These are mildly interesting times in Alberta, what with the resignation of King Ralph and the shuffling of candidates hoping to ascend the throne of the new centre of Canada. Albertans, though, seem not particularly interested in the outcome of the election, despite the fact that whoever is chosen by Progressive Conservative party members is highly likely to govern the province.
I lounge in my Edmonton living room, enjoying a fruity beverage, considering that only 47 per cent of Albertans voted for Klein’s government in the last election. I wonder if the recent surge in our population will affect the political landscape. I also hope that all Albertans, new and old, do not attribute Alberta’s prosperity to anything the current regime has done. It is hard to screw up when you are sitting on oceans of black gold. Do newcomers realize that Alberta politics is deeply rooted in socialism?
A quick primer: the United Farmers of Alberta started in 1909 as a government lobby group that was formed to promote the interest of farmers in the province. By 1913, it had succeeded in forcing Alberta’s Liberal government to create the organization that eventually became the United Grain Growers. The UFA chased the corruption-riddled suits from power in 1921, and Albertans have despised capital “L” Liberals ever since, for very good reasons.
However, the fact that we trend more conservative is not among them. In fact, the picture of Albertans as historically and monolithically right-wing is plain wrong. The UFA was a leader in the cooperative movement and supported women winning the vote. In 1923, they formed the Alberta Wheat Pool and ended Prohibition. John E. Brownlee became premier in 1925, and, after many years of negotiating, brought control over Alberta’s natural resources back to the province (a right the eastern provinces were granted at Confederation, but which Alberta and Saskatchewan were denied when they became provinces in 1905).
So let us all take a moment to realize that western alienation is a response to crappy policy and corrupt politicians. Alberta will never support the Grits, but not because we are ignorant or greedy, as the eastern media insist. It is because we have never forgotten the rotten streak running through the so-called “Liberal” parties of Canada and Alberta. Nor have we forgotten that they have always treated us as either an inconvenience or a meal ticket.
Refusing to vote Liberal is almost a religion with us. We might, though, get a few New Democrat seats in the next provincial election, if only because farmers are pretty pissed these days. But we are almost certain to end up with a PC government again. (In the 2004 election, the Progressive Conservative party won 61 of 83 seats [73 per cent] while only obtaining 47.07 per cent of the popular vote.) So every Albertan ought to spend the five bucks for a PC party membership and get their butts to the polling stations over the next two weekends. Take a look at the candidates’ policies: they vary widely and the leadership race will have far more impact than the election to follow. As always, we will get the government we deserve.