My friend Kevin Olenick has gathered some interesting people to talk about the now notorious crossing of Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and the 8 other members of the party, better known now as the Wildrose Nine.
Steven Britton is an outspoken libertarian, affiliated to no party, but a well known prior supporter of Wildrose.
Derek Fildebrandt was once the defender of the Canadian taxpayer, and now a spokesperson for the Oil Industry. While not a member of any known party, he considers himself to be politically right in general, and a facinating person to know.
Robyn Moser is one of Calgary’s brightest real estate stars. Stunning, clever and charming, she’s a staunch self proclaimed PC supporter, and one who sees Premier Prentice as a true leader.
It’s an interesting mix of people , all on the right, who have their unique outlook on Alberta politics, and by far have great unique insight on the crossing that most Albertans do NOT know and should. And more importantly, they’re the ones to know to see the story still unfolding in the backgroud.
Today, I made a small stand for what I believed in, leading to what probably was the shortest time I’ve ever held office as VP Communications for the Wild Rose Party in Calgary-Glenmore, and the end to my association with the party as well. Being the surrogate dad to a gay son, Asian, AND atheist, I was always an unusual member of the party. But a few events in the last year made me realize that I was in a place that was morally (to me) untenable. I resigned today with no reservations.
I’ve always seen myself as a fiscal conservative, but socially liberal. I believe in a balanced budget, responsible use of the public purse and more. But I’ve never hidden the fact that I’m a strong supporter of women’s rights, LGBTQ rights and a firm rejection of organized religion. I would suppose that would make me a moderate of sorts. I also try to emulate and follow a modern version of chivalry, whereas the highest aspirations of a person should be in service of others, and built a name in support of charity and goodwill in Calgary. I despise anyone who will not support the strength of their convictions, and I really do try to back my own acts come what may.
Until the WildRose, there really was/is no alternative to the PC Party. The Liberal and NDP parties are ineffective at best, absolutely forgettable at worse. I joined in 2009 and helped here and there and saw the party fortunes rise in the run up to 2012. In the belief of true libertarianism, where individual rights are more important than political expediency in the Lake of Fire debacle, leader Danielle Smith showed me true strength of character if not necessarily political realism. The party ended up managing to seize the jaws of defeat from total victory. But from that, a statement of equality (to atone of sorts) came from it, one that was truly inclusive. I believed I had found my place politically AND potentially ethically as well.
Even when the WildRose actually joined with the PC to vote down a bill to give LGBT youth a place to be safe, with that statement, I believed I might have been able to play a some sort of role to help shift social beliefs to create a truly inclusive party that can run Alberta responsibly. But alas, it was in the recent by-elections that I soon found myself encountering serious doubts.
At the Glenmore Inn election rally in October, I was going around talking to rank and file members to get an idea of what sort of issues they were encountering while door to door knocking. One thing they kept encountering among potential voters was doubt that the WildRose had put the Lake of Fire truly in the past. In face to face and online talks, I had spoken with other WildRose members who truly believed that any animosity of perception of racism and intolerance was over. But being a member of a sports team with gay members, and looking around at random WR events, I knew this was far from the truth. What was sad was this was confirmed as I walked around. But in those several chats, what especially disturbed me was that LGBT people were described as “uppity” and “whiners”. This wasn’t a bad joke, or even a casual careless statement. Looking at each face, it was an honest belief. Needless to say, I was actually angry, no more like pissed and furious, on TV as I was positioned to stand right behind Danielle at the rally. I was close to storming off that day, but calmed down by the end of her speech.
The more I was talking with members after the event, I was honestly horrified to see how truly clueless so many of them were about how WR was being perceived (though I admittedly was thinking more in terms of how to get the right message out to the voters AND the members). But with a useless slogan (send the PCs a message), the use of negative ads (which has proven to disenchanted voters in the US) and a surprising rise by the Alberta Party in Calgary – Foothills with a message of hope, I realized that the party might have been hijacked by the right-wing and was shifting right. I still had some hope that this might just be a bad sampling and only representative of individual opinions until this weekend.
This past weekend at the AGM, the party, either in the misguided misunderstanding that nothing LESS than the statement of equality would do after the Lake of Fire event, or out of genuine desire to swing far right, actually BACKTRACKED and voted out the 2013 statement that affirmed and protected HUMAN RIGHTS.
In that moment, the party actually went against their leader and the recommendation of the MLAs, and basically said “screw you” to groups that have never felt included, or protected adequately compared to the white, christian majority. And the sad part, the membership seems to be falling on the argument that the more generic “ALL” statement supported is more than adequate. It’s far from that. In an ideal world, where peace reigns and harmony rises upon the streets, then it would be. But not a single member can comprehend ever the fear of a LGBT or minority kid who’s been beat up by another kid who belongs to that majority. As this vote proves to many outside of the party, “All” in the context of a Wild “Lake of Fire” Rose means the same as the famous statement in Orwell’s Animal Farm: ‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.’
This vote confirmed to me that the misguided angry beliefs of a minority of the rank and file holds actual sway in party policy. I’ve since spoken to another notable ethnic member who confirmed a similar experience as well over years. Ideologically, I believe now that the party is swinging far right again on social issues, and as such, totally in opposition to my own beliefs. And ANY party that visibly does not protect my son, is one that has lost my support, and in fact, earned my opposition.
I’ve been asked to stay, to reconsider and try to rebuild from scratch and be a part of the culture. I can’t. I wouldn’t ever be able to face my friends and my son with any pride or self-respect. To me, to serve in WildRose while it shifts right is an act of cowardice and insults those I love and care for. But I will find a way to serve, even if it means finding some way to reform through another party, or as a voice on the sidelines.
It’s time to reassess my political direction in this province that I love and dedicated myself to better for all. Just a funny thing to mention though, I worked to get elected VP Communications because I wanted the right message about the WildRose to get across. As my first major act as VP Comm, I believe I actually did just that, by sending a farewell message to the party.
One minor addendum. I actually did wonder briefly tonight if I should walk away quietly and not go any further. Then a particular malcontent and probably misguided fellow started to attack me relentlessly on Twitter board. I won’t mention his name, but his idea of insults are actually a badge of honour. He reminded me of the people I spoke to at the Rally… and as a result, I walk away proudly. And I won’t be silent.
(11-22-2014 Special note: There’s been a few questions that emerged over this whole tempest in a teapot. I’ve written a follow up blog piece that’s probably too long, a bit dull, but should clarify some things. You can read AFTER THE WILDROSE STORM here. )