During our province’s 100-plus year history, I don’t know if we’ve ever seen such a shameful display of poor governance in Alberta as was witnessed last week.
What started as an emergency room crisis, devolved into Cookie-gate followed by the ejection of ER doctor, Raj Sherman, from the government caucus, the firing of Dr. Duckett, the resignation of numerous health superboard members, and finally, the spectacle of Dr. Sherman being smeared by his former colleagues as mentally unstable and who is now being forced to submit to a psychological examination that might determine his ability to practice medicine in the future.
My disgust for what has happened has been well documented in the media so I am not going to repeat it. However, I will say, if there are people who need to have their heads examined, it is not the entirely lucid and brilliant Dr. Sherman, but is instead those who have involved themselves in this despicable display (namely Premier Stelmach, Energy Minister Ron Liepert, Minister of Health Gene Zwozdesky, Superboard Chair Ken Hughes, MLA and Raj’s replacement as Parliamentary Assistant for Health, Fred Horne, and any other PC MLA who has defended their party’s actions this past week).
However, as I write this column, and as I review the angry emails, web postings, letters and phone messages from this past week, I feel there is a need to offer something positive and hopeful. As embarrassed and disappointed as our government has made us, I am equally proud of how I am seeing Albertans respond.
I’ve never seen Albertans more engaged in provincial politics as they are now. There is a sort of political renaissance going on and you can see it visibly in every corner of the province and across the ideological spectrum. Obviously, the rise of the Wildrose Alliance has been the largest evidence of this much-needed democratic revival, but I also credit the left wing parties for offering more constructive alternatives to the status quo than they have in times past. However, regardless of whether the Wildrose sweeps to a majority at the next election, or whether a minority or coalition government emerges, one thing I am now very confident of is this; Albertans want change and the days of one-party PC rule are coming to an end.
The reason I feel this way is simple. There is a movement sweeping our province right now that I feel will become the defining underlying issue of the next election, and it is this; Albertans want their elected representatives to work for them. They are tired of their MLAs (particularly those in the governing party) placing loyalty to political party line over loyalty to the people they serve. They want their MLAs to be their voice in government, not the government’s spokesperson to them.
And this is where I feel the Wildrose and our leader, Danielle Smith, have something to offer Albertans that I do not see any other party offering. If elected, we have promised to enshrine mandatory free votes on every piece of legislation, as well as other democratic and transparency measures to ensure the culture of political fear and intimidation present today is eliminated (the full democracy and transparency policy can be found at wildrosealliance.ca)
And the reason we are championing this cause is because we understand this one undeniably true but almost entirely abandoned democratic principle. That MLAs are accountable first and foremost to the people they represent. Not to Party. Not to Lobbyists. Not to Special Interests. Not to donors. Not even to friends; MLAs are accountable to those who step into that ballot booth and with a pencil mark an X beside the name of a community member who they are willing to trust with the interests of themselves and their families. It is this right – it is this sacred principle - that thousands of our countrymen have died for, and millions more have lived for and it is this principle that we must fight with all we have to restore to its proper place in our democracy.
If we fail to do so, petty partisan politics will continue, distrust of government will continue to plummet, unelected special interests will govern behind closed doors, and our beautiful province will never become what it could be.
But I don’t see that failure happening. Albertans are leaders, entrepreneurs and pioneers. We are not shaped by events – we shape events. We are not victims of our circumstances; we take ownership of our problems and solve them.
This past week has graphically shown just how much our democracy is hurting. In much of the world such a week would only cement people’s fears and low expectations. In Alberta, it may be the week that leads to the restoration of true representative democracy.