Wednesday, June 09, 2010

WRA Policy Amendments

I'm cautious about Alberta's latest political party, the Wildrose Alliance party. It's another right-wing party, which given Alberta's political climate shouldn't be a big surprise.

Recently, Daveberta posted a copy of the proposals for amending the party's policy/position to be debated at the upcoming AGM. It's taken me several days to wade through the 172 pages of proposals.

The reading has been an interesting exercise. It tells me a great deal about the activist elements within the party. Most of the proposals are fairly general attempts to appeal to what they think are broadly appealing positions for Albertans.

However, there are hints of the more strident elements of the party in there too.

In broad terms, there's a lot of 'smaller government' in there (although saying Alberta is a "big government" province is a bit laughable when you compare us with other provinces in terms of government programs. Perhaps more concerning are a series of recommendations that smack of the pseudo-separatism "Firewall" model that Stephen Harper and his allies have advocated in the past.

There are also some interesting - if laughable - motions to scrap Alberta's personal income tax and make up the difference between oil revenues and cuts to government services. This merely goes to show how little some people understand about finances - and in particular the hazards of our continued dependence upon oil revenues to finance government.

Lurking in the midst of the document are a bunch resolutions aimed squarely at attracting the Ezra Levants who claim to be so hard done by at the hands of Alberta's human rights laws. These are among the first resolutions that hint at the reactionary conservative base in the party ... and they worry me on a dozen different levels, because they stand to create an environment where group slander can be used as a tool to facilitate discrimination and marginalization of minority populations in Alberta.

Following in that vein is a motion calling for specific policy and legislation to protect the "conscience rights" of medical practitioners in Alberta. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, it basically gives an "out" to any medical practitioner - from the doctors through to pharmacists and medical technicians the right to refuse to do something because it offends their religious beliefs. This has the potential to make accessing treatment an absolute minefield for Albertans who are female or GLBT in particular.

Inevitably, there are also a couple of motions demanding that abortion services be removed from the services funded by AHCIP. This is no surprise, I would have been more surprised if these motions didn't appear somewhere in there.

What it tells me is that the same constituency that substantially backed the Reform party in its early days are firmly entrenched in the Wildrose Alliance, and will be pushing constantly to drag it towards positions designed to appeal to the social conservative.

In the short term, the challenge for Danielle Smith will be to moderate these more extreme elements and present a set of party policies that don't reflect the desires of these groups. The longer term problem will be to keep these groups in check - the Reformatories in Ottawa certainly haven't done it, and the result has been one of the most destructive governments we've ever seen. In Alberta, it seems hard to believe that we could get much worse than the current government of Ed Stelmach, but in politics, it seems that every time you think you've hit the bottom of the barrel, someone lifts the barrel to reveal something even worse underneath it.

I'll see what gets through after the party's AGM later this month, but I'm not optimistic.

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