The new Official Opposition must represent all Albertans
May 1, 2012 Leave a comment
Today, new MLAs were in the Legislature receiving their introductory orientation. If rookie Cardston-Taber-Warner Wildrose MLA Gary Bikman’s comments are any indication, there might be some lessons that new MLAs need to learn that will not be taught at orientation.
The Wildrose Caucus’ rookies, being the new kids on the block, will face heavy scrutiny in the anticipated second spring sitting of the Legislature, and comments like Bikman’s are exactly what people will be watching for. There are only so many staffers that the Wildrose has with Legislature experience, and they are likely facing a shortage of trained handlers (or fart catchers, if you prefer that term) to assign to each MLA. This problem will be made worse for them, given the decentralized nature of the Wildrose. The populist tendencies of its members will come into conflict with the practical necessities of managing Caucus business, which favour centralized command-and-control over discussion and dialogue.
Moreover, the Wildrose is now Her Majesty’s Official Opposition and must–despite the potentially republican leanings of some of its members–uphold the Westminster tradition of standing up for all Albertans, rural and urban. Bikman’s comments are all the more distressing, given the Wildrose’s weak showing in the cities. Having only two MLAs in suburban Calgary, and none anywhere in Edmonton, Alberta’s new Official Opposition cannot afford to tolerate such open antagonism to city-dwellers, if it hopes to expand the inroads it has made in Calgary or establish a beach head in Edmonton.
This means that the issues they choose to fight need to change as well. The property rights battle may have won them south and central Alberta, but most people in the cities either do not know or do not care about the property rights debate. Transit, municipal transfers, school overcrowding, etc. are the hot-button issues in the cities, and I wonder how willing some rural-centric Wildrose MLAs will be willing to pour over alternatives to GreenTrip, when it is an issue that most affects arrogant inner city sophisticates who are probably more likely to vote NDP than Wildrose?
If the Wildrose do not learn what it means to be the Official Opposition early enough, there will be more bozo eruptions, more needless discussion of contentious social issues, and more evidence that they are not yet ready to form government.