So far, the Wildrose Party’s pledge to do politics differently in Alberta has come up, well, short. Unless by differently it means different than other parties in other provincial legislatures, but with striking similarity to the way to federal Tories play the game.
The party has released a new website – aptly entitled “The Redford Files” – with flashy graphics and even an old western style “missing” poster, hammers the premier for her perceived invisibility on the decision by the U.S. State department to delay the Keystone XL pipeline.
There are a couple of problems with this approach. First, negative ads that are not easily accessible to the public won’t work. Except for junkies (of the political sort), people are not falling all over themselves to get to a website with one political cartoon and a veiled NDP MP’s tweet about the province adopting some federal policy plank.
The other problem is larger in nature. Much larger.
The Wildrose isn’t making headway in the polls. Just a three point bump in the latest numbers can’t be what Danielle Smith was looking for. Add to the fact the Tories are firmly entrenched at 51 per cent signals another romp for the party come the next election. The government is still attractive to Albertans and opposition politicians alike – evidenced by Bridget Pastoor’s defection from the last place Liberals on Monday.
The election of Alison Redford to the premier’s chair hasn’t just taken the proverbial wind out of the Wildrose sails. It’s marginalized the party and its populist, libertarian positions. Issues like land-use frameworks, fixed election dates and the ability for the Health Quality Council to call its own inquiries into the system has sunk the boat – forcing the Wildrose to come up with different ideas to draw attention to what it calls the government’s failings. Enter the website idea.
Attack ads are hardly a new political phenomenon. They are a staple of American elections and have made their way into the Canadian system on a limited and equally ineffectual basis, with all three parties using them in the most recent election. The website is another try at becoming a viable alternative to the PC’s. But, for a party that has fallen from 31 points and were once considered by a number of pundits to be a government in waiting, this idea is tired. It simply won’t work.
You know what might work? Playing the game in a different and truly new way.