Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Why I'm a Groucho Marxist

Groucho Marxism is the newest movement in politics. Or a really old one depending on your view of such things. The mantra of the new party is very simple:
"I do not want to belong to any party that would have me as a member"
I have become increasingly frustrated by ideology and the apparent assumption that the party knows best. Political parties, are exclusionary by design, most people do not belong to one and even less understand the inherit risks associated with them.
I will paraphrase the risks in an overly dramatic fashion:
In the early 1930's Adolph Hitler organized a group called the NAZI party. At no time did this party represent the views of the majority of Germans, it was a splinter group of white supremist radicals that used muscle and intimidation to control election results. If you were not a supporter you were taking your life in your hands trying to vote, the risk of physical harm kept people away from voting in droves and was a very effective tool in getting the small group into and holding onto power.
Similar things occur, not so much on voting day, but certainly during nominations. Crowds of people, plugging parking lots or sending false voting instructions are all minor examples of exactly the same strategy.  This is why I will no longer belong to any single political party. I am in the somewhat unique position of having won an election unexpectedly and have friends who have similar feelings or experiences with party politics, either as former members of a caucus or as former senior ministers reduced to back benches while valiantly resisting being pushed right out the door.
Candidate vetting, which was ramped up substantially this election, includes the use  of private detectives, not for the protection of the public but for the protection of the party. Controversial individuals are as unwelcome as a cold sore on prom night. The preferred candidates are malleable, squeaky clean and nice shiny representations of the party.
Now I agree that convicted felons might not be the ideal candidates, but the reality is that everyone has something in their past that best stay there. I for one, do not want to know the details of the Jamie Lall restraining order. Something that happened eight years ago can hardly be considered representative of character, yet it was apparently enough, and while the party machine can control a lot using the carrot and the stick, they lose control of those who are on the outside and can only hope to keep them quiet by increasing the size of the stick.
While not the same as physical assaults witnessed in Germany in the 1930's, the end result is the same: muzzled politicians, government employees and party officials.  Civil libertarians want people to be free to speak, but politics is not a democratic process. This factor, the limitation of democracy in politics has created numerous strange bedfellows over the years and is quite likely going to create a three way in the bed that is the Alberta Legislature. It will be interesting indeed to see how the Wild rose, NDP and PC's cohabitate if the polls are even remotely close to being accurate. Cutting across party lines is the best thing that could happen in our legislature; cooperation replacing adversarial confrontation will make question period a lot less interesting but will probably result in more reasoned, rational and accountable legislation endorsed by at least two thirds of the parties in the house. (If the liberals survive, half)

And because of the varied interests of the parties, todays bedmate may not be tomorrows bedmate but everyone will have to behave if they expect to get invited a second time.

Coalitions and minorities are not bad or wrong, they are only feared by those in power: put simply, If I am the winner in a win lose situation I have no incentive to care about win-win.   If I am not on the win side I have a huge incentive.

I do not believe there is any golden child in party politics. While I am a birthright Republican I don't  think that any one ideology necessarily reflects all of my views. So I said farewell to parties and the system of leverages and said hello to the notion that I will either belong to no party or all of them. My money however, will never go to a party, it will only go to deserving candidates.

I'd say join me in the Groucho Marxist movement, but anyone who takes the idea of being a Groucho Marxist seriously wouldn't join anyway.

Good luck on Tuesday.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

It just got interesting...............

The game changer may  have occurred yesterday. School Board Trustees, the group long considered the entry level to elected office, are protesting in public over the Provincial Governments budget and the damage they perceive it will do to service delivery in the class room.
This is a good way to lose an election.
Like it or not, we live in a society where every kid is special, where participation is rewarded over winning and where failure is not the preferred option.  So if you want to annoy parents, the simplest way to do it is to pick on their kids.
The Trustees are telling the public just that. "government you are picking on the kids" Edmonton Public and Catholic school boards will have to deal with over four thousand new enrollments this year that are unfunded. School boards in other jurisdictions are worse off.
Now four thousand kids amongst a population of well over 150,000, is not incrementally a huge increase, but it is an increase none the less and it does no good to talk statistics or percentages when every statistic has a first and last name.
The government will fire back telling the boards to fund growth with their reserves which leaves nothing for the future and aside from funding the increase teachers received in their last collective agreement negotiation there will be no new money. Your kids are going to feel the pinch.
I particularly like this move by the Trustees, even if I am not completely certain of the data behind it, because this might very well be their one and only opportunity to stand up and make some noise about the issues they are facing.
This will resonate much louder with the public than calls for increased MSI funding or more money for LRT, or even, frankly, health care, because every day the problem will come home with a tattered text book.
When one level of government, school boards, is completely dependent on another level of government for funding, the province, conflicts are inevitable but so are the consequences of biting the hand that feeds. In this case, I do think the proliferation of lawn signs that are not Tory blue might be part of the incentive behind it.
If I were cynical, I might suggest that the proliferation of orange signs and the general propensity of Trustees to lean in that direction, might make this an orchestrated political campaign move but in fairness, the boards have a genuine issue here. Ignoring growth is not a recipe for success in any circumstance.
Ignoring the voters most affected by  the growth is a recipe for disaster.
So whatever the motivation, the Trustees are right, it will get voters out and it may not get voters out in a way that helps the government.
A good MLA works the schools, knowing that a fridge magnet given to a sixth grader goes straight home and onto the fridge while a fridge magnet given to an adult typically goes straight into the garbage.  Care about the kids, aspiring MLA's and the parents will care about you.
This could be the election when education becomes the game changer.

Monday, April 20, 2015

It's not the number of lawn signs that should worry you; it's where they are that should worry you.

In 2008, I was asked why my opponent had more lawn signs than I did. I replied simply, "what difference, signs don't vote".  After driving back from Lethbridge on the weekend I'm inclined to revise my opinion: Lawn signs are only an indication of support when they are on private property and a large the sign nailed to a fence indicates strong support at that house.  In Edmonton, it does not bode well for anyone except the NDP.
I have favorite candidates in three parties and I happen to think that a minority PC government might not be such a bad way to go. Forcing coalitions amongst the right and left ends of the spectrum could, in fact, give us the means to do a few things that really need to be done:
  • Control the bottomless pit called Universal Healthcare before it kills us all.
  • Take up the GST reduction gap from seven to five percent and introduce a provincial sales tax of two percent.
  • Cap government spending at inflation plus population growth.
  • Adjust royalties equally in all sectors; Prentice and Campbell  avoided increasing the royalty on oil, but NOT on gravel, timber or any other natural resource. This is a calculated insincerity that deserves scrutiny.
  • Consolidate the delivery of education by amalgamating Public, Catholic and Francophone school boards. I'm sure the people running them are smart enough to figure out how to keep religious equity intact.
  • Develop and stick to a plan beyond the Four year election cycle. Nobody remembers the last ten year plan. I think it was to end homelessness or something, anyway, it didn't work.
 When a governing party, is controlled by polling, as is the PC party, their policies will adapt to reflect the strongest emotions demonstrated the public. Emotion is a terrible way to make policy of any kind, it is a bad reason alone to get married, buy a car and is really suited only to choosing a flavor of ice cream. It has it's place, but long term planning and planning for the future is not an emotional activity, yet what we get are increased sin taxes and more expensive speeding tickets, as though these things drive any of the issues or solve any problems, they do not.
They  are easy and no one is going to complain, but  there is no universal and well organized opposition to them. Hence in the legislature, a minority government will be forced to seek coalitions with the other parties to move forward on agendas, it's a great cure for pervasive arrogance.
I have not blogged about this election because there isn't much to blog about. What is occurring is in no way unique or unexpected. Team Ralph, Team Ed, Team Allison or  Team Jim, have all been faced with one primary goal: Power. And while this is a seductive beauty it is a fickle one and never a good long term partner as the focus will always shift from using power to keeping it.
My Prediction:
PC:    42-55
NDP: 12-21 all in Edmonton plus maybe Lethbridge east
Wild Rose: 15-33
Liberal: 2
Most likely:
43 PC
18 NDP
24 WRP
2   LIB
Now that would be an interesting legislature.
Good luck to every good candidate in this race, it's less about you dear friends than the banner you run under, so win or lose, do your best and hope your leader is able to resonate with the voting public.

See you on the 5th, if I can figure out where to vote.