“Hell has frozen.”
“I step off a plane after 3.5 hours and we've got an F'in NDP government and the Flames tying goal is called off!! The world has gone to hell!!!”
A sampling of the commentary on my Facebook wall last night as the Alberta provincial election results rolled in and media outlets were announcing a majority-government-forming by Rachel Notley and the Alberta New Democrats.
One might think that we were entering a topsy-turvy world where up is down, and right is left. That something has shifted in the polar axis rendering the landscape slightly or even dramatically askew.
Over the last several months there had been intimations that new leader Jim Prentice, calm star of the federal Conservative Party Stephen Harper-led caucus, might be just the guiding light to restore confidence in a conservative political dynasty that was well past its due date. And initially, his calm way and personal gravitas seemed to auger well for the Alberta PCs.
The devastating downturn in the oil patch’s fortunes, however, would be enough to turn the provincial electorate's attention to the machinations of those who had been presiding over provincial affairs for over 40 years. And they didn’t like what they were seeing.
Widespread recognition of PC arrogance; commuters taking note of crumbling infrastructure despite decades of unparalleled economic growth; the suspicion that the provincial government was unwilling to re-invest in education and health care with studied conviction; a general sense that the province was more concerned with catering to multi-nationals and losing sight of the very citizens who favoured them with support for so many years — all of these reasons can account for the Time Out that Alberta voters have so definitively placed upon its Progressive Conservatives.
But Alberta is Alberta. The oil patch will still contain some of the largest reserves on the planet. And the money will adapt as it always does to the new realities as a new government’s platforms get put into practice.
The fearful who so openly despaired last night might eventually awaken to the realization that change is a good thing.
Notley’s promise to continue forward with pipeline developments (happily to the east of the province, for those of us who cannot bear the thought of the Northern Gateway project ever coming to fruition), and encouraging investment into developments that would see more value-added activities evolve the oil patch’s mandate; coupled with a promise to restore funding to Health Care and to hire more teachers for the province’s under-served students, seem like a welcome change in direction.
It puts people first and shows a little gumption to move the economy into more sustainable directions.
A Time Out is just what the Alberta conservatives need. After all, they aren’t down and out, you know. There are over 750,000 souls who cast ballots for their conservative of choice, be it a PC or a Wildrose Party candidate.
But the NDP’s rise in popularity, witnessed in the so-called “Orange Wave,” truly is staggering to say the least. At last count, over 600,000 voters stood with Rachel Notley and her young New Democrats in an historic victory at the polls.
It should give the rest of us hope too.
Hope that things are not as they appear. Hope that not everyone can be cowed into submission through a politics of fear-mongering and subtle or not-so-subtle obfuscation. Hope that when folks are pushed to the wall by an onslaught of negativity from the powers-that-be, that they can be emboldened to reach out to the untried alternatives that seemed so non-sensical only years earlier.
Of course, provincial politics ain’t federal politics; and one should be cautious in drawing too many self-serving conclusions from what resulted in Alberta last night.
But, oh my, wasn’t that invigorating, seeing the results roll in? Delicious. And a beautiful appetizer to the rest of the courses to be served over the months leading to the federal election in October.
Needless to say, Alberta’s election may have sparked an appetite for politics that a few federal politicians have been trying to dampen for years. Now that Alberta NDP has felled the PCs provincially, you can bet their counterparts in the rest of the country will be sharpening their pens and their knives for the Autumn harvest to come.
— Jeffrey Loewen is a Kelowna-based writer who plays music by day and politics by night.