Saturday, February 05, 2011

Your once-in-a-century chance is now!

In 2008, for Alberta's last election, only 40% of eligible voters decided to cast a ballot. Many people  cite cynicism, apathy or a lack of likable candidates as reasons to not vote. All of those reasons will disappear for the next election.

If you care about whether there will be an ambulance available when you need one, how long you have to wait for medical attention or the number of students that will be in your child's classroom then you should care about Alberta politics. If you care about the environment, the cost of college tuition, the price of gas, the state of highways, how our seniors are cared for, what our parks look like, whether we have clean water to drink, where electrical lines will run, what happens to children in abusive homes, whether we are selling our oil at a reasonable rate, what might happen with your job or how much taxes you pay then Alberta politics affects you. Heck, if you are concerned about having your streets plowed there is even an element of provincial governance affecting that.

So many of the decisions that affect your everyday life are determined by the Alberta legislature, and now you have a chance to affect those decisions unlike any other Albertan that came before in the province's 106 year history.

Currently, there are five provincial parties represented in the legislature and three of them are going through a competition to determine who their next leader will be. These parties represent a wide diverse set of values and there is no doubt that at least one of them would be reflective of your values.

At the ends of the political spectrum are the two parties with leaders in place, the Alberta New Democratic Party and the Wildrose Alliance Party. Check out their websites, if you like their policies you will like their leaders. Both Brian Mason and Danielle Smith are likable, effective advocates for their party members.

If you decide that those two parties are not for you, then I encourage you to look into the Alberta Party, the Alberta Liberal Party, or the Progressive Conservative Party. These three parties sit somewhere in between the NDP and the WAP. And they are all engaging in a leadership campaign over the next 9 months or so. There is likely going to be over a dozen people committed and courageous enough to put their names forward to become one of this province's next premiers.

With this range of choice and opportunity to influence, no-one should be left without a voice.

Take a look at the party policies and see which ones support your vision for Alberta.  At this point, you don't even have to commit to one party! The state of things today is very fluid and in any party there will be some policies you like and some you don't. Different leadership candidates will emphasize different priorities and members coming and leaving will have influence over the policies. Memberships cost between $5 and $10 for the year and will keep you up-to-date and provide you with a chance to select the leader.

Next, find out about the potential leadership candidates and get behind your favourite(s). The leader will have a lot of influence on the actual decisions of the party and which policy pieces will be prioritized. You can support your favourite candidate by voting for him or her, talking about him with your neighbours, volunteering for her campaign or making a donation.

As the leaders are selected and the state of flux starts to thicken we will be headed right into a general election where you can reassess which leader-party-candidate combination works best for you in your riding, then you can get involved in that campaign or simply vote.

With this state of affairs, cynicism is not an excuse, lack of candidates is not a reality and apathy will not be accepted. Get off the sidelines and get in the game - it is your responsibility as a citizen.

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