Albertans woke up to an electoral hangover on May 6, 2015. It was spring, but the air and skies were tinged with cool and grey. The entrepreneurial heartland of downtown Calgary was stone-faced with a noticeable mute in the air as everyone mumbled denials that they themselves had voted for the far-left New Democratic Party, with its socialist and communist roots. Yet somehow the province had just elected its first new majority government in forty-four years under now-Premier Rachel Notley.
The Progressive Conservatives, who had guided Alberta’s government uninterrupted since 1971, threw away their final chance at salvation when Jim Prentice became leader. They begged him to restore their fortunes then refused to change their ways and ensure Prentice had a real chance to make things right. Albertans had realized during the 2012 provincial election that the Wildrose Party were too negative and not their cup of tea, later reinforced by Danielle Smith’s shameless, egotistical, and somehow unironic (considering the foundations of her Wildrose caucus) floor-crossing in 2014. This decision, along with the unfortunate gender optics of Prentice’s rebuttal to Notley in a televised debate that “math is hard” (particularly the NDP-implemented Discovery Math method) turned Albertans off. Stop with the bickering and get on with the job, was the sentiment.
The NDP were the only other party with a full slate of 87 candidates for the 2015 provincial election. So, every Albertan who wanted to make a point chose the ballot box as their vehicle of silent resistance and thought they would be the only ones to mark a protest vote with the NDP. Good morning, Wednesday.
Four years later and Alberta is now days away from choosing their next Premier and government. An NDP television commercial shows a middle-aged man sitting in his kitchen talking about how he had always been a PC voter, but geez – there’s something he just can’t put his finger on, about something non-descript about that Jason Kenney, and so, what the hell, he’ll vote for Rachel Notley because at least with her he knows what he’s getting. Except he doesn’t.
Few things rile Albertans’ anger like mention of a sales tax, unjustified in the country’s economic engine, yet the first thing Premier Notley did was introduce a carbon tax that, in practice, is a sales tax, despite not once mentioning it during the election campaign. Make no mistake, Notley knew early on in the 2015 campaign – as Prentice did – that she would become the next Premier and would be calling the policy shots.
We do know that Notley can neither tout the benefits of her four years in government nor the same for another four, amid the deep entrenchment of an economic crisis and the human suffering that goes along with it. Instead, Notley put out a commercial alluding to some vague bad-ness about Kenney, outright defamed him in the televised debate – and doubled down on her comments when Kenney challenged her – and kicked off the election with a horrible smear campaign deliberately intended to damage the reputation of one of the United Conservative’s star candidates, as well as her replacement.
‘White supremacist’; ‘misogynist’; ‘sexist’; ‘racist’: it is increasingly evident, as moderate liberal politics disappears and is replaced by inflammatory far-left proponents, that when politicians do not have facts on their side they engage in divisive, actually hate-filled campaign tactics and rhetoric (anything they disagree with from conservatives is always “hateful”). As always, the mainstream news media is willingly complicit in this race to the bottom by throwing qualified individuals under the bus on a scrap of something rather than the truth of everything, desperate for attention as people stop believing them, too. If Albertans actively showed their displeasure at these sick games before, their reaction will only be stronger now in context of rising unemployment, suicide, foreclosures, and taxation through the roof from all levels of government.
This election, strategic voting must be forward-thinking, not premised on disillusionment over the past. Deny the fearmongering NDP your vote and their accompanying satisfaction of believing corrosive, name-calling politics works. If you don’t want to support the UCP, then look to the Alberta Party – they also have a full slate of candidates who would likely make complementary allies of a UCP government or coalition, rather than adversaries who accomplish little of value.
For the Albertans lucky enough not to feel the pit of their stomach every minute of every day, consider your neighbours when you vote on Tuesday.