Friday, March 03, 2006

Progressive Wasteland??

Is there any chance for a progressive resurgence in Alberta? I’m talking progressive as in giving a damn about the poor, aged, infirmed, disadvantaged, mentally ill, homeless, neglected, and minority members outcasts of Albertan society that many pretend don’t exist. I’m talking about progressive as in giving a damn about sustainability beyond switching to coal after you have steam blasted and sucked every last barrel of oil out of the soil creating great lakes and frozen deserts of contaminated water and soil. One would think that somewhere in the province of Alberta there is a core of people who have some consideration of those who have been left behind, for cultural diversity or even for the natural legacy left for their own children.

In the 2006 Federal Election, every urban centre in Canada with the exception of Calgary and Edmonton elected at least one Liberal. The New Democrats are at least competitive in one or more ridings in every province except Quebec and Alberta. While the Liberals managed to get 4 members elected in 1993, their Alberta caucus was cut in half in 1997 and cut in half again when David Kilgore (who could never really decide what party he belonged in anyways) resigned and sat as an independent 2005.

In Edmonton, at least you can attribute the Conservative sweep somewhat to vote splitting as two Edmonton seats were won by the Conservatives with a close plurality (Edmonton Centre, Edmonton Strathcona). But in Calgary, there was not a single riding that was even close. This is pretty much the only province where you can basically send your neighbour to vote for you, because they all vote the same.

Provincially, Alberta has always been ruled by political dynasties and their federal voting record has pretty much followed the same pattern.

The Progressive Conservatives, Reform, Alliance and Conservative Party of Canada have swept every rural riding in Alberta since 1972 and only lost 4 urban Edmonton ridings in 1993.

I know there are progressives in Alberta, so I personally do not believe that the answer for the Liberal party in Alberta is to become more conservative. The Liberals under Cretien and Martin were more fiscally conservative than the PC under Mulroney. While the “Stephen Harper is a scary SOB” strategy may resonate with some progressives even in Alberta, I don’t think it makes a compelling case to vote Liberal. I think the difference is leadership. Stephen Harper is not a great leader, but neither was Don Getty. Conservatives in Alberta do not need a reason to vote Conservative. Progressives in Alberta need a dynamic leader and clear vision for Canada that includes Alberta in order to vote Liberal.

That’s why I am excited about a meaningful wide open Liberal leadership race, and why I unofficially endorse Gerard Kennedy as the next leader of the Liberal party of Canada.

Okay - the last sentence was a bit of a non-sequitor, but I'll explain why Kennedy in some future post. Until then .....


catnip said...

We're here and we've been working behind the scenes on various issues for a long time. Small "l" liberals did gain seats during the last election. Fear not. We'll make more gains but what we need is a more coordinated effort.

During the last federal election, I didn't receive one flier in my mailbox from my Lib candidate and found out his name from roadside sign. That's unacceptable. We need some real energy in this province and I'm just not seeing that from the current crop of our lefty representatives or supporters.

Even we on the left act too conservatively when it comes to pushing our agenda. Wouldn't want to scare anybody by actually making tons of noise now and then, right? :)

CoteGauche said...

Yeah - now if we could just do something about the Fraser Valley.


Anonymous said...

I work with a disability group in Alberta.
You may not want to acknowledge this but Alberta has the most generous programs for the disabled in Canada. We have a constant influx of disabled persons from other provinces for this reason. Especially from BC and Sask next door. In AB they can have liquid assets of up to $100,000, own a home, two vehicles, etc. and still receive full AISH payments and medical services.
IN Sask and BC they have to be broke -spend all of their money and can only have $2000 liquid assets to get help.

This has people who have received insurance payouts for accidents or who have trust accounts set up seeking asylum in Alberta and they are welcomed here.
We also have the highest percentage of community inclusion for the disabled in Canada.
I work with grants programs for groups and Alberta has numerous excellent programs to enhance their lives.
So, I would say theat "progressive" values are alive and well in Alberta.
Albertans also donate more money per capita to charity than any other province.
Maybe you don't see it everyday like I do.

CoteGauche said...

Alberta's minimum wage at $7.00 is the lowest in Canada outside of the Atlantic provinces - and it was just raised from $5.90 in September - the first raise in many years. This in a province with one of the highest and rapidly increasing costs of living in Canada.

In 1993 Welfare rates were slashed to help trim the burgeoning deficit. In October 1993, maximum basic allowances were cut by $26 a month per adult and shelter benefits by $50 a month for most categories of welfare recipients. At the same time, the province stopped paying rental damage deposits except in cases of family violence, stopped replacing lost or stolen cheques, and cut allowances for moving, telephone connections and laundry costs for infants The province also reduced coverage for prescription drugs, dental and vision care, and funeral services.

The employability policy for single parents was also amended during 1993. As a condition of eligibility, recipients must actively seek work or enter training when the youngest child in the family reaches the age of six months. The old policy exempted single parents from job search requirements until their youngest child was two years old.

In 1994, Supports for Independence available to 16-18 year olds as a last resort where they have left often deplorable and abusive home situations were established with benefit rates well below the (already reduced) general welfare rates.

A report by the Alberta Auditor General in 1994 found that there was absolutely no evidence that the thousands of people cut from the welfare rolls in 1993 and 1994 had found work. Many were issued 1 way bus tickets to Vancouver.


catnip said...

While it's true that Alberta has a disability insurance type of program for those of us who are disabled by illness, I'd challenge any of the Alberta politicians to survive on the amount provided when there are waiting lists of 2500+ in Calgary for low income housing and people on AISH often spend more than half their monthly income ($950) on rent alone. Sending people to the food bank who are ill and need adequate nutrition is not what I'd consider a "progressive" value.

It all looks good on paper, but the reality is much, much different.

Looking at our so-called "progressive" social programs from another angle, how can this extremely wealthy province justify giving single people who need welfare a paltry $401/mth? How is anyone supposed to survive on that - even if it is just for a month or two?

Don't get me started on our wonderful Albertan social programs... I could go on and on. I worked with the homeless and saw it all, literally, from the ground up.

Socialist Swine said...


I actually think there's a thriving progressive movement in Alberta. In the last provincial election about 42% of Albertans voted for either the NDP, Liberals, or Greens. Furthermore, it would strike me that the most ardently progressive progressives live in Alberta. You really have to stand true to your ideals to be a lefty in Alberta.

-Socialist Swine