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Without free votes, it doesn't matter what your PC nominee thinks

Our province’s Legislature, at its best, can be a place where the representatives of the people come together under the banner of mutual respect to face challenges, discuss solutions and solve problems.

Our province’s Legislature, at its best, can be a place where the representatives of the people come together under the banner of mutual respect to face challenges, discuss solutions and solve problems.

However, after 40 years of one-party rule, that’s not how things work in Edmonton.

In a globalized world, the problems we face are increasingly complex. Like a cancer, our problems shift, adapt and reemerge in new forms. Economic disaster, environmental catastrophe and class warfare seem to loom around every corner. In some cases, these problems are trumpeted by politicians who seek to offer themselves as a solution. However, in most cases, these problems are real, and deeper than the politicians themselves will admit.

To tackle these problems, we need ideas. We need new approaches. We also need the courage to follow through with the ideas we’ve already had.

No single politician, and no one political party has a monopoly on good ideas.

Unfortunately, that’s a message you will never hear from Alison Redford’s Progressive Conservatives.

For the past decade the PCs have been finding new ways to shut regular people out of government. More and more decisions are being made behind closed doors. Democratic reform has been thwarted and power has been centralized.

The result has been disaster after disaster. If Premier Ed Stelmach’s government had listened to the business community, it would have known tinkering with royalty rates during a recession would result in massive layoffs. If his government had listened to its own employees, it would have known centralizing health care was bad for patients. If the government had listened to it own MLAs, it would have known a five-year, province-wide deal with teachers was a horrible idea that may result in an Alberta-wide strike this coming year.

Instead, the PC machine has ignored all of us.

PC MLAs, like Richard Marz of Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills, became talking props of the provincial government. Marz, who has done little beyond shake hands and present cheques, will walk off into the sunset with more than half a million in severance pay. Marz, once the government’s mouthpiece opposing fixed election dates, is the poster boy for what is wrong with the PC party. Good riddance.

Now there are three candidates lining up to replace him.

I have not met with any of these candidates, at least not recently. I can honestly say that I think I would like all of them. People who set aside personal commitments to serve their neighbours are generally likeable. I’ve met many politicians over the years, from many parties. Those who kept their promises have my respect. Those who threw their beliefs overboard in pursuit of personal gain have my undying contempt.

I truly hope that a real conservative wins the race for the PC party’s nomination. Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills needs to send a message to Premier Redford that racking up larger deficits is not an option. A provincial sales tax is not an option. Allowing politicians to continue to set their own pay is not an option. Delaying democratic reform is not an option. Using taxpayers’ money to buy union support is not an option.

Most importantly, free votes in the Legislature - allowing MLAs to truly represent their constituents - is not an option.

Presumably, a least one of these three candidates agree with me. But the real question is, does it matter?

Does it matter what your local PC party candidate thinks about the issues? In the past, we have seen stronger candidates than these three reduced to talking props of the government.

For heaven’s sake, we have seen firebrand Ted Morton reduced to Stelmach’s minister of deficits in the name of political expediency.

If Premier Redford truly wants to bring change to the Alberta Legislature, she should start with free votes for MLAs.

Free votes will allow us to harness the power of the best ideas, the ideas required to help us solve the most difficult problems.

No single politician, and no one political party, has a monopoly on good ideas.

And, sadly, until we hear that message from Alison Redford, it probably doesn’t matter what your PC nominee thinks.

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