So it has now set in that the NDP is the governing party for Alberta. For the first time they are the party forming government here. The big win and a majority government at that left many Albertans fearing the future a little bit and even the Federal MPs making jokes referring to the home province on the PM as Albertastan. (Get your pictured Albertastan t-shirts here soon!)
It is easy to fear the NDP coming into power in Alberta. Alberta is a traditionally right leaning province with a huge investment in the oil industry. Up to this point we have enjoyed the Alberta Liberal Party, UFA, Social Credit and PC parties. That is 110 years of only 4 different parties. That makes change scary as hell for Albertans. Factor in the fact that the NDP is a further left leaning party and people start to worry about potential pressure on the corporations that are thriving in Alberta. The oil industry isn’t pleased out of the gate. The talks of a good hike in corporate tax and a royalty review are pretty scary for most Albertans. The last royalty review lead to a lot of lost business. Add on to that a tendency to spend a lot of money on a huge number of social programs, money that may be hard to find if industry is scared off, and you are starting to understand the fear. Finally Rachel Notley’s MLAs are a pretty rag-tag group of individuals, there is some joking about the fact some people won a seat they didn’t even know they ran for. Some not professional pictures of one MLA and an incredibly young group have Albertans worried about the ability for the NDP to properly conduct business. I won’t lie, I found myself in this group early on. Our family works hard and will pay a lot more in taxes for social programs that will rarely benefit us. Tough sell. I worry that the NDP will do to Alberta what they did to British Columbia and Ontario in the past. That is some scary shit. But maybe a little look at why this isn’t in the cards (hopefully) is worth it.
I think the most important thing we should remember is that Notley does not wish to be a one and done premier. Her goal is to build a strong party that can hold power and shape Alberta’s future. If she wants to do that she has to consider who elected her in the first place. It would be naive and arrogant to assume that the NDP base elected her party, based on history this isn’t an NDP strong party (at dissolution they held 2 seats). No the people who elected Notley and the NDP are the progressives who were pissed off at the PC party. She will have to give them a more moderate approach to her policies and balance the books a little more to keep this group happy and complete their transition into NDP base voters. This is going to be a tough job because these people woke up this morning with the Coyote Ugly feeling, problem is you can’t gnaw your arm off to get out of a province. They will need to be let know that there is room under the NDP banner for them. To do this she will have to resist the urge to go through it the Bob Rae work and strong-arm her NDP policies directly in. She will have to be patient and build a relationship with corporations prior to increasing their taxes and going to royalty review. There are 25 seats in Calgary alone, she wants to grow her strength there and she will have to make nice with the wealthy people of that city and the oil industry housed there. If Oil companies start bringing in the moving truck to head for Saskatchewan or the Dakotas, she will lose those 25 seats in a heart beat. If Jobs are lost in the oil industry that will affect people throughout the province outside of the executive hub in Calgary and that will also cost her votes. It’s a thin line but I think it is one she will be cognizant of as she enacts policy.
I also think she realizes she has a young and inexperienced caucus and will need to bring them along slow. It will be important to prove to Albertans and other areas that they are going to make capable cabinet ministers who can run a province. They will need good trading partners and they will need outside investment to help this province succeed. After every election there is some instability and more so when there is a change in leadership. It will be important for her to put these people in a position to succeed in order to bring outsiders back to our province. To me the only way to do this is to enact policy slowly and teach them along the way.
The final reason I think Alberta might not be so bad, is simple, we do have oil. While investment in our oil may slide a bit and some companies may look for greener pastures, at the end of the day the oil is still there and will help Alberta whether some bad spending decisions. At the beginning of her time in office oil is on the lower side but it does that and it always goes up in value too. When it goes up in value the province will reap the benefits and that will help contain the spending damage. But this alone won’t help her, because if she spends like a drunken sailor and scares away too much business people will realize she is little different from the PC party they just evicted and her party will be in trouble.
At the end of the day, Alberta decided to make a change. I don’t think we did it right, this province is in bad need of a minority government but change was what he electorate wanted. Some wanted change because the NDP offers them a type of hope for a better province offering better services and others wanted change because they were just fucking mad at the PC party. Both seemed to work fine for now but anger is not a long-term demographic. The PC party will likely collapse and that will unite the right under one banner, that could be dangerous to the NDP hope to retain power (The conservative vote split pretty hard and if united could very well have changed the course of this election). So for now I will take it day by day and see what the future holds, apprehensive but willing to give it a try. I will however be giving no free passes and will be happy to voice my displeasure with this government when they misstep, we don’t need to have another PC situation. Good luck Alberta you probably need it.