SINCE THE LAST ELECTION
The New Democrat Party majority government was elected in 2015 due to the massive rejection of the four decade long government by the “Entitled” Progressive Conservative Party. It was a big surprise to partisans, pollsters and pundits, not to mention the NDP and PCs.
Since then the failed Progressive Conservative party had a leadership change and then promptly folded. That was part of the Jason Kenney master plan of first winning the PC leadership (check), then merging with the Wildrose Party (check), then takeover the leadership of the “new” United Conservative Party (check). Then take back political power in the next election (pending?)
While we are many months away from the next election, officially to be called sometime between March and May 2019, the NDP and UCP are already well into campaign mode. So far the dominant party “campaigns” have been almost exclusively focused on the single-minded goal of slagging and defeating the other party.
THE COMING ELECTION
Political Tribalism and the hyper-partisanship, that is in over-drive in the American Midterm election, is becoming just as turbulent, volatile and uncivil in Alberta’s political culture.
The changes and challenges of economy growth will be the leading issue in Alberta’s election. The pending fate of the Trans-Mountain (TMX) pipeline project, mostly in the control of the Federal Liberal government, is an electoral lightening rod. That project is needed to get our oil to domestic tidewater and break the very unfair and costly market monopoly we have given to the Americans for years. Albertans are just waking up the to fiscal folly of a one-customer market.
The approach to “getting ‘er done” on TMX is very different as between the NDP and UCP. The NDP wants to fix the flawed resource project review and consultation process once and for all. The UCP wants to pick a Constitutional fight in the Courts and put on a show of political strength against the Federal Liberals, the BC NDP and, of course, the Notley New Democrats.
Add in other pocket book election issues like the continuing sense of uncertainty in job creation, the Carbon and other tax concerns, the growing need to deal with debt and deficit, cost of living concerns and emerging negative impacts of exponential technologies on job security. There is not much chance the next Alberta election will not shed much light on solving the challenges. We can expect plenty of political heat up to and through the campaign.
There is a general sense amongst the vast majority of non-partisan Albertans. They are looking for a form of good government that will seek fiscal prudence without invoking crippling austerity. They want a socially inclusive government with a genuine commitment to environmental stewardship and a commitment to pragmatic progress. Citizens generally like the personal style of Premier Notley but they are very unsure of the NDP as a party with its labour-dominated base. Will it be able to make an effective commitment and have the competency to deal with the greater economic challenges ahead.
On the other hand, Albertans don’t like or trust Jason Kenney very much, or at all. They want some fiscal conservative capacity in government but they also know that there is not much evidence of those skills being present in Kenney. His many questionable and departed candidates and his socially conservative homophobic, bigoted racist base holds no benefit of the doubt for fiscal prudence for Albertans. The nagging question is should the religious right in UCP be entrusted with the lawmaking power in a pluralist society?
Add in the declining fortunes of the Alberta Liberals under David Khan, the slow but steady rise of the Alberta Party under Stephen Mandel and the far-right breakaway Libertarian and closet separatists in the Freedom Conservative Party under Derek Fildebrandt and the future of Alberta’s political culture is even more uncertain.
UNCERTAINTY IS CERTAIN
There are very different political inclinations between Edmonton and Calgary and the small cities and rural north, south and central regions of Alberta are not single-minded either. Add in that fact that there is no clear preferred choice between the NDP or the UCP and that lot of moderate Albertans are looking for a new political home giving rise to growth of the Alberta Party, all bets are off and prediction is pure folly.
Bottom line is Alberta has changed a lot in the last 20 years and is still changing but we are mostly moving toward centralist progressive values. We are in flux and have not really had a stable government since Ed Stelmach was elected in 2006, notwithstanding successive majority governments.
It is entirely possible that we will not have a stable government after the next election either. I would not be surprised it we had our first Minority Government next election. That just may be the best of all possible worlds in the short term and for the long term. That would be a way of getting our politicians serious about setting and getting clarity on the preferred future direction for our province.
Then the question is, who should be elected to hold the balance of power to keep the next government honest, open, transparent and accountable?