UCP may well be ‘strong,’ but just how ‘free’ is it?

PressReader - BRUCE_CAROL_ROWE Channel - UCP may well be ‘strong,’ but just how ‘free’ is it?
Choose Al­berta’s Fu­ture.You might re­mem­ber that eye­rolling snore of a slo­gan used by the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives in the 2015 pro­vin­cial elec­tion.It was one of the worst cam­paign mot­tos in re­cent mem­ory, re­mark­able only for the stun­ning piece of irony it be­came for the ill­fated Jim Pren­tice gov­ern­ment.Vot­ers did in­deed Choose Al­berta’s Fu­ture, but it cer­tainly wasn’t in favour of the PCs, who were dec­i­mated down to 10 seats.While the Pren­tice team should have tried harder, cam­paign brand­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing tends to be a no-win ex­er­cise.Get too ag­gres­sive with your mes­sages, and you are ac­cused of neg­a­tiv­ity. Stick with colour­less plat­i­tudes, and be pre­pared to hear the boos of ap­a­thy.And no mat­ter what you do, vot­ers typ­i­cally see what they want to see.Take the lat­est ef­fort of the United Con­ser­va­tive Party, which re­leased a pair of pre-elec­tion cam­paign ads Mon­day un­der the slo­gan Al­berta Strong and Free. Though the words are most com­monly known as lyrics in O Canada, the party says it built the phrase from Al­berta’s of­fi­cial motto, Strong and Free (for­tis et liber).“Al­berta will be a strong voice in the fed­er­a­tion and a place where peo­ple are free to pur­sue their as­pi­ra­tions and to live their val­ues,” UCP cam­paign di­rec­tor Nick Kools­ber­gen wrote to sup­port­ers in an email Sun­day.While the “strong ” part of the slo­gan is self-ex­plana­tory, the “free” part begs a few ques­tions.Such as, is the UCP al­leg­ingthat Al­ber­tans are not free to “pur­sue their as­pi­ra­tions and to live their val­ues?” If that’s the im­pli­ca­tion, then what con­straints is the party tar­get­ing?The UCP’s slo­gan also car­ries a whiff of hypocrisy, con­sid­er­ing the party doesn’t al­ways prac­tice a high level of free­dom within its own ranks.UCP MLAs cer­tainly didn’t seem free to de­bate or vote on Bill 9, which cre­ated bub­ble zones around abor­tion clin­ics.Most cau­cus mem­bers have also not been free to do me­dia in­ter­views and, when they are per­mit­ted, they gen­er­ally aren’t free to stray from pre-ap­proved talk­ing points.Those sorts of re­straints have dogged UCP Leader Ja­son Ken­ney in re­cent months with ac­cu­sa­tions of a dic­ta­to­rial style that is an af­front to the “grass­roots guar­an­tee” he ini­tially promised would guide the UCP.It’s the rea­son cited by a hand­ful of dis­grun­tled party mem­bers, in­clud­ing for­mer MLA Ian Dono­van, for their de­ci­sions to leave the UCP re­cently.The other fas­ci­nat­ing fea­ture of the UCP ads is how many women are shown.Of the 23 faces that are vis­i­ble in the first ad, 21 are women.The sec­ond has five women fea­tured along­side three men.Watch­ing the ads, you’d get the im­pres­sion the UCP has a large con­tin­gent of fe­male can­di­dates, when that isn’t the case.The party’s web­site lists 25 women on the UCP slate of the 79 nom­i­nees ap­proved to date.The dis­par­ity in the UCP’s cau­cus is even starker, with three women among its 26 MLAs.Based on those num­bers, the com­mer­cials smell like false ad­ver­tis­ing.Still, it’s not sur­pris­ing that the party is try­ing to reach women, who I sus­pect are gen­er­ally more skep­ti­cal than men that the UCP is in­deed the “broad, di­verse coali­tion” the ads claim.It should be noted the UCP’s pres­i­dent and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor are both women.And though the slate of can­di­dates is far from a 50-50 split, the 25 nom­i­nated women in­clude a num­ber of strong nom­i­nees. Party of­fi­cials sug­gest most of the 25 will win their seats, which would give a UCP gov­ern­ment a healthy con­tin­gent of women in its cau­cus and cab­i­net.Whether a fair cam­paign or not, it’s re­fresh­ing to see the UCP run­ning pos­i­tive ads that of­fer an op­ti­mistic mes­sage. But the real test for Ken­ney will be if he can in­flu­ence pro-UCP po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tees to do the same. Af­ter all, it’s easy to run pos­i­tive when you know there are PACs to do the dirty work for you.Speak­ing of pos­i­tiv­ity, an­other politi­cian who might need a re­fresher is for­mer Wil­drose leader Brian Jean.Af­ter a joy­ous an­nounce­ment last week in which he re­vealed that his wife is preg­nant, Jean did a com­plete about-face Mon­day when he re­leased a scathing opin­ion ar­ti­cle.While Jean de­scribed Al­berta’s place in Con­fed­er­a­tion as an “abu­sive re­la­tion­ship” and de­manded the prov­ince seek a bet­ter con­sti­tu­tional deal, he also lamented that none of the par­ties seemed up to the chal­lenge.Does Jean plan to run for of­fice again? Is he try­ing to head a con­sti­tu­tional move­ment? Was he ad­vo­cat­ing for a par­tic­u­lar party to take up the cause?If we’re to take any­thing from his ar­ti­cle, it’s that the up­com­ing cam­paign will be fought un­der a frac­tious cli­mate.In that con­text, for­get try­ing to Choose Al­berta’s Fu­ture. For this elec­tion, it’s more im­por­tant to ask Who Is Al­berta’s Fu­ture?

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