The challenge for Wildrose in the fall session

Will more effective government help the opposition get stronger?

Our provincial legislators returned to their seats in Edmonton this week with the new premier promising a new kind of leadership in government with a completely reworked legislative agenda.

A statement from the government’s press office said: “As promised, Bill 1 will hit the reset button on property rights in Alberta by taking immediate steps to address concerns raised by landowners. Bill 2 will deliver on the commitment made by Premier Prentice to end entitlements and hold government to account by enforcing the highest ethical standards.”

The statement then listed several legislative proposals that would be included in the fall agenda of the provincial legislature, which included, among others “The Horse Racing Alberta Amendment Act”. Go figure.

As the newly installed, Ottawa-ripened premier of the province sets out to implement his agenda, observers from both left and right say they see varying signs, in line with their perceptions and interpretations, that Mr. Prentice is making decisions both to prop up the party machinery to muster internal support for his future moves and to correct some of the wrong undertaken by his predecessors, Ed Stelmach and Alison Redford.

And protection of property rights is the first of those wrong steps to be corrected, which is timely and on target.

Interestingly, the main opposition Wildrose Party has been beating the drum on the same issue for several weeks now and Wildrose MLAs., including our local MLA, have been writing articles and making speeches on the need to secure the property rights of the landowners, including contracts and agreements they sign with other parties to utilize their land in various ways.

At one level, it is fortunate that the opposition and the governing party agree on the priorities that need to be tackled, in this case the property rights.

At another level, it will be interesting to see what kind of opposition strategy the Wildrose will be left to follow once the adoption of new property rights legislation takes all the wind off their sails, at least for the time being.

As it is well known, opposition is a very important function in parliamentary democracies, so much so that in many countries, the opposition leader is placed right after the head of the executive power in state protocol. This is because the main opposition party is meant to be the main factor balancing the force of the government majority.

However, in Canada, and in Alberta, in particular, we seem to be lacking strong, efficient opposition forces to challenge the governing political forces.

Wildrose have gained prominence thanks to the clumsy criticism of the PC policies by the provincial Liberals and NDP (and Greens) and once they have gained their main opposition title, Danielle Smith and her colleagues did not really have much of a challenge because Ed Stelmach and his successor were so inefficient politicians.

Now they have a much more experienced, knowledgeable and efficient PC leader to tackle in the shape of Premier Jim Prentice.

How Ms. Smith and her colleagues will handle their task of leading the opposition in the course of the next few months might well determine whether we will have the beginnings of another four decades of PC government in Alberta.

In this process, a well-oiled governing party machinery and effective government under the leadership of Mr. Prentice might well be an opportunity for Wildrose Party to learn how to improve their performance as the main opposition.

A battle-hardened rival is always a good opportunity for a fighter to learn from his mistakes, learn and develop new moves to identify and exploit the weaknesses of the opponents.

Let’s hope that Wildrose leadership will make use of this opportunity to become a better opposition force, and in the process they might prove their worth to be the next governing party of the province.

– Mustafa Eric