Diana McQueen, the MLA for our constituency and the province’s Municipal Affairs minister, has put me on the horns of an electoral dilemma. The problem is that I quite like her. I have had a chance to talk to Ms. McQueen often over the years. Unlike her predecessors, Tom Thurber and Tony Abbot, McQueen is a far more visible, approachable presence in our community. She has attended many Calmar Prairie Player performances, not to mention the annual Fireman’s Ball and numerous other local events. She has been, in my observance and opinion, a most capable, community-oriented politician who has worked hard and done a good job in the position. The fact she’s in cabinet, makes it apparent my opinion of her ability is shared by those in her party.
It was nice to run into Ms. McQueen at Calmar’s Volunteer Appreciation Night (see what I mean?) She came to our table to chat about our group’s next production and I was flattered she took the time to renew acquaintances. So what’s the problem?
The issue is that I have concerns about the party in general and Jim Prentice in particular. The more I consider the budget, the corruption of the WRP, the steamrolling of fixed election date legislation, and other signs of arrogance and ruthlessness, the angrier I get. It’s not just the 59 new taxes, either; most aimed squarely at the lower middle class. It was that they were so small minded, they halved the income tax deduction one gets from charitable donations to 11.5%. The deduction for political contributions remains at 75%, however. It’s obvious who makes the rules. (Hint: not groups that only get 11.5%.) It’s no wonder some people see political parties as gangs in suits that hijack the government to line their own pockets and the pockets of their friends.
I have lived in this province my entire voting life. I recall how excited everyone was when Peter Lougheed swept to power in a blue and orange tsunami. There have been some sketchy times for the Tories during those four decades but they always hung onto power. This time, however, there is a level of anger from people in the coffee shops and around the coolers at work I have never witnessed before.
Will it mean a Tory loss? It’s hard to say being unable to put much stock in polls. Their track record lately in picking winners is about the same as my picks for 649 numbers. Albertans are a careful lot; small c conservative folk mostly, who don’t switch loyalties easily. That is one of the reasons we tend to elect, not governments, but dynasties that last so long they must inevitably be brought down by their own accumulated baggage. The need to turf them, to inject new ideas and shine some light in the darker corners of the government, becomes a must. Whether it happens this time is anyone’s guess but it may come down to whether people in my circumstance choose their incumbent or decide to finally switch teams.
So what does one do when you feel you have been well-served by a politician but have concerns about the party’s platform they must support? On the one hand, it seems patently unfair to punish someone who has excelled, despite their party affiliations. On the other, we don’t want to mirror the folly of the American federal system that allows bad government to happen because everyone almost always votes for their incumbents. The same voters who give Congress single digit approval ratings still overwhelmingly vote for the people responsible for their low rating.
The approach that makes sense is to do research. Don’t vote out of reflex. Read each party’s website. Try CBC’s online Vote Compass. See what pundits of every stripe have to say. Follow the leaders and the candidates in your constituency on social media. Remember that no party will perfectly match all your beliefs. It’s about finding the closest fit, not a perfect fit. It does take time and effort to be politically aware but not nearly as troublesome as winning back democracy that has been lost to apathy.
Once you’ve examined the parties’ platforms, judged their ability to bring them about and their credibility they will do as promised, rate the candidates of the parties whose platforms have merit. Pick the candidate you feel will do a good job implementing the platform.
Either that, or there’s always the standby; flipping a coin. Just don’t complain about the result.