The Wildrose Revolution
April 1st, 2012 - J. Hodgson
“This election offers the most serious opportunity for change since 1971,” - Shane McAllister, Wildrose candidate, Calgary-Mountain View
Big things happen with small beginnings and this frosty afternoon at Pizza Bob’s, off Memorial Drive in Calgary, small things are unfolding. With pizza and beer greasing the wheels of candidate Shane McAllister’s volunteer sign-up party, I got the chance to sit down with him and talk election politics.
“There’s a strong desire for change. The PC’s have turned hubris into arrogance and the lack of competition has allowed them to become autocratic,” he offered.
After five long years of Premier Ed Stelmach turning failure into a governing style, new leader Alison Redford was tasked with rebranding the moribund party. Unfortunately for Redford, the nature of her leadership itself has put the final nail in the coffin of the PC Party. Alison Redford is a Red Tory with ties to former Prime Minister Joe Clark. Thirty years ago, this may have been an association worth bragging about, but as conservatism has developed over the years, the Red Tory brand is far less viable today than it used to be. It’s easier to either be more boldly conservative or more truly liberal. Voting patterns nationally have divided into these camps over the years, and in Alberta the whisper campaign is that Redford really does belong in the Liberal Party…maybe even the New Democrat Party. The reason she isn’t in those parties is because, in Alberta, if you want to win you run as a Progressive Conservative. The problem for Redford is that people have finally caught on. The Progressive Conservative Party isn't what it used to be. It’s time for a change…but what kind of change?
“Danielle is a libertarian,” Shane affirms. “There were a group of us at the University of Calgary .”
Danielle, of course, is Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith. She’s a self-described libertarian and a strong, sassy challenger to the PC dynasty. The ‘group’ is a loose collection of U of C graduates with an ideological tutorship in neo-conservative philosophy.... sometimes known as “The Calgary School”. Some leadership names associated with The Calgary School include, Ted Morton, former Political Science Professor and current PC MLA; Economist Frank Atkins, and Political Science Professor and current Wildrose Party Campaign Manager Tom Flanagan.
The graduates of this school tend to be associated with Stephen Harper’s wave of conservative revitalization, but there is a second, younger wave. This second wave consists of conservatives such as Danielle Smith, Conservative MP Rob Anders, SunNews Anchor/Host Ezra Levant and Shane McAllister himself.
“We’re trying to create a Canadian version of the ‘South Park’ Republicans,” Shane said as I rapidly tried to transcribe the master plan. "I want to be the voice of libertarianism so that we can then move the centre more toward our point of view."
"The Reagan method," I offered.
Shane smiled, "Yes."
The Reagan method refers to former U.S. President Ronald Reagan's path to power. In 1964, he made a speech in support of Republican candidate Barry Goldwater. The speech was titled, "A Time for Choosing". Watch it here. It's a conservative gauntlet being thrown down with a dare. At the time it was considered far too conservatively strident. Some thought Ronald Reagan was a mad man, and Barry Goldwater ended up losing horribly against Lyndon Johnson.
But a funny thing happened. As the years passed, the seeds planted in this speech began to grow. While Reagan continued to preach his position, the mainstream culture began to move toward his point of view. By 1980, Reagan won not only the Republican nomination, but also the November election...with a landslide. Not bad for a former mad man!
Danielle Smith has tempered her libertarian orthodoxy under the guise of democratic respect. So for example, while she may be in favour of legalizing prostitution, she won't use her position to impose her views unless her views are the will of the majority. In other words, easing people toward a more libertarian brand of conservatism will be on the agenda, but in the meantime, 'not being revolutionary' is a key ingredient to building wide support.
Shane admits that dealing with social conservatism will be the most difficult ideological divide, but open dialogue and reason can win people over. Besides, Wildrose will not have a 'whip' to force people to toe the party line. Free speech is a key ingredient and social conservatives, like Paul Hinman and Grant Galpin, will not be silenced as they most likely would be in other parties.
All of this adds up to a very healthy and dynamic conservative party. Philosophy and principle, infused with ideas and ambition are pushing the party up the polls. The PC Party is heading for the graveyard of Alberta politics, no matter the outcome of the election. Out with the old and in with the new.
"Liberals want a government that does this, conservatives want a government that does that, libertarians want a government that doesn't do this or that," Shane explains. "We're live and let live conservatives."
The election is April 23rd, 2012. Remember to vote.