The Conservative Conundrum

I have a challenge you can help me with.

Right now, and please don’t second-guess yourself, think of the word conservative. What does it mean to you? Hold that thought, please.

While I’m quite comfortable with change, I also take comfort in tradition. I believe in standards & best practices. I believe in the rule of law – I’m a lawyer – I value the principles given to me by my elders. That’s what I mean by conservative. And I’m not afraid to say that out loud.

In fact, I’m tired of hearing ‘conservative’ being framed, often disparagingly, as a right-winger with views cast in concrete. It’s polarizing. People are simply trotting out a script. My journalist colleague calls it ‘message track’.

For a moment, please resist the temptation to pick a political ‘side’. Here’s the challenge I mentioned off the top: What do you mean by conservative?

I live in Alberta, so the question for me starts with what it means to be a conservative here. I grew up in Ontario, and although I’ve been long gone, I can’t deny a certain conservative influence – nearby America and it’s heartland, too. But, surprisingly, it’s my father’s recent passing that has crystallized some things for me.

I’m the feminist who left the farm for the bright lights of the city. I studied law to understand ‘rights’. In spite of all that, my roots in that fertile farm soil never came loose. They still have a firm hold on my values and how I see the world.

To recap: I’m trained as a lawyer. Was a provincial politician. Founded an NGO to train women in Yemen. I’ve even been a corporate insider. I get the power of rules and laws. The conditions were ripe for me to become a rights-wielding social justice warrior. But I’m not. Rarely do I rely on rights, alone, to move justice forward. My motivation comes from inside. Like it or not, I have an unshakeable sense of personal responsibility. I inherited this, from my father.

To me, that’s the essence of being conservative.

I’m no libertarian, eschewing all government. There’s a role for strong government to stabilize the economy, and to intervene when needed to deal with jobs and economic futures. To work with the private sector and others to protect the vulnerable. To be clear though, personal responsibility motivates me more than laws and rules. Take away my ability to make choices, and replace it with government’s authority, and I’m in agony.

Over the coming weeks and months, I’m going to take a deep dive into this problematic question of what it means to be conservative in Alberta. And it’s heartening knowing I’m not alone in this quest. Many of you are reaching out, asking questions.

I invite you to this space – I’m building it with partners — that will evolve here and a spot I trust you’ll begin to see yourself in. And I want to hear from you. I need to hear from you. How do you embrace traditions, build on history and conserve what is good…and all the while remain open to the new?

I promise to share with you what I learn. In podcasts, in blog posts, maybe even in cartoons and pictures. And I welcome your honest feedback.

This past week, I’ve had amazing & intense conversations with Albertans who worked shoulder-to-shoulder with one of Alberta’s most remarkable leaders, Peter Lougheed.  He was a progressive conservative. Both words: progressive and conservative might mean very different things to you.

Why? Because Alberta is in crisis right now. More than ever, we need to understand how we went about building a better Alberta, decades ago. And how what we learned, then, can be applied to today. It’s not the first time Alberta’s economy has been bludgeoned by other governments in our own country. It’s not the first time Alberta has had no choice but to be formidable in defending our place in Canada’s Confederation.

Right now, outsiders are telling Alberta’s story. And we’re letting them. We need to do a better job of telling our own story, to one another and to the world.

And part of our story is what it means to be a conservative in Alberta.

Donna Kennedy-Glans, May 28th 2018

3 thoughts on “The Conservative Conundrum

  1. my natural political leanings are conservative, specifically progressive conservative, and for many of the reasons that you have outlined. have been for many decades. Stanfield, Clark, Mulroney, Davis. however, i have watched, to my dismay, to see conservative parties slowly and inexorably shift further to the right and get taken over by social conservatives. first, the merger at federal level of the PC and Canadian Alliance parties to form the CPC, and at the provincial level of the PCAA and WRP to form the UCP.

    i cannot, in good conscience, support the CPC or UCP.

    they left me; i didn’t leave them

  2. I think people have to get back to the basics. Like taking responsibility for their actions and not blame it on some other person or company. That a government rules for the people… the best interest for the majority. They aren’t put their for taxpayers to pay for their holidays or trips. Taxpayers have to be accountable for their spending so should the government by making it compulsiary to show expenses to the public. Hiding facts makes mistrust. So everything should be in the open or have a review board of 3-5 members making the spending possible for the government. The premiere has to answer to this board before getting money. Family members going on these trips are not allowed. Bei g upfront and honest makes food leaders and provokes trust.
    Sometimes when in doubt of which way to make the best decision a committee should be set up to canvass areas threw out Alberta as to where the majority of people would stand. It creates jobs for the people and gives information to the government. Albertans have more of a say in their province.
    We should bring back the Lord’s prayer, teach Albertan and Canadian history in schools. This way the children will have a sense.of worth for their province . It’s gotten to techy in this world
    There’s no family time outdoors as it once was. No family time period cause everyone’s chasing that almighty buck. Kids get out of school not knowing how to write, read , communicate with each other let alone try being in an adult world to communicate with them.
    Why doesn’t the small farmer or grocery store or any other small business not matter anymore. All self worth has been taken away. Seems it has to be Wal-Mart’s or superstores or some other giant operation that is crowding out the little guy. Has technology changed pushed the little guy out that was content and happy one time making a living.
    Why are we letting our veterans and seniors and soldiers with P.T.S. down. More of our money is going federal for immigrants to come in and we’re not taking care of our own. All these people deserve respect and they’re not getting it. Albertans should be able to speak up and say no more money from us is going federal to support terrorists that Trudeau let’s in.. maybe we have to be the leaders to start others to follow.
    Oil is a huge part of Alberta. Why do we pay for other countries has and oil. We have our own. We could’ve or would be in debt if the royalties were ours not the federal government. Now drilling is going out of this province especially when mostly got in. For a first term government there should only be s two year and not a four year reign.

    1. Judy… while you rise many good points, including the value of supporting small, local businesses rather than shopping at Walmart (something i fully support and do), you seem to harbour many views that are simply untrue, but which (sadly), are commonly spread by conservatives
      1. no oil royalties flow to the federal govt
      2. Alberta and Canadian history are taught in schools
      3. we should not mix religion and education, esp. to promote a single religion (i.e. recite the The Lord’s Prayer). families are welcome to recite it at home before school begins, or kids wanting to do (or other religions’ practices) it can gather at school
      4. we spend many, many billions on “our own”, including on vets, the homeless, the less-advantaged
      5. no PM, including Harper and Trudeau, are deliberately letting terrorists into Canada. they both have allowed Canadians who went abroad to fight for ISIS to return to Canada, because they are citizens and are entitled to do that. those that have committed crimes while abroad will face charges
      6. politicians must report on their expenses, and i believe they’re posted online for all to see

      hope that helps

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