May 19, 2015

Why social conservatives should be happy about the NDP victory in Alberta

Brett FawcettRebel Blogger

As a social conservative, I’ve learned to be encouraged by the NDP victory here in Alberta.

Well, not by the victory itself, although there are a few things we can hope and pray might come out of it. Premier Rachel Notley’s roots are in Alberta politics; her father, Grant Notley, was NDP leader when the PC dynasty began in 1971, and I assume she knows that Albertans won’t take kindly to any really left-wing initiatives. 

Hopefully she will govern cautiously and not push the standard NDP agenda too hard; hopefully, she will look at the history of the NDP in Saskatchewan, which was beginning to review its anti-corporate policies, though not in time to rescue itself from the avalanche of support for the Saskatchewan Party.

Besides, no matter what happens, in the midst of the sinking sense of inevitability as the numbers rolled in on election night, there was something incorruptibly satisfying about seeing the likes of Stephen Mandel and Thomas Lukaszuk lose their seats. 

But, no, the NDP themselves aren’t what I’m hopeful about. The reason their victory has filled me with hope is because it proves that we should never give up on a lost cause in this province - especially a lost cause with a social vision attached to it. And social conservatism, it must be said, looks like a lost cause in Alberta these days.

This may come a surprise to non-Albertans, though maybe not as surprising as an NDP majority government. But the issue here is social conservatism: Belief in traditional marriage, the sanctity of unborn life, and so on. The prevailing wisdom of social commentators (until a few weeks ago) was that fiscal conservatism was alive and well, but social conservatism was fading away.

This dismal diagnosis began with the 2012 election and the defeat of the Wildrose Party.  The roots of the Wildrose Party were in stalwart social conservatism: One of its co-founders was Link Byfield, editor of the Alberta Report, which was a forerunner of the Western Standard which in turn was the predecessor of the Rebel Media. 

When the Wildrose lost the election, defying the polls, their defeat was blamed in part on a leaked email from Wildrose candidate and former pastor Allen Hunsberger which stated, paraphrasing Revelation 20, that practicing homosexuals would burn in the lake of fire. Albertans, it was assumed, didn’t want to vote for a socially conservative party, thus explaining why they abandoned the Wildrose at the ballot box.

But we need to be cautious about interpreting this. Polls indicate that a majority of Albertans doubt that human activity is causing climate change. Danielle Smith, at the time still Wildrose leader, was the only party leader to express that same skepticism; yet this failed to win her the premiership.

We can’t assume it was a difference of views that led Albertans not to vote for Wildrose; the blame lies somewhere else, perhaps in the fact that Albertans perceived the Wildrose as a somewhat unstable young party (an intuition which Smith herself and her fellow traitors went on to completely vindicate). Remember that Albertans are conservative by temperament as well as ideology which is, I think, why they voted for the NDP rather than the more moderate Alberta Party; if nothing else, the NDP has age and familiarity behind it.

Moreover, if the reality were as simple as “Albertans are fiscally conservative but socially moderate,” then the Wildrose would have handily won the last election. The Wildrose Party advocated forcing school boards to support Gay-Straight Alliances before the PCs changed their minds and decided that they advocated it, too.  

Under Brian Jean’s leadership the WRP has gone out of its way to be socially moderate; Jean jettisoned a Wildrose candidate for expressing concerns about the gay agenda on the Western Standard blog nearly a decade ago. Indeed, Jean’s only talking point in the leaders’ debate was his endless mantra about how the Wildrose were the only party that wouldn’t raise taxes.

Perfectly moderate, perfectly inoffensive, perfectly socially moderate, perfectly fiscally conservative. Yet, not enough.  It isn’t the NDP victory that should make us re-assess the Albertan zeitgeist; it’s the WRP defeat that should really give us pause. 

And here I fall back on my own anecdotal experience. I know a good number of socially conservative Christians who voted for the NDP. Why? Because they observed that the PCs and Wildrose weren’t going to do anything about issues like abortion. If no party was going to be pro-life, they reasoned, you may as well vote for the one that is most likely to throw the bums out. 

For some, it went further; they voted for the NDP because Notley had no problem using the language of morality. Her party had and continues to have a clear social vision, which is more than we saw in the marketing for either the PCs or the Wildrose. All those parties campaigned on were economic issues; they offered no social vision. There is something uninspiring about this. Conservatism is about more than economic liberty. As King James had King Solomon say: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” 

But is there any evidence that Albertans are secretly socially conservative? Well, the polls do claim that 70 odd per cent of Albertans support abortion rights and same-sex marriage, but remember that the last two elections have shown how fickle Albertan public opinion can seem. Besides, if the only politicians who speak up on issues like that come off as, well, a bit crazed, we shouldn’t be surprised if Albertans shy away from espousing those positions. 

If we had more Link Byfields and fewer Allen Hunsbergers, we might see different results in the polls. Besides, the polls themselves are somewhat perplexing: 70 odd per cent of Albertans, we are told, support same-sex marriage, but only fifty-some per cent support Gay-Straight Alliances in schools. 

More to the point, demographics are changing. As immigration into Alberta continues, we can expect to see more social conservatism coming with it, and we have to be ready to give that perspective political oxygen when it gets here. The ethnically diverse protests against the Ontario sex ed curriculum, and the election of Patrick Brown as the leader of the Ontario Conservatives, should be a great signal of hope to Alberta conservatives.

For the time being Ric McIver, reviled by the media during the PC leadership race for his conservative Christian views, is the interim leader of the PCs, and there have, naturally, been the rumbling suggestions of a PC-Wildrose merger, given that more votes were cumulatively cast for the two parties than for the NDP. 

If they do merge, will it be a party that isn’t afraid to follow McIver’s example, or to return to the Wildrose’s socially conservative roots? Or will the PCs or the Wildrose choose to adapt a more explicitly socially conservative platform than the other right-wing party? If so, will the relative success of one or the other of those parties in the next provincial election determine whether the other party either moderates or intensifies its social conservatism?

We’ll have to wait - and pray - and see what happens. But I will admit that the NDP victory gives me confidence in Albertans’ ability to surprise me.

(Photo: Dave Cournoyer, Creative Commons)


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commented 2015-05-23 00:51:41 -0400
Mr Fawcett, I’d like to know how you can equate a left-leaning, big-spending, big-deficit, big-taxation political party to “social conservatism”. They’re not equal. Do you even know the NDP’s platform? Have you looked at other provinces besides Saskatchewan that they’ve governed? Have you paid attention to the economic mess they created in BC, in Manitoba, in Ontario (pre Mike Harris), and in Nova Scotia?

I have talked to people who voted NDP — to a man they said, “Oh, that was elsewhere. It will be different here.” Naive in the extreme.

NDP people are emotional, and love a good cause. NDP people are for the homeless, the destitute, the sick. The problem is, they expect you and me to cover the tab for their fiscal irresponsibility. NDP people are all for the environment… until it requires them to make a decision that’s contrary to their feelings (excuse me, “beliefs”). As a case in point, I bring the BC forest industry. When the NDP governed BC, they were informed by the Ministry of Forests that there was a pine beetle infestation in a provincial park, and some large-scale clearcutting and burning would have to be done do mitigate the threat. Well, of course that didn’t sit well with the environmental wing of the NDP (read, environmental activists), so they dithered until it was too late. The pine beetle spread through most of populated BC, devastating the pine forests, and, indirectly, causing the deaths of sawmill workers in Prince George and Burns Lake due to dry sawdust explosions. Alberta is still fighting this infestation.

For what you can expect in Alberta, count on a carbon tax. (At least one.) So watch your gas prices hike dramatically. (Though how a tax will curb “climate change” is beyond me. In reality, it’s just a cash grab.) They’ve already said they’re hiking the corporate tax rate 2%. You can expect more onerous regulations bent on inhibiting the oil sands (in the name of “preservation”). You can expect infrastructure spending, but with no limit on the credit card. Oh, and that will necessitate tax hikes to pay for said infrastructure spending. Of course, you’ll have to bloat the bureaucracy to monitor all this political activity. The public service unions are gonna think it’s Christmas. Oh, and the remainder of the Heritage Fund? Wiped out. Empty. And being owed…. big time.

You know, even though they said they wouldn’t, there’s just not enough money coming in to pay for all this, so they’re going to have to introduce a provincial sales tax.

Social conservatism? This is how the NDP acts, as based on other provinces. A famous Russian remarked, “Never listen to what a Soviet says; watch what he does.” That statement can be applied here. I don’t care what Ms Notley says; all politicians (some more than others) say what’s needed to get elected. You have the briefest analysis of other provinces’ dealings with the NDP. Now you know what to expect, and it ain’t good.

And as far as your commenting that people shied away from the Wildrose, did you actually pay attention to the election results? The Wildrose GAINED seats.
commented 2015-05-20 20:31:07 -0400
People, mainly the youth, have become FOOLS.
Alberta is SCR**ED!
commented 2015-05-20 13:19:32 -0400
I need some help – what does < and there is another one $gt or something, mean?
I see these on a few comments and am confused by what they mean. I’m not good at the short cut in texting etc. So please help.
commented 2015-05-20 08:51:37 -0400
Bravo Zulu you are even more pessimistic than me. I was thinking between the first and second year we will start to see the effects of the NDP meddling. By the time 4 years comes around (though Notlry has the legal right to push an election to 5 years) we will see Alberta is a very bad spot. Many businesses will flee the the US or Sask.
commented 2015-05-20 08:12:50 -0400
I can tell you that it is very likely this result will make Albertans realize – in very short order – how important “recall” is.

It is my opinion the voters of Alberta will seriously regret this outcome in less than one years time.
commented 2015-05-20 02:39:00 -0400
Eldon, sho’nuff. I also know plenty of folks in both Edmonton and Calgary who went the strategic route and cast a negative vote simply to oust the PCs rather than voting for a candidate or party that they really wanted to see elected. I’ve never been a fan of strategic voting. If you’re going to bother voting, it should be for something, not against something. Otherwise don’t bother, or just spoil your ballot.
Speaking of not voting, my grandmother informs me that in her southwest Edmonton apartment building (full of 55+ folks) in Stephen Mandel’s former riding, the residents mostly didn’t even bother to vote (and for the elderly, not casting your ballot on election day is absolutely cra-cra). More than half the building apparently couldn’t be bothered, even though Mandel made a personal appearance at a residents’ meeting during his campaign. Apparently, he was so hammered by questions posed by the predominately septuagenarian and octogenerian residents in attendance that all he could do was hang his head in submissive silence.
I’m sure the seemingly arbitrary change in polling stations also contributed to a lower voter turnout among these elderly individuals. In the last election, they voted at a church that was within walking distance of the building. The new polling station was so far away that residents had to arrange for motorized transportation, which is no small feat for a demographic that for the most part lacks independent mobility, lives on a fixed income, and is often neglected by family members.
For that matter, how many Canadians studying/working/living abroad were actually able to cast their vote? My brother (a third-year medical student at the University of Limerick in Ireland who maintains Canadian residency and intends to return to Canada upon graduation) applied in writing to the returning officer in his electoral division for a special ballot on the same day the PCs announced the election, BUT HE NEVER RECEIVED IT. Worse, NO ONE RESPONDED TO HIS FOLLOW-UP COMMUNICATIONS.
What is the recourse for an Alberta resident who was actually denied the opportunity to exercise his right to vote?
commented 2015-05-20 01:57:29 -0400
I know several people that voted NDP because they wanted to vote out the PC’s and were told (by the polls) that the most likely option was the NDP. Having spoken to them since the election, they admit they didn’t even bother to look into the platform and what the party believed or promised, and now that they have, regret their vote.
Remember, we had at least two ridings where the split came down to <10 votes, and voter ignorance can make a huge difference in these cases
commented 2015-05-20 01:42:50 -0400
Glenn Radford, great comment about B.C. But Brett Fawcett’s blog was, I think, deliberately centred on Alberta, and he shouldn’t be faulted for neglecting to make the comparison.
I have to mull it over a bit, but Fawcett makes an interesting point about the obvious shift in Alberta’s right-of-centre political parties toward neutered, inoffensive, politically-correct language and social policies. They have basically abandoned some of their most fundamental values and consequently no longer have any social vision. In an effort to cater to Alberta’s increasingly multifarious population, with its vast array of increasingly divergent social/cultural/religious views, these parties chose the path of self-annihilation by disavowing their core beliefs. Amidst such kamikazi-esque desperation by the political right, the NDP stood out for its proud, unapologetic adherence and proclamation to its founding principles, however misguided and naive they may be.
I think Fawcett’s point is valid. And Peter Voss, this point is not inconsistent with your view that conservatism requires both fiscal and social elements (although I personally take issue with this statement.) Regardless of how you define conservatism, liberalism, socialism, etc., the appeal of any “ism” isn’t limited to a single policy (e.g. raising or lowering taxes.), and can’t be reduced to logic and rationality (clearly, or the NDP would never have formed a government in Alberta.) People very often base their choices solely upon emotion, especially in situations where rational comparison fails, as in the 2015 Alberta election.
Rationally, I just couldn’t bring myself to vote PC (though I have in the past). Regardless of policy, a PC vote seemed to me as a sanction for bad behaviour, or an undeserved reward. I didn’t much like the policies, either, for that matter. I also couldn’t vote for the Wildrose (for which I cast my ballot in the last provincial election), especially after the mass floor-crossing. While I don’t necessarily agree with all the social-conservative “lake of fire” rhetoric, I had more respect for the party before it started censoring this kind of talk and allowed its members to exercise their Charter-protected right to self-expression. Stifling unpopular opinions in this manner is equivalent to Justin Trudeau requiring all Liberal Party candidates to be pro-choice, and it stinks. Plus, the Wildrose candidate in my riding was a 3rd-year university student, and I could not in good conscience vote for him simply because of his utter lack of actual work experience. Beyond a fiscal conservatism, I couldn’t find any common ground with this person. Economics just wasn’t enough. Try as I might, I couldn’t find a single candidate or even a political party that inspired my confidence enough to cast my vote. I think I now understand the “Crisis of Confidence” and sense of malaise experienced by Americans during the Carter Administration. None of the parties (except the NDP) promise anything but more of the same, and what’s worse, I feel as though they aren’t even listening to the public anymore. If they’re going to tune me out, I’m going to repay them in kind.
So, for the first time in my life since I turned 18, I spoiled my ballot. I chose “none of the above”, because I expect more from a political party than just catering to what it decides is the lowest, common denominator. I won’t cast a deliberate vote based on what might be the lesser evil of various evils (PC or Wildrose vs the NDP), and I refuse to emotionally succumb to the populist allure of what is really no more than a dystopian, Candidean, “best of all possible [available] worlds” proposed by the NDP.
To sum up, the NDP at least offered a vision — albeit economically and rationally flawed — that people could respond to on a deep, emotional level. I understand that, I really do. The rational side of me prevents me from following suit, but the emotional part of me gets it. In contrast, the PCs have been gradually erasing its core social values in favour of a purely economic platform devoid of any kind of culturally-cohesive vision for years, and the Wildrose (for which I formerly had high hopes) are just following suit.
I couldn’t bring myself to participate in the electoral process this time around, and so I won’t complain. Despite being of a conservative mind, however, I am cautiously optimistic about the NDP’s chances under Rachel Notley. I’m prepared to at least reserve my judgment until the results come in, because at least Notley’s NDP appears to stand by their principles. Even when they were considered anathema to most Albertans, the NDP never wavered (although arguably, the core NDP principles have now become “de riguer” all over Canada, including Alberta.)
I’m sure my words don’t adequately convey what I mean to say here, so I’ll just finish with a quote by Walter (John Goodman), from classic film, The Big Lebowski: “[…] say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.” What the hey? After all, it worked for Lenin, although in the case of the modern NDP, that ethos essentially amounts to a collective expression of “Om” à la Don Draper. Slightly more meaningful would have been: “I am the Walrus — coo-coo-ca-choo!”
commented 2015-05-19 23:22:43 -0400
and who are all the Christians who voted for NDP? what numbers of electorate actually voted ND ? not a majority.
“If no party was going to be pro-life, they reasoned, you may as well vote for the one that is most likely to throw the bums out. " I doubt many people thought this way – not on the abortion issue for sure. NO it was a hate PC crooks vote that went terribly wrong. It got rid of the bad ones – and I doubt very very much if Notley will restrain herself and her radicals – she already hired a radical as chief of staff . Beware……
commented 2015-05-19 23:21:19 -0400
Sorry Brett Fawcett but the glass is half empty. The Alberta economy is toast.

Ontario with Boob Ray tanked the economy. Greg Selinger is still in the process of digging Manitoba into a deep financial hole. Lorne Calvert may have “balanced” the Sask budget, but the economy went nowhere, fast! Why should we expect Notley, especially after hiring Topp as her chief of staff, to not tank Alberta’s economy?
commented 2015-05-19 23:13:17 -0400
The history of the NDP will again repeat itself in Alberta, as it it did in Saskatchewan, Manitoba,Ontario and BC. It doesn’t matter how this party starts out the results will be the same. Industry will fold or move to provinces that will tax them to death. People will move out of the province to follow jobs as they did from Sask. to Alberta because of the NDP failing to promote and welcome industry. Notley’s true NDP coulour’s will reveal themselves in the next six months. Alberta can no longer claim to be rat free.
commented 2015-05-19 22:56:48 -0400
Rachel Notley’s parents were "liberation theologists’
Barack Hussein Obama, aka Barry Soetoro is a “liberation theologist”.
Reverend Wright, who said “America’s chickens have come home to roost” , and God d**n America..’,
is a “liberation theologist”.
It is Marxist socialism.
If it becomes subservient to islam, it will be islamo-socialism.
Pierre Elliot Trudeau was socialist..Castro is a communist.
They were well acquainted.
Is Mr. Obama a muslim?
Is J. Trudeau a socialist?
Remember the tree, and the fruit?
commented 2015-05-19 20:35:38 -0400
Patrick Brown. Whodat Jr.
commented 2015-05-19 20:35:22 -0400
I go along with PEDER SLUYS to question the logic of how one can conclude that the election of the NDP in Alberta is beneficial to social conservatives. A “conservative” in my view is both a social conservative and a fiscal conservative; otherwise one is left with a half-baked conservative or ‘progressive’ conservative. Witnessing all the political parties voting for Bill 10, including enthusiastic support by interim Wildrose leader Heather Forsyth, seemingly left many Albertans with no political party with social conservative principles to support as they all are unprincipled and politically-correct. With that vote Forsyth created confusion in the public mind about where Wildrose stands on social issues. In addition, new Wildrose leader Brian Jean has distanced himself from social issues, declaring prior to the election that Wildrose has “no interest in social issues”. The bottom line for Wildrose Party today is: Will the real Wildrose Party please stand up? Have Forsyth and Jean set the course for the Wildrose Party? The question remaining is whether the positions taken by Forsyth and Jean are reflective of the grassroots support for Wildrose?
commented 2015-05-19 19:18:04 -0400
I was raised in Vancouver, in 1973 when I was 20, the NDP were elected, I left for Alberta in 1976 after watching how they were destroying BC. Having retired now I will watch Alberta be destroyed. Granted, with the incompetent governments post Ralph Klein, and seeing how they were doing to Alberta what NDP did to BC back then I would be upset except the people have done it to themselves. All you young Albertans, if you are smart you will move to Sask. it is now the only province in the country where, if you work hard, you will do really well. Sask. is the “Alberta” of the early seventies now. Sask. is the only province in Canada now that has a competent government and you will soon see how quick a province (Alberta) can go down the sewer with bad governance.
commented 2015-05-19 18:52:23 -0400
the illogic of this article astounds me. i question whether this writer knows anything about alberta or the ndp (for that matter). how can you possibly say the ndp would be beneficial to social conservatives?? that’s like says hitler would be good for jews.

a prominent reason the wildrose lost was b/c they were characterized as a racist party (not this election, the subsequent … but the taste in the mouth persists) by the unions, media, and even 2 city mayors. union and katz money paid for the smear.

now the ndp will use their power to stay in power. how? by increasing their voting base – by hiring more public servants and by increasing the ease to get on social welfare. they will also strengthen the unions so their war chests are full for the next election. likely they may contemplate reworking election boundaries etc, to give more power to cities and less to rural areas.

their only mistake to cost them power for the next election? a pst. when they bring it in, voter anger maybe sufficient to dethrone them. killing the economy would hurt them also, but they will likely blame it on the global economy or tell us its doing better and the voters will believe them.
commented 2015-05-19 16:27:24 -0400
Brett, there is, I realize, a tendency to only recognize Canada as a country of nine provinces, ending at Alberta.
You do your article a disservice by not having knowledge of the politics of BC, where, unfortunately, NDP is gaining ground federally, but where NDP has always, with only brief respites, had a strong following provincially. Why that is so is very hard to understand by a sane person, it is also very relevant to your article that recently, the NDP, who enjoyed a huge lead in the polls leading up to the last provincial election, were rejected by the voters on election day and the incumbent Liberals (who claim to be conservative here) returned to office with a majority.
The reason for this was the NDP leader, Adrian Dix, started talking about what he would do as premier, PRIOR to being elected, thereby opening the eyes of the electorate before it was too late. Dix vowed to shut down pipeline projects, and claimed that the “ideal” job for a young person was a government job.
If he’d kept his mouth shut and let the populace vote with ignorance, guided only by the media, he’d be wreaking havoc on the BC economy today as premier.
I was extremely disappointed, leading up to the election, that the polls suggested that BC voters had either forgotten, didn’t care, or had forgiven the NDP’s atrocious record of governance during the 1990s when they became entrenched, and could not be ousted because of a fractured Right, represented by a party calling themselves Liberals. When the Right became strong enough to win an election, the NDP simply published blatant lies about the state of the provincial budget being balanced. The common media referred to this, lovingly, as the “fudge-it budget”. It entrenched the NDP for another term, interrupted only by a premier’s resignation due to his corruption being discovered, and allowing them to see to completion a half-billion dollar failed shipbuilding program ($497million lost after the badly designed ships were sold at auction). The NDP were able, during their tenure, to render BC a “have not” province (a feat not since duplicated), and created a BC-only recession, driving corporations out of the province, and sending real estate values plummeting while the rest of the country was enjoying a prosperous economy.
Despite being reduced to 2 MLAs when they were finally driven from office, they recovered, unapologetic, and wheezing the same old socialist crap. Go figure.
For future reference, next time you are looking to cite an example of gross ineptitude, corruption, favouritism, negligence, and total lack of morality on an ongoing basis during an NDP governance, (which, for them, is business as usual), consider BC. It will be a year or so until Alberta produces a more current example.
commented 2015-05-19 15:49:55 -0400
A very “glass half full” viewpoint. Interesting.