Change in Alberta

The upcoming election in my province is often described as one that may “bring change”, as the Progressive Conservative Party (PC), in power for 41 years, may go down to defeat to a relatively new political formation, known as the Wild Rose Party (WR).
I agree that this election is about change, but whether or not on Monday night one will be able to say that a new leaf has been turned over, depends on what one regards as “change”.

Of course, if the ultra-right-wing WR (as opposed to the right-wing PC — yup, welcome to Alberta) were to garner a majority of seats in the legislature, and its leader Danielle Smith were thus to become Alberta’s new premier, then this election would go down in history as that in which the PC was dethroned after 41 years. Formally, a “change” would have taken place.
In practice, it would be no change at all. Indeed, if that were to happen, the province would have made a strong, unambiguous pronouncement against change.
Want it or not, for the foreseeable future the best chance of “change” in a place like Alberta is represented by the PC with its current leader.

No, I have not gone cuckoo over the past month (no more than I already was anyway) — I just live in Alberta. The chances of the NDP or even the Liberal Party of forming a government in this province for the next… I say at least ten years, are zero. No, not just small. Zero.
So, the question is whether this very conservative province is ready to make a transition, one which could be regarded as marginal and almost irrelevant from the outside, but is in fact quite significant, possibly even crucial to many of us.

And that the current leader of the Alberta PC, Alison Redford, constitutes a break from the past, can be inferred by many things, the most obvious being the surge of the WR following Redford’s election as PC leader.
Maybe it is because anyone with the aspiration of being in government, in a province with such a strong political orientation, simple must start out by joining the ranks of the ruling party, even though she may not necessarily spouse its prevailing vision and philosophy (in which case one could even levy the charge of opportunism against her — it would be unfair, I think, to the extent that it applies to just about any statesperson).
Maybe it is simply that “the times they are a-changing”, and therefore even a conservative leader in a conservative province inevitably sounds different in 2012 from what her predecessor in, say, 2002 sounded like.
Be that as it may, there is no question that Redford’s rhetoric and policies do not mimic those of Ralph Klein, to mention one of the most popular recent PC leaders. I think that very few would take issue with the contention that the ascent of the WR is largely a sign of widespread dissatisfaction, among traditional PC voters, with what is perceived as Redford’s attempt to move the party toward the centre (wow, apparently they do it on the right too… who woulda thunk it).

Now, me personally, I have to confess — I like Redford. As premier of this province, I’ll take her any day over Smith. And unfortunately the choice is between her and Smith. One of these two women will be the next leader of Alberta, no other outcome is possible.
While I may not be ready to endorse the message of this group, I admit it, for the first time a PC majority would not be the worst of all possible outcomes of an election in Canada, and it is not just because the WR represents just about everything I dislike (politically, of course), it is also because I think that Redford does have the qualities to be an effective premier [0].
A WR majority, either outright or simple, would be a much worse setback for those like me, who wish to see change, albeit at a frustratingly slow pace [1].

So, how will I cast my vote on Monday ? Alas, I will not be casting any, as I am in Europe and cannot vote from here. It is a lame excuse, I know. I have to admit it, I would not have known what to do, especially living in a riding like mine, where the conservative incumbent, who won by a squeaker (96 votes) last time, appears very vulnerable, due to conservative vote splitting.
In normal times I would have voted for the NDP. But this is not a normal election. A vote for the NDP or the Liberals, with this electoral system, is a vote for the WR. OK, I better stop here.

Notes

[0] Those who are familiar with my blog knows that I draw a distinction, in my mind, between legislative and executive powers, and have always lamented the fact that in Canada (just like in Italy), the two seem to go hand in hand. Even though, as a progressive person, I obviously fundamentally disagree with her conservative stands, that does not prevent me from thinking that someone like Alison Redford, regardless of her party affiliation, could make a good head of government, even in a place that is more progressive. That is very different from saying that I wish to see a legislature, any legislature, dominated by individuals who share her basic values.

[1] No, my progressive friends, if the WR were to get a simple majority, we shall not have a PC minority government headed by Redford, with the qualified support of the Liberals and/or the NDP. We shall have a government headed by Danielle Smith, with the backing of a significant fraction of the PC. Oh, and Redford will be replaced at the helm of the PC, if she were to be defeated.

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5 Responses to “Change in Alberta”

  1. UofA_faculty Says:

    Massimo, 100% with you on this – I really like Alison the Red. A few politically aware centre/left of centre types (including myself) will be voting strategically. But considering how a >5 point gap between the PCs and WR remains 30 hours before end of polls, still too many are being either complacent (not voting at all) or dogmatic (sticking with grits/dippers).

    • Massimo Says:

      I like her too, she is by far the best premier I have seen in Alberta since I moved here, and I think that right now she may well be one of the best premiers in Canada (and there are several good ones). It would be a damn shame if someone like her were to exit the political scene so soon, it would be a huge wasted opportunity.

      • UofA_faculty Says:

        What a relief. Strategic voting won the day (29+15=44%). May not work in 4 years though.

      • Massimo Says:

        I am stunned, I have to confess it… I understand strategic voting, plus I do think that Redford could easily be a liberal somewhere else but… how can pollsters be off by 10-15 percentage points ? And all of them, not just a wacky one, and we are not talking a “close” election… weird stuff… I am pleased too, eh, don’t get me wrong ;-)
        It will work in four years too, I think the EJ has it right, the politics of the province is shifting toward the centre — there may be no need for a Liberal Party anymore.

      • UofA_faculty Says:

        I just noticed the turnout numbers are up big – that may have thrown the pollsters off, since they so heavily consider likely voters.

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