Soon enough we will hear a great deal more about the Wildrose Alliance. Even though the Wildrose Alliance has minimal political power in Canada, the Alliance represents a greater trend of a growing conservative political consciousness in Canada.
Before we can understand our current political parties and why there is a growth in conservatism, we need to understand the historical conditions of democracy in the West. These historical conditions inform Canada’s presently growing conservative political and economic systems under a Progressive Conservative federal government majority
Some of the main issues that the current federal government focuses on are matters pertaining to the recent economic recession and to multiculturalism. The economy and citizenship are considered primary issues for a properly functioning democracy by right-wing organizations like the Fraser Institute, Canadian Heritage Alliance, and the Northern Alliance. Although these organizations differ in their approach, their political doctrine and the targets for their education practices remain similar. Conservative education tactics act to disguise historical conditions and how social relations are organized to create material realities while putting the blame for social ills on individuals. For example, often times, economic inequality is explained by the “floods” of immigrants who are exploiting the nation’s resources and occupying jobs and homes that are entitled to true and good Canadian citizens.
When a population — such as immigrants — appears to be a direct threat to a state’s existence, they do not appear to be lives, but as a threat to life. Thus, it is not only justified that physical violence and structural restrictions against these so-called threats is required for a properly functioning nation, but is also portrayed as necessary. Narratives of an outside threat and of an individual battering of the system are used to form a conservative consciousness in working-class people to understand the hardships of their daily life as being caused by particular individuals. This understanding of the transgressing individual protects the interests of the ruling class by hiding their role in the formation of social inequalities.
The Wildrose Alliance
The Wildrose Alliance is a political party in Alberta, Canada that was formed in early 2008. Alberta is a province that has had a long history of support for conservative political parties, and sometimes is compared to conservative Southern states of the United States. The Wildrose Alliance has been considered by many as the most right wing of all the popular political parties in Canada. Members of the Wildrose Alliance are notable supporters of the right-wing think tank The Fraser Institute, as well as experienced politicians who have been at the forefront of Canadian conservative movements for the past five decades. The Wildrose Alliance is particularly interesting for this case study because of its recent growth in popularity. In the 2009 Alberta election the Wildrose Alliance received 4,052 votes, which at the time, was slightly higher than smaller parties like the Green Party and the Social Credit Party. In the 2012 election, the Wildrose Alliance dominated election headlines and they ended the election as the official opposition to the minority Progressive Conservative government with a total of 442,429 votes (a 325 per cent increase from the previous election).
A main reason for this incredible growth is the relationship between the Conservative majority federal government and the Wildrose Alliance. The Wildrose Alliance is now at the forefront of fostering a conservative understanding of present social issues like the economic recession and a dwindling social safety net.
I have researched the speaking notes of the Wildrose Alliance leader, Danielle Smith and the mission statement published on the Wildrose Alliance website. I have reviewed topics that relate to issues considered to be of the utmost importance for white working-class people, such as human rights, property rights, agriculture and economics. Smith preambles many of her statements with how people have lost faith and trust in the Canadian political system. The Wildrose Alliance’s response to growing distrust is that they will create greater governmental accountability and transparency. We saw the success of this political rhetoric in the most recent municipal election in Toronto, where conservative candidate Rob Ford was elected on the ground of organizing a government that represents and is visible to the taxpayer. We have seen from Ford’s political occupancy and the reign of other conservative regimes, that accountability and transparency is only available to the ruling class and not for the disenfranchised people that were originally targeted. The use of “feel good” political rhetoric is essential in the promotion of conservative organizations. Rhetoric about accountability and representation is used to play on working-class people’s real experiences of disenfranchisement in Canada. In Canada’s economic system, where working-class people face daily exploitation, a new political party like the Wildrose Alliance can use emancipatory and rights language to attract working-class peoples’ desire for a betterment of their social conditions.
Wildrose Alliance policy: The economic recession
Yet, for the Wildrose Alliance to be operative, they must have substantial arguments behind “feel-good rhetoric” to be effective in forming a conservative consciousness. Conservative organizations are very aware of the inequalities that working-class and marginalized groups face and therefore, they are able to focus on how the economic system could be changed to reduce inequalities by putting more money into the pocket of the citizen. Danielle Smith writes on the Wildrose Alliance platform for considerations of agriculture and that state of economics in Alberta:
Unfortunately, excessive regulation and barriers have burdened Alberta’s agriculture sector and made it unreasonably difficult for producers to market their goods… the current provincial government has failed to ensure that our farmers and ranchers have the environment they need to succeed in the international marketplace. A Wildrose government will work with Alberta’s agriculture industry to aggressively address these issues. We will work constructively with industry, the federal government, and foreign governments to minimize and eliminate regulation, open access to new markets, and immediately address emerging problems. (Smith, 2012)
In this statement, Smith is locating issues of economic struggle on individuals and structural organization. Smith is articulating that economic issues exist within Alberta because of individual decisions made by Alberta’s Progressive Conservative party. Smith explains that structural transformations are needed to benefit the local farmer. Smith’s structural recommendations organize the economy for the benefit of large corporations and continue the process of capitalism that is impoverishing local farmers. Later in the statement, Smith vehemently explains that the Wildrose Alliance fully supports the current federal Conservative government legislation to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board. However, regulations, government subsidies and co-operative boards were initially instituted as a protection for local farmers to be able to operate in the Canadian market and sell their commodities at a price that was competitive with larger companies. Smith’s goal in this statement is to provide an explanation for rural peoples’ experiences of economic marginalization, as the problems exist within government policies that restrict and bind the local market for farmers. Ultimately, the Wildrose Alliance is successful in forming a conservative consciousness if people believe that economic deregulation will resolve economic inequalities, rather than fostering working-class people to develop a critical understanding of how deregulation is responsible for creating that economic inequality in the first place.