The Election Effect

Editorial Comment - Chris McKerracher is a columnist for the Pipestone Flyer

The resounding defeat of the Alberta PC’s holds much meaning for a whole lot of people, from politico to the tax-paying public. Rachel Notley immediately became one of the most powerful NDP figures in Canada, while Jim Prentice completely gutted his political aspirations and is looking to fill the post of “Grandpa” for the foreseeable future. This wasn’t the path Prentice thought he was strutting. He believed he was using the premiership as a jumping off point to being Prime Minister.

Another effect was the orange tide also engulfed the beleaguered Alberta Liberals who are now a party of one, with just leader David Swann left to represent the brand. Although this must feel like a crushing defeat for the Libs, they should take heart. If the NDP can be victorious, given time and patience, any party might rule eventually.

This election means most, however, to we Albertans who just witnessed a historic moment. So seismic was the result, the ripples were reported in the New York Times and UK’S The Guardian. Provincial elections don’t normally rate a blip on the international press’ radar but this one did. The NDP were never expected to win big, not even by the NDP. However, to the delight of ‘lefties’ across the country, a perfect storm of events overtook partisan leanings this election.

The election result also was a warning to ruling parties that, eventually, arrogance will be punished. From disemboweling the opposition to ignoring fixed election dates endeavouring to catch the opposition flat-footed, Prentice demonstrated he was just another ‘old boy’; well-versed in political skullduggery. Hope for a new look to the old party were suddenly dashed. Innocuous comments such as “look in the mirror” and “math is hard” started hanging on him like albatrosses about his neck like that ancient mariner dude. Once goat horns appear on you, everything sticks.

The election also made a name for Wildrose leader, Brian Jean. Having suffered the loss of his son a month before the election, plus losing a majority of his party’s sitting members, his grit and determination to make a difference was inspiring. Often unfairly vilified by their political opponents, the Wildrose rose from the ashes of Prentice’s firebombing and emerged as the official opposition.

Therein lies another truth regarding the electoral process. People demand fairness and when they fail to see it, will punish the party seen as being undemocratic. In such an environment, you cannot declare any party dead. It now seems apparent in this province that we hold electoral honesty in high esteem and any future governments would do well to factor in that reality.

Large corporations in our province were also served notice by the improbably NDP landslide. They thought they could prop up the PC’s with massive donations in exchange for the implied promise they would continue to receive favourable tax rates and corporate welfare. The government was also finally called out for not combining environmental stewardship with sound economic policy as if they were mutually exclusive. Albertans understand we need both for long term sustainability.

Social media was a winner in the election, too, with much credit given to the NDP team for their skillful use, although it did lead to some charges of saturation bombing. “Orange is the new spam,” was how one twitter wag put it. Notley used the medium of the masses to get her message across that she represented the majority, the middle class.

This was successful because the working poor, people with jobs that pay little and provide lousy or no benefits were the class most targeted by Prentice’s budget. They are the ones who barely scrape by and added expenses of any sort, taxes included, are seriously problematic. Their only political asset is their numbers. They are a huge demographic and that’s who the NDP rallied to win.

The social media campaign the NDP fashioned was brilliant. Such support can be fragile, however.

Notley must tread carefully over the next four years if she wants four more after. Albertans are averse to change and if she dares shift course too radically, she will quickly lose her election momentum. PC’s and Wildrose split the conservative vote almost exactly in half; accounting for a healthy 52% of the popular vote. They will be a force to be reckoned with throughout her term.

The election did indeed have a great effect on many. Hopefully it won’t have too negative effect on our finances. Considering the Prentice budget, can they do worse? Sadly, yes.

 

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