear, but it will give smart alecks in other provinces an opportunity to make fun of the Wildrose Party again, as Press Progress did last week.

Presumably it will play well to that portion of the Wildrose base inclined to blame recently elected New Democrats and even more recently elected Liberals for the utter failure of Alberta’s conservative politicians to get any of the currently proposed pipeline projects built.

More sensibly, the Wildrose delegates said No to the idea of encouraging eliminating defined-benefit pensions for public employees and replacing them with defined contribution plans.

This may have been a reflection of the realpolitik necessary to form a government in Alberta – for there can be no question the votes of public employees outraged at previous conservative governments’ assaults on their pensions contributed significantly to the NDP’s victory last May 5.

Or it may reflect the fact many Wildrose supporters, despite their conservative views on many topics, are people of ordinary means who value their own retirement security in the form of defined-benefit pensions. We can’t know for certain, because the debate by the party of transparency was held in camera.

Regardless, the list of policies voted on and supported by members in Calgary yesterday did seem to tilt to the starboard side of the ship of state. Some of the motions passed, with your blogger’s perspective on their true meaning, are listed below:

  • “Encourage competition and choice in the delivery of health care…” Notwithstanding the addition of the phrase “keeping the focus on achieving greater efficiency and better health outcomes for patients,” this is code for privatization and multi-tiering public health care.
  • “Take concrete steps to eliminate the fundamental imbalance between government revenues and expenditures through spending reductions and efficiencies.” In other words, stick with the balanced budget fetishism predominant on the political right in our era.
  • “Recognize that parents are the primary decision-makers for their children and their children’s education, and protect parents’ right to choose the education their child receives whether it be through public, separate, public charter, private school or homeschooling.” Code both for permitting the teaching of some forms of religious-based bigotry and for justifying full taxpayer subsidies for private religious schools.
  • “Amend the Post-Secondary Learning Act to allow every student to choose whether or not he/she wishes to become a dues-paying member of a student association…” Allows the defunding of students unions in the event they are run by “socialist bureaucrats,” i.e., people whose views are somewhat less market fundamentalist than members of the college Wildrose Club.
  • “Give seniors and the disabled Albertans who require assistance for their day-to-day living the funding and thus the freedom to choose how they wish access that assistance.” That is, further privatize the delivery of seniors’ care.
  • “Take control of the administration, application and interpretation of the Firearms Act with the goal of reducing paperwork and legal hurdles for gun owners in Alberta.” Bang! Bang! Sounds like gunshots!

The qualifier must be added that in all cases these policies reflect the wishes of the Wildrose Party’s members at the AGM, not necessarily its legislative caucus, which in our system of Parliamentary government is free to ignore the more foolish ideas of the party’s membership.

OK, surely that’s enough about the Wildrose Party for a couple of days!

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    1. The article was written on 14 Nov. and posted on 15 Nov. 2015. The demonstration shown in the photograph and referenced in the article took place on March 2, 2014. It is a flaw with the WordPress template that I have been using that it doesn’t show the date at all times on the article. This will be fixed … eventually.

  1. If I might add my own commentary…

    “Take concrete steps to eliminate the fundamental imbalance between government revenues and expenditures through spending reductions and efficiencies.”

    Use the tool of balanced budget as a smokescreen for cutting government expenditures/programs that we don’t like (anything that helps the poor; health care spending, the better to usher in more private sector involvement; etc.).

    I’m forever amazed that the right wing has been so successful at connecting the notion of budget balancing to reduce spending for vulnerable in our society. Nowhere – not in political platforms, not in conservative-leaning newspapers (that is to say, almost all newspapers) – do we see any argue for budget balancing by cutting welfare to the wealthy (corporate subsidies and tax cuts, expensive government trade junkets to drum up business for the private sector using taxpayer dollars, just to name a few), or, god-forbid, cuts to programs that benefit middle class folks (me included), but which a truly market fundamentalist party would be in favour (e.g., road tolls, where users pay to maintain the system rather than using tax dollars, therefore making people directly responsible for using the atmosphere like a toilet to dump dangerous greenhouse gasses from their vehicles). But, of course, we here all know it is really not about balancing budgets – the first thing conservative governments often do when they get into power is to cut taxes to their friends, thus increasing deficits.

    Maybe I’m just suffering from lack of caffeine at the moment, but perhaps the left should start to re-appropriate this whole balanced budget meme and start using it to our advantage. After all, Tommy Douglas was a successful budget balancer (albeit under very different federal-provincial relations).

  2. It seems Saudi-inspired. This business of rewarding “fiscal prudence and responsible resource development” to be determined by Alberta’s Shieks.

    In fact, maybe the whole idea came from Steven Harper who must be sitting at home in Calgary twiddling his thumbs after recently vacating 24 Sussex. After all, he sold off Canadian Wheat Board assets to the Saudis for a song. To say nothing of his $15 arms deal to Saudi Arabia (wonder if any of this will end up in the hands of ISIS).

    He must have come to admire the way the Saudis have been able to sidestep this messy puddle of mud called democracy.

    Maybe he convinced Brian Jean this was the way to go. OR SHOULD I SAY JIHADI JEAN!

  3. So, the WRP’s equalization proposal could mean that Quebec would be forced to drop its public daycare program because it was in part responsible for Quebec’s deficit. On the other hand, other provinces might argue that Alberta’s deficit was partly (largely?) due to the fact that, unlike every other province in confederation, it has no sales tax.

  4. That seems to suggest that governments imposing regulations governing environmental protection, marine navigation and such should be punished. There are plenty of people out here on the coast that aren’t too fond of Alberta as it is. Something inflammatory as that initiative would be putting the match to gasoline.

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