New Alberta Liberal leader reflects urban values

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Alberta Liberals have once again chosen a new leader to fight them out of the political wilderness. Good luck to them – they will need it after 23 consecutive losses at the polls. There is a message in all those losses, particularly for rural Alberta. But don’t expect the Alberta Liberal party to understand our issues in order to change that dismal record. They have had to make a choice and they don’t see much hope in the Alberta countryside. But that’s just part of the city/rural split that grows in this province.

The Calgary and Edmonton media have declared anything outside of those two cities as rural and a political wasteland. That may come as surprise to those living in subdivisions in Red Deer, Lethbridge and Grande Prairie and many other centres. But isn’t it curious that urban media commentators deem your political awareness to be based on where you live. If you live in Toronto/ Calgary/Edmonton you are deemed to be naturally politically smart, but if you live in Three Hills (just an example), according to the urban media you are politically incorrect and just plain dumb. But I digress.

Having said that, Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives figured out a long time ago that capturing the so-called rural vote will lead to capturing votes on the fringes of the city and if that leads to capturing urban voters, well so be it – in the end it works. Liberals and NDP, whether federal or provincial, never seem to figure that out.

To be fair, all big city politicians are renowned for not having a clue about rural and agriculture issues. For instance, the new Alberta Liberal party leader David Swann has already declared his opposition to pesticides, which are integral to agricultural production in this province. Earlier this year, your humble editor engaged in an e-mail exercise to ascertain Mr. Swann’s perspective on pesticides – despite being a professional he chose to support conjecture and politically correct wishful thinking rather than scientific proof on the issue.

That sort of urban green lobby group approach indicates where Mr Swann and his Alberta Liberal colleagues will be going. They are writing off a good chunk of Alberta voters who make their living from agriculture. Another chunk they can write off are folks that make their living from the oil industry, many of those voters live in small towns. You may recall, that the Alberta Liberals supported even more draconian royalties than the Conservatives prior to the last election. They also want to stop further oilsands development. Guess who benefits from those jobs and services?

So what could the new Liberal leader do to get voter interest in rural Alberta. The reality is nothing, because any new policy that would appeal to rural voters would alienate their urban voter base. Can you imagine a Liberal party that would come out in full support of commercial agriculture and all-out resource development. I suspect that would go against every grain in Mr. Swann’s body. I expect if they think about ag issues at all, it will be from the leftish National Farmers Union perspective – which seems to be a return to peasant agriculture – that’s not Alberta.

But there may be hope for Alberta Liberals, faint as it may be. Changing their name might help, it will fool some people, but there is a danger of offending their city base as their voters there like being called Liberals.

Embracing local issues has potential. The Alberta Green party surprised many when it came in second in the Lacombe riding. They did so with a very strong local candidate who became identified with an important local land issue. I recall the late great NDP leader, the legendary Grant Notley, winning in rural Spirit River simply because he was such an outstanding person. That may be the only approach the Liberals have in getting anywhere in rural Alberta.

But any progress in political reality for Liberals in rural Alberta is remote. It is unlikely that they will suddenly understand rural issues simply because their survival depends on competing for NDP and Green party voters in Edmonton and Calgary. That guarantees that their ag and environmental policies will be leftish, politically correct and totally out of step with voters in rural Alberta.

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