Sunday, April 8, 2012

Revolution – Alberta Style

The current Alberta Provincial Election promises earth shaking changes. After 40 years, the Tory government and its career cronies are too long in power. Their tentacles are pervading every aspect of provincial life. Strangely enough, rather than the opposition parties it was the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) who really showed Albertans how stale and possibly corrupt the old Tory government has become.  Peter Lougheed was a superb leader who brought the Tories to power; after Lougheed we had the Don Getty Lull (I nearly forgot his name) with as only notable legacy, Alberta’s Family Day which I do enjoy every year in February. The party re-invented itself with the Klein Revolution that changed into a tired one-man dynasty. Another weak leader, Ed Stelmach followed a worn-out Klein government by means of a ‘night of knifes’ and the quirky election rules of the PC party.  ‘Honest Ed’ tried to destroy the AMA which released painful commentary and memos on the dysfunctional state of Alberta’s healthcare system and he centralized the regional health care boards into a lumbering giant under tight control of the government. What happened to the ideas of small government?  The Alberta PC became its own anti-thesis – it resembled more the federal liberals than their national cousins – the Conservative Party of Canada!  The latest Alberta Premier, Mrs. Redford deserves our respect, although she also comes across more as a liberal than a conservative. She definitely showed backbone against the old party establishment yet in the end she caved in on various important issues including the abandonment of an independent inquiry into the dysfunctional healthcare system.

After decades of no viable political alternatives (the provincial NDP and Liberals were even less able to do a realistic ‘royalty review’) finally the Wildrose party came to life. About time! It is not that Albertans are all cut from the same wood, far from it, but decades long no real opposition existed. Over the years, Alberta grew by the influx of hundreds of thousands of immigrants; both from overseas as well as from other provinces – in particular Newfoundland and Ontario. You’d think that the eastern influx would change the political makeup of the province over time, but the Tories kept on being elected. Not only because rural voters have more voting power per person than those living in the cities (as so skilfully rigged and maintained by the Tories) but simply because there was no political alternative. I met Danielle Smith when she was a rookie member of the Calgary School Board that visited our neighbourhood to close down our inner-city elementary school. I never forgave her for being such a puppet and for supporting the closing against common sense and the will of the people in our district. But today she has evolved into an intelligent and witty leader of the opposition. Here is a group of true conservatives (and I don’t mean of the demonized fundamentalist Christian type) that offers a slate of relatively fresh politicians, or at least a group of politicians with the balls to stand up and fight the establishment.
That and the Tory chicaneries favoring Edmonton over Calgary (no wonder the PC is doing better in Edmonton than in Calgary) may explain the rising groundswell of the Wildrose Party visa vie the Provincial Progressive Conservatives. In the meantime, anyone with a bit of common sense knows that the historical opposition losers are still not a viable alternative and their votes will only come from their party core.
I truly hope that a fresh wind will blow through Alberta’s halls of government one that maintains a pro-business climate, improves the provincial healthcare system, and that gets rid of the pork barrelling practices of a PC government that outstayed its usefulness. Whether the Wildrose party will form the next government or will form a strong meaningful opposition, i.e. a government in waiting, remains to be seen. It depends on Wildrose's political skills and maturity as well as on its leader. In my opinion, this election is for Wildrose to win and for the Tories to lose provided no mistakes are made. Knowing Alberta, the province is readying itself for another period of blistering growth – both economically and politically.

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