Reading the latest issue of my favourite magazine, Alberta Views, I encountered an article that, to my surprise, neatly summed up my political philosophy. Surprised because I’ve never expressed it quite so clearly myself and surprised because the article was written by a conservative—which I most definitely am not.
The author was Ken Boessenkool, formerly a senior campaign adviser to Stephen Harper who has worked or volunteered for a number of prominent conservative politicians.
He was writing about why Jason Kenney failed as premier of Alberta. The title of his article was blunt: “Alberta isn’t conservative.” His theory is that Kenney failed because he didn’t understand that Albertans are not ideological conservatives. They are, in his view, conservative by disposition, a very different thing.
He says about Kenney: “There was an almost religious fervour to how he pursued his ideological agenda. It was conservative ideology absent a conservative disposition.”
He warns his fellow conservatives that if they don’t grasp this, Rachel Notley will “convert that conservative disposition to win not just one term, but to create a template that her tribe could use to rule Alberta for 40 years.”
While he fears Notley, he also admires her. He emphasizes her deep Alberta roots and her caution. She is, he says, “Someone with deep political, public and familial roots in Alberta, someone who, in her first shot, was surprisingly skeptical of radical change. Someone who more regularly invoked the legacy of Peter Lougheed than folks in her own political lineage.” But most importantly, he describes her as “despite having not a whit of conservative ideology, nonetheless possessing a conservative disposition.”
I realized that he wasn’t only describing Rachel Notley, he was describing me. Like Notley, I am certainly on the progressive side of the political spectrum. I believe the goal of politics should be to create an equitable, just, prosperous and sustainable society.
But I believe in achieving that society judiciously, through democratic process. I also respect the traditions and the people who created this exceptional country and am often annoyed by those who don’t.
So, a social democrat with a conservative disposition. Sounds about right. Or is a social democrat with a conservative disposition a liberal? Hmmm. Whatever.