Disclaimer: I’m no political pundit by any stretch of the imagination. But I’ve got eyes and a fairly decent brain. So bear with me.
For those of you unfamiliar with Canadian or Albertan politics, the current government in Alberta is the New Democratic Party, or NDP for short. They were elected in last year by a majority vote of unprecedented and some would say, epic proportions and their election meant that the Progressive Conservative (PC) Party had been ousted after 40-plus years of power over Alberta.
Like any establishment after such a long reign, it could easily be argued that the PC’s were far too comfortable in Alberta having been able to maintain their political position more than four decades. Some might even venture to say that they became complacent. Lackadaisical, even. I have lived in Alberta for nearly three of those four decades and in that time I have seen the ups and downs of their government. Some good, a lot of bad, and mostly a lot of in-between. Like any political party, they relied heavily on contributions from Big Business supporters, in Alberta’s case this is largely oil companies with a lot of clout and financial ability to buy the party which fits their agenda the best.
The trouble is that with such a long-standing relationship between a political party and its Big Oil backers, you lose sight of the ones who are in reality backing both. The middle class not only votes in the people they feel are best suited to lead their provincial or federal governments, but also consumes the goods produced by Big Business and Big Oil.
Yes, it’s true that the PC Party was great at bringing in business and creating jobs, much of those jobs with the oil companies backing the party. But ask yourselves this: at what cost? We were all blinded at the prospect of a booming economy that we lost sight of the fact that the middle class was being stretched far too thin by their support of ridiculously large corporate tax breaks. Much like an aging elastic band stretched beyond its capacity, it will start to show cracks and eventually break altogether. Relying on one segment of the voting and tax-paying public to support not only the over-privileged rich and corporations, but also to support the social programs necessary to assist and raise up the lower income classes proved to be too much for most of us.
I believe this collapse primarily among the middle class was the impetus for such a landslide vote for a different party to have their kick at the political can. After more than four decades ruling this province, the breaks promised to the middle class were rarely, if ever, delivered. And many of us were far too jaded by then to think much of the small pittances promised regardless.
Worse, when then-premier Jim Prentice realised he’d lost the vote to continue, his outgoing speech was nothing less than childish and immature. He pouted and walked off stage without so much as the grace to wish the incoming premier, NDP Rachel Notley, luck in her new endeavour in leading our province.
To many, this was classic Progressive Conservatism – they didn’t get their way and like any bully, they were unaccustomed to being shot down.
Now, this is not to say that I am naïve enough to think that the NDP (or Liberal, or any other) Party would have behaved any differently had the same thing happened to them had they been privileged enough to have retained power for that length of time. What I am saying is that the game has changed and if you want to stay in it, you have to adapt to new rules and parameters. The Old Boys who voted you in four decades ago are now dying off, figuratively and literally. Your voters are younger but not necessarily less informed. What’s more, they want different things than their parents and grandparents.
Further, regardless of who won the election, there would still be the same messes to clean up after having the same party in for the last four decades. If we are, as we all claim to be, open-minded and progressive, should we not then by definition have the grace to allow the current government some time to get their footing and to deliver on their promises which got them elected? Isn’t that the democratic process? And yet, as soon as the NDP gained the provincial seat, the naysayers were already at it – claiming that things were better when the PC’s were running the show.
Remember, the older we are, the faster we used to run. Sometimes you have to embrace change, if you want actual change to occur.
Besides, if you wanted so badly for the PC’s to stay in power, why didn’t you vote them back in when you had the chance?