Is Canadian Socialism In Decline?

by on 6 May, 2015

Front Politics is a strange business.

It makes celebrities of the less Hollywood-esque of us, it can create success nobody dreamed possible, bring high flying careers crashing down, expose the worst of us, bring out the best in us.

It can also be a hard beast to predict. So often the polls can get it wrong, so often the people can swing erratically to deliver something nobody would expect.

Not in Alberta, though. Alberta is solid. Alberta is strong. Alberta is certain. In its 110 years of existence, Alberta has had, until today, just four Governments in its history.

Yes, FOUR Governments in 110 years. 16 years of Canadian Liberals, 14 years of United Farmers, 36 years of Social Credit, and 44 years of Progressive Conservativism (Yes yes yes, I have heard all the points about the name before…).

It takes something truly remarkable to change Alberta’s Government, especially in modern times.

It should be noted the Liberals were in power early by virtue of being plonked in place by sympathetic heavies in Ottawa, a quirk of their admission as a province in 1905, alongside Prairie neighbour Saskatchewan. 16 years of progressive politics, followed by 14 years of agrarian socialism gave way to 36 years of populism before 44 years of what started as solid conservatism, before giving way to tax and spend politics and abuse of entitlements.

It is not unusual to see Governments go bad through being in office for too long (see NSW Labor). However, rarely do you see a party sell out as badly as the PCs did.

The PCs were faced with death and destruction when Danielle Smith came along, promising a return to conservative values under the Wildrose. Smith took down Alison Redford, exposing rort after rort, farce after farce.

Enter Jim Prentice.

The new Alberta Premier was seen as a successor to Stephen Harper when the PM decided to call it a day, but instead chose to make a quid while he could, and few could blame him. Indeed, the late Federal NDP leader Jack Layton tried to make hay about the Government being too close to the banks rather than whack Prentice. Prentice laid it on thick and fats for fiscal conservatives. Cuts, cuts, cuts across the board. Nine percent in fact!

Then he went a little soft, introducing a “health care contribution … er … levy … er … tax”, under the guise of “balancing choices”. Then he knifed fiscal responsibility by hiking eight other taxes but not asking business to contribute.

Not dumb or Machiavellian enough? How about securing the defection of nine (What is it with that number?) Wildrose opposition MPs, including leader Danielle Smith? The defections were secured to create a “unity” Government and guaranteed PC nominations for the ex-rosers at the next election, which wasn’t due for 12 months.

Yeah, small problem.

So we have a Government which has hiked taxes with a budget as popular as cholera, been caught with its snout in the trough, been shamelessly populist to the point of creating a breakaway party, bought off the opposition and then backstabbed the defectors.

What’s the logical thing to do?

Of course! Go to an election against your fixed election date law, which wasn’t really a law but we said it was so stuff it!

Now, if you’re struggling with the political reality of all this, don’t worry, because I was as confused as you are.

Everyone knew the PCs had screwed up, apart from themselves evidently. What else could be done to trash the party? Oh, just some comments in the leaders debate so patronising as to look sexist.

So the PCs flushed a 44 year dynasty down the drain, high on largesse and self importance in the most conservative province in Canada bar none, a province built on oil revenues which were under threat from a hard left NDP in Ottawa, which would be under greater threat of the Alberta NDP ever got near power, which only free market types would be able to protect.

If you had your mind warped by this story until now, this next bit will make your brain need to change its pants.

On election day, Alberta voted for the NDP.

Yes, the most conservative province in Canada has turned to a tax-business-until-its-nose-bleeds alternative.

Or did it? Rachel Notley comes from good Albertan leftist stock, her father establishing the Alberta NDP single handedly. However, while the NDP is normally keen to espouse its leftist heritage, policies were harder to come by this time. If you dig a little deeper though, you can find some policies that were released.

Interesting thing is that, with the exception of the tax hikes, the NDP platform looks rather conservative in nature. When you go into a bit more detail, the NDP platform comes across, in fact, as quite centrist.

On a personal basis, their idea of using unused greenie funding to build more public transport works a winner, although I would argue whether Calgary and Edmonton have major transport concerns, having visited in November last year, with barely a soul in sight on the roads on a weekday.

While it is unsurprising that the NDP swept Edmonton, given the only Federal Alberta NDP MP hails from there, the NDP made a pretty good whack in Calgary. And this came on the back of Thomas Mulcair staying the hell away.

Maybe there is something to ponder here.

Maybe the NDP was able to win in a wasteland for leftist causes by embracing the conservative cause.

After all, the Alberta NDP is prepared to play ball on the oilsands, Canada’s equivalent of coal deposits, provided stronger environmental standards are met, while Thomas Mulcair, well, not so much.

As strange as it may seem, the NDP may outflank the conservatives in Alberta on the right form now on. Hell, they’re even ahead of the Australian Labor Party in ditching the socialist commitment from their constitution.

Could it be that socialism is starting to die out, even among the true believers?

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