Neither party inspires confidence
By Markham Hislop
Wildrose or Progressive Conservative? Alberta voters face those two choices at the ballot box come Monday. Damn poor options, I say.
In a normal democracy, where governments are turfed after a term or two or three, Alison Redford’s PCs would be politely shown the exit, but encouraged to stick around and rebuild for a grab at the brass ring next election, parliamentary democracies needing an effective opposition and all that.
The PCs started to drift long before King Ralph lost his grip on the party and the citizenry in 2006. Ed Stlemach did nothing to slow the slide and much to hasten it. Redford’s leadership has been checkered, at best. The lack of fiscal discipline the past few years is just one indication the party has lost its way.
Frankly, it deserves the bum’s rush.
Unfortunately, this being Alberta, the alternative is not a tested and seasoned alternative but a band of rookies liberally seasoned with religious bigots and led by a former media pundit whose libertarian views are rather at odds with the general populace, even in this, the most politically remarkable of provinces. The media spotlight finally shone on Danielle Smith and a few of her more suspect candidates this past week and the results weren’t pretty. Smith may be smart and smooth under pressure, but her teams looks weak and inexperienced.
And let’s reserve a special word for Wildrose campaign manager Tom Flanagan and the most morally bankrupt, sleazy, hypocritical election campaign to come along since, well, I don’t know when. In a Globe and Mail opinion piece Flanagan described elections as war, during which the only objective should be victory. His comments reminded me of Karl Rove, Dick Cheney and George W. Bush. His campaign tactics have reminded me of Beelzebub.
What is the average voter to do? Well, there are three other possibilities, none of which are totally unpalatable, but none are contenders, either.
Liberal Leader Raj Sherman ran a better campaign than most expected and emerged as a leading voice on the healthcare file. Brian Mason of the NDP presented a number of quality policy options, most noticeably a proposal for differentiated oil sands royalties to encourage more upgrading in Alberta. Both the Liberals and NDP are polling around 11 per cent, while the fledgling Alberta Party, led by Glenn Taylor, is stuck at two per cent.
So we’re right back where we started. Wildrose or Progressive Conservatives?
Frankly, Wildrose isn’t ready to form government. A turn as the Official Opposition would do them good. And it would give voters an opportunity to properly assess the new MLAs.
Two years ago I made the same argument during the Calgary civic campaign when I said Naheed Nenshi had no council experience and it wouldn’t hurt him to spend three years learning the ropes. Turns out I was wrong. Nenshi has become a pretty damn good mayor.
But being wrong about one candidate is very different than being wrong about an entire party, especially one that has misstepped as often as Wildrose has this campaign.
Do you trust Allan Hunsperger, Ron Leech, Link Byfield et. al. to manage a $40 billion corporation? I don’t. Not yet, anyway. Let them earn their spurs on the opposition benches and reapply four years from now.
Which leaves us with Alison Redford. I cannot honestly recommend her as the next premier of Alberta. Her brief leadership has been uncertain, marked with controversy, and uninspiring.
A human rights lawyer who spent most of her career abroad working for the United Nations and various national governments, she has no more practical management experience than Smith. Redford’s spending promises during the campaign don’t inspire confidence. Rather than run on a deficit budget she introduced only weeks before, the PCs made 16 new spending commitments that will add over $1 billion in new spending over the next few years.
But Redford does have a deeper team. The pledge to implement results-based budgeting, which requires government departments to tear down their budgets line by line and justify expenses rather than simply assume year over year increases
Redford is the perfect symbol for a worn out 41-year old political dynasty.
There you have it. Voters have no great options, only the lesser of two evils. And who is to say which party is the greater evil?
Well, if you subjected me to Chinese water torture and pulled out my fingernails, if you absolutely insisted I make a choice, as all voters must, I would mark my X beside the PCs, albeit reluctantly.
Alberta will survive another four years of PC rule, but Wildrose has the potential to do real damage.
Having lived through the 1982 to 1991 Grant Devine Conservative government in Saskatchewan, possibly the worst government ever to have been foisted upon an innocent electorate, I have witnessed firsthand the damage arrogant ideologues can inflict upon a province. Trust me, bad government can bring even mighty Alberta to its knees.
Let Danielle Smith prove by her performance in opposition that she deserves to be premier. 2016 isn’t that far away.