Unification at what cost?

I worry that Alberta’s conservative parties will lose too much in the process of unifying. Every party wants to win and unifying two parties worked well for the federal Conservatives, at least in terms of winning elections. But many former federal Progressive Conservatives claim that, while the former Alliance/Reform Party had promised a merger of ideas, what actually happened was a takeover and the annihilation of the party they had believed in.

There is evidence to suggest that Jason Kenney is doing exactly the same thing in Alberta. Last November, news media reported that his leadership campaign brought in busloads of young people–most of whom were not even party members until they were signed up at the door–to participate in the annual general meeting for the PC Youth Association (which appoints 20 of the delegates who would later vote at the leadership convention). This might not be cheating, technically, but if felt less than honest and open to many party members.

During this same event, some of Kenney’s campaign treated two female leadership candidates so badly that they dropped out of the race. Sandra Jansen and Donna Kennedy-Glans, both respected and experienced politicians whose ideas warranted being heard, were harassed, slandered with truly vile language, and driven out. Does this sound like a party willing to engage in respectful dialogue and negotiation?

Whenever a party stoops to less than open and honest tactics, it’s because they either 1) don’t actually believe in their platform, or 2) don’t trust voters to make the right choice. Why else would a party risk its integrity?

While it might make sense to unify in order to win elections, no party can win if it compromises its core beliefs. And it’s worth remembering what can happen when a party sticks to its guns, believes in its platform, and trusts the voters.The federal Liberals came from being the third party to a majority government simply because people believed in them. Just lately, the BC Greens took a lot of heat from other parties for potentially splitting the vote. But the Greens didn’t have enough in common with any other party to join them: Greens are far more fiscally conservative than NDP, and far more environmentally conservative than BC Liberals. BC Greens ran on their own merit — and now they hold the balance of power.

Democracy isn’t just about winning. It’s about intelligent and informed debate, giving voters a wide range of policy options to choose from, then respecting voter choice. If the differences between Progressive Conservatives and Wild Rose are small, then unification is a great idea. But if party members abandon their core values just to win the election, that shows a lack of confidence in their beliefs, disregard for democratic process and disrespect for voters…and then who are we left to choose from?

Nora Abercrombie
CEO, Green Party of Canada for Battle River – Crowfoot

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