Looking Back: Alberta’s Orange Crush?

It was the second most important political turnaround in Canada this past year. It was not so much that the Alberta New Democrats crushed anyone but the Conservatives of Alberta got their comeuppance after 44 years in power. The Conservative dynasty created by the late Peter Lougheed was in a train wreck.

There was no doubt but Jim Prentice, the supposedly wise and winning new Premier, was the cause of the Conservative cancelation. In a legislature with the official opposition even further to the right than the Conservatives, he brought the Wildrose Party Leader and eight of her colleagues over to the Conservative side. It might have worked if he had absorbed the entire Wildrose but all he did was anger the hive. A get-even Wildrose party proceeded to split the right-wing vote in the May election, guaranteeing the New Democrat win.

And to add insult to the loss, it was Wildrose that won the role of Opposition because of the vote split. Jim Prentice was hardly interested in continuing to lead a third-place party and quit politics.

But it was Prentice himself who had to take the blame. He actually made statements that inferred to Alberta voters that they were to blame for the problems. That was not acceptable. Prentice had to recognize that Alberta governments had been pandering to the companies extracting Alberta resources and they in turn were absorbing much of the costs normally paid for by the provincial taxpayers. At oil prices below $40 per barrel of crude, you can hardly make money out of the tar sands.

Alberta obviously needed better politicians to manage a troubled economy. It was also obvious that some of the provincial mud was also spattering Calgary’s favourite adopted son Stephen Harper. The surprise win by Rachel Notley’s New Democrats might have provided a short term lift to Thomas Mulcair’s federal party polling but it was recognized as an Alberta phenomenon.

Despite Jim Prentice’s failure to communicate with Albertans before they tossed his party, Prentice left them a serious mess. The day is now past that Alberta can be proud of not having a provincial sales tax. That day is coming. Notley has had to walk on egg shells with the deficits her party is building up for future generations of Albertans. So far, she has been golden.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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