Saturday, May 02, 2015

Changing times in Wildrose Country

It's difficult to ignore the electoral seismic shift that appears to be occurring in Alberta in the run-up to next week's provincial elections. Even Ontarians like me are stopping to gape.
The Progressive Conservatives have been in power there for 44 years, practically forever in political terms, and even quite recently Conservative incumbent Jim Prentice appeared comfortably set for another majority.
Recent polls, though, if you believe such things, show the centre-left NDP in majority territory, with the Conservatives languishing back in a distant third place, with only the Wildrose Party for company. Of course, polls being polls, nothing about this is certain. In the last Alberta election in 2012, all the polls were predicting a win for the Wildroae Party, until election day, when they were't.
It's difficult to put a finger on exactly what is souring the mood in conservative Alberta. It could just be as simple, and as wrong-headed, as blaming the incumbents for the worldwide fall in oil prices, which has decimated the province's finances. Or a more considered slap in the face for the Conservatives' lack of foresight in developing an economy so tied to oil, and in not putting aside contingency reserves while times were good (and they were VERY good). Even taking into account the changing demographics of the province, and particularly of its larger cities, I don't think the populace has suddenly had a communal change of heart and seen the innate wisdom of the NDP platform. This is at best a protest vote, designed to deliver a sharp wake-up call.
My own feeling is that, when push comes to shove next week, the redneck population of Alberta - which is substantial - will balk, and the NDP will squeak in with a minority. But even that will be a big deal in Alberta, which in many more ways than one is the Texas of Canada. The times certainly are a-changin'...

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