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Kamloops News

ANDERSON: Why the United Conservative Party won in Alberta

Image Credit: SUBMITTED
April 17, 2019 - 12:26 PM



Some four years ago, following the New Democratic Party (NDP) victory in Alberta, I began an column with the following observation:

The recent NDP victory in Alberta isn't likely the dawn of a glowing new progressive era in Alberta politics, as some folks on social media seem to imagine in the hazy orange aftermath of the election battle.  In fact, the notion that the Albertan electorate has steamed suddenly to the left after decades of almost legendary entrenchment in conservative political culture is downright silly. Add up the numbers and you'll find that the PCs and Wildrose combined garnered well over 50 per cent of the vote, and that's not counting the great mass of disenchanted conservative-leaning voters who just didn't bother voting at all this time. The orange wave may be wide and noisy, but its support is shallow and temporary. 

I linked the Progressive Conservative/Wildrose split to the 1993 federal election, predicting that the Alberta PCs would go the way of the federal PCs (and be absorbed by Wildrose in the same way the federal PCs were absorbed by the Reform Party) and that the reformulated Wild Rose party would form government within a decade. My final prediction was for the NDP: “And the Alberta NDP? Well, except for a blip in the 80s and another blip now, they've historically fluctuated in the low single digits...”

Now one might argue that the new United Conservative Party (UCP) in Alberta is more a merger than a takeover by Wild Rose, but here we are less than half a decade later and two of the predictions have roughly come true: the absorption has already taken place, and the resultant new party has already formed government. While the NDP haven't yet fallen to the low single digits, unless the new UCP engages in catastrophic behaviour the NDP is quite likely permanently banished to its traditional hinterland in Alberta.

The forgoing fanfare is in no way meant to suggest that I am prescient, and in fact for most political hacks the predictions I made four years ago were simply stating the obvious. A more important observation at this point is that Alberta politics on its own is the slow march of small-c conservatism across western Canada. But unlike the grassroots Reform phenomenon, which really began in Saskatchewan and exploded in Alberta and BC, this wave is grounded in the central Canadian province of Ontario, and maintains its strength across the prairies. And while the wave is conservative in nature, it contains elements of populism as well – a trend across much of the western hemisphere over the past few years. While populism is by no means a province of conservatism (the Russian revolutionary movement among others grew out of a populist movement), this latest iteration certainly is. And it is alarming to the left-leaning establishment.

Traditional parties, always subject to leftward drift, don't like populism because it's unpredictable and fugacious and almost always reactionary. So it is perhaps instructive to ask what today's first world populism is reactive against. The populism of today is a rejection of what might clumsily be described as the out-of-touch political correctness of the elites. Leaving aside such fatuous notions as the Leap Manifesto, both the NDP and Liberal movements have defined themselves with a constant drumbeat of so-called “social justice” issues and of course the Y2K of our age, “Climate Change.”

During the Alberta election, for example, the NDP tried to veer hard left with its social policies, decrying the “racism” and “homophobia” of the UCP. Such attacks have become over worn and meaningless and the voting public simply doesn't care anymore. It's not that the voting public has become racist or homophobic, but rather that such accusations have become so politically rote as to become meaningless. It's telling that the UCP, rather than trying to defend itself from such attacks, simply ignored them. Of course the federal Liberals are on the same track, much as they are every election.

Although the Alberta NDP are constrained by the reality of Alberta politics and economics and have – after an abortive beginning - for the most part abandoned the alarmism surrounding Climate Change, the federal Liberals have made it a central feature of their tenure, up to and including the infamous tax grab of the Carbon Tax. This has had the unintended effect of creating conservative solidarity and bringing the Liberals to their lowest polling numbers in a very long time.

My prediction for the next four years? BC will join the rest of the west in a rejection of political correctness and climate alarmism, the federal Liberals will lose the next election, and Canada will begin a long and tortuous return to sanity. And of course the Alberta NDP will continue to sink into irrelevancy, because they still have the electoral numbers to be heard, and voters are still listening.

— Scott Anderson comments and analysis from a bluntly conservative point of view.

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