Votes for the Conservative nominee in the Macleod riding byelection are tabulated today, and the story of the campaign is not "hopefuls listen to residents."
The entire campaign has been usurped by the National Firearms Association, Canada's version of the National Rifle Association south of the 49th parallel. It has also been grabbed by right-wing media outlets trying to make a name for themselves in a new market. No surprise, as the agenda had already been pushed by right-wing provincial opposition leader Danielle Smith, who represents a section of Macleod provincially.
In the middle of it all, the residents of Macleod seem to have been left out in the frigid cold of February.
The main topics discussed should have been the backlog of our bumper crops due to rail competition, oil and gas markets, and flood mitigation. Other topics could have included innovations in our area in agriculture and small enterprise, the geographical and demographical diversity and "how can you represent people in Okotoks beside people in Crowsnest Pass or Lomond", or even the value the Conservative government places on veterans.
But they weren't. The "High River Gun Grab" was. And it was the only thing some candidates were talking about.
This seems odd, as every gun owner affected by the actions of the RCMP have never been unhappy about how the guns were handled, only the violent invasion of their privacy. A valid point and an important issue, but by no means is it the only issue nomination hopefuls should be discussing. It is also in stark contrast to the gun-toting whackadoodle image the NFA is portraying Macleod conservatives as. Perhaps the NFA forgot about the story of the "Nose Hill Gentleman"?
Scott Wagner spoke with me twice, and seemed to have a decent grasp on the issues, and although I didn't fully agree with them, kudos goes to him for making a concerted effort to connect with me (he is a very intelligent fellow). Phil Rowland's wife bombarded me with robocalls in the last week. Melissa Mathieson never once contacted me. I can't tell if I prefer Mathieson's or Rowland's tactic.
I was concerned about John Barlow at first, recalling that he ran as a Progressive Conservative candidate in the 2012 Alberta election. I also recalled how he presented himself in those forums. He was strong, articulate, and didn't shy from confrontation. He did, however, leave me wondering if he could be a positive force, or if he would fall victim to the childish bickering that we now see in both provincial and federal houses.
When he called me, I asked him about how he felt the tone of his provincial campaign went. He explained to me he was disappointed with how the Progressive Conservative party lowered themselves to the point where issues were no longer their focal point.
He hit the nail on the head. The issues must be forefront. And Barlow knew the major issues, and also knew some less obvious issues that matter to our residents. Barlow is the only one of these four nomination hopefuls who did not bow to the whims of a lobby group and right-wing media. He has his thumb on the pulse of the constituency, and stuck to talking about the issues, not just in person, but also in the media. With regards to the NFA's focal point, he stuck to his word; he said if new information came out suggesting an inquiry was warranted, he'd stand behind it, so when it did, he stood behind it.
A politician that stands by his/her word should be considered a valuable asset. But even more valuable is one who refuses to let lobbyists dictate the agenda, and rather let constituents dictate it.
And as a side-note, if you knew the level of discourse Barlow and his family was exposed to on his campaign Facebook page on the matter of the guns in High River, you would understand why I use the term "gun-toting whackadoodle".
So today is the last day for Conservative members to cast their ballots for their nominee. After today, we will know if Macleod conservatives really are the gun-toting whackadoodles the NFA paints them as, or if they thoughtfully consider more than just a single issue with an eye to the future.
And I, for one, am no gun-toting whackadoodle.
Our future is under attack, thanks to the cancellation of the police college in Fort Macleod. And the only one to see it is the Mayor of Fort Macleod.The Alberta Liberals were the first to lambast the PCs. Oddly enough, it was in defense of another party, the Wildrose. At first I thought how nice it was that the Liberal party could show respect for another party regardless of how wildly different their ideologies were. Then I realized that the Liberals missed the point.
The Wildrose are having a difficult time sticking to their tune, asking the PCs to cut excess spending, and in the same breath crying foul when they do. Even so, they are still missing the point.
The PCs are missing the point most by cancelling the building of the police college. They did it saying we had no need right now, and so rather than spend more, save the budget by cutting it. While the police chiefs of the area might say there is no need right now, they aren't looking at the big picture the province's future, which is what we need to expect the PCs to do on our behalf.
This police college could become an incredible export for our province. Law enforcement agencies from across the western provinces, or even further, should be looking to Alberta for models of great enforcement. This college would be the key to making that happen. With the creation of this college, suddenly we have diversified our market even further, easily making up for the $122 million the PCs hope to save right now.
Imagine officers of the Lethbridge police, the RCMP, the Vancouver police, and the Toronto police getting upgrades on their training in Fort Macleod. They bring business to Alberta with them. The standardized curriculum Jonathan Denis is hoping for would be so easily implemented at a centralized location. Peace officers such as the late Rod Lazenby could get the professional development they need right in our own back yard. American police officers could learn how to diffuse situations without the use of firearms.
Less reliance on oil and gas revenue means more stability in the budget. Therefore, diversifying into the field of law enforcement couldn't possibly be a bad idea.
The mayor of Fort Macleod knows this. It's why his community has injected over $4 million into the project, over twice what the Alberta government has put in so far. $4 million which the Alberta government now expects Fort Macleod to eat. This is no drop in the bucket for the town. It staked its entire future on it. Now the PC government is killing this future.
Sure, police chiefs said it's not a police-driven initiative, and seem to have supported the government's decision. I would too, if all I was concerned about was my own jurisdiction. But it's the government's responsibility to consider more.
We should demand this project be plugged back in. It's for our future's safety and economic health. Forget the optics of the PCs maligning the Livingstone-Macleod constituency twice in 1 month. Forget the optics of the PCs cutting less than a third of a percentage of the budget to make up for lost unstable revenues. Forget the optics of police chiefs supporting the Alberta government when their primary focus is their own jurisdictions.
Instead, look at what the Fort Macleod mayor saw up until a few hours ago; a future with promise.