Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Alberta election thoughts

Wow. Just wow. Now that the epic Alberta PC win is in the books, it's hard not to have some fun with it. A few observations here from an outsider.

The time for a change dynamic can be beaten. It's a rarity but it happened here and is one of the truly astounding things about this election. There did seem to be that air of change to this election, I don't think that can really be disputed. At least, that is what the commentary, polls and social media all seemed to indicate, that it was about change and as far as conventional wisdom goes, I buy it. The switch to Alison Redford blunted that change dynamic though. For a new leader that's really something, to step in and seal the deal under the weight of that history. She has earned a lot of respect and political capital for the win for this reason.

Harper is not a good look on anyone. The Danielle Smith and Tom Flanagan led Wildrosers, along with all the other Harper acolytes in that crew, seemed to be drinking the Stephen Harper Kool-aid to an unwise extent. The not apologizing bit going into the last weekend of the campaign was Harper-esque. Smith said this on Friday: "I take it personally when accusations of racism and bigotry are aimed at me and at my party," Smith said at a campaign stop in Calgary. "Let me be perfectly clear — a Wildrose government will not tolerate discrimination against any individual on the basis of ethnicity, religion, beliefs, background, disability or sexual orientation ... period." But her actions - or lack of them - with respect to bigoted and homophobic statements from her candidates said otherwise. Her statement raised doubt. If they were channelling Harper in refusing to back down, it backfired.

Danielle Smith overplayed her hand as a possible premier. Tim Harper's column from Sunday's Star was a very unsettling read. The more you read in Canadian politics, given the volumes of commentary, you tend to get a little immunized to things. This, though, really struck me as something qualitatively different. There were quotes from Danielle Smith he cited that were brazenly provocative toward Ontario and Quebec. Taunting Ontario as being less progressive than Alberta due to the long ago Famous Five and the ethnic qualities of the mayors of Edmonton and Calgary (both of whom had criticized her) was unprecedented coming from a premier wannabe. Taunting Quebec for its daycare program and condescendingly intoning about equalization reform was chutzpah of the highest order: “I think we need to have a tough conversation with Quebec.’’ These remarks, and I'm sure they weren't the first indication of her approach to federalism during the campaign, indicated that Smith was not up to the job. Was this factor a cause of the great recoil from Wildrose? Alison Redford's victory speech last night, with her nods to Albertans choosing to build bridges and such, makes me think that she believes that is a key part of what happened as well.

Be careful with those gimmicks seeking to buy voters. The Alberta Energy Dividend or "Dani dollars" ploy clearly failed. The $300 dividend promise was not enough for voters. Listen to the lines in the video below, it was pure modern conservative orthodoxy that was being sold. Yet its anti-government rhetoric did not prevail. The voters cared about other considerations to a greater extent and that is a cause for optimism.

We need to be more skeptical of the conventional Canadian political wisdom. See election result last night.

In a short Canadian election campaign, anything is possible in this modern political era. OK, well maybe not anything. But see May 2011. And now April 2012. You can probably throw the fall 2011 Ontario election into that mix too. Keep heart all you supposedly lost parties. You can surprise.

There is probably a lot more to say on topics like polls, strategic voting, etc. I'm sure you will be able to find lots of commentary on those issues in the flood that this phenomenal result will unleash.