On Sunday, at their convention, the WAP elected as their leader media commentator and fiscal conservative, Danielle Smith. She had been running against a former Reform Party organizer and noted social conservative, Mark Dyrholm, who dropped out when it was clear that she was going to whoop his ass.
The WAP is gaining fast on the Tories who have maintained a nearly 40-year dynasty in that province – following on from the Social Credit, which ran the province from the Depression. The reason: the Tories are too left-wing.
Sorry, let me say that again: The Alberta Tories are too left wing.
“[Smith] criticizes the royalty rate the province is charging oil companies, and finally abandoned the Tories in April after the government tabled a budget that projected a historic $4.7-billion deficit while still green-lighting double-digit spending”The Tories, knowing that the Alberta oil boom would come to a halt sooner or later, in the way that all resource-based booms do, imposed a higher royalty rate on the oil companies during the high times, in order to save for the low times. Like now. Even with that surplus cash the Tories are still forced to run a deficit – that’s how hard things have crashed.
But the Wildrose yahoos can’t stand that the Tories didn’t just pull a Herbert Hoover, let the economy tank and then send out the police to beat the hell out of all the people starving in the streets. That makes WAP beyond-the-bonkers-pale.
One of two things is going to happen to WAP. The first and most likely one is that they will whack the Tories in the next provincial election – they’re now running second at 21 percent, behind the Tories at 38.4. They’ve only been in existence since January, 2008. Either WAP’ll win or they’ll force a Tory minority government.
If they win they’ll screw things up right quick. Remember when the Alliance was formed and Stockwell Day was the leader? Think jet ski. Enough said. WAP’ll inherit a deficit and perhaps even a stagnant economy. Their front benches will be filled with a bunch of yahoos and soon they’ll be tripping over their own feet, destroying the economy, saying dumb shit. The usual.
The other possibility is that they’ll do that before the next election.
IN ANY CASE, BY NOW YOU’RE WONDERING THE MEANING OF THE TITLE ABOVE. Well, it’s two things. The first is that the right wing consensus in Alberta has been shattered by the economic crisis. The Tory dynasty is coming apart. The WAP is not a “new” party – it is a split from the Tory party. That means that there is a space in Alberta for the left to take advantage of the growing disarray on the right.
The second note is an important point that Ms. Smith made during her campaign to become WAP leader.
“Ms. Smith herself argues that the party will remain at the province's political fringes if it focuses too much on issues such as abortion. ‘The ‘single issues' aren't top-of-mind for most Albertans,’ she says. ‘If we go into an election talking about things that are going to cause division, we aren't going to be successful in building that big tent.’”The point here is that key arguments have been won on social questions, such that any right wing party that wants to succeed must not attack those things outright without risking fracturing and losing. And neither the abortion nor gay rights were won as a result of enlightened politicians like Smith (god help us) – they have been won in the streets, workplaces and in the homes of the country.
I’m old enough to remember the end game of the pro-choice struggle to decriminalize abortion. It involved campaigning in the union movement, protests and pickets, the courage of doctors like Henry Morgentaler to provide illegal abortions, etc. The parliamentary success was the result of the latter.
Gay rights is a similar story, starting with the explosion onto the streets that happened around the Stonewall riots 40 years ago. This led into the creation of the Gay Liberation Movement, then, with the AIDS crisis, there were big mobilizations organized by ACT UP. This was followed by the militant in-your-face actions of Queer Nation and big demonstrations and campaigns around same sex spousal benefits in Ontario (which the NDP sold out). All this pressure in and out of the public eye, led to a growing acceptance and creeping legal gains that, most recently, led to full legal equality in marriage.
The lesson from both of these is that it is through ostentatious struggle that the terrain can be shifted. That applies as much to economic questions as it does to social ones. So, to the left in Alberta – and elsewhere – have hope. Victories have already been won and more can be. Especially when the right wing has a nice big split. I look forward to watching them tear each other apart.