Just under two years ago, on a cold December evening, I found myself at a small town Christmas concert in southern Alberta speaking with a despondent constituent. With tears in her eyes, she told me that she had just sent a $20 donation to the ex-leader of the Official Opposition, Danielle Smith. I know for some, it doesn’t seem like a lot of money, but I got the sense that it meant a great deal to her. It was a sacrifice for a cause and principles she believed in.
That concert was one of my first public events after a whirlwind day that swept nine of my former colleagues to the then government benches. The hurt, the sorrow and, yes, even anger were palpable. However, the shock eventually subsided after Albertans definitively had their say at the polls that they would not tolerate or support this type of backroom dealing. Today, that event has been relegated to merely a sad footnote in Canadian history.
It’s been said that in politics, absurdity is not a handicap. As I watched Premier Notley embrace PC MLA Sandra Jansen and welcome her over to the government side, I started to see why that may be true.
Once upon a time, the leader of the fourth party NDP said that those floor crossings represented “a betrayal to a number of different voters” and that “both leaders are equally guilty of betraying the people who voted for them.”
Ms. Notley campaigned, in part, on an explicit mandate to end these type of politics. But this week, here was this same person, now as Premier, embracing an avowed opposition critic while welcoming her into the government fold.
In the coming days and months, Premier Notley will have to justify if she is comfortable with such “betrayals” of democracy as long as they come in more palatable doses.
The fact is, this NDP government is building up an impressive record of empty promises and broken trust. From trying to break decades-old power contracts, bringing in a carbon tax and now this.
As with my former Wildrose colleagues who crossed the floor, I’ll leave the business of untangling the intellectual knots they’ve tied themselves in to those now on the government benches. They are ultimately accountable for their actions, and as in 2015, I know Albertans will definitively give judgement on the actions of all those involved.
Albertans are honest people. They believe in the honour and unspoken contract of a handshake. It’s no different at the ballot box. Albertans work hard and expect their politicians to stay true to their word. Is it any wonder that voters disengage from the democratic process when their trust is repeatedly violated like this?
After all the NDP government’s new taxes, added debt, and actions against business, for an opposition MLA to pack up and move across the aisle won’t sit well with a growing number of Albertans who want stable conservative leadership.
The reality is between election cycles, many people have bills to pay, mouths to feed and households to maintain. Party affiliation should tell voters clearly what principles and values an individual stands for and was elected under.
It’s why I am proud to stand with Wildrose. More than any party, we have proven to be resilient, principled and committed to maintaining the trust of voters. We stand for democratic reform, fiscal conservatism, and an economy spurred by the principles of free markets and more efficient government.
Regardless of how difficult that December was two years ago, it has been one of the greatest privileges in my life to represent the people of Cypress-Medicine Hat. My first priority, as it should be for any politician, was to honour their trust by listening to them and respecting their wishes. I stand with what I’m sure is the majority of Albertans who do not believe members of the NDP government can say they have done the same.
Drew Barnes, Wildrose MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat