By Greg Price
“In terms of who is responsible, we need only look in the mirror. Basically, all of us have had the best of everything and have not had to pay for what it costs.”
That simple comment by then – Alberta Premier Jim Prentice in early March summed up why the Progressive Conservative party took a sound beating during the provincial election earlier this month and saw an NDP majority government declared barely an hour after the polls were closed. The attitude was that the problems Alberta was facing was everyone else’s problem except for the governing body that had been watching over the province’s coffers for the last four decades – plus.
It gave off the vibe that we have just been partying it up all this time, and now finally the tab has come in to be paid… by only select groups.
The Canada-wide 2014 hunger count showed food-bank use increased in Alberta at twice the national average (Globe and Mail). While other provinces have higher unemployment rates, Alberta has the highest percentage of working poor, where yes there are a lot of jobs, but a lot of them do not pay as well as people think with the province’s cost of living (Globe and Mail). The Edmonton Social Planning Council released a report in 2013 that showed 58 per cent of Albertans who made $15 or less an hour for their jobs, were in the 25-and-older bracket, dispelling the myth that those jobs are ‘high-school jobs’ or ‘transitional jobs.’
These facts do not really paint the picture Prentice did that we are all living high on the hog in the province and not taking responsibility for it.
It’s never a good idea to talk down to Albertans, making veiled comments that it is the citizens who are responsible for the current economic woes of the province, and not the party that has been ruling them for the last 44 years consecutively. Talking to people like your party is the only one that knows what’s good for them like a parent scolding a child is truly a sign you have taken for granted the people who voted you in. Elected officials should be about listening, not about lecturing. Prentice, of course, only achieved his lofty perch at the time because of the disgraced Alison Redford, who resigned as premier back in March 2014 amid revelations she used tax dollars to spend lavishly on trips and office perks to go with a pricey penthouse suite. Throw in Prentice’s ‘’I don’t care anymore’ move of resigning not only his party leadership, but his MLA seat he had already won before all the votes were recorded, and you had to question the type of leadership the party possessed in recent years.
Those looking for another conservative voice as the distaste for the PCs grew, likely were not inspired by Wildrose, with voters still reeling from seeing a number of people they voted in at the last election cross the floor to the PCs, including then – Wildrose leader Danielle Smith. Wildrose leader Brian Jean had his own speech gaffe when he said Alberta was in danger of ‘accidentally’ electing an NDP government because of backlash with the PCs.
The highest voter turnout in 22 years saw the NDP capture 54 seats, when previously, 16 was the top number of seats the party could secure in the history of the province. Jumping from four to 54 seats and the PCs plummeting from 70 to 10, if the 2015 provincial election was seen as an ‘accident’, then Jean is as disconnected from Albertans as Prentice was. This wasn’t a photo finish at the end of the political race, this was the PCs breaking its leg after the first turn and having to be sent to the glue factory with how sweeping the message was.
One of those people caught in the PC decimation crossfire unfortunately was M.D. of Taber Reeve Brian Brewin. Unfortunate, because it certainly made me a conflicted person at the ballot box. My disenchantment with the PC party was echoed by the election results as Prentice’s speech did not endear me to the party, nor particularly did his budget, where certain vested interests seemed to be spared the tough budget that everyone supposedly had to take a look in the mirror in reflection, according to his speech.
But I also knew the quality guy that Brewin was with the M.D. Since Brewin took office as a councillor and then reeve, he and his fellow division leaders on M.D. council took the M.D. of Taber out of debt and into a position with a lot of reserves in the bank. Having covered M.D. council in the past and seeing it in its current form, it seems like it has a culture of transparency and communication overall with its citizenry in stressing the importance of rural Alberta. Transparency that has come into question on the provincial level for the PCs with allegations coming to light of records being illegally destroyed by Alberta’s outgoing government.
Brewin fell victim to ‘guilt by association’, where the missteps of the provincial party bled into his own campaign. Brewin, a successful farmer, likely does not need to stay in politics if he does not want to. But, he stayed his political course, unlike Prentice, who, at the first sign of trouble, knowing the provincial crown was not his, said to the people who voted him in to represent his local riding, you are not important enough for what I wanted in the end.
Brewin, on the other hand, picked himself up, dusted himself off, and has done what he also always done, try and be a voice for rural Alberta. Maybe it’s not on the scale he wished for as an MLA, but nevertheless, he showed strong character and continued to do why he got into politics — not to simply gain more power — but to help people in rural Alberta with the M.D. of Taber.
Now, not even a month in to see what the NDP can do, the fear mongering has begun, where supposedly business Armageddon has occurred and everyone is going to pull up stakes. I have no crystal ball that knows what is going to happen to Alberta under NDP rule. Maybe they’ll do a great job, maybe they’ll do a horrible job, but all I know is fear mongering is not going to help the situation when they literally have not had time to implement anything yet. I never understood the catch phrases of ‘let the market take care of itself’ and being ‘pro-business’ in their vagueness. If all you are doing is attracting a business culture to have people set up shop offering ‘McJobs’ that make it near impossible to scratch out even the most meagre of lives with our high-cost of living, who is it really benefiting? Yes, oil powers this province, but not everyone has a job in the oil and gas industry. There is a difference between a job and a quality job. Given those stats of people making $15 an hour or less, it seems to be an increasingly troubling trend of how the gap between the haves and have nots is widening, and we need to diversify our economy. Instead of pointing the finger at the NDPs, maybe the PCs and Wildrose need to take closer examination of the missteps they took in their own parties that led to this historic decision for 2015.
Every party is guilty of it, be it NDP, Liberal, PCs or Wildrose — they can’t admit when another party has a good idea. I’m sure every party has them, while others need to be tweaked.
But instead of working together, it becomes who can chase the power crown, and all parties are guilty of it. They lose sight of why they got into politics in the first place.
Take a deep breath those thinking the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have arrived — this is how democracy is supposed to work.