NDP Leader Brian Mason is easily the most quotable and savvy of the three, but he's saddled by the innate fear of socialism in Alberta. The party has made a smart move, though, by gearing its policies toward the average Joe and Josephine and accusing the Grits and Tories of being too tight with big corporations.
Speaking in the heart of corporate Calgary, Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason proposed legislation Friday that would ban both corporate and union donations to political parties.
"Big money in politics has a corrosive effect on our democracy and it undermines decision and policy making by political parties," Mason said at the Fairmont Palliser Hotel, a building surrounded by Calgary office towers.
"In the last couple of years the Conservatives have accepted over a half a million dollars from oil companies alone and the Liberals (accepted) close to $200,000 . . . .
"If they depend heavily on big corporations for their money, they will not stick up for the average family in this province when push comes to shove."
Lisa Young, a political science professor at the University of Calgary, sees the NDP proposal as a positive development. Alberta stands out from most Canadian jurisdictions in its "Wild West" treatment of political finances, she said.
The current situation in Alberta has helped create a longstanding tradition of "lopsided elections... that is very difficult to overcome," Young said.
The Edmonton Sun and Journal have done political leader bio's about Brian. Both pointing out that under Brian's leadership the NDP increased their seat count last election. Hardly the 'loser' party with no chance in hell of winning, that the pundits predicted then or predict now.
In fact Diotte is right on; Mason and the NDP have real chances of gaining ground as the best party to be the Opposition. Which is what the NDP has run for since their return from political purgatory under the leadership of Pam Barrett and then Raj ( Against the Machine) Pannu.
In 2000 the provincial New Democrats came calling.
They had fallen from 16 seats and official Opposition status under Ray Martin in the late 1980s to zero seats by 1993. By 1997 they’d crawled back to two seats when new leader Pam Barrett triumphed in Edmonton-Highlands and Raj Pannu won by just 58 votes in Edmonton-Strathcona.
“We took a kicking in 1993, and when Pam stepped down (in 2000) we were in serious difficulty,” said Martin.
But Martin had knocked on doors for Mason in civic campaigns, knew him as a scrapper with a conscience and convinced him to run in the Highlands byelection. He got three times the votes of his nearest competitor. “That victory probably paved the way for the future of the NDP,” said Martin. “If we hadn’t won that, I think it would have been tough slogging.”
By 2004, Mason was also party leader and the NDP had improved from two seats to four, giving him a chance to hone his skills for political theatre while his party pounced on the Tories on issues from royalty rates to skyrocketing rents.
After a Tory cabinet minister suggested Albertans chilled by high heating bills put on warm sweaters, Mason and Pannu sat in the legislature during question period and knitted.
When former premier Ralph Klein declined to debate health-care privatization in the 2004 election campaign, saying it was too complicated, Mason came out with a pamphlet entitled “Health Care for Dummies.”
He said his party prides itself on being ahead of the curve — it called for oil royalty increases back in the 2004 campaign. The idea was roundly derided at the time, but in 2007 the Tories announced even more drastic hikes.
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