Alberta right sold out with unification
MLA Richard Starke. Postmedia Network
It is a difficult thing to have principles in politics when faced with the choice of power and no backbone or scruples and being cut out.
In the dust of the merger between the Wildrose Party and the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta one man stands alone, left without a party at the legislature: Vermilion-Lloydminster MLA Richard Starke, also the runner up to Jason Kenney in the recent PC leadership race.
Starke was a sober second thought for a segment of the political spectrum that was drunk on the fearmongering that the province was doomed without a united right.
He was the only MLA from either party that refused on Monday to cross the floor to the new United Conservative Party of Alberta. Part of it was, he outwardly did not know what the party stood for, how far right they would hit on the spectrum, how close to the fiery lakes they would end up being forced to walk, or if there would be a more palatable progressive, happy-medium found.
Deep down, I think he knows the answer to it and he did not want any part of it.
“At the conclusion of the PC Leadership campaign I was assured that my voice and those of the people who supported me would be welcomed by the new leadership. I took that assurance in good faith. My experience, and that of many like-minded party members who have left or been driven from the party, is that our views are not welcome, and that the values and principles we believe in will not be part of the new party going forward,” he said on his Facebook page.
“I have no way of knowing whether the leadership and policies of the new party will align with the values and principles I ran and was elected on. Without certainty in that knowledge I cannot, in good conscience, sit as a member of that party.”
What was certain is that the right wing learned only one lesson from their humbling in the last election, and that was how to panic.
Instead of embracing a new reality in which they actually had to work to gain back the trust of the electorate, they took their ball and went home.
They claim they joined forces for the Albertan who is tired, broke, out of work and frustrated. Yes, Albertans are all those things. But they have consolidated their own power and stripped the Alberta voter of choice.
If there was anything to take from the rise of the NDP in Alberta, it was that Alberta voters were done with the arrogance and lack of discipline and accountability that had rotted the legislature from the inside out for the previous 15 years.
It took the perfect storm of the incompetence of Alison Redford, the cowardice of Danielle Smith and the arrogance of Jim Prentice to collide and topple a four-decade old dynasty.
Alberta proved it can succeed with two right wing parties. The last seven years of PC power included a second right wing option, and was the only time in my 34 years on the planet there had actually been a legitimate opposition party.
Instead of uniting the province, we will only see more division.
UCP supporters will insist the province was at its best with a united right. Times have changed a lot since then. That was an era in Alberta when a politician could get elected and hold on to their seat for as long as they wanted it just by having PC next to their name on a ballot.
That goodwill has been destroyed by years of abuse.
Our politics and tenor of our elections have also changed in that time, and verge much more closer to an American-style with-us-or-against-us mentality.
We as voters lose by having less options and less voices at the table.
Yes, 95 per cent of membership of the two parties who voted, cast their chit in favour of a merger, though only 57 per cent of the members turned out. If Starke’s statement is true, there was a clear push to override the dissenters.
That kind of divisiveness and desperation is never good for a province, and I don’t know if it will make the UCP ride to the top of the mountain an easy one.
Fear of the NDP will only take Albertans so far. We needed backbone, we needed cajones, we needed principle. What we got was the easy way out and little confidence we will see the change we really need.