Are Albertans afraid of changing their government?

Four days before Election Day, Progressive Conservative Party leader Jim Prentice stood on a stage in front of hall of supporters who paid $500 per plate to attend the evening fundraiser in downtown Edmonton. Mr. Prentice warned his audience of the dire consequences of voting for Rachel Notley’s NDP, which has been his key message since the televised leaders’ debate.

Five polls released on April 29, 2015 show the NDP leading the PC and Wildrose parties across Alberta, and with a massive lead in Edmonton. Most political watchers expected the Mr. Prentice to use the massive PC campaign war-chest to launch a massive negative advertising campaign against the NDP, but it has not materialized.

The PC Party has released some radio ads and its supporters in corporate Calgary, like oil company CEO Brian Ferguson, have spoken out against the NDP proposal to review natural resource royalties. But aside from Mr. Ferguson (and the supporters who paid $500 to hear Mr. Prentice speak last night), I am not sure most voters believe the government should not regularly review royalties to ensure Albertans are getting the best value for their resources.

Brian Jean Wildrose

Brian Jean

[The Globe & Mail reported on September 5, 2014 that Mr. Ferguson was among 39 donors who gave Mr. Prentice’s leadership campaign between $10,001 and $30,000]

The attacks do not seem to have weakened Ms. Notley, who is an articulate and likeable politician. Her party has presented a moderate platform focused on reinvesting in health care and education, raising corporate tax rates from 10% to 12%, and carefully reviewing royalties collected for the province’s natural resources.

As Mr. Prentice tries to scare conservatives into re-electing his party to a 13th term in government, one poll conducted by ThinkHQ shows most Albertans surveyed said they were more afraid of a re-elected PC government than a Wildrose or NDP government.

Alison Redford Alberta Election 2012 Conservative leader

Alison Redford

“…68% of those interviewed said they would be very or somewhat concerned about Alberta’s future if the PCs were re-elected as government. Meanwhile, 58% would have concerns about a Wildrose government, and only 47% say they would have reservations if the NDP win the election.”

In the 2012 election, conservative voters in rural Alberta abandoned the PCs in favour of the opposition Wildrose Party. The PCs were re-elected with the support of moderate voters, many former Liberal voters, who were both scared of the Wildrose and excited by Alison Redford’s promise of a progressive government.

Fast forward through three years of scandals, controversy and broken promises, and now many of the same voters who saved Ms. Redford’s PC Party in 2012 are now leaning toward voting for Ms. Notley’s NDP.

With trust and accountability having become the defining issues of the election campaign, Mr. Prentice has not presented a compelling reason for Albertans to trust that the PC Party will be any different in the next three years (especially after he called the election one year earlier than the PC Government’s fixed election date).

There is also a feeling among many Albertans that the PCs have mismanaged our province’s vast resource wealth, especially following the drop in oil prices earlier this year.

Despite years of economic prosperity, the PCs have run deficit budgets since 2008 and do not appear to have planned for any economic downturns (even though the price of oil has always been cyclical in nature).

Unlike previous elections that were dominated by the PCs, there is an increasing permissive environment among Alberta voters that it is okay not to support the governing party in this election.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi has predicted the election of a PC minority government but said that Albertans should not be afraid of voting for the other parties. Mr. Nenshi has met with all five main party leaders and said any of them would do a “pretty decent job” for Calgary.

We’re a place of entrepreneurs. We’re a place of risk-takers, yet we don’t take risks in government except in 2010. And I think that one worked out OK for Calgary,” Mr. Nenshi told the Calgary Herald.

In a recent blog post, former Edmonton PC MLA and cabinet minister David King asked “Should Albertans vote for a P.C. candidate, in any constituency, and elect a cog in a machine that is running amuck?”

With NDP support concentrated in urban areas of the province, the PCs also face a major challenge from Brian Jean‘s Wildrose Party in rural Alberta. For the first time in their 44 years in power, the PCs are facing a two front campaign. It is never a safe bet to count the PCs out, but they may be facing their toughest challenge since forming government in 1971.

And with four days left until Election Day, it is still not clear which party will form government on May 5, 2015, but a minority government could be a likely result.

A minority government would breathe new life into Alberta’s Legislative Assembly, which has largely become a rubber-stamp for decisions made behind closed doors by PC cabinet ministers and MLAs. A minority government would also, for the first time in Alberta’s history, force the governing party to meaningfully work with the other parties when passing legislation.

Changing our government is not something Albertans should be afraid of. It is something we should probably do on a regular basis.

30 thoughts on “Are Albertans afraid of changing their government?

  1. Gael James

    Not a comment to be posted but a spelling error in the article!

    Change ‘breath’ to ‘breathe’: A minority government would breath new life into Alberta’s Legislative Assembly

    Reply
  2. Neil Friesen

    I am one of the thousands of Saskatchewan refugees who moved here away from the ndp sask government over the last 30 years. I beg you do not make the same mistake they did. If your thinking of voting NDP please think why there are so many Sask. people calling Alberta their home.

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  3. Kyle

    voted pc for 25 years. Time to throw the bums out. Never thought Id ever say this but I’m voting NDP this time.

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  4. JP

    Too bad the scare tactics will probably work. The Tories and their corporate buddies have been running this province into the ground since Lougheed left in the 1980s. I hope we get a change in government. We can’t afford to keep these entitled Tories who only care about making their buddies rich. I want a government that has my kids future as a priority and Prentice is not that guy.

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  5. Doug Brown

    The choices have never been more poor. As much as the PC government is tired and inbred, the cure is worse than the disease. Every single NDP government in Canada has created economic ruin. The NDP is too aligned with organized labour to be entrusted with public policy. Alberta’s budget challenges will require aggressive negotiation and therefore media campaigns against the public sector unions in order to reduce total compensation to more market like levels. Organized labour is well organized. The mere talk of 5% wage cuts mobilized the membership. It will take a leader with particular cunning to downsize, decompensate and implemented accountability within the public sector. None of the candidates are up to the job, but Notley would be a regression.

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  6. Julie Ali

    Rachel Notley is an intelligent leader who will transform Alberta into a modern province rather than a dinosaur province.

    It is good for democracy to try new people in government and we have given the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta too many chances to govern our province.

    They have failed to support the most vulnerable citizens in Alberta while providing the private sector donors with opportunities, major public subsidies (think the Katz Arena and the oil and gas subsidies); why should we tolerate these discrepancies in representation?

    The arrogance and entitlement that has been characteristic of our MLAs from the Klein error on is something that will vanish once we vote for a new group of MLAs. While the majority of citizens will survive economically no matter who is in government, our seniors, handicapped citizens and the poor require people in government who are going to work for them and not just the corporate sector.

    I believe the NDP will support the most disadvantaged families and citizens— in Alberta while working effectively with the private sector. I see no reason why we cannot vote for the NDP. If they do not work out we will simply vote for a new group of people in the next election.

    There is no reason for a monopoly of Conservatives at all levels of government.Change is invigorating. I will vote for the NDP. I will vote for change.

    Despite voting Tory in the past, I see no reason while I should keep voting for a failed experiment in democracy. In addition, I am encouraged by the best leader among the tired crew of politicians in Alberta. Leadership is important; without it we have the sort of pendulum swing of boom and bust economics that practically speaking is hard on families who go from major cash to economic insecurity. It’s no way to run a government either.

    Rachel Notley if elected premier, will be handicapped in what she can do because she will have to deal with results of the bad governance of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta. She will have to deal with the poor returns from oil and gas development thanks to the Tories. She will have to deal with a government that is non-transparent –where everything has to be FOIPed to find out the problems. Despite these difficulties, I believe she has the brains and courage to do this work of change. She also has the character required to give us the hope we need to move past the failures of the Tories to a new vision of Alberta.

    This new vision of Alberta is inclusive, supportive all citizens, respectful of our seniors and handicapped citizens and empowering for all citizens. That vision is the vision of the NDP. It is a vision worth voting for.

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  7. BemusedLurker

    Not scared, conned into believing the Mantra of Fiscally Responsible when used in connection with the Conservative party.

    Most of us understand that you cannot get a policy discussion into a sound bite (no matter what the wildrose try – ugg taxes bad). Prentice screwed up badly by not even having a token tax increase on “Big Business”

    The idea that there should be no shared pain has finally allowed the discussion to take place. About time.

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  8. Peter

    Neil, what “mistake” did people in saskabush make? The NDP was popular for a reason there, no?

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  9. Maria

    I don’t believe that PC fear mongering works in this election. Prentice has shown that he is not trustworthy and does not care for the average Albertan. I voted NDP as soon as the advance polls opened.

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  10. pogo

    @Neil Friesen You owe me a coffee and a new keyboard!
    Conservative Premier of Saskatchewan Grant Devine and his “Devine” cabinet set a modern day record for ministers of the crown indicted for fraud. Yes twelve 12. Gordon Dirks comes from that cabinet. Did he move here with you?

    As far as the ND oogah boogah party policies go it’s nice to see we’ll finally up the corporate only (small businesses will still pay peanuts) tax rate 2 percentage points to equal our neighbours.

    By the way have you noticed the frantic meeping from the deficit party hacks like Rona “yes Peter McKay looks good in the cockpit of our new F35 flying money pit” Ambrose? Their turn soon!

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  11. Watson Smith

    Scared? Yes. As scared as last election? No.

    It’s hard not to be scared of change when the majority of the population hasn’t seen it in their lifetime. It’s no longer scarier than not change though.

    Alberta is not a well to do province because of the PC party. It is a well to do province because it has oil and everyone needs oil (so far). No party caused that, 1 party in particular completely mismanaged that though and has left Alberta in a situation where it will become a ghost province if that growing need for oil is ever sated. It is possible for a party to ruin that, but even the NDP (who are far less extreme than some would have you believe) aren’t going to destroy that in 4 years. If it looks like they are heading that way we can change ’em out in 2019.

    On the positive side, I’ve been hearing more and more stories about employees with cancer being laid off because they had to go for treatments and being forced to take vacation to cover cancer treatments. The NDP is pro-worker and would not stand for that shit.

    I’ve also been hearing about the massive fish kills Encana has been causing at the water inlets for fracking operations (of course they lie when asked about it) and the use of potable aquifer water when they could easily use the brackish water for a little more expense. This needs to be cracked down on, making money can’t be done regardless of the costs and the AER can’t be a representative for industry when they are responsible for regulating it. The NDP could fix this, the PCs will not.

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  12. Watson Smith

    Neil, it’s because there are tons of jobs in Alberta (or were during the boom) not because they ran from the NDP. Could the NDP ruin things? It’s possible but a carload of trained clowns could do as well as the PCs. Provinces need to stop competing with each other and racing to the bottom. It’s also not a lack of NDP in Saskatchewan that brought it back into the state it’s in now, Brad Wall is not the saviour, it’s economics outside the influence of governments that makes resource economies boom and bust.

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  13. Reboot to a Better Way

    Folks have courage, as an ex Lib and then ex PC voter, I am ready for ND. We must embrace the collective courage of our convictions and vote for change if we want it. If we stand together and believe, we can do anything. Its our future and our choice and I think its Rachel’s time. She offers the most sincere, honest, comforting and honest chance for change, with no baggage from past gocernance to blame them. She gets my support. Alberta needs a return to ethics, morality, virtuousity and above all …..humanity. I think Rachel will be measured and fair in all respects.

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  14. reboot

    Daveberta, I dont think the NDs will do any worse than the PC’s. Neither save, both spend and tax. Between the two, I for one, woulds like to see a whole new carte blanche team in office. Willing to give the change to NDs a try.

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  15. Doug Brown

    SK has largely the same economic fundamentals as AB yet it underperformed until recently. The NDP and its excessive regulation and blind support of organized labour were the main reasons.

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  16. terry

    Do any of you actually believe in responsible government? Do you think there is no fat, to be cut from a bloated government? The recent tax increases will probably not even cover the interest on our accumulating debt. If we are concerned about the government having enough tax revenue, then why are we not more concerned about the increasing debt load, and how the interest payments will take away from public services? By the way, this election can still be won by the WRP, even if the party is being ignored. If it can grab 1/3rd of the vote, it will likely form government. The NDP are sure to drop in support, and even at 26% in the polls they are likely to win around 22 seats. If the NDP drop to 34% and the WRP get 31%, they may still win the most seats.

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  17. George Takashima

    There is absolutely nothing to fear about the NDP. Although I am not a NDP member, I am supporting them in this election because Ibelieve Rachel Notley has the smarts and can lead us out of the mess that the PCs have created in the past two decades. The NDP has a social conscience not found in the PCs. One just needs to study the workings of the NDP governments (present gov’t excepted) over the past five decades to realize that they have run a relatively smooth ship.
    Interesting, too, is the fact that two former NDP premiers was chosen by the PC and Liberal federal leaders to head important positions….Premier Ed Schreyer to the offfice of Governor-General and Premier Gary Doer as Canadian Ambassador to USA no less than by the current PM). Now what does that say about the integrity of the NDP…..

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  18. SC

    As socially centre-left fiscal centrist, I don’t see anything scary about Alberta NDP. Voted PC last time (more to stave off WRP), but gone orange for change……. (and I’m a federal Liberal…… go figure!).
    Don’t be afraid….. ignore the scare-mongering…. go orange and make Alberta proud (let the hick/redneck image go to the history books)!

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  19. Doug2

    Adding to George T. above, another former NDP Premier is now the President of the Jim Pattison Group as well as The News Group North America.
    Glen Clark was hand picked by Jimmy Pattison to head Pattison’s empire in 2002. Pattison is no fool and BC was in far better shape than it should have been.
    I see that the Prentice team is blaming the BC NDP for the economic downturn in the nineties, to make a point (Fear Mongering).
    Fact is, North America was in an economic downturn felt everywhere. BC was further effected by the crash of the Japanese market (Wood Exports Evaporated).
    Don’t believe the stories of how horrible it was in BC in the 90’s, I was there. I left 3 years ago to get away from the BC Liberals and the open corruption they nurture. Today’s BC is what we will have in Alberta if the PC or WkRP win the election.

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  20. Burt

    I appreciate that everyone thinks they are closer to the centre than they truly are. It happens across the political spectrum and isn’t distinct to Canada. People who are NDP supporters aren’t centre-left. If you agree that the PCs, WR and Liberals are all to the right of the NDP that’s the vast majority of voters to the right. What party would people who, accurately, describe themselves as being on the left support? There is no party to the left of the NDP. Their tent ain’t that big.

    The NDP success is due in large part to the incredible weakness of all other parties to the left of the PCs in this election.

    Predictions three days out had the Wildrose winning. There will be a swing back to the centre. Will it be enough to boot the Tories out of government? Not sure, but a minority of some kind is best for all Albertans.

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  21. Jerrymacgp

    Are Albertans afraid of change? Well, the PCs and their corporate funders and MSM shills are certainly trying to scare them. Look at that odious press conference held by five corporate big shots that are also big PC donors. Look also at that even more odious editorial in the Journal, endorsing Prentice as the “CEO” of Alberta.

    I hope Albertans don’t fall for it.

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  22. courage beyond words

    Dave…the lackeys and cronies are afraid, this isnclearly evident with their fear campaign being waged. Lets hope Rachel opens up the books.

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  23. Fluffy the Cat

    Weeks ago I predicted a minority government and I still stand by that. Now whether it is an NDP or PC led synarchy remains to be seen. But look people – it might not be the worst thing; nor the best. But what a minority might bring is an opprtunity to actually put the best candidate into ministerial positions, regardless of their party affiliation. Think David Swann as Minister of Health for instance. For you “Sopranos” fans, you might remember the episode where one of Tony’s trusted lieutenants dies suddenly and he’s forced to choose from a decidedly second rate crew. Although to be fair to Jim, he might have some new PC blood since many of the rats have already left the ship. (The cynical amongst us would say only to be replaced by fresh rats, but I digress.) A minority government might also reduce the plutocracy (as evidenced in yesterday’s revolting new conference held by PC supporters/contract beneficiaries). That would be a good thing if one believes in openness and honesty – not necessarily a given nor evidenced much in the last 44 years.

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  24. doubleo

    The electorate was not scared to vote in the Social Credit and survived quite nicely. The electors voted in the Progressive Conservatives and Alberta has managed to survive. I am certain that we could elect the NDP to govern for one term or more and also probably survive.

    The bureaucracy the lies beneath the MLA’s and cabinet ministers have a way working to mitigate wild swings in policy in both directions.

    The fear mongering exhibited by Jim Prentice is essentially an admission that the PC’s of the past have made blunders that cannot be corrected. He himself has encouraged winds of change but unfortunately the “winds of change” are blowing into his face rather than with him.

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  25. GregW

    I expect if there is a ND majority, there will soon be major changes in gov’t bureaucracy, probably replacement of many senior civil servants. The ND’s would have mostly untested MLAs, and won’t be able to trust the old guard civil servants with their PC connections. Unfortunately this will mean expensive severance payments and lengthy reorganisation of the bureaucracy, but ultimately a slimmed down and less expensive government system, hopefully more streamlined and efficient.

    I also expect to see a small army of consultants from former and current left and centre left administrations from all over Canada and Europe parachuted in to help run things in the first year or so.

    Another alternative would be a system like we have at the Federal level, with a huge alternative bureaucracy run out of the Premier’s office at odds with the departmental service. That would probably be disastrous.

    A third alternative would be just to leave things as they are within the Provincial bureaucracy and make only incremental changes, while crossing our fingers hoping for a recovery in oil prices to bail us out of our situation (aka the Prentice plan).

    I think I prefer the first course of action. I hope that Ms. Notley has the inclination and the fortitude (a la Thatcher and Reagan) to take this route. If necessary, I think she could count on Mr. Jean’s support in this area of public policy.

    ‘Nuff said.

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  26. AlbertaRusH

    OK, everybody! Take a deep breath. Change is good. Other jurisdictions do it all the time.

    I’m always surprised how cheaply the PC’s are to sway. When billions are in play, you would think the price would be a little higher; on par with other failing petro-(not)states. More mismanagement!

    Nightmare scenario: PC majority, WR opposition, Prentice indulges the mean streak.

    Best scenario: NDP, Alberta Party, Liberal coalition minority, PC opposition, WR who? PCAA leadership convention in 2016.

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  27. Jeff

    Scared yes, that the NDP will actually win and completely destroy our economy in the name of free child care and other wishful thinking bureaucracy.

    I agree with a lot that the NDP puts forth but I don’t think they have the right thinking to run a province. I’m hoping for a PC minority government.

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  28. uDavid

    Don’t believe all you read about Sask. people moving to Alberta to escape the NDP. It was the NDP who made Sask. prosperous in 2006 and 2007 before Wall inherited a very good business environment and is now running a deficit. OK so they pronounced it a balanced budget after borrowing $700,000 to announce a $107,000 surplus in 2015-16 budget. Why not borrow a billion and announce a $407,000 surplus. Go NDP Alberta and get things on the right track in your province.

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  29. Socius

    As someone who divides my time between SK and AB, I feel the need to tell people that people need to drop the mythology of a hard-nosed Saskatchewan Conservative government that righted the ship of previous NDP malfeasance.

    The Wall government is (or at least appears to be) a very, very, very moderate Conservative government, which if you think about it, it had to be to get elected in center-left Saskatchewan. It’s very much a mirror image of today’s NDP in Alberta, looking and acting like the centrist party of sensible capitalism to get elected in a traditionally PC- and Conservative-voting province.

    Wall does nothing like the full-on frontal assault of, say, Ralph Klein, who attacked multiple public services at once. In fact, for the NDP, Wall is maddeningly skilled at making changes so ‘slow and steady’ that Wall is hard for the NDP to frame as a villain or make the electorate care about the particular things Wall’s government is dismantling.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think Wall’s not what SK needs and it would be nice if it was the SK NDP that replaced him after finding its footing, but this idea that SK was ‘at last put right’ by some hard right tacking is totally imaginary.

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