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Tuesday, 23 December 2014 12:28

An effective opposition is necessary

Written by  Rose Sanchez
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We’re not sure 2014 could have ended with a bigger bang than it did in Alberta.

When calendars rolled over to January 1 at the beginning of the year, most political pundits could not have foreseen the implosion of the Alberta Wildrose Party.
Many journalists and political officianados stood with mouths wide open as they read Twitter feeds and watched the news as Alberta Premier Jim Prentice and former Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith stood side by side, big smiles, and clasping hands like long-lost friends.
Smith described the defection of herself and eight other Wildrose MLAs as a “reunification of Alberta’s Conservatives”.
In her resignation letter she encouraged Wildrose officials to have a serious discussion about the party’s future.
“In keeping with the objective of uniting Alberta’s conservatives, and as my final act as Wildrose leader, I hereby request you hold a meeting of members to pass a reunification resolution at your earliest convenience,” Smith wrote.
She also pointed to the successes the Wildrose Party has seen. They included “steering the province away from failed leaders and failed policies and getting fiscal conservatism, ethical government and responsive public health care to the fore of Alberta’s public debate.”
It is clear from Smith’s resignation letter that she believes the work isn’t over, but the values and principles of Wildrose members are needed more now than ever. They are needed, however, from within the Progressive Conservative caucus as opposed from sitting across the floor as the official opposition.While claiming a win for Wildrose, what Smith doesn’t see is that the defection of these nine MLAs to the Progressive Conservatives — giving them 70 or more seats in the 87-seat Legislature — is a loss for democracy.
It could be argued that one of the reasons the Wildrose has been so successful in influencing the ruling PC government is because of its minority position. When initially elected as the minority government, Wildrose held 17 seats. It was the largest Opposition Alberta had seen since the PCs took power and its members did a remarkable job of holding the government’s feet to the fire when it came to decision making. With that many opposition members, it was possible to have Wildrose MLAs taking on important critic positions, so these people had time to become well-versed in their respective portfolios and hammer government on the ideas they were bringing forward.
In all of the debate this past week what has also been lost is the control the average voter has over the political system. Some people have stated, with the future of the Wildrose in such jeopardy and the chances of Prentice deciding to play on that by calling an early election, there will be no choice for voters. Those on the rural landscape are especially concerned, where in 2012 Wildrose was seen as an effective alternative.
That simply isn’t the case. Alberta voters need to consider the idea of strategic voting.If a person doesn’t want to vote Progressive Conservative, it is better to vote for another party with the idea of building a strong and effective opposition than to not vote at all.
Unfortunately, Alberta’s political history proves — a 43-year ruling dynasty for the PCs — those people trying to make the argument for strategic voting will have an uphill battle on their hands.
Rose Sanchez is assistant managing editor with the Prairie Post. Contact her with your comments about this opinion piece at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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