When they don’t get it, it’s “time for a change”
By Bruce A Stewart
Pundits all over this country are commenting on the rise of Wildrose. Most of them are missing the point.
What people want from government, after all, isn’t all that complicated.
Do what you set out to do well. Don’t do stupid things. Remember there are two other levels of government picking my pocket when you decide to reach into it.
Not hard, eh?
As long as the government you have looks like it’s delivering services competently, avoids blatantly stupid ideas, and keeps its take under control, it gets re-elected.
Take a look at a forty-two year long Progressive Conservative government. Ontario’s, up to 1984, when Bill Davis decided to step down.
That government was seen as being sensible. Sensible in the 1940s and 1950s was paving superhighways. Sensible in the 1970s was stopping freeways and building subways.
Things change; the Ontario PCs changed with them, but never deviated much from “public sensibility.”
They avoided a lot of potential stupidity along the way, too. Many times what you don’t do is as important as what you do.
They made mistakes: the good of wiping out provincial examinations was balanced by the horror of whole language learning and the new math.
Since Ontarians in the 1970s saw themselves as Canadians first, and provincial citizens second, the Ontario PCs were “on side” with the province to back Trudeau in his Constitutional changes — just as Peter Lougheed’s Alberta PCs led the opposition to Trudeau’s moves.
When stagflation bit home on incomes, the Ontario PCs backed off some initiatives that could wait, stopping the rise in tax take without ruining the provincial coffers.
But, as Brampton Billy resigned, he did something he thought was “right.” He extended full public funding to Grade 13 for the Catholic school system that Ontario is constitutionally required to provide.
A step too far. His successor, Frank Miller, wanted to “reinvent” the party — in his case, shift it to a more populist, right-wing track. He passed several moves, then called an election.
Suddenly it was “time for a change.”
In a province where almost everyone must drive almost everywhere, lowering blood alcohol tolerances may sound like good policy, but if you can’t go to a restaurant with your friends and have some wine or beer with your meal without breaking the law… well, let’s just say there’s Alison Redford’s “step too far.”
Meanwhile Alberta Health Services does a worse job than Britain’s National Health Service (in the eyes of people needing care).
The “incompetence” marks do add up.
Campaigning to spend beyond a budget just tabled and passed was the final straw — especially for a province running deficits that was proud not to.
Bingo. “Time for a change.”
Wildrose — being a child of the PCs — is the beneficiary.
At least Alberta won’t get David Peterson and Bob Rae, like Ontario did.
Bruce Stewart is a consultant, educator and philosopher with a passion for public affairs currently located in Toronto. He is well known across the Internet for his blogs on management (Getting Value from IT) and social affairs (Just a Jump to the Left, then a Step to the Right) and for his daily stream of commentary on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.