My first stab at The Meliorist’s opinion piece:
Political change in Alberta tends to reflect the open expanse of land and the spread too thin homesteads that dominate our prairie province. Pockets of individuals alienated and disaffected by the central government, afraid the brave the harsh climate they perceive. Coupled with groups of elites, people in small and shaky compartments, lifted away from the groundswell, and isolated from each other.
These past six months have seen the political landscape in Alberta shift. It may be small and it may be that only the most hard core of political pundits have followed the minutia of our political landscape, but this shift is cataclysmic in terms of Alberta politics.
With another provincial election still three years away, voters are already questioning what their elected officials are doing to reflect their voice, in the legislature and in policy decisions. Albertan’s expressing dissidence have evolved past letter writing and direct engagement with MLA’s through town halls and the like. The calls for change are progressively more vocal and more public.
Pieces of legislation, such as Bill 44, are debated in the streets, in cafés, on Twitter, blogs, and through mainstream media. Daily newspapers now have blogging added to their web content to allow their journalists to be ever more present in Alberta and ever more relevant, and these journalists are using that to express and reflect Albertan’s dissatisfaction with their governments.
The Wildrose Alliance Party, a party that few Albertans took note of a mere 4 months ago, now has over 11 000 members, a seat in the Legislature, and more media coverage for their leadership convention than the opposition parties could muster for town hall on health care.
The visible advantage the WAP has gained is in large part due to their vocal criticisms of the Stelmach-led government. While the current opposition seems content to rest on their laurels and travel the province speaking to small groups of disenchanted Albertan’s, the WAP was aggregating legions of Albertan’s frustrated with the lack of responsiveness by their MLA’s and channeling that desire to “send Ed a message.” The Glenmore by-election win was the first public clue that we are indeed in the midst of a fundamental shift in the way Albertan’s are participating in their provincial democracy.
Progressives are seeing this, and noting the advantage it presents. Split the right to strengthen the left is a historically oft-used tactic, though in Alberta, changes in government rarely go left but they do always go big.
Events like ChangeCamp, and other grassroots movements do what the WAP has done already. They bring people together and work to unite them around a common cause. For the WAP it was to “send Ed a message”, which its new leader, Danielle Smith, seems to have taken up as her personal war cry. For the progressives, the rallying cry seems still unclear.