Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Six thoughts on that Alberta election

Six thoughts on the Alberta election.
First, this is not that wild a swing. Rachel Notley is a moderate. That’s how she got elected. And, with occasional exceptions like Ralph Klein in his first years, the province’s Conservative governments haven’t been extreme either, with a populist willingness to spend on health and education, and even arts, when it’s politically useful. That’s how they kept getting elected. (Even Klein wasn’t really that extreme. He cut health spending by 15 per cent in his first three years in office, but then put the money back. From 1992 to 2001, Alberta's health spending increased by almost exactly the same percentage as British Columbia's.)
My dad at 90
Second, it’s hard to overstate what a total botch Jim Prentice made of this election. I spent last week in Alberta - it was my dad’s 90th birthday - and there was massive disdain for the premier. Despite a fixed election date law, he was seen to have called the vote out of opportunism. He told Albertans they should “look in the mirror” to see who was to blame for the province’s current woes, ignoring the fact his party was in power and persuaded Albertans to support its policies. He proposed increasing taxes for individuals, but not for corporations. He welcomed the mass defection of Wild Rose MLAs to the Conservatives and tried to guarantee some of the defectors party nominations. He was ineffectual in the leaders’ debate, delivering a patronizing “Math is hard” comment to Notley that made him look sexist and arrogant. By campaign’s end, all Prentice had to offer was threats that people should vote for him to stave off some unclear menace. He looked arrogant and out of touch.
Third, the NDP owes a lot of its success to the incompetence of the Conservatives. Even 10 days ago, when I landed in Medicine Hat, there was a sense that the Conservatives could survive if Wild Rose supporters were prepared to hold their noses and vote strategically to block the NDP. But with each day, the polls showed the Conservatives running farther behind, in third place in many ridings. Strategic voting lost any appeal. The party’s brand stunk of failure.
Fourth, voters didn’t just ignore the warnings of doom from the corporate supporters of the Conservatives. Their presumption in assuming the right to tell people how to vote damaged Prentice. The four major daily newspapers - apparently on orders from their Toronto-based, U.S-controlled head office - endorsed Prentice, and were also ignored.
Fifth, the new NDP government is likely going to have some big problems. I was newspapering in Peterborough in 1990 when Bob Rae won a surprise NDP victory in Ontario. Our New Democrat candidate was a high school teacher who had run with no expectation of winning, and then found herself energy minister. It did not go well. The Alberta New Democrats had four seats in the legislature. Now Notley needs to come up with a cabinet. Even with qualified people, there is a learning curve and there are bound to be missteps.
Sixth, give credit to Notley. She made a connection with voters, raised the idea that taxes are a useful way to pay for services and noted that different segments of society have different interests. Voters liked her better than the other leaders and trusted her more, enough to reject the fear-mongering. That’s a great asset for any new premier.


Norm Farrell said...

As always: smart and informed commentary. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the inexperience of the folks elected is likely to be one of the biggest challenges.

I think inexperience poses a challenge not just with respect to competence but also with respect to having the guts to do what you said you were going to do, even when the establishment starts crying about it (see Ontario: public auto insurance).

On the plus side for the NDP, I suspect oil prices are going back up sooner than many currently expect.

Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

My experience there led me to believe Alberta's voter's are a savvy lot. Families, neighbours, fellow workers and (yes) many business people talked among themselves and chose candidates and the party they thought was the best. I am willing to bet they were right, inevitable missteps and all.

scotty on denman said...

Not a big swing on a left-right spectrum, but off the map on a pipeline spectrum. Prentice was surprisingly foolish in a number of ways, but general conservative moribundity and Alberta's changing demographic are considerable factors too. MSM were dismissed because of their association with the right, and because the polls they published in 2012 were so inaccurate. Voters laughed at MSM's dire warnings---as they threw in with the NDP at the ballot box; it was a happy kind of thing. The new government can avoid trouble by going as slow as it needs to to get a feel for it. But they'll be ready for when the neighbourhood is reoccupied by NDP governments, and a new one chalks up success in Ottawa. Credit to Notley? Are you kidding? She's the Dipper Goddess!

astrom47 said...

The MSM will be attacking soon as she is an NDP and they are conservative. Like in BC, they are not objective and have their own values at heat. They cannot be relied upon. Thanks to Norm and his colleagues for giving us more widely perspectives on these topics.

astrom47 said...

I should add, thanks to Paul for your work to bring the issues forward.

Anonymous said...

"They [the MSM] cannot be relied upon."

Of course they can be relied on - to do exactly what you have said they will - attack anything that doesn't fit their corporate agenda. The media has its flaws, but inconsistency is not one of them.

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