Alberta’s 2015 (historic) election

Written by  //  May 20, 2015  //  Canada, Politics  //  No comments

In Alberta, Oil, Cowboys … and Liberalism?
By Russell Cobb, associate professor of Spanish and Latin American studies at the University of Albert
(NYT Opinion) Since the election, Ms. Notley has walked a fine line: reassuring oil companies that she is not some Hugo Chávez of the Prairies, while also vowing to take big oil to task over royalties and environmental issues. Some oil companies have seen the rise of the charming and fresh-faced Ms. Notley as a chance to remake the image of an industry tainted by news stories of train derailments and ruptured pipelines.
To my ears, attuned as they are to the sacred American concept of private property, the idea that ordinary people own natural resources sounds, well, kind of socialist. That may be a dirty word in the States, but so is the business of strip mining the tarlike substance known as bitumen and diluting it to be shipped through pipelines.
The victory of the New Democrats, however, wasn’t necessarily about ideology. It was also about the identity of a province that has evolved from a ranching-and-drilling, meat-and-potatoes kind of place to an urbane, cosmopolitan magnet for people from Brazil to Pakistan looking for a better life.
Albertans have come to see petrostate politics as outmoded, and change at the local level has been happening for years now. In 2010 Naheed Nenshi of Calgary became the first Muslim to be elected mayor of a major North American city. Mr. Nenshi was also the first mayor to lead the gay pride parade in a city best known for its annual stampede. Edmonton’s mayor is a geeky hipster who often rides his bike to work. The ruling Progressive Conservatives were too arrogant to see change coming. In March Alberta’s premier, Jim Prentice, submitted a budget that called for new taxes on individuals and cuts in education but no new taxes on corporations. It was the sort of hubris that could come only from an entrenched party, and it was only a matter of time before New Albertans like me couldn’t tolerate it any longer.
As much as I’d like to see our province become a Norway on the Prairies, with little income inequality, free university education and a healthy environmental movement, I know that isn’t happening. No matter what happens after the Alberta Spring, however, it’s clear that we have a new political landscape, with at least five major parties, all with their own interesting colors and fonts, as well as ideologies, vying for a post-petro-dynasty future. Now that’s something I wish we could put in a pipeline and export down south.
15 May
Alberta PC party fires nearly its entire staff after election loss
Ric McIver, elected on Monday to serve as the party’s interim leader, said he was prepared for a long rebuilding effort. Mr. McIver, the outgoing labour minister, also took aim at his predecessor during his speech.
“At times we were arrogant and complacent. And sometimes we forgot to apologize like we meant it,” he said, moments after Mr. Prentice spoke.

13 May
Watchdogs investigate document shredding at Alberta legislature
(Globe & Mail) Premier-designate Rachel Notley ordered an immediate stop to all document shredding by departing Progressive Conservative ministers on Wednesday, hours after two watchdogs announced they would be investigating allegations that records were illegally destroyed by Alberta’s outgoing government.
A call from a whistle-blower on Tuesday prompted a joint investigation of Environment Alberta by the province’s privacy and public interest commissioners. The call to one office was corroborated with correspondence sent to the other investigative office.

Alberta election 2015 results: NDP wave sweeps across province in historic win (with video)

Profile of Rachel Notley (2007)
Knocking at the door of the Dome
EDMONTON – When you think of family political legacies in Alberta, you’re talking the Mannings, the Lougheeds, the Horners. Not surprisingly, the action has traditionally been on the right side of the spectrum.
“She may dream that New Jerusalem dream and, pointing to recent events in Nova Scotia, muses aloud that imagining a major NDP breakthrough in Alberta isn’t necessarily akin to drooling madness. But there are practicalities.”
Rachel Notley election night
Chris Turner: Alberta Elects a Friendlier Face for Its Oil Sands
(The New Yorker) Alberta already ships an average of two million barrels of oil each day to refineries in places like Chicago and Texas. Thousands of members of the unions that backed Notley’s campaign collect paychecks extracting, upgrading, and shipping those barrels. And now, for the first time ever, that messy business has not a staunch corporate conservative but a personable social democrat representing it on the international stage. To the surprise of fusty P.C. stalwarts inside the province, and likely to the dismay of many environmentalists across Canada and beyond, the N.D.P. may well help Alberta sell the rest of the world on how the province makes its money.

We asked our friend Nick Rost van Tonningen in Edmonton for his reaction to the Alberta election results.

Interesting outcome; NDP, rather surprisingly, winning 14 of the 25 seats in Calgary (!) made the difference. I had not expected that; my guess had been that, when all was said & done, there was still enough oomph in the Conservative machine to produce a minority outcome for it.
Hopefully this will be a warning to ‘professional’ politicians & senior bureaucrats everywhere who have become self-, rather than public-, servants.
I said from the outset that Danielle Smith made a critical mistake when she crossed the floor last December, failing to appreciate the undercurrent of voter sourness that would create an window of opportunity for the Wildrose.
My sense of this undercurrent was reinforced when a friend of mine & his wife, both diehard Conservatives, and he a former constituency president, told me they thought they had no choice but to hold their nose & vote NDP (although that was made a bit easier for them since they live in Notley’s constituency).
I worked the election as the DRO for a downtown poll. It was interesting. The four day advance poll voter turnout had been heavy, about 15 % of those on the voter list. It was also noteworthy how many people who were not on the voter list completed a declaration that they were who they said they were so as to be able to vote, the vast majority of them in the < 0 age cohort. The riding had long had a (female) Liberal MLA who generally had done a credible job although lately she may have estranged some voters by her overzealous support for-, & advocacy of-, gay/Lesbian/transgender causes. But in the six polls at that voting station her voter support evaporated : the NDP candidate, a youthful, not quite white, musician/sound engineer – the only one to actually have knocked on my door – got close to 60% of the votes, she got maybe 35% & the Conservative candidate about 15% (counting the ballots got sort of boring, reciting his name, time & again). What I also found interesting was the number of young people who voted (a rough guess would be close to four out of ten were < 30, incl. one 22 year-old girl who came rushing in two minutes before the polls closed, breathlessly telling me that ‘she had forgotten it was election day until just a few minutes earlier, but fortunately only lived a couple blocks away’.
This all reminds me of the 1976 movie NETWORK when a TV personality struck a chord with the hoi polloi by yelling “I am mad as hell and I am not going to take it any more.”
I think a red flag should have gone up for politicians everywhere when, in last year’s election in India, Modi, the head of a HINDU NATIONALIST party came to power in part because tens of millions of MUSLIMS voted form him.
I argued from the outset that Prentice’s Budget was out and out stupid. This was not the time to have a budget with a ‘user pay’ motif that in the process two-bitted every Albertan & gored the ox of just about every one of them one way or the other (my favourite was its proposal to levy a $50 charge for hitherto free death certificates – prompting a doctor friend of mine to observe that it was the doctors, not the government, that wrote them and that if he was going to charge for them, she wanted a piece of it) . He should have left that till later and have had a simple budget : raise personal income taxes from 10% to 12% (and not re-introduce progressivity – that upset a lot of people), then argued that then it would only fair to raise corporate taxes from 10% to 12% as well, and raise fuel taxes by 10 cents (with an undertaking to phase it out if & when oil prices recovered) – Albertans would not have liked that very much but it would have been a simple message that the hoi polloi could have understood & would have been able to relate to.
He was a victim of “hubris” and as such made mistake after mistake, none of them big, but in combination deadly. While warning Alberta faced tough times, he flew to Arizona to spent US$55,000 plus, plus for a vintage automobile that had long been his hearts’ desire; while nobody denied him the right to spent his own money as he saw fit, it did set him apart as not being one of the hoi polloi, & undermined his claims to be one of them because ‘he had worked his way through university as a coal miner’. He also rubbed Albertans the wrong way by, rather heavy-handedly, parachuting in candidates in ridings where there had been a formal, democratic candidate selection process underway, without there being no apparent reason for doing so other than that was what HE wanted. And his campaign’s stupidity climaxed on Friday May 1st , when (in desperation?) five prominent Alberta businessmen who had contributed $95,000 to the Conservatives’ and/or Prentice campaign coffers since 2010, & one of whom heads a major local, German-controlled construction company that had received $250+MM in government contracts since 2012, went on TV, from a corporate board room for Christ’s sake, to warn Albertans to “think straight” before voting NDP. And Prentice proved Albertans’ gut feel correct about him having no class when,within min utes of the outcome becoming clear, he resigned immediately as both Party Leader & MLA.
I was surprised that the Wildrose did as well as it did after the Danielle Smith debacle & with a brand new leader who has about as much voter appeal as a cigar store wooden Indian.
So far she has done well. Her acceptance speech last night was more than acceptable and in her press conference this morning she did not make the mistake of committing herself to anything (quite contrary to “Over his Head” Ed (Stelmach who, two days after he became leader volunteered in his first press conference that he was not going to change the province’s oil sands policy). Instead she said time and again that people would learn more about her plans in the days, weeks & months to come.
It is snowing today. A Conservative friend of mine corrected me when I said it was snowing by saying that it was not snowing but that the white stuff flying around outside was the output of shredding machines in the Leg.
Following are some general comments :
– In terms of the popular the Conservatives were routed but Wildrose held their own; for in this election they got 28% to 24% voter support (despite the fact that the Wildrose got 25 seats & the Conservatives only 10) whereas in 2012 they had gotten 44% & 24% respectively, while the NDP tripled its voter support nearly five-fold, going from 8.5% then to 40+% now;
– The NDP caucus will be 45% female;
– Corporate threats to move out of the province if the corporate tax rate were to be go from 10% to 12%, are pure bluff : any businessman with a company with an annual corporate tax bill of $1,000,000 who would even consider leaving because it would go up to $1,020, 000, ought to have his head examined (and likely wasn’t much of an asset to provincial economy in the first place);
– Rachel is not a wild-eyed radical; rather a pragmatist with a left-of-centre bent, although I am a bit concerned with her being too close to the union movement; for that will constrain her dealings with the public sector unions in health & education, both sectors that need a great deal of common sense ‘rationalzation’;
– I fear that, as has happened in every province that elected a new NDP government, Alberta will see an inflow of NDP carpet baggers. As to her relations with Mulcair, I think something similar will apply there as I told a room full of senior Alberta Treasury staff in the 80’s when they were exulting in Mulroney coming to powers, namely that ‘relations with Ottawa may actually get worse because when the Liberals were in power you could at least blame them for a bad relationship, whereas now we will think they should do what we want & they will think that we should do what they want, because we all belong to the same party!’;
– On the other hand, I think her victory will have serious implications for Harper Conservatives because he has the same imperial notions as Prentice had, only far more so, and may choose to ignore the signs of voter sourness in the developed world;
– As to her paucity of talent, she has at least half a dozen moderately talented individuals with elected public office experience which is more than some, subsequently proven meritorious, governments have had in the past;
– There may be a problem with the civil service; for after forty plus years of Conservative rule it is replete with political appointees. This quite different from the situation that Diefenbaker thought he faced in 1958 after a long period of Liberal rule; for while then many senior civil servants were Liberal sympathizers, they were also professionals to a degree that no longer exists in the public service, and by and large willing, & capable, of putting their country’s interests ahead of their personal feelings; and
– I think that Alberta’s triple-A credit rating is about as dead as the dodo bird.

Paul Wells: ‘My name is Rachel Notley’
How this down-to-earth politician capitalized on an extraordinary moment in Alberta’s history
(Maclean’s) But sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. The challenges facing Notley are the challenges of government, which are so much better than the challenges of opposition that nobody ever voluntarily swaps the latter for the former. There is a non-conservative strain in Alberta’s rich and complex political culture. It is a mug’s game to debate whether it’s durable or represents a majority or whether it’s up to the challenges Alberta faces. It was enough to topple a dynasty and elect a solid majority government, and now it gets a chance to show the world what it’s made of. Sometimes you get to make history.
Even the Economist takes notice
… in a stunning upset, the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP) won a majority government on May 5th in the oil-rich, western province of Alberta. The province had previously been the heartland of Canada’s various conservative parties which, in turn, had increasing influence at the national level as economic power in Canada shifted westwards alongside the boom in oil production. The election was a victory for the political extremes, as the centrist Liberals also fared poorly.
Extreme volatility is not an unusual feature of Canada’s political scene. Political support is fragmented, with between three and five parties typically scoring over 10% of the vote. When combined with the first-past-the-post voting system, small changes in voter support can lead to big changes in representation. The Alberta result sets the scene for an interesting national election in October; our current prediction is for a Liberal win.
Colby Cosh: Why the Orange Revolution is not about Rachel Notley
Mythologizing the Alberta NDP leader is inevitable, but this election was all about sending a message to the Conservatives
(Maclean’s) The province had reached a point at which it needed to assert the mere possibility of regime change, by any means short of dynamite. Can the NDP harm the Alberta economy? Certainly. Do we think Alberta’s economy was not harmed by endless, sometimes documentably corrupt one-party control of government contracts, of the health and legal professions, of boards and commissions of NGOs, of officers of the Legislature, of education and the ATB . . . of the entire apparatus of existence in many outlying areas? Do we think industries such as real-estate development and construction might not have started getting a little lazy and uncompetitive, with their unbreakable donor mainlines to the Conservatives? Do we believe no enterprise ever crossed the wrong minister in Alberta and got crushed in its infancy?
Analysis: Alberta election 2015: Why political change could make economic sense
Provincial economy may benefit by loosening the corporate stranglehold on power
(CBC) When the Progressive Conservative party in Alberta swept to power under Peter Loughheed in 1971 it was definitely a party of the people. But by earlier this year, with Jim Prentice in charge, it had become like the 1950s TV show Father Knows Best, with the role of “Father” played by big business.
Drew Brown: Alberta Loses Its Goddamn Mind for the Fourth Time: A Guide for the Perplexed
(VICE) I don’t want to understate how profound an NDP victory is. Its psychological impact is huge. If the NDP can win in Alberta, they can win anywhere, and we have to rethink a lot of the conventional wisdom about Canadian politics. And I’ll be damned if I didn’t get a little emotional when she offered to treat the province’s indigenous peoples with dignity instead of as mere obstacles to setting up oil factories. If nothing else, it will at least put to rest the myth that Alberta always has been, and always will be, a monolithic conservative heartland.
The longest-lived political dynasty in Canadian history has been swept away after 44 years. And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches toward Edmonton to be born?
Don Braid: Notley won’t hurt Alberta, but knee-jerk attacks on her might
Do you see the problem, guys? Keep lecturing a premier who isn’t even sworn in, about intentions she doesn’t have, before you even talk to her, and the partnership she offers might never happen
(Calgary Herald)Premier-elect Rachel Notley will speak to the lieutenant-governor in a day or so. There will be a waiting period while election results are finalized. It could take as long as two weeks for Notley to be sworn in.
Alberta’s machinery for this kind of change hasn’t been oiled in nearly 44 years. It’s creaky, but it will function.
The delay isn’t a bad thing for Notley, because she has a thousand decisions to make — about cabinet, a budget and how to handle her more eccentric caucus members.
Some are virtual kids and will offer the same kind of hilarity produced by Thomas Mulcair’s Quebec NDP caucus after the 2011 election.
But the real danger to Alberta — and maybe even Canada — is not MLAs in the Notley Crue. It’s loose talk from the conservative side about the NDP inevitably bringing economic doom.
Alberta election 2015: NDP sings for joy, Harper’s caucus like ‘morgue’
New Democrat troubadors sing they’ll ‘go out to Alberta … Weather’s good there in the spring’
(CBC) The mood across the hall in the Conservative caucus room — absent Stephen Harper, who was still travelling home from yesterday’s VE Day celebrations — featured many shades of blue. … The normally message-managed Tory caucus emerged for the media’s post-mortems Wednesday working through various stages of fear, denial, blame and regret.
“It was more like a morgue. Someone said it was like — it’s Albertastan now,” said Justice Minister Peter MacKay.

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