In the aftermath of the last provincial elections, which saw the decimation of the Progressive Conservatives (PC) and the rise of the NDP, it is becoming quite apparent that many disillusioned people are thinking about a merger between the PC and the WildRose (WR). Due to the antagonism that may linger among the members of the two parties, this scenario may be a non-starter. Therefore let us consider if politicians learn anything from past history.
The first lesson to be learnt is that the PCs lost because of their own fault. It all started after the departure of Ralph Klein, a former liberal who ran the province as a conservative. Since then the PC establishment was successful in electing progressives instead of conservatives. The membership, manipulated through rules of selection, elected three progressives in consecutive leadership races – Ed Stelmach, Alison Redford and Jim Prentice to the detriment of three conservatives Jim Dinning, Ted Morton and Ric McIver.
Many Albertans wrongly believe that the PCs are still the Peter Lougheed party. Over the years the party has been infiltrated by progressives ( sic. Liberals), because they could never have been elected had they ran under their true colors. Policies have gradually reflected their position rather those of true conservatives. To stay in power, unfortunately the party moved to the left to counter the so called social conservatives, and in fact they gradually ran the province as liberals in disguise..
As a result, for many the alternative was the WR, a conservative party who often was branded as far-right and radical due to comments made by a small minority of its members. But more importantly, their lack of success at the last election was the product of impatience, and stupidity by their leader Danielle Smith. Jim Prentice and the PC establishment seduced Smith and with bad advice from Preston Manning, she decided to switch to the PC. The outcome of bad Prentice policies and betrayal by some of the WR gave Alberta the NDP majority which we shall live to regret sooner rather than later.
The Alberta Social Credit showed that a ruling party that stays too long and that feels entitled disappeared .The PCs went the same way. Any merger between the dilapidated PC and the WR should be a careful and slow process. Differences must be put aside and name calling must come to an end. More importantly both parties must realize that a conservative move to the centre is always a move to the left. As for the social conservatives they must come to the realization that the law of the land has already decided on the divisive issues of same-sex marriage and abortion. To fight each other on these grounds is not only futile but will never get them votes to form a majority in the near future. I do not advocate the capitulation of beliefs but understand that there has been a cultural change in society. However we must respect others beliefs and embrace the freedom of speech. Both parties will have to compromise and adapt to the new realities to accomplish unification.
The only way to get conservatives back in power is to let the grassroots join the party of their choice. A merger at this stage will still have the establishment members who screwed us involved. Members of any party who crossed the floor and who have been in legislature for eight or more years should not be directly involved in any merger talk.
By the same token we must ensure that members of the new party are true small ‘c’, common sense conservatives. WR who are in a better position should recruit new members from the disaffected PCs. To do so they will have to state clearly that they will embrace true conservatism ideals that are acceptable to the majority. As I wrote in Conservatives: Dead or Alive? ( Amazon.com) “Conservative values are about freedoms - the freedom to choose, the freedom of speech, the freedom of association and most of all economic freedom. True social values are about education, healthcare, respect for seniors and the rule of law. Conservatives should leave their egos at the door and avoid being trapped by social wedge issues set up by politically correct liberal zealots of convenience. I am optimistic about the future of conservatism, but cautious about candidates who will compromise conservative principles to gain and stay in power. “
Failure to arrive at a consensus will see conservatism perish in Alberta. Egos must be put aside for the good of the province; the status quo will only produce a leftist NDP governments for many years to come.