Eight years after the last round of provincial rebate cheques, popularly known as ‘Ralph Bucks‘, were mailed to Albertans care of Premier Ralph Klein, Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith is proposing a similar ‘energy dividend.’
While ‘Ralph Bucks‘ were popular among most Albertans at the time, it was recognized almost universally as bad fiscal policy.
Nice gesture, wrong message: Klein’s ‘prosperity bonuses’ a short-term, feel-good effort – Calgary Herald, Sept. 14, 2005. Editorial
How often does one hear of lottery winners wasting their lifetime opportunity, and returning to the poverty whence they came.
Let this not be the case for Alberta. The insouciance of Premier Ralph Klein’s “prosperity bonuses” announcement bears the hallmarks of a prodigal’s progress, and a poorly messaged one, too. Had he meant to tell the rest of Canada that Alberta had no idea what to do with all its money, he would have done no different.
Perhaps showing just how much the Progressive Conservative campaign has lost control of their agenda, Ms. Smith is now trying to ‘out-Ralph‘ Premier Alison Redford. Ms. Smith practices a harder-edged brand of conservatism than the wishy-washy beer parlour conservatism of Premier Klein, but her party’s attention-grabbing election promises are grabbing the attention of conservative voters (while political watchers are questioning her math).
It must be difficult for Premier Redford, who, as the brightest and most intelligent leader of the PC Party since Peter Lougheed, has inherited a party that has been divided by two bitter leadership contests in less than a decade.
In a recent interview with the Globe & Mail, Mr. Lougheed, highlighting the deep divisions among PC elder statesmen, did not speak highly of Mr. Klein,
“Mr. Klein came along and he reverted the party backward to what I call the old Social Credit days, when Alberta was the whole focus and it wasn’t a cross-Canada focus.”
Premiers Lougheed and Klein embodied two very different visions of government within the same governing party, one which generally saw government as a positive force and another that saw government as a negative force. In the past, these differences could have been touted as an example of the resiliency of Alberta’s big blue Tory Party.
What does it all mean?
It is difficult to pinpoint what effect these high-level party posturing is having on the ground. Speaking with campaign managers and candidates from a number of parties across the province over the past week, I am consistently hearing that there is a feeling of unease at the doors. In some cases, this is leading to unlikely swings in party support.
One long-time NDP supporter from northeast Edmonton told me that some of her traditionally NDP-voting neighbours have planted Wildrose Party signs on their front-lawns. Two long-time Liberal voters from north west Calgary told me that they were planning on supporting their local PC candidate, because they admired Premier Redford.
What is indisputable is that many Albertans are unhappy with the PC’s and, at least for the moment, the Wildrose Party and its slate of untested candidates are turning that unhappiness into electoral momentum.