An understanding of the proper role of government is no substitute for a society's way of life.
"Politics is not like an ocean voyage or a military campaign… something which leaves off as soon as reached. It is not a public chore to be gotten over with. It is a way of life." - Plutarch
I have noticed recently that a number of Danielle Smith's supporters have been pushing some new arguments. The argument is that her candidacy creates a fusion between those political philosophies of 'libertarianism' and 'social conservatism'. As if to further emphasize their point, they make the argument that the party's policies and principles will remain the same regardless of who is leader. Lastly, they have argued that labels like 'libertarian' and 'social conservative' are not nearly as important as the principles that lie behind these two political philosophies. Are they correct in making these arguments? I would say that they are partially correct, but that they are not entirely so. I have several points that I would like to make beginning with the last and weakest argument.
The argument that there is no real distinction between self-described 'libertarians' and 'social conservatives' beyond the labels is something that those from both camps would surely deny. The first question we ought to ask is, if these labels are meaningless than why does Danielle Smith insist that the first one be used to described her? If there is no real substantive difference wouldn't she be indifferent to being described using either label? Obviously there is a substantial difference that make the labels necessary. While 'libertarians' have an absolute belief in a very limited role for the state, 'social conservatives' have an absolute belief that the first and foremost role of the state is to protect human life. These two beliefs needn't always contradict, but sometimes they do. In a case of euthanasia, a libertarian might believe the state has no business to intervene in someone's personal choice whereas a social conservative might believe the state has the legal duty to intervene and save a human life.
The other argument that the policies and principles of the party will remain the same regardless of who is leader. Someone should have told members of the old federal PC party that they should have had nothing to fear with David Orchard becoming leader because their party's policies would have remained unchanged. Even if the Wildrose Alliance is a party that is more grassroots-driven that most, a genuine leader is not pushed any which way but ably leads a party in a certain direction. Therefore, the principles and policies that Danielle Smith calls her own will be extremely important in determining which direction the party is led. What proponents of this argument also forget is although some of these 'hot-button social issues' fall under federal jurisdiction, they are not entirely irrelevant to the Premiership. Who would deny that having the Premier of Alberta speak openly and frankly to Stephen Harper about these social issues would have no effect on how the Albertan-based Prime Minister?
The most potent argument that Smith supporters are making about her candidacy representing a fusion of libertarianism and social conservatism is also the most disconcerting. It is wrong for two reasons. The first is that conservatism is split into different ideologies when it is first and foremost a way of life. Yes conservatives have ideas and policies, but these must always reflect and safeguard a pre-existing way of life and not the other way around. The second is the assumption that there are other factors of electability that are more important than holding Alberta's mainstream conservative values. While factors such as personality, age, and talent should be considered, ultimately the most important factor in electability is a candidate's conviction to maintain our province's conservative values. The values of Albertans ought to be exemplified in the public and private lives of her political leaders. They must provide a moral example to young Albertans of the meaning of faith, family, and freedom.
I will conclude with a few others observations. Like Preston Manning, I myself believe that there is a larger label that both 'libertarians' and 'social conservatives' fall under and that is the label of 'conservative'. To press home my point I note that Randy Hillier did not run his campaign on the label of being 'a libertarian-social conservative candidate', but as a 'conservative leader for a conservative party'. While Danielle says she is modeling her campaign in many ways with that of Randy Hillier's campaign for the leadership of the Ontario PC Party, the fact that she has kept 'libertarian' label speaks volumes about her convictions as a candidate. Unfortunately, her supporters would do well to remember that politics is not just a political campaign, but an entire way of life that goes far beyond mere public image. Therefore, I believe that the candidate for the leadership of the Wildrose Alliance party with the most electability is also the candidate that lives the values of ordinary Albertans.
This week the campaigns finally squared off on the policy front even as Danielle continued to receive media attention. After spending the first part of her campaign speaking to the media about the issue of royalty rates, Danielle Smith's campaign has unveiled a new policy platform on democratic reform. It was only last Friday that Danielle was on the Charles Adler show explaining why the New Royalty Framework badly needs to be fixed. This past Tuesday her campaign sent out an e-mail in which she outlines her policies on democratic reform. Danielle's proposals include policies on free speech, fixed election dates, direct democracy, and senate elections. By and large her proposals are similar to those that have are made on Mark Dyrholm's web site. One notable difference is that Danielle doesn't go quite as far as Mark on the issue of free speech. While Danielle policy states that "the Commission’s power of political censorship should be repealed", Mark explicitly calls for "the elimination of Section 3 from the Alberta's Human Rights Act."
Following up on the key advantage she has in garnering media coverage, Smith also appeared on the Leslie Primeau Show on 630 CHED yesterday where she admitted that a strong perception of Calgary as the oil centre of Alberta exists. Although Primeau brought up her interview on the Charles Adler show last week, Smith chose to discuss other issues and didn't bring up the New Royalty Framework once. Meanwhile, the Dyrholm campaign appears to be aware but not bothered by all the media attention is Danielle is receiving. Yesterday, the Mark Dyrholm sent the following message out to his followers on twitter, "My focus has been talking to people, not the media and I think that is working in the nomination. One race at a time." On October 14th we will know for certain whether Danielle's advantage in media coverage will translate into a victory or not.
To see Danielle's policies on democratic reform, please visit:
To see Mark Dyrholm's policies on democratic reform, please visit:
If you scan down the July 2009 archives of the Western Standard's Shotgun Blog, you will find an interesting article by Matthew Johnston entitled From the Poorhouse to the Penthouse: The Fall and Rise of Jeff Irwin Willerton: Book Review. The piece explores the often difficult journey that is Jeff Willerton's life. The author ends his book review by mentioning Willerton's latest project which is to run for the leadership of the Wildrose Alliance. Johnston admits to having initially written Willerton off as a serious candidate, but explains how he has changed his mind from reading his autobiography. Mentioning that Willerton needs to raise $10,000 to enter the leadership race, Johnston even plugs his web site where people can learn about Willerton and make a donation.
What is especially interesting about this blog post is the comments section where Johnston and a number of prominent libertarians in Canada are express support for Jeff Willerton as a candidate for the Wildrose Alliance leadership. However, the last comment seems to suggest that at least some libertarians do not support Willerton for being "an unapologetic social conservative" as Johnston describes him. Their support for his entrance into the race is built on the premise that he could split the social conservative vote, putting Danielle Smith in a better position to beat Mark Dyrholm and win the leadership. Here are some excerpts from the comments responding to the article:
"Willerton's frankness, candor and honesty strike me as risky for someone who wants to pursue a political office and, because of that, admirable....I wish him luck." Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2009-07-11 10:17:51 AM
"Best of luck with your campaign." Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2009-07-12 11:03:32 AM
"And a Willerton candidacy is important for the injection of honesty, and because it can provide the so-called "socon" segment with real choice and a real debate." Posted by: John Collison | 2009-07-12 3:54:14 PM
"John Collison: I've only met you a few times, but I'm sure you wouldn't get Willerton going to split the hard socon vote and get Danielle the victory:) It works for me" Posted by: Dennis Young | 2009-07-12 6:27:27 PM
To read the article in it's entirety and read the full comments in response to the article, please visit:
Demonstrating her strong media connections again, last Friday Danielle Smith appeared as a guest on the radio show of her former colleague Charles Adler. After apparent complaints from her leadership rival's supporters, Mark Dyrholm also appeared as guest on the Charles Adler this past Monday. It was somewhat amusing to see how comments made by former MLA Mark Norris, a former Cabinet Minister in Ralph Klein's government, seemed to force both candidates to focus on Edmonton. This focusseemed to make both candidates hot under the collar, but their reactions were could not have been more different. Reacting to Norris' comments on 'the Calgary oil patch, Calgary-centric group', Smith made a sharp rebuke which seemed to suggest that an Edmontonian could not understand the plight of 'the guys in the Calgary office towers who are making those investment decisions '. During most of her interview, Smith zealously defended the interests of the Calgary oil patch. (I have recorded a partial transcript of Danielle's interview which can be read below and you can also listen to her exchange with Mark Norris online on the web site linked below.)
During the second interview on Monday, the Smith-Norris exchange was replayed by Charles Adler on his program for Mark Dyrholm to listen to and respond to. Since the exchange was a good length of time, the result was that there was only time for one person to call in on the program while Mark was a guest. Dyrholm's response to Mark's statements was that the former MLA was overly concerned with 'certain parts of Edmonton where Alberta does have a little bit more of a left leaning'. He elaborated later in the program when he emphatically stated that, 'We don't need a separation often between Edmonton and Calgary. I mean, I guess I said something when I took my shot at Mark Norris..I know there are some amazing conservatives up there that are supporting us and we need them to stand up and support their Reform roots.' And surprisingly, the interview suddenly ended with Dyrholm paying tribute to the many Reform-minded conservatives in Edmonton who may currently feel underrepresented in the party. (I have recorded a partial transcript of Mark's interview which can be read below and you can also listen to his response to Mark Norris on the web site link below.)
Partial transcript of Smith's interview on the Charles Adler show on Friday, July 10, 2009 at 2:00PM from 38:58 to 41:28 -
Mark Norris: "...so to hear comments like the Calgary oil patch, Calgary-centric group is saying that this isn't going to work is absolute nonsense."
Danielle Smith: "Well, Mark's from Edmonton so he's not spending much time with the guys in the Calgary office towers who are making those investment decisions."
Mark Norris: "Why would you say that?"
Danielle Smith: "Well, and he's just wrong. I mean the natural gas royalty framework is so onerous there absolutely has been a chilling effect on investment here [in Calgary]. We can even see this. I mean look at the drilling numbers. They went down down by half even before the New Royalty Framework was implemented when oil and gas prices were very high because of the uncertainty. We know they made a mistake because they've already had to make five major adjustments to the New Royalty Framework [since] when it was first implemented. And the people I'm taking to are saying it's still not enough. They're saying they're looking at Saskatchewan and British Columbia. Even look at the Frasier Institute Report, they did a major survey of investment climates for the petroleum sector and guess what province came out number one? The province that came out number one was yours, Charles. It was Manitoba. And guess which province came out last? It was Alberta. So I don't think what Mark's saying holds any water. There's a ton of changes that still need to be made to the New Royalty Framework. And frankly, this government doesn't have the will to admit it has made a mistake and to make those changes so we can get business investment coming back to this province.
Mark Norris: I don't even know where to start. I wasn't raised in an environment to say people are just wrong. I mean that's the problem with politics today. If that's where your guest is headed then absolutely no support will come. But the reality is that when Lougheed made the changes the exact same comments were made and if she does some research she'll find the exact same quotes from the oil patch. Dividing Edmonton and Calgary is the oldest trick in the book and it's pathetic to be quite honest. And the reality is that this has always been driven by price, always. And when I was in government we had a stumble in 2001 after 9/11 [and] we overcompensated and the bottom line was that once prices hit again you won't hear a peep from anybody in Calgary, or [?], or Fort McMurray, or Drayton Valley. This government is trying as hard as it can in my estimation to react to global changes and to think we're some kind of island unto ourselves is nonsense. And the reason Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Manitoba have risen is because they've all copied the model we've put in place ten years ago.
Partial transcript of Dyrholm's interview on the Charles Adler show on Friday, July 10, 2009 at 2:00PM from 51:34 to 52:05, and from 53:22 to 54:08 -
Mark Dyrholm: So actually Mark Norris is just a little too focused on certain parts of Edmonton where Alberta does have a little bit more of a left-leaning. And he is unaware of just how livid real small-c conservatives are in this province because they remember our Reform history. We're fiscal, we're social conservatives and we want those things that were set up in Reform and we want them going on in Alberta so that we can be the place we used to be. And we want the Alberta Advantage back.
In response to Charles Adler's question if the Wildrose Alliance can form the official opposition in the next provincial election:
Mark Dyrholm: I think we can absolutely do it next time and it's because of the coalition we've put together. I bring a great campaign team. I've been involved in over fifteen electoral campaigns [and] we need that strong team. We also need my business organization having been vice-president of Calgary's biggest small business group the Progressive Group for Independent Business and we need that coalition between Reformers. We don't need a separation [that is] often between Edmonton and Calgary. I mean, I guess I said something when I took my shot at Mark Norris...I know there are some amazing conservatives up there [in Edmonton] that are supporting us and we need them to stand up and support their Reform roots.
To listen to the broadcast of the above transcript of Danielle on the Charles Adler show, listen to Friday, July 10, 2009 at 2:00PM from 38:58 to 41:28
My name is Matt and I am a current member of the Wildrose Alliance. I am becoming more and more frustrated with the opperations of the party and especially with the way the party presents themselves.
My father currently owns 3 oilfield construction companies, one based in Red Deer, the other in Saskatoon, and the third in the N.W.T. Working closly with his company I came to notice what changes the royalties review made to our business. (Remember this I will bring it up later). When I moved to Edmonton I joined the Edmonton-Strathcona EDA for the conservative party, and became involved in politics.
The main purpose of this email is to express my concerns with the current SERIOUS DOWNFALLS with the Wildrose Alliance. The first downfall is the EXCESSIVE over-use of the royalties reform policy. Most of the blue collar companies are not concerned with the oil royalties. From experience, when the new royalty rates were introduced, my fathers company experienced some drop in business, but shortly after contracts came in booking his entire production into 2013. I have talked to dozens of other blue collar oilfield companies, and they too are well booked into the future. One gentleman I recently met, told me his company has had more work after the royalty rates than they did before. So you see where the problem lies? The white collar oilfield workers, those who have never lifted a hammer are the ones complaining about the royalty rates. I assume that these white collar companies are donating money to the party, and that is why you bring it up so often. Yes, taxes=bad, royalty hikes=bad, I agree, Just stop bringing it up!
The Wildrose Alliance has become a political lobby group. Whenever the Wildrose is in the news, it is some bitching about oilfield royalties, yet there is a couple pages of well received policies that are never spoken about. Even in the leadership race this lobby group mentality became evident to me. If this party wants to make gains in Alberta, they have to promote the policies that voters care about, such as health care, education, property rights, ect. Once you get elected on this platform, then you can bring out your royalties policy. By continually talking about the royalties you are only set to lose support when over 90% of the province supports it or does not care.
The last point I wish to make today is about the universality of the party. At the moment the Wildrose is a Calgary oil Party. Sure there may be some northern directors making the party look universal, but we all know that is a lie. Growing up in Red Deer I developed a type of mentality that Red Deer was the Center of the world and I could care less about anything outside the city limits. And that Calgary-Centered mentality is exactly what the Wildrose Alliance is radiating. If the party wants to make any serious gains in Alberta, they have to push out into rural areas, talk to farmers and ranchers, and promote the policies to the regular people. Open up a northern office, with a staff dedicated to party opperations and fundraising. With the legislature being located in Edmonton, and all other provincial parties holding an office here, it only makes sense that the Wildrose should try to promote themselves in the political capitol.
This party needs some serious reform if we ever wish to get elected, and this bitching and complaining about oil royalties is only making us sound like a broken record. I would like to see a Wildrose Government in the future, but with the parties current priorities, I can not see us winning any seats.
Last Thursday Kevin Libin wrote an article Wildrose party sets sights on Alberta conservatives that was published in the National Post. The author correctly points out that the party's leadership race has been attracting support from many federal Conservatives in the province. Even the Conservative Prime Minister's old mentor, Tom Flanagan, took out a Wildrose Alliance membership at the party's AGM last month. Unlike here in Edmonton, Premier Stelmach has never been very popular in Calgary even before the New Royalty Framework came into place. And the fact that it was supporters of Wildrose Alliance leadership candidates who clearly visible at the Stampede BBQ with the Prime Minister Harper, and not Stelmach's PC entourage, further emphasizes the Edmonton-area premier's unpopularity in Calgary.
The article cites a growing "Tory vs. Tory schism in the heartland of Canadian conservatism." However, there has always been a division between federal Conservatives who tend to be those who are more conservative and provincial Progressive Conservatives who tend to be much less so. The only reason this division has never been so visible until now is because there was no alternative provincial party that federal Conservatives could support. What's less known is the potential schisms between the Wildrose Leadership candidates themselves that the PC Party might try to exploit. There is already some evidence that Stelmach supporters may try to capitalize on his old rivalries by painting Danielle Smith as "the Jim Dinning of the Wildrose Alliance" and Mark Dyrholm as "the Ted Morton of the Wildrose Alliance". I suggest reading Kevin Libin's article in its entirety. It's a great read: http://www.nationalpost.com/most-popular/story.html?id=1775504