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Election 2015

Dan Albas Pitches for a Sunnier Conservative Party

Re-elected Tory MP: 'We need to present a positive option.'

Jeremy Nuttall 26 Oct 2015TheTyee.ca

Jeremy J. Nuttall is The Tyee's Parliament Hill reporter in Ottawa. Find his previous stories here.

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Dan Albas calls for the restoration of 'old fashioned' civility in Canadian politics.

If you scroll through the Twitter feed of Conservative MP Dan Albas, you won't find snide comments or dark warnings to the public about the plans of his political opponents.

Albas doesn't engage in fights with notable mayors, like fellow Tory Jason Kenney did in a cyber-brawl with Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi. Nor does he block journalists on Twitter, as did ousted Conservative MP Paul Calandra.

"I rarely drink. Closest I would have to a favourite beer would be a @CanneryBrewing Naramata Nut Brown Ale (or free!)," Albas recently tweeted in response to a question about his ale of choice.

In what was at times a nasty election campaign marred by social media spats, Albas's tweets were more or less as sunny as the Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola riding in which he was reelected. He mainly retweeted news stories or positive comments from his constituents.

Such a tone is one his party must now adopt if it wants to get back on top of Canada's political scene, Albas said.

"I think we need to present a positive option," he said. "This is a great country, and I think that all members of the House of Commons, no matter what they do, are all part of Canada."

Albas said it may be "a little old fashioned," but the public wants Ottawa to move away from the heated rhetoric and silly antics that have come to characterize politics, particularly during question period in the House of Commons.

The practice of MPs opposing or supporting ideas based solely on who proposes them must stop too, he said.

Politicians reaching across the aisle and working with opposing members to find the best solutions is something else Albas said he'd like to see happen more, reflecting on his previous work with two Liberal MPs.

"I enjoyed debating with people like John McCallum, people like Bob Rae," he said. "We actually talked about what we were concerned with and would challenge each other."

End the exclusion: politics prof

The Conservative party should heed Albas's advice if wants to be in power again, said University of British Columbia political science professor Maxwell Cameron.

Good politicians need to understand the perspectives of their opponents to find common ground on issues, rather than just ram through policies that please their base, he said.

Cameron said the party could appeal to more people by diplomatically revealing the variety of points of view within it. "They need to show us the diversity of opinion in the Conservative family."

Canada has become a more liberal society over the last 40 years, Cameron argued, which has added to the current animosity in politics.

"I think Conservatives are often very angry and feel excluded," he said. "If you feel the country has gone in a direction you don't support, that leads to a sense of exclusion."

Those outside the party can ease that exclusion by listening to and accepting Conservative concerns, but in turn the Conservative party will have to do the same, Cameron said.

Now that they're out of power, Conservatives such as Albas have an opportunity to steer the party in a new direction, Cameron said.

Representing the riding

Most known for spearheading an initiative that would allow Canadian wine to be sold freely across the country, Albas said he wasn't one for standing up and reciting talking points in the House of Commons.

"I make a point of preparing my own thoughts and comments," he said. "I always support elected officials using their own words and not someone else's. We were elected to be the voices of our ridings."

He said MPs should be comfortable with what they're saying in the House and remember that they represent their riding.

Albas, who has no plans to run for party leader, said his diplomatic demeanour in the House served him well and helped him win his seat again.

"I always try to represent my constituents in a way that they would feel proud of," he said. "I don't use overly heated rhetoric in the House. I don't use profanity. I don't throw papers up and down."

When Parliament reopens again under a new Liberal majority government, Albas said he hopes that more of his fellow members will do the same.  [Tyee]

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