Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Reflection on the Alberta Election

Albertans seemed to have send a clear message on Monday's election.  The message was, although we're dissatisfied with the Progressive Conservative Party (PC), we're not quite ready to embrace the conservatism of the Wildrose Party.  The PC party, with the help of Liberals have moved Alison Redford's Red Tories further to the left.  Regardless, the Wildrose Party received 34% support of Albertans, primarily in the south east corner of the province.

Danielle Smith's Wildrose Party ran a good campaign for approximately two weeks, highlighting the excessive spending, corruption and broken promises of the PCs.  Wildrose rolled out its policy and clearly differentiated itself from the cronyism of the progressive conservatives.  Then the campaign went off the rails.  Redford's PCs were able to divert off the issues and made the campaign about conscience issues, intolerant remarks and climate change.  None of these issues had much to do with the campaign, but were damaging to Wildrose.

Raj Sherman, Liberal Party leader, courageously left the PC party over health care and the emergency room situation.  His campaign and accusations of bigotry in the Wildrose Party resonated with his voters to the point that they ran in droves to the PCs.  His Liberal Party, which received 26% of the popular vote in the 2008 elections, only netted 10% on Monday.   His supporters found a new home in Redford's PC party or Brian Mason's NDP, which gained four seats.

Despite her majority, Redford has a few promises to keep.  She must satisfy the environmentalists, get harder on the oil and gas companies in the province and meet the expectations of the national media.  She has to find the money for her promises that clearly exceeded her budget.  These include 140 family care centres, $650 Million in post secondary education investment,

Redford said the clinics’ cost will be borne by existing Alberta Health Services funding and won’t require additional government dollars.
She estimated the total cost of the clinics at about $3.4 billion but said that will come from the $3.9 billion already budgeted for primary health care.
“A very big part of what we want to do is change the way that we’re providing primary health care,” said Redford.
Savings will come from the clinics because they will use infrastructure that is in some cases underutilized and by bringing health care professionals together to provide services, she said.
But Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said the clinics have been estimated at $5 million apiece and will cost an additional $700 million on top of the existing health budget.

 Conservative leader Alison Redford on Tuesday announced a three-year, $650 million investment in colleges and universities across Alberta.
The money will benefit NAIT, NorQuest, the University of Calgary, Lethbridge College and Mount Royal University.
“There’s no doubt that post-secondary institutions in this province, no matter where they are, are the key to our future success,” Redford said at an announcement at Bow Valley College on Tuesday morning.
“We’re not just building buildings, we are educating Albertans and we’re educating future workers in this economy. … An investment in Alberta’s post-secondary infrastructure is an investment in Alberta’s future.”

With lawn bowlers in the background, Tory Leader Alison Redford made the latest pitch for the all-important seniors vote in the provincial election campaign.
Redford announced Tuesday in Lethbridge that a re-elected Progressive Conservative government would introduce a $500 senior’s activity tax credit.
The tax credit will cost the province about $24 million. Seniors will be eligible for the credit for physical activities, classes and crafts. Redford said keeping active helps keep seniors healthy.
“Making your lives better makes your family’s lives better and makes your community’s life better,” she said at the Nord-Bridge Senior Citizens Centre.
Earlier in the day, Redford promised $19 million for expansion of a pilot program to help train medical students outside of the province’s two major centres.

She pledged if her party is re-elected to invest $3-billion over 20 years in an energy research authority that will work to improve oil sands technology and environmental outcomes.  The group would be called AOSTRA 2, after the original Alberta Oilsands Technology and Research Authority created by Peter Lougheed when he was premier in 1974.
“In order for us to be able to continue to grow the economy in Alberta, in an environmentally sustainable way, we have to be global leaders with respect to energy development and with respect to environmental sustainability,” Redford said at a campaign stop at Suncor’s reclaimed Wapisiw Lookout in Fort McMurray, Alta.

“It’s going to allow us to continue to develop this wonderful region and the conventional resources that we have. It’s also going to allow us to develop technologies that can be marketed around the world.”

Needless to say all this has to be paid for.  In addition there is the issue of high voltage transmission lines, property rights and Bills 36 and 50.  

The Wildrose Party has obviously been on a sharp learning curve, but has an opportunity during the next four years to make their mark in the legislature.  While Redford has a clear majority, enough noise can be made to stop her from continuing with a PC spending spree, hold her to account, especially on health care and property rights.  There needs to be a full public inquiry on health care, physician intimidation and transmission lines.  Majority should not mean clear sailing for the Redford "Red Tories."

Danielle Smith reflected on the Wildrose flop on Tuesday and blamed party policy rather than the controversy on the sudden surprising turn of the election.

"Smith said she has no regrets for not taking a harder line on the anti-gay and racist sentiments of two candidates.  Some pundits and Wildrose foes say that stance showed a crucial leadership void just as the race entered its last laps.

“I received a lot of phone calls from our own candidates saying how grateful they were that I didn’t throw these two candidates under the bus at the first sign of trouble,” Smith told the Sun.

But she said such candidate banter and other issues, like conscience rights, the party’s stance questioning human-caused global warming and an Alberta agenda on pensions and policing will be reviewed.

“We have to deal with these as a party — these are the issues that caused the most controversy, those are the issues we have to take direction from Albertans,” she said.

“If staying on those issues is causing us problems with Albertans, we’ll have to make the right decisions and modify those policies.

“We have to think seriously about what Albertans said to us.”  Calgary Sun

In summary, Alison Redford has promises to keep and must show how she will pay for them without increasing the province's deficit or raising taxes, the Wildrose Party has to keep Redford to account, gain valuable legislative experience and have a look at some of its candidates and policies for the next election.   Raj Sherman, should he remain leader of the Liberal Party has to figure out how to get his base back into his party's tent, while Brian Mason must keep building on his limited success. 

No comments:

Post a Comment