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Monday, May 29, 2023

Alberta Votes 2023: A Choice of Eras

About 30 minutes from the time I write this, news stations will begin to report on the results of the 2023 Alberta provincial election. This time around, Albertans are choosing between the centrist New Democratic Party led by Rachel Notley and the United Conservative Party led by Danielle Smith. 

Should Rachel Notley's NDP win, I expect a middle-of-the-road government that will attempt to shore up Alberta's public health care system, balance the needs of the oil and gas industry with our collective need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect human rights, and reinvest in public education. I also expect a government reasonably free of drama and scandal. In other words, I expect something like Rachel Notley's first government term from 2015-2019. 

Should Danielle Smith's UCP win, I fully expect her government attempt to further privatize our health care, foster the ever-vocal alt-right movement in Canada, get rid of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in favour of an Alberta police force, withdraw from the Canada Pension Plan in favour of an Alberta pension plan, slash taxes for the rich and corporations while increasing user fees for public services (including health care), and, Florida-style, attack marginalized people of all kinds through vindictive legislation. I also expect a greater-than-average level of corruption. 

Historians in the United States refer to a ten-year period from about 1815 to 1825 as the "Era of Good Feeling," renowned for its unusual optimism among the public and the political class. 

I feel like we've been in an "Era of Bad Feeling" since 2016 or so. The roots of the Trump presidency go far, far back into American history, of course, but Trump gave racists and regressive permission to say the quiet parts out loud--to openly threaten anyone not on their team, to embrace ethnocentrism and racism, and to advocate against democracy. 

I don't believe Rachel Notley's team has the power to usher in an Albertan Era of Good Feeling. I think they could deliver an Era of Relative Calm, or perhaps an Era of Hints of Better Times Ahead. 

I do believe that a UCP victory will lead to a made-in-Alberta Era of Bad Feelings. It'll be a place where the fearful and the cruel will be given outsized influence, while the thoughtful and the compassionate will have to fight to hold back the tide of regress. 

I have no idea what Albertans will choose. We'll know soon enough. 

1 comment:

Stephen Fitzpatrick said...

It is astonishing to me how close this is. On the one hand, any small-c conservative government running as an incumbent when oil prices are good and there is a surplus should take it in a walk.

But the dumpster fire trainwreck of Danielle Smith, a lying liar who abandoned the Wild Rose to cross the floor mere days after promising she wouldn't and who flip flops like someone on benzedrine making pancakes is still not enough to convince rural Albertans to ditch her and her Take Back Alberta cronies so that grown ups within the party can take back the wheel. So many Lougheed Tories are "lending" their vote to the NDP for this reason, and I still fear it won't be enough.

Worse still, she has let her supporters call doubt into the electoral process so on the off chance the NDP do eke out a victory, there are significant numbers of people who will try to categorize her government as illegitimate.

I have a terrible feeling the CBC poll is right and we are headed for a UCP majority and 4 years of bad, miserable, hurtful government, with continued suppression and gerrymandering to make the next go-round even harder.

I would dearly love to be wrong, about either aspect, though.