Sunday, April 22, 2012
I've been a strategic voter since the federal election in 1993, voting Liberal or NDP depending upon who had the best chance of defeating the Reform/Alliance/Conservative candidate. Since I started working for the province's Official Opposition, I have of course voted consistently for the Alberta Liberals - not merely out of loyalty to my employer, but because I admire and respect the three leaders I've served and their caucuses, and I support the policies they've developed over the years.
But as the Wildrose Alliance surged during the current provincial election, I had a brief moment of weakness: was it time to return to strategic voting to stop a party even worse than the provincial PCs from forming government?
Living as I do in Edmonton-Meadowlark, Dr. Raj Sherman's constituency, there was never any question that I'd be voting anything but Liberal. But in conversations with progressive friends earlier this month, I admitted that I understood the reasons why they're considering holding their noses and voting PC. Indeed, my friend Stephen has crafted a very reasonable argument to that effect.
It's an argument the panicking PCs are using themselves, pleading with progressives to vote PC in order to stave off the horrifying spectre of a Bible-beating, fiscally libertarian Wildrose administration.
I believe that a Wildrose majority would be a bad outcome for Alberta. But is it really the worst possible outcome? Should progressive Albertans sacrifice their votes for the sake of a PC government that's intimidated health care professionals and municipal officials, consistently underfunded public education, mismanaged public health care into a state of ongoing crisis, solicited and accepted illegal political contributions and exposed teachers to being sued for discussing topics some parents are uncomfortable with? Can a Wildrose government really be worse than this?
Perhaps they can. But consider the consequences if progressive voters flock to the PCs and help re-elect the Redford administration:
1) Progressive Albertans will lose their already tiny representation in the Alberta Legislature. What a tragedy it would be to lose Laurie Blakeman, a powerful advocate for human rights and the environment. Or Raj Sherman, who risked his career and gave up the cushiest job in politics (PC backbencher) for the most thankless (Leader of the Official Opposition). Or David Swann, a man who has entered war zones to help the world's most vulnerable people. Or Rachel Notley, Kent Hehr, Brian Mason, among others who have spoken out consistently to expose PC corruption, defend vulnerable Albertans and uphold progressive values. Do we really want to sacrifice these people to keep the PCs in power?
2) We'll be sending a message to the PCs that they really can get away with anything, without consequences. Send threatening letters to municipal officials, bully doctors, pass regressive legislation, continue the slow privatization of health care - that's okay with us, because we're afraid that Danielle Smith might be even worse!
Maybe the Liberal or ND or Alberta Party candidate in your riding is a long shot, but doesn't he or she deserve your support if he or she truly reflects your values?
One day, a progressive party of one stripe or another will form government in Alberta. It probably won't be tomorrow, and perhaps not 2016 either. But that day will certainly never come if we vote against our own interests instead of supporting the policies and people we really believe in.