A Twitter friend of mine, best known as @ManitobAlex, posted a view that I share with him, but requires more than 140 characters to explain. I’ll share this tweet later, but suffice it to say it refers to the decorum of the Alberta Legislature, most specifically Question Period.
The behavior in the Legislature has been appalling. Insults, innuendo, and accusations are viewed as the norm.
Just ask Wildrose MLA Pat Stier of Livingstone-Macleod. In an article printed in the Gateway Grassroots on November 26, Stier explains that even though it looks like the Opposition is “lashing out” or “attacking” the government, that it should be expected in order to hold the government to account.
But what is happening in Question Period is not “lashing out” or “attacking”. It is daily slander and libel. And it’s on record.
When it is acceptable for MLAs to interject out of turn, and shout and scoff at other members who already have the floor, or even for an MLA to charge that a Minister is “full of you-know-what” (Heather Forsyth, November 26, 2012, Hansard Page 989), then the party of MLAs represented by such comments lose all their credibility.
When it is acceptable for an MLA to table tweets of citizens neither present nor informed (Richard Starke, November 26, 2012, Hansard Page 993), or to even consider calling other members “bottom-feeders” (Thomas Lukaszuk, November 19, 2012, Hansard Page 698), then the party of MLAs represented by that unprofessional conduct lose their credibility.
Any MLA who chooses to participate in such behavior loses their “Honourable” distinction, and that such a title becomes nothing more than ink on a page.
The common view seems to be that in order to hold either the government or the Opposition to account, you must use such inflammatory language. However, if you review the number of changes in behavior or policy on either side of the House that have occurred, you will find a whopping zero.
So obviously holding each other to account in this way is either ineffective, or a colossal waste of tax-payer money.
I believe this too, but not because the Alberta Party would bring butterflies and puppies into the legislature (thanks for the idea, @JoeAlbertan, but we would both agree how useless that would be). I believe this because the Alberta Party, whether on the government side or on the Opposition side, would ask tough questions without the accusations or insults. You can get tough on election finance without calling each other criminals. You can get tough on senior’s care without calling into question another person’s grooming habits. You can discuss difficult budget questions without dropping F-bombs (Premier Alison Redford today).
The way it should look is an MLA would question a Minister on a particular aspect of governance, and get a well-reasoned non-insulting response. The MLA would then ask if the Minister would consider their alternative, and the Minister would say yes or no with reasoning. What happens following this should only be for clarity, or to provide avenues for solutions to be implemented.
This would mean that any particular issue of governance would come to Question Period once. But it requires appropriate input from both the government side AND the Opposition side.
You can scoff at this idea, saying that it would be a pie-in-the-sky, supremely ideological concept. Perhaps it would be. But if you try to argue that it would be ineffective, you should keep in mind that it would be no moreso than what currently exists.
Why don’t MLAs of today try this Alberta Party concept? The worst that could happen is that something could actually get done.
It's similar to "liking" your own Facebook status, or laughing at your own joke, when nobody else does.
The High River Times printed in yesterday's paper an article about the Alberta Liberals efforts in touting their new brand, or wordmark, or whatever they wish to call it. It stated that people (all 30 of them that came out to hear about it) were generally pleased with the brand. Had they known how the green logo came about, they would likely change their viewpoint to match that of a number of Alberta Liberal Party insiders.
Jody MacPherson, former Alberta Liberal Party VP of Communications and President, raised the alarm over how grassroots the organization truly was. In the same Executive meeting the logo was endorsed, the decision to not cooperate with other political parties was made, contrary to the wishes of the general membership of the party.
Alex MacDonald, an Alberta Liberal policy wonk, explained to a number of Twitter followers, including blogger Dave Cournoyer that the new brand was not focus-group tested. It was just the brainchild of the Executive, who approved it quickly like a fashion model giddy with a new Versace.
And the President, Gerald McEachern, touts the party's grassroots and transparent nature?
A party whose Executive flouts the wishes of the general membership, and then does a massive rebranding without public consultation sounds neither transparent nor grassroots to me.
And with the backdoor decisions made by the PCs of late, we know that we can't expect transparent, accountable grassroots policy from them.
The Wildrose and the Alberta Party are the only two parties who can truly lay claim to representing average Albertans; the Wildrose from within its party membership, and the Alberta Party through its Big Listens. There are some fundamental differences in how the two groups work, but they both develop their viewpoints from a grassroots base.
If the people of Highwood are to truly value grassroots politics, I hope they seriously consider where examples of grassroots actually exist. Explore the Wildrose and the Alberta Party, and support the party that best represents your views.
And I would be happy to answer questions about the Alberta Party.