On July 22, members of the Alberta Wildrose and Progressive Conservative (PC) parties voted overwhelmingly to unite and form the United Conservative Party (UCP) of Alberta. Those who were proponents of this “uniting of the right” said it was the only way they had a chance of defeating the “evil” NDP in the next provincial election in 2019.
The PCs were ousted from power in 2015, losing 60 of 70 seats in the legislature while the Wildrose managed to increase its seats by 16 to 21. The message Albertans sent loud and clear was they had enough of the PC party and its bureaucracy.
This is why hearing UCP leadership candidate Brian Jean say the new party has to strike a blow to the bureaucracy of the NDP – after only two years in power – rings so untrue and hollow for me. I’m sure those good Albertans who voted to bring together the two parties did so in good faith. They don’t like where the NDP is taking the province, citing the ballooning deficit under the ruling party and the introduction of a hated carbon tax. They have a point; no one wants to be paying for a deficit for years to come or paying more tax.
But they also seem to have a selective memory, forgetting how the province got to this point in the first place, with the PC’s inability to diversify the economy, its questionable leadership under Ed Stelmach and Alison Redford and the very cumbersome provincial government bureaucracy and nepotism built up over 44 years.
I’m not a member of the PC, the Wildrose or the NDP and my political opinions lean more to the left than the right. But regardless of where I sit politically, I find the hypocrisy of the current rhetoric being spun by Jean and his fellow UCP members disturbing. In his speech announcing his run for leadership, Jean even used the words “repeal and replace,” reminding me of a certain politician south of the border. He speaks of “the constant creep of bureaucracy and big government.” Um…nothing was bigger or more bureaucratic than the PCs. Blaming the NDP for this seems hypocritical.
Jean was asked if his party would ensure it was inclusive for members of the LGBTQ community, of women and minorities. His answer? The party is “for everyone.” But when you start your campaign announcement by being introduced by a young child reading scripture and end by proclaiming “God bless Alberta,” you’re immediately alienating a certain part of the population, myself included, who don’t believe in a Christian god. There’s a reason religion and state should be separated.
Ultimately, Albertans will decide whether or not they accept the new UCP and its talk of undoing all the ills done by the NDP government. I just hope they don’t forget the conservatives really didn’t do things any better.