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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Sure, now he wants people to vote

Ed Stelmach scolded Albertans for the disappointing turnout on Monday. He should perhaps have a look around his own caucus room next week if he wants to find a reason.

I mentioned in my long Sunday post that from my perspective, I wasn't seeing Manning's Tory candidate nor Glenora's engage in any sort of retail politics. Tories all over the province refused to attend forums. CBC's radio service had a weekly first-time candidates panel, and the selected Tory was told not to attend it after the first one. I think as we watch over the next few months, we'll discover the general quality of the Progressive Conservative caucus is not what it was in the era of Lougheed, or even the era of Klein - to use a sports metaphor, they're lacking bench depth. Some of those weaker candidates seemed to sit back and count on the Tory brand to carry the day, and for many of them, that strategy worked.

But it's not a strategy that engages voters. Saying "forums don't matter" doesn't encourage citizens to engage with the process. Electing not to door-knock loses an opportunity to tell citizens their voices matter. Reinforcing Alberta's reputation as a one-party state communicates to citizens not engaged with the Progressive Conservative party that they don't have the same involvement in the democratic process as those who are.

All of this contributes to a low turnout. We'll hear lots of talk about electoral reform, required voting, and so on for the next while. But the real solution is simply to have the apparently God-anointed natural governing party to actually act like Alberta is a modern democracy, and maybe Albertans will start believing it too. Unfortunately, it may also mean that as voters in a modern democracy, Albertans might decide to change governments occasionally, and from the Tory perspective, that simply won't do. Don't expect the Tories to take these steps any time soon.

And all of that is fine - if we refuse to punish the Tories for not treating us like real voters, that's our fault, not theirs. However, Mr. Premier, scolding us afterward for a problem your strategists are largely responsible for creating is disingenuous at best.

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