I have often said that politics would be better if there was less politics involved.
Let me explain what I mean.
Politics can be defined as the practice of conducting political affairs. That is; the creation and management of policy that dictates how the business of a government is run. In short – the job we elect our politicians to do.
But, politics can also be defined as taking advantage of a political situation in order to manipulate or exploit another person, group or idea in order to further one’s own agenda. More commonly referred to as ‘playing politics’.
Which is exactly the kind of game going on in the Alberta legislature right now. Despite the substantial changes made by Premier Jim Prentice, Alberta’s opposition parties continue to dismiss him as another newly elected Progressive Conservative leader doing the same song and dance as his predecessors.
The trouble is, Alberta’s opposition parties could be right. We have no way of knowing.
So far, Prentice has made a lot of changes the citizens of this province can celebrate and made good on a lot of his promises. So far.
But he isn’t the first premier to win an election with promises and not even the first to act on at least a few after being elected. At this point, no one knows if Prentice is going to continue being the accountable premier he said he would be.
However, we do know what Alberta’s opposition parties are going to do. The clue is in the name.
You aren’t going to find Alberta’s opposition parties agreeing with anything the premier or the government does.
Recently, Prentice announced his plan to implement an accountability act that would do away with the ‘sweetheart’ severance packages for departing staff, minimize sole-sourced deals and put further restrictions on any sole-sourced deals that do still exist.
It’s a plan that, on paper, lives up to its name. Still, that hasn’t stopped Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason from criticizing Prentice for not enacting the plan until after making certain appointments (like that of Jay Hill, Prentice’s PC leadership campaign co-chair, as one of Alberta’s new trade representatives).
More recently, Prentice slammed former Premier Alison Redford for her ‘Building Alberta’ branding campaign, saying the seven-figure cost to drive 300 signs into the ground across the province does not justify itself or serve as a good measure of performance. However, Prentice said he would not remove the signs as he did not want to spend further taxpayer dollars on a campaign he has already stated was not worthwhile.
This drew further criticism from Mason, with the NDP leader saying Prentice plans to reutilize them in some fashion in the future, like affixing new information on them to deliver updates, which Mason seems to think is just as bad as plastering the signs, which are dominated by the colours of the PC Party, all over Alberta.
Again, it’s the oppositions’ job not to agree with the government. But that’s what makes this frustrating. We all know if Prentice had spent the money to remove the signs, he would have been criticized for wasting more money on the campaign.
This is the problem that playing politics creates. Our new premier is in a catch-22, it doesn’t matter what he does, someone is going to tell him it was the wrong decision, or that he is just trying to put a new face on a broken party to gain popularity (though why that’s a bad thing, I don’t understand).
Either way, Alberta’s opposition parties will use Prentice’s decisions as leverage to gain more support for their own political agendas. Which brings me, finally, to the real victims of the political game. Us. The electorate.
If we decide to believe that Prentice is what he promises to be, the complete opposite of Redford and his ‘song and dance’ does turn out to be a big charade, we played right into his hands. If we decide to stand with the opposition, we risk losing a premier that could actually do a lot of good for our province.